Tech Blog – Monitoring a DVD in Pro Tools

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Paul Neyrinck discusses how to connect a DVD player to Pro Tools hardware and decode 5.1 surround directly in Pro Tools

SoundCode For Dolby Digital is a feature-rich tool for encoding and QC testing AC3 files for DVD.  But one feature that might not be obvious is that you can connect a DVD player to Pro Tools hardware and decode 5.1 surround directly in Pro Tools.  This is a great way to listen to your DVD before you commit to burning more copies or to listen to commercial DVD’s against your mix.

You can do this with an external DVD player or the DVD player in the computer as long as the DVD player has a SPDIF or Optical output.  The decoder plug-in is RTAS and will operate is stereo-to-5.1 mode in Pro Tools HD or Pro Tools LE with the Complete Production Toolkit.

Follow these steps to decode and monitor a DVD directly in Pro Tools:

  1. Connect the SPDIF/Optical output of the DVD Player to the SPDIF/Optical input of the Pro Tools interface.
  2. Launch Pro Tools and create a session at 48 kHz, 16 or 24-bit.  It is very important to use a 48 kHz sample rate.
  3. Open the Hardware Setup dialog and set for external sync using the SPDIF / Optical input that is connected to the DVD player.  It is very important to sync Pro Tools to the DVD player.  When you close the Hardware Setup dialog it should notify you that it has found the sync.  If it notifies you that there is no sync then you have not configured the sync correctly.
  4. Lower your monitor level and  create a stereo aux track in Pro Tools.  Set the input to come from the DVD player.
  5. Play a DVD and make sure you can hear an AC3 stream coming in from it which is full-code noise.  Be very careful to listen at a very low level because the full-code noise can damage your equipment and hearing.  It is very important that you hear the AC3 stream.  If you hear normal audio then either the DVD player needs to be configured correctly to output the AC3 stream or the DVD does not have an AC3 soundtrack.
  6. Insert a RTAS stereo-to-5.1 SoundCode Dolby Digital decoder on the track.  Set the track output to a 5.1  interface path.  It is very important to set the output to a valid interface path.  Pro Tools will not run the plug-in if the track output is not connected.
  7. The STATUS section of the plug-in should indicate that the input is Dolby Digital and you should hear 5.1 audio.  If it says PCM, then the DVD player input has not been configured correctly.
  8. Now you should be able to enjoy 5.1 sound from a DVD directly in Pro Tools!