Remote Mix Review with Pro Tools
For years I've been doing "attended" mix review sessions with clients, wherever they are in the world. It's always been a bit clunky, but the time savings of wrapping up a mix has made it worth the headache. The process got a little easier with tools like Sessionwire, (which is pretty awesome, try it!) but sometimes Zoom is the best option; it allows multiple clients in multiple locations to join in. In the case of Zoom, I use it in parallel with Audiomovers' Listento to stream the high quality mix. It involves a bit of setting up, but I'm sharing my template for you to grab the tracks and make it easier for yourself. But first, what's a blog post without excessive exposition...
The ideal way for me to use zoom would be to route my mic into Pro Tools, where I could use Sound Radix's Muteomatic to mute/unmute it while the mix is playing back (so as to not play the mix through my zoom mic, or even deal with the mute button). Then, I could send the zoom audio into the session and monitor both the mix and zoom without having to switch sources on my monitor controller. All of this requires complex routing, and complex third-party software to grab the audio from my interface, which Pro Tools is so selfishly hogging. Getting this working even halfway with an HDX interface has been an awful experience for me. Actually, it doesn't work at all. I've always resorted to running zoom on my laptop and forgetting to mute/unmute like the champion I am.
Sessionwire wins. It's a simple task of loading plugins in the session and you're set. For times when Zoom is needed, fortunately it's gotten easier. For both options, I created one template which you can download here.
Here's a look inside the template:
At risk of over-explaining I should first mention that my sessions are set up with a mix print track- which means my mix buss feeds a "Mix Split" aux track, which outputs to my Stereo Out (my speakers for monitoring) and a "Mix Print" buss feeding the "Mix Print" track. This "Mix Split" is where I also have a "Mix Send" buss sending to the mix review send tracks. Still with me?
All of that is built into my actual mix template, but I've included those tracks here to illustrate. Essentially, these are all at the bottom of my session and signal cascades from top to bottom.
As a stand-alone set of tracks, I have a Mix Review folder track containing 4 tracks:
My Mic- my mic on an aux input (to not have to mess with input monitoring)
Mix Send- an aux receiving the "Mix Send" buss, with both the Sessionwire Send and Listento plugins
SW TB RX- an aux track with the Sessionwire Receive plugin
Zoom TB RX- an aux track with the audio returning from zoom (how? read on...)
Pro Tools Aux I/O zooms to the rescue:
Thanks to Pro Tools Aux I/O feature, using Zoom is now MUCH easier. The main point is to set up the Aux I/O for a stereo pair of sends and returns from Pro Tools. I'm using Pro Tools Audio Bridge 2 A/B. These will be selected in zoom as the mic and speaker source.
Inside Pro Tools, I have 2 tracks set up for this: MY Mic, and Zoom Talkback Return. You can probably guess what their I/O settings are, but here's what I do- MY Mic outputs to Stereo Out so I can soundcheck my mic. It's automated with the fader all the way down to avoid feedback, but I can quickly pull it up to check (when using headphones that is). There is a pre-fader send to my Aux I/O send to Zoom (Pro Tools Audio Bridge 2-A).
Zoom Talkback Return input is set to Pro Tools Audio Bridge 2-B, and outputs to...Stereo Out. Muteomatic is on my talkback mic, and on the zoom talkback. I generally keep this bypassed on the zoom track so the client can interject, but if they're not using headphones it might be helpful to activate it to not hear your mix returning delayed from their mic bleed; and everyone appreciates not having to deal with the mute button. Options, ya know? Further, I'm using Channel Strip on MY Mic, because we're audio professionals and shouldn't sound like slouches ;).
For the high quality audio part of this Zoom setup, I'm using Listento. This is set up on the Mix Send track and I can disable it if I'm using Sessionwire. I usually just leave it alone though.
To use Sessionwire, all that's needed is to load the send and return plugins on the proper tracks, and set those as your talkback input and speaker output in the Sessionwire window, shown in the screen grab- they made a more in-depth video of how to do this on the Sessionwire app side of things.
The Mix Send track has the Sessionwire Send Plugin on it, and the SW TB RX track has the Sessionwire TB Receive plugin on it. Pretty simple.
That's what's going on under the hood. My suggestion is to save the Mix Review folder track as a preset (right-click on the name, Save Track Preset...) and next time you do a remote review session, it's all ready to go. If you'd like the Soundflow script, reach out and I'll gladly share it, because the world is a better place with efficiency.
*Quick note- All of the software I'm mentioning is free or purchased by me, they're not sponsoring this in any way, nor have they given me any of the software. If you sign up for Soundflow using this link or the one above, I'll get a small credit on my bill at no cost to you, which is a cool way of buying me a coffee for helping you out :)