Sound for Picture VII: Post-production plug-ins

When it comes to having the right tools for the job, there will always be varying opinion about which software plug-ins for audio post workstations get the job done most efficiently and at the best quality. In this section of the Sound for Picture series, we’ll take a look at some of the more functional and most creative options for your audio post-production suite.

Digidesign Satellite Link

For post-production environments with multiple Pro Tools|HD systems and multiple operators, Digidesign Satellite Link is an easy way to control and sync up to five Pro Tools|HD systems with near sample-accurate lock, from a single transport. These multi-master transport capabilities allow each linked system to control transport functions, while solo-link capabilities enable link systems to function as a single mixer. In order to use Satellite Link, you’ll need to own either a Sync HD or Sync I/O, but for the majority of post-production facilities, this will be a piece of equipment you already can’t live without. If you’re working with HD video, Satellite Link also supports the new Digidesign Video Satellite and Video Satellite LE options.

Digidesign Video Satellite and Video Satellite LE

As we’ve already seen earlier in this series, Video Satellite is an excellent tool for Pro Tools|HD that allows you to bring high-definition video into your audio production workflow. Video Satellite allows Pro Tools|HD operators to play Avid SD or HD video sequences from a dedicated Windows-based computer running Avid Media Composer software, in sync with their Pro Tools session. This eliminates the need to render effects, transcode video or copy files, thus greatly enhancing post-production efficiency. Using Video Satellite also enables users to tap into Avid shared media environments to stream video and, because all playback is offloaded onto a separate but synced computer, you can maintain the full audio track count and processing power of your Pro Tools|HD system.

Video Satellite’s more affordable sibling is Video Satellite LE, which similarly preserves the full processing power of your Pro Tools|HD system when editing sound for picture. Video Satellite LE is a software option for Pro Tools|HD that allows editors to play QuickTime HD/SD video or AvidSD video with the Avid Mojo SDI from a separate but synced MBox 2 Micro system. With Video Satellite LE installed on the Pro Tools LE-based computer, you can control playback in sync with your session in Pro Tools|HD.

In both of these instances, syncing is achieved over a proprietary Ethernet protocol, which achieves a faster lock than 9-pin and tighter lock than MIDI Time Code.

Digidesign MachineControl

MachineControl is an integrated option for Pro Tools that enables you to easily control external audio/video devices via standard serial 9-pin machine control protocols. This software option makes options for fast forward, rewind, jog, shuttle and other common tasks accessible through the Pro Tools graphical interface.

Additionally, MachineControl also allows you to slave Pro Tools to compatible Sony 9-pin devices, allowing your Pro Tools system to emulate a remote deck, and also offers track-arming for integral laybacks to external devices.

Digidesign DigiTranslator 2.0

Earlier in this series, we noted the importance of accurate conversion between various formats within a post environment. The DigiTranslator software provides accurate conversion and exchange of OMF, AAF and MXF audio files, video files and sequences, and translation of Avid volume data directly through the Pro Tools application.

SynchroArts VocALign Pro

When it comes to ADR, VocALign is an indispensable tool that will adjust the timing of one audio signal to match the timing of another, making the process of dialogue replacement easier and quicker than it ever has been. While the benefits of this plug-in are not limited to post-production alone, this is undoubtedly the easiest way to edit a line of replacement dialogue so that it aligns with the dialogue recorded in the original film or video. This enables the voiceover artist to concentrate on their performance rather than live syncing with perfect results, and also caters for convincing foreign language dubs.

VocALign is currently available in a few formats – VocALign PRO V4 for Pro Tools, VocALign Project (now available as an Audio Suite and Audio Unit plug-in) and VocALign Project for stand-alone use.

SynchroArts Titan 3.1

SynchroArts Titan is a stand-alone application that provides four automatic editing functions that can save a substantial amount of time when editing Pro Tools session files. The Fix Sync function automatically adjusts the position of manually or auto-conformed audio regions to sync precisely to a work track, or can be used to correct the sync of audio that has passed through signal processing devices and has been delayed by unknown amounts of latency.

The second mode of operation of this application, Flash Cutter, is split into two sections. The Cut Only Mode (Conform) function removes the need to manually re-cut and rename edits in situations when tape is used to transfer audio from any editing system to Pro Tools and an OMF transfer is not a practical option. Once audio has been transferred into the Pro Tools session as a continuous track and it’s been correctly positioned, Flash Cutter uses a standard EDL from the first editing system to automatically re-cut the tracks and rename the audio regions. The second mode of operation of Flash Cutter is Cut and Move Mode (Re-Cut), which allows user-selected tracks in a Pro Tools session to be cut into sections defined by EDL events source I/O times, which can be moved into new positions with starting points defined by each EDL events’ record (or destination) in time.

The fourth and final component of this application is Flash Conform, which can conform audio loaded into hard disk and DVD drives from audio editors or location recorders. This component supports a wide range of reel/roll and time code identification options and can conform audio with mixed sample rates and bit depth, converting the audio to a single user-selected sample rate and bit depth. The Flash Conform function can also create Pro Tools and AES31 sessions with support for an unlimited number of audio channels.

Waves 360˚ Surround Tools

The Waves 360˚ Surround Tools bundle is made of some of the best audio post-production tools for surround sound mixing currently available. The feature set available to the editor in this pack includes compression, limiting, reverb, spatial enhancement and various other useful plug-ins for the creation of surround mixes. For more information on the individual plug-ins that make up the Waves 360˚ Surround Tools bundle, please visit

Dolby Surround Tools

Dolby Surround Tools makes surround mixing extremely efficient for Pro Tools operators, supporting the Pro Tools multi-channel mixer and sample rates up to 96kHz. Due to the way that Dolby Surround Tools’ encoding and decoding process matches that of the industry-standard Dolby Models SEU4 and SDU4, D-to-A and A-to-D conversions are no longer needed. While the suite is not designed for the final mixing of matrix-encoded theatrical film soundtracks, it can be used to preview the results of the process on the discrete four-channel audio tracks (L, C, R, S) that will subsequently be combined with other elements during the final mix stage. In addition to the professional and industry-standard tools provided in this pack, clients will be able to take full marketing advantage of the Dolby Surround trademark on their productions and packaging with a royalty-free license from Dolby Laboratories.

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