Pro Tools | Control — Creating Custom Post Macros

By in Pro Mixing, Tech Talk

After the release of Eucontrol 3.4 and the free Pro Tools | Control app for iPad, I fell in love with its Channel view and Soft Keys view. When paired with the new Pro Tools | Dock, the combination becomes an amazing piece of hardware that is compact yet extremely flexible. In that respect, I decided to go ahead and make some macros for the common tasks I do for sound editing and Mixing in Dolby Atmos, along with some cool stuff for Cargo Cult’s incredible plug-in, Spanner.

You can Download my user set here, and once downloaded, unzip it and place the file into:

/Library/Application Support/Euphonix/UserSets/MC2User/MC_USER_SET_Root

This is where your custom XML goes. Please note that currently, this is Mac only as that is what I work on along with SoundMiner. The reason I made this is pretty simple. As a mixer, I am a guy who is very much against doing repetitive work with no creative output. Which is why I have come up with these! I will explain in the following videos what each macro does. Once you have the xml, you can access this page from the User Pages Button on the main page of the Soft Keys tab. This takes you to another page with the Tracklay, Dolby Atmos and Spanner Buttons. But before that, lets look at the process of creating a macro.

Pro Tools | Control Soft Keys Tab

Creating your first Eucon Macro

A Macro is just a sequence of key strokes or shortcuts that help you to execute multiple key strokes in one button press. For example, let’s say you frequently take a copy of an audio clip to the track below it, mute it and come back to the original clip selection in order to create a backup when you are processing a clip with audio suite. This sequence of events can be automated into one button. Simple tasks like these, once automated, save a huge amount of time that frees up more creative space for you. The EuControl Soft Keys are in XML format. EuControl has the ability to create and execute these macros based on the focused application.

But there are a few things to keep in mind before creating a macro. This is the method I adopt while doing this:

  1. Get the sequence of shortcuts right. Remember, there are many ways of doing the same task. but you want to be able to execute it in the least number of keystrokes. This is to make it as fast as possible and it is simpler to undo your changes. Also, bear in mind that Eucontrol can only accept a maximum of 20 individual steps, but each step can have multiple key strokes as long as they share a common modifier key.
  2. Once you have determined the sequence, make sure that you have the EuControl Soft Keys editor open beside you. This helps because when building complex macros, you can easily forget the steps if you don’t do it in parallel. I do this by performing each step in Pro Tools and putting the macro with each one. So, if I wanted to copy, move selection down, paste and mute, I would make a copy in Pro Tools, put the key stroke in the Soft Key Editor, go back to Pro Tools, perform the move, come back to the soft Key editor and put that shortcut etc. It may take a bit of extra time, but it is also very helpful to troubleshoot and be sure that your sequence is correct.
  3. Make sure your Button Layout is something that lends itself to muscle memory. If you need to access many pages to execute a set of buttons, then it may defeat the purpose of using a macro.

As an Example, let’s create a macro that copies a selection, pastes it into a track below, mutes it and returns the selection to the original track. For our purpose, lets make this on the Pro Tools | Control app. To begin, lets look at the sequence:

  1. Make sure clips are selected and command key focus is enabled. Then Copy with c
  2. Move selection down. So, the key stroke is ;
  3. Paste the copied clips. So the key stroke is v
  4. Mute the clips pasted. Usually, we would just do a Command+M. However; what if the selection contains clips that are muted before? We want to be able to maintain all the states of those clips too, otherwise performing a Command+M will unmute all clips. The easy way to do this is to create a clip group and then mute that, thus maintaining the original mute states. So the key stroke is Command+Alt+G and Command M.
  5. Move selection up. So key stroke is p.

Now that we have the idea set, lets build it. If you look on the Soft Keys tab on Pro Tools Control, there is a button on Page 1 called User Pages. We will use the pages in that to build our macros. If you haven’t pasted my macro XML yet, you will see this is a blank page that looks like this:

Blank User Page

What is important is to note the page number as we will need to know that to put our macro in. In this case, the page is Page 148. By default, it jumps to page 147 on the current Eucon Soft Key set. For now, lets create our button on page 148. To do this, click on the EuControl app on your task bar and choose EuControl Settings and then select the Soft Keys tab. Now, since we are creating a Soft Key on the Touchscreen section of the app, select Touchscreen from the drop down menu as seen in the Picture:

Eucontrol Setting Soft Key Section

Once there, we need to go to Page 148 because that’s where we will create our macro. Select Page 148 and select any one of the buttons you see on screen. If you want to add more pages, you can simply click the + sign beside the pages dropdown menu. Once you have selected the button, click on Command… This brings you to the Soft Key Editor.

Soft Key Editor

Here we see options like Key, EUCON, Page, etc. Each has a specific function. If you choose EUCON, you can access euconized commands like menus or preferences that are otherwise not accessible via a key stroke. But remember, we can have only one EUCON command per macro. In our example we are building the macro with keyboard shortcuts, so we choose Key.

Once there, the key strokes we need in order are C, ;, V, Command+Option+G, Command+M, P. That’s a total of 6 keystrokes. But, we don’t need to create 6 different entries for this. The reason is because the first three don’t have any OS Modifier keys such as command or control which would change their key value. (We are assuming the Command Key focus is on). So, we can build this as one Key Function. The Next one is Command+Option+G. This and Command+M along with P needs 3 different entries because their OS modifiers are different. So, when we finish building the macro, it will look as this:

Copy and Mute

Macro Button

Lets now name our Button as Copy Down Mute. Now, if you have clips selected, have an empty track below it in Pro Tools, go ahead and push the button and see the magic work!

Although this was a very simple one, there are a few things to keep in mind. For example, if you copy from a track with a surround output or an automated plugin to another one that doesn’t have these, then a dialogue box is thrown saying “Some Automation parameters in the clipboard do not match the paste destination”. This is important as we need to test the macros in various situations and figure out the best way to make them run. Now, let’s look at the macros in the custom Soft Key Page shared above.

Custom User Page

“The more you automate repetitive tasks, the more creative time you get. A click or keystroke saved, is a creative second earned.”

—Sreejesh Nair

Track Lay Soft Keys

1. Extend & Create 1 Frame Fade

This is very useful to me when I spot sound effects or ambiences from SoundMiner. There is a quick way of cutting a mixdown video or an audio track into the scenes. If you have markers on all your scene changes, then you just need to go to the grid display and change that to clips and markers. Now, hide all the tracks except the Video track and select the length of the video. Once you do that, head over to Edit Menu -> Separate Clip -> On Grid . The logic here is that since the grid is split to markers, it separates on the marker locations. Pretty easy! Of course you can still get scene based edits if you work using AAF transfers from Media Composer. Once done, it is then easy to spot an ambience from Sound Miner for that scene selection. When I export from SoundMiner, I make sure I have head and tail for the same. This is important as it is key to making the macro work. My usual method is to have ambience spotted and then extend the clip by one frame on either side and insert a one frame fade. This is now made very easy with this macro. The 5 frame version is the same with 5 frames of fade length.

2. Copy Fade from Clip Above

If I have an ambience that is laid in the exact length of the clip above it and it has a certain fade length that I want to use, I can use this macro to replicate that. Note that this won’t be able to replicate the fade type. The Copy fade from Clip below does the same but from a clip below the selected one.

3. Extend Whole Clip to Match Clip Above with Fade Length

Sometimes I want certain effects that I have to match the length of the clip above. This does exactly that but it also includes the clip fades. Once I run this, I can also run the Copy Fade from Clip above to get the same fades too.

4. Extend Clip Head to Match Clip Above with Fade Length

This does the same as above except only for the head of the clip.

5. Extend Clip Tail to Match Clip Above with Fade Length

This does the same for above but only for the tail of the clip.

6. Extend Whole Clip to Match Clip Above without Fade Length

Sometimes the clip above won’t have a fade or I need only the length of the clip between the fades. That’s when this is the one to use. The rest of them are the same with head and tail.

7. Duplicate Clip Backwards or Forwards

Duplicating clips forwards is easy. But for backwards, it was usually Control+Option+Command+Click with the grabber. This was a bit too much so I created the Duplicate clip backwards macro for this very purpose.

8. Export Tracks

This is a Quick access to export selected tracks to new session.

Dolby Atmos and Spanner Page

The Atmos Pan transfer copies your regular surround pan into an object plugin. There are a few requirements for the Dolby Atmos Pan to be executed correctly.

  1. The Object track must be below the track from which Pro Tools automation is to be transferred and of the same track width (Eg: Both are Stereo or Mono.)
  2. The Object track view must be set to Master Bypass lane of the Atmos Plugin and the main track must be set to waveform view.

1. Move Clip Down

This is the first step in Copying the Pan Automation once the above criteria are met. The video below shows what happens.

2. Transferring Pan

Once the above is complete, without clicking anywhere else (in order to not lose the selection), click the appropriate Soft key. This is based on the output you have for the source, be it 7.1 Mono or Stereo or 5.0 mono etc. This will copy the automation. Remember to make sure you are on the Bypass Lane of the Atmos Plugin. (For this to be visible, the plugins parameters must be automation enabled).

Spanner Plugin to Atmos

The way this is set up is to have individual Atmos panner auxes for each channel. This is because there is no multi-mono version of the Atmos plug-in. So for a 7.1 pan you must create L, C, R, LSS, RSS, LSR, RSR in that order, one below the other and kept below the Spanner track. I usually use Spanner on the master of the Ambience bed or FX bed. The Objects I want to pan are separately sent to these 7 auxes. Once set, the channels need to display the bypass automation lane of Spanner as well as each of the panner plug-in.

If you look at the Soft Key Page, I have made individual soft keys for each channel of Spanner. This is because I found this to be a more efficient way of converting the pans rather than a complete set. This can therefore be used whether you are going from LCR to LCR and all the way up to 7.0. The only thing to keep in mind for a 5.1 pan is you need to use the Spanner Left Side Surround and Spanner Right Side Surround Soft Keys for Ls and Rs. This will be sent to the 4th and 5th aux but that’s ok as we are only concerned with the panning Metadata. This video will hopefully explain this.

The rest are pretty self-explanatory I would think. To know how these work, go to the EuControl Preference Softkey Editor and simply click the macro button. Then if you click on Command…, you get to see the execution logic of it. I hope these are of use to you and I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas!  To watch and learn more about EuCon Softkeys and the technicalities, check out this excellent Tech Talk by Mark Corbin from Avid:

You can download the custom soft key user set here.

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I am a Pro Audio Solution Specialist with Avid and an award winning Re-Recording mixer. I have worked on more than 200 films in various languages in my career from mono to Dolby Atmos. More than 1/3rd of my life has been cinema and I have great joy in sharing my techniques with everyone.