A New View On Waveforms


If you have used Pro Tools even for simple tasks, you are no doubt familiar with the fact that each audio clip will display a representation of its content, but did you know that the software offers a few options in what is displayed? More importantly, are you using the best waveform view to suit your current audio task?

This short tutorial will take you through the different views you have available and will also note when each of them may benefit your different production scenarios.

Calculation Overviews

Pro Tools offers two calculation options for waveform overviews in the form of Peak and Power, the active mode is selected by going to the menu View > Waveforms, as shown below.

The waveform view you see within each clip are, by default, calculated by Peak value. In Peak mode the waveforms are calculated based on sample-by-sample peak levels and clearly display any clipping which may have occured during recording.

When using Power mode, Pro Tools bases its overview calculations on the Root Mean Square (RMS) average of the waveform. Power mode can be used in both normal and rectified views (we will get into those definitions in a short while) and is the best option for viewing the characteristics of the material.

The Power overview is particularly useful for mastering applications when attention to waveform detail is key as it shows more charateristics than Peak mode.

No matter which waveform view mode you have active, Pro Tools will default to Peak during recording, the Power view is then calculated and displayed as soon as recording is stopped. It is also worth mentioning that Power view is never available while using Destructive Punch recording mode, or while you are zoomed in as far as sample level.

Rectified Views

Throughout this tutorial you will have seen us use the term ‘Rectified View‘, this is yet another option available for you to view your clip waveforms in different ways.

By default, Pro Tools will show the waveform overviews with rectified off, this means that the clips will show a horizontal centered line showing the positive and negative amplitudes above and below it. The image below shows this and is probably the sight you are most familiar with.

When viewing the waveforms as rectified, the positive and negative amplitudes are summed together to create a single positive value display which comes up from the bottom of the clip.

I personally find the rectified view handy when working on volume automations as you can match the automation line along with the direction of the amplitude, much easier than if I were viewing both the positive and negative amplitudes, in my opinion.

The rectified mode can be used in both Peak and Power views and can be accessed from View > Waveforms > Rectified.

Outlining The Details

One final way in which you can customise your waveform view is by using outlines, this simply adds a thin outline to the waveforms allowing you to see them a little clearer when zoomed out for example.

Outlines do make a fair amount of difference when you are looking at lots of small audio clips within a big session, but you may want to take it off when you are looking to zoom in and make finer adjustments.

Once again you can easily choose this function from View > Waveforms > Outlines.

Final Words

We hope that this quick tutorial has opened your eyes to even more of the finer options that Pro Tools offers to help with your production tasks.

Despite being quite a small feature within the production software, how you view your waveforms can certainly change how you work in different situations as I’m sure you will find after having a look.

If you have enjoyed this tutorial and are now perhaps making use of a new view with your waveforms then please do leave us a comment below or say hi on Twitter!


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