The first piece of advice I give any new sound editor is to get Pro Tools and learn the keyboard shortcuts. Forget proficiency in typing, that's child's play. In order to compete in the real world of post production sound, you need to be FAST. Knowing your way around the keyboard shortcuts doesn't just shorten your workday, it tells the clients - who expect requests to be carried out quickly - that you are on top of your game.
Basic keyboard shortcuts - switching the tools, changing the view - need to be second nature. But with literally hundreds to learn, there's bound to be a few that could slip through the cracks. Here are some of the best lesser known Pro Tools keyboard shortcuts to help speed up your workflow.
CYCLE THROUGH EDIT MODEs
MAC & PC Tilde ( ~ )
I put out the call to our Boom Box Post team and this one comes from editor Brad Meyer. Fifteen years on Pro Tools and I had no idea this existed. Just goes to show you, there's always something new to learn. This one is pretty straight forward. Cycle through the Shuffle, Split, Spot and Grid modes.
Use case: If you're used to cutting in Slip mode like me, just one tap of the tilde is all you'll need to spot new picture to timecode when it comes arrives. Then it's just three taps and you're back to editorial.
Half Speed Playback
MAC & PC Shift+Spacebar
Play back your entire session at half speed.
Use case: Fine tune any tricky sync-related moments by checking your work back in half time.
select and clear unused clips
MAC Step 1: Command+Shift+U Step 2: Command+Shift+B PC Step 1: Ctrl+Shift+U Step 2: Ctrl+Shift+B
This is a two step process to first find any unused clips and then clear them from the session.
Use case: If you're a regular reader of the blog, you'll know that I'm a big fan of clean session deliveries. Whether you're working remotely or in house, storage space is always worth considering and this two step process will likely save you a lot of Megabytes (or perhaps even Gigabytes). Make these two shortcut keys a regular part of your routine before saving off any final session for delivery.
extend selection to end of session
MAC Option+Shift+Return PC Ctrl+Shift+Enter
Select everything on one or multiple tracks from the location of the cursor to the end of the session
Use case: Say you need to remove some space between lines in a radio play. In order to keep the relative spacing, you need to include the region you're editing and all those that follow. Using click and drag to manually select scrolls you to the end of your session and navigating back can slow you down. Instead, use this keyboard shortcut for one or multiple selected tracks, allowing you to make this large selection with confidence without every changing your point of reference.
Show/hide Clip Gain Line
MAC Control+Shift+Hyphen (-) PC Start+Shift+Hyphen (-)
Toggle between showing and hiding the clip gain for all regions in a session.
Use case: This shortcut is very handy if you are mixing and an editor has clip gained a region so low there's not enough head room to turn it up. Show the line to help make a quick adjustment to the region. Trust me, having a fast fix for this problem makes you much less likely to want to lash out at the editor!
Display Automation playlist of automation enabled plug-in control, track volume, or track pan
MAC Command-Control-click on control PC Ctrl-Start-click on control
Wordy, yes, but this shortcut is quite useful. Use it to show you the automation graph of any automated plugin parameter, or any track's volume or panning.
Use case: Quickly globally change the wet/dry ratio on a reverb. Or add in the Option key (Alt on PC) and click the Pan readout on any track to see panning for all tracks. This shortcut combo is especially useful if you're looking to quickly and globally view any automation from another editor's work.
Paste Special Repeat to Fill Selection
MAC Command+Option+V PC Ctrl+Alt+V
Whatever you have copied on your clipboard, this shortcut will paste it for the entirety of your selection.
Use case: You've changed global volume and panning on a build of Backgrounds and need to use these new settings for all occurrences of this background build. Highlight a section of all tracks in the build, choose the drop down menu function Edit > Copy Special > All Automation to copy all automation for all tracks, highlight (for the entire length) all occurrences of this background build and use this shortcut to paste in the new settings for all files in one keystroke.
Nudge data within current Clip to right/left
MAC Control+Plus/Minus (+/–) keys PC Start+Plus/Minus (+/–) keys (on the number pad)
Move data within a region to the left (+) or right (-) by the set nudge value.
Use case: You have a bunch of small foley edits cut together with crossfades and moving the regions to fix a small sync change may create the need to redo all your fades. This shortcut allows you to simply nudge the data within the region, preserving all your hard work and organization.
MAC Command+U PC Ctrl+U
Brings up the Strip Silence dialogue box. Highlight any region and it will show you the analyzed waveform with default settings.
Use case: Strip Silence is a great starting off point when you've done some recording. It's a fast way to split a long single recording into individual takes since all silence in your recording is removed automatically. Using this shortcut saves you even more time by avoiding the menu navigation.
Write Automation to All Enabled Parameters (HD ONLY)
MAC Command+Option+Forward Slash ( / ) PC Ctrl+Alt+Forward Slash ( / )
Write any automation changes at the cursor or across a selection (while playback is stopped).
Use Case: You want to pan and lower the volume on a long traffic wash off screen. Rather than doing this in real time and waiting for the entire length of the region to run, you can set the pan and volume while stopped, highlight the entire region and use this shortcut to write that change across it all in one keystroke. This use is the equivalent of using the 'Manual Write to Selection' function in the automation window.
BONUS TIP! CREATE CUSTOM PRO TOOLS SHORTCUT KEYS (MAC)
The biggest flaw I see within the Pro Tools keyboard shortcut system is the inability to customize. Adding or altering shortcuts within the software itself is not possible, but thanks to the Mac OS, there's a workaround. You can create your own custom shortcut keys to accomplish any of the menu items you use often. I like creating custom shortcuts to call up my most used sound editorial plugins, like those for Pitching, Reversing and EQ. Here's how you go about it:
1. Choose a shortcut to create
For our example lets set up a custom keyboard shortcut that launches the Gain plugin. For whatever shortcut you'd like to add, the first step is to navigate to it in the Pro Tools application and write down the exact way it is listed at the end of the menu chain. This one's easy, it's just Gain.
2. Set up the shortcut in System Preferences
Click on the Apple icon in the upper left of the screen and navigate to System Preferences. Choose Keyboard. Click the Shortcuts tab and choose App Shortcuts in the left hand column. Now click the + below the right hand column. A dialogue box will come up. Under Application choose Pro Tools from the drop down menu. Now type in the title you wrote down in Step 1 in Menu Title box. Remember to type it exactly as it is listed in Pro Tools or your shortcut will not work. Lastly, click on the box next to Keyboard Shortcut and press the key combination you'd like to use to trigger the shortcut key. Be sure to pick a shortcut that is not already assigned to another function within Pro Tools. I like adding Control+Shift+Option to a letter (we call this THE CLAW) since that is not a standard shortcut key combination in Pro Tools. For our example lets use the first letter of the plugin. Type Control+Shift+Option+G (all at once). You should see this combination populate in the dialogue box. Click Add.
3. Test your new keyboard shortcut
You'll know it worked when you see this combination listed next to the function in the drop down menu. Give the combination a try. Your Gain plugin window should open in a single keystroke. That's it! This trick not only works for Pro Tools, but with it you can create custom keyboard shortcuts for any software menu function. It's also a great way to get customizable control surfaces - like the Avid Artist Control - to trigger all kinds of menu items not listed in their menus.
For the completist, check out this Pro Tools Shortcuts Guide for a list of every keyboard shortcut possibility.