Pro Tools is powerful and knowing fundamental editing techniques Pro Tools has to offer can greatly speed up your workflow so that you stay with the creative spark rather than being bogged down with the process. A key way of speeding up that workflow is understanding nudging and shifting clips and selections.
Nudging Audio Clips
Working in grid mode can be useful, especially when using the mouse to move clips within the timeline, but it is far more efficient to use keyboard shortcuts. This is where nudging comes in, as you can make very precise incremental movements by nudging a clip, multiple clips or selections within a track or across multiple tracks.
Nudging is independent of edit mode but instead follows the nudge value defined in the Grid/Nudge area of the Edit window toolbar.
First you will need to decide which Time Scale (Bars|Beats, Minutes:Seconds, Timecode, Feet+Frames or Samples) this will follow and then select the appropriate nudge value from the list.
Selecting the nudge value
Next select the clip(s) with the grabber tool and use the plus and minus keys on the Numeric keypad to move the clip(s) later or earlier in the track by the selected nudge increment.
It is important to bear in mind that nudging audio will always move the selected audio without moving adjacent clips, regardless of edit mode. By default, the nudge value is set to follow the main time scale of your session, but you can disable this from the nudge value popup. This is especially useful in a post production project as although you may be referencing Timecode, you may wish to nudge the music by Bars|Beats.
To set a nonstandard nudge value, click on the current number in the nudge value and type in a different value.
Changing nudge values on the fly from the keyboard can be done by holding Command Option (Mac) or Control Alt (PC) and pressing the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad to increment/decrement nudge values.
Timeline and Edit Selection in Pro Tools
It is worth pointing out that Pro Tools has both Edit and Timeline selections which can be useful in more advanced workflows. Edit selections are made within the track, whereas Timeline selection are made in the Timeline ruler at the top of the Edit window.
By default these are linked together with the Link Timeline and Edit Selection function. You can enable/disable this
- From the Options menu and selecting Link Timeline and Edit Selection
- By pressing Shift /
- By pressing the Link Timeline and Edit Selection button at the top of the edit window, just underneath the Grabber tool
Timeline and Edit selection indicators can both be found in the main time base ruler. However if these are linked you will only see the Timeline indicators.
Nudging Edit Selections
When nudging an edit selection, your selection moves forward or backward within the track without affecting the underlying media in that track. This is especially useful when you wish to temporarily disengage the nudging to ‘pick up’ a different clip or fade on that track.
To nudge an Edit selection hold shift and press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad.
Taking this one step further you can change the start or end times of the Edit selection.
- Nudging the start time of the Edit selection
- Press Option Shift (Mac) or Alt Shift (Windows) and press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad.
- Nudging the end time of the Edit selection
- Press Command Shift (Mac) or Control Shift (Windows) and press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad.
Nudging Timeline Selections
The timeline selection indicates the area that Pro Tools will playback when you press play. It is especially useful in being able to maintain the same playback range yet audition a completely different area of the track in the Edit selection.
To nudge the Timeline selection
- Press < or > to nudge by the current nudge increment
- Press M or / to nudge by the next higher nudge increment
Note that you will need to hold Control (Mac) or Start (Windows) whilst nudging timeline selection if Commands Keyboard Focus is not enabled.
Snapping the Timeline or Edit Selection
Occasionally you want to snap the Timeline or Edit Selection back to each other. This works in two ways, both of which require Commands Keyboard Focus to be enabled.
- To snap the Timeline selection to the Edit selection, press O
- To snap the Edit selection to the Timeline selection, press 0 (main keyboard, not numeric keypad)
Trimming Clip with Nudge
Another powerful function of nudging in Pro Tools is being able to trim the start or end of the selected clip by the nudge value. This can be especially useful when fine-tuning an edit.
Configure the nudge value as before and select the desired clip(s).
- Nudge the start time of the clip
- Holding Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows), press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad.
- Nudge the end time of the clip
- Holding Command (Mac) or Control (Windows), press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad
It is worth pointing out that if the clip has a fade at the beginning or end, then you will trim the fade rather than the clip.
Nudging the contents of a clip
When editing you’ll often find that the clip boundaries (start and end time) are correct, but the material within the clip is either too late or too early. In such a case you will find that being able to nudge the contents of the clip incredibly useful. This also means that any automation that you already have over that clip will remain exactly where it was.
In order to nudge the contents of the clip, you need to make sure that the underlying parent audio file extends beyond the length of the subset clip that you wish to nudge otherwise it will not work.
Clip in playlist
Underlying whole-file parent clip
Audio nudged earlier in time keeping the same boundaries
Configure the nudge value as before and select the desired clip(s).
- Holding Control (Mac) or Start (Windows), press the plus or minus keys on the numeric keypad
The Shift Command
Another method of moving track material backward or forward in time is to use the Shift command.
It is different from nudging in that
- You specify the amount to shift the clip by in a dialog box each time.
- Using the Shift command will separate a clip at the edit selection boundaries if only used on a partial clip, whereas nudging a partial clip will only move the edit selection leaving the underlying media unchanged
Shifting a selection or clip
- Select the desired track material you want to shift with either the Grabber or Selector tool across one or many tracks
- Go to the Edit menu and choose Shift or press Option H (Mac) / Alt H (Windows)
- Select whether to shift the material earlier or later
- Enter the value to shift by in one of the Time base
Developing your knowledge in nudging clips and selections will greatly improve your speed within Pro Tools and allow you to concentrate on what is important, which is your creative vision for the project in front of you. Allowing you to edit more intuitively with the keyboard rather than the mouse.