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Introduction to Pro Tools Plug-ins

Plug-ins are add-on software tools developed by Avid and Development Partners that provide additional signal processing functionality to Pro Tools systems. There’s a Pro Tools software plug-in for almost anything you can imagine: EQ, dynamics, reverb, sound synthesis, pitch and time shifting, noise reduction, mastering, surround encoding, and more. Some plug-ins emulate the sonic characteristics of hardware processors, amplifiers, or microphones. Others give you power and flexibility that is unique to the world of computer-based digital audio.

To use plug-ins, you simply open them within the Pro Tools software interface. At that point, you’re free to use presets, customize settings, and automate a given plug-in’s activity within a mix — any of those settings can be recalled at any time. Whether you’re doing music production, sound design, or live sound with the VENUE live sound environment, plug-ins are an integral part of working with Avid systems.

Pro Tools plug-ins are available in three formats: TDM, Real-Time AudioSuite (RTAS), and AudioSuite.

TDM
for Pro Tools|HD systems and VENUE

TDM plug-ins are uniquely powerful because they use the dedicated hardware found on the DSP cards of Pro Tools|HD and VENUE systems rather than the limited resources of the host computer. As a result, TDM plug-ins are afforded much more processing power than what is available in any competing system. You can add TDM plug-ins up to the hardware DSP capacity of your system and get the same fast, reliable performance no matter how many tracks you have in a session. If you need more mixing horsepower, you can easily add DSP cards to your system.

RTAS
for Pro Tools|HD, Pro Tools LE, and Pro Tools M-Powered systems

Real-Time AudioSuite (RTAS) plug-ins are host-based, relying on the host computer’s processing power to process audio in real time. Functionally, RTAS plug-ins offer many of the same benefits of TDM plug-ins. Their parameters can change in real-time, they can be fully automated, and their effects are not permanently written to the audio file. Since they are host-based, RTAS plug-ins share computer processing resources with a number of other functions. As a result, the number and variety of RTAS plug-ins you can use is dependent on other host-dependent factors, such as track count (on Pro Tools LE systems), edit density, and the amount of automation in a session.

AudioSuite
for Pro Tools|HD, Pro Tools LE, and Pro Tools M-Powered systems

AudioSuite plug-ins employ file-based processing. Depending on how you configure a non-real-time AudioSuite plug-in, it will either create an entirely new audio file or alter the original source audio file with the processing included. AudioSuite plug-ins are useful for conserving DSP power. They are also suitable for certain types of processing where there is no real-time benefit or application, such as normalization or time compression.