Pro Tools Non Destructive Editing

Pro Tools is considered a nondestructive editing environment because most of the audio edits that you perform will not alter the original audio that is recorded and stored on your hard drive.

Nondestructive Editing means that as you are working on your sessions, you:

  • Use less disk space
  • Can create multiple song arrangements and region edits without copying audio files
  • Edit without concern for altering the original recording

Here’s how it works

When you record audio onto a track in Pro Tools, two things are happening:

  1. Digital audio is being stored on your hard drive as an audio file (.WAV, .AIFF, or .SD2)
  2. Pro Tools software draws a graphic representation (a waveform display) of that audio file and displays it in the Pro Tools Edit Window
An audio recording is made. The audio file is stored on the hard drive and a graphic representation of the audio is drawn in Pro Tools.

1:1 ~ An audio recording is made. The audio file is stored on the hard drive and a graphic representation of the audio is drawn in Pro Tools.

In figure 1:1 the Graphic Waveform [B] in Pro Tools acts as a map of the audio that is on the hard drive [A].

The map, or audio region as it’s called, simply points to the audio file, or a portion of the audio file on your hard drive. Pro Tools uses that region information to determine what portion of the audio file it is supposed to play and when.

In the case of the diagram 1:1, the region has not been edited. So, it is basically telling Pro Tools to play the entire audio file just as it was recorded

If an audio region corresponds to the entire audio file as it was recorded it’s called a Whole Region.

Therefore, when you edit a region you are actually editing the playback instructions that tell Pro Tools at which point it is to start and stop playing back the corresponding audio file on the drive. (see diagrams 1:2 – 1:4)

1:2 - A selection is made with the Selector Tool over a small portion of the region.

1:2 - A selection is made with the Selector Tool over a small portion of the region.

1:3 The editing function CLEAR is performed on the selection by right-clicking on the region and selecting Clear.

1:3 The editing function CLEAR is performed on the selection by right-clicking on the region and selecting Clear.

1:4 When the Clear edit is completed, the region has been changed but the audio file on the hard drive has not been altered

1:4 When the Clear edit is completed, the region has been changed but the audio file on the hard drive has not been altered

The Result

In the above example, the two remaining regions point to smaller portions of the audio file on the hard drive. Instead of playing the Whole File Region, Pro Tools will only play the portions of the audio file that the regions represent.

All of this editing is considered nondestructive because the audio on the hard drive is not changed.

The same principle of nondestructive editing applies with other Pro Tools editing features, too.