Now that your sequence is edited, you're ready to export your project out of ProTools and into a standard audio format - a process known in ProTools as "bounce to disk."
You may want to export uncompressed audio for use on an audio or data CD, or you may want to export compressed audio for use on the Web. For Web work, you may want your audio as compressed QuickTime, or in the popular MP3 format.
Pro Tools' "Bounce to Disk" function provides very limited options for conversion to other formats. We strongly recommend bouncing to uncompressed AIFF format, and then using QuickTime Pro or iTunes to convert the AIFF to another format.
First, make sure your Pro Tools project has been saved.
Then use the selector tool to select all the regions of your audio that you want to export (see the section on selecting multiple regions).
Then in the menu at the top click on File...Bounce to Disk.
In the top section of the Bounce panel, leave the Bounce Source unchanged.
Make sure the File Type is set to AIFF.
For web work, set the Format to Mono (summed).
For CD or other high-end work, set the Format to Stereo (interleaved).
Set the resolution to 16 bit.
Set the Sample Rate to 44100 (44.1KHz) unless you plan to integrate your audio back into a digital video project, in which case you should use 48000 (48KHz).
At the bottom of the panel, select:
Convert After Bounce
Click OK and select an output desitnation for your AIFF file. Click Save and your project will be exported to AIFF.
Preparing Audio for the Web
Once you have an uncompressed AIFF file, you need to compress it for web use. The goal is to retain decent audio quality while drastically reducing the size of the file -- you should expect the web-ready audio to be 10x smaller than the original AIFF file (or more!).
This level of compression is achieved by discarding enough data that the file size is small, but not so much that the audio quality overtly suffers. For example, we'll be reducing stereo tracks to mono, cutting the sample rate in half, and running the audio through a compression codec (compressor/decompressor).
The final product of this tutorial will be either a compressed audio-only QuickTime file or a standard MP3 file. Other common formats (not covered here) are Windows Media and Real Audio.
Note: if you're planning to use the audio in a Flash project, there's no need to compress it at this point, since the audio will be compressed by the Flash authoring tool when you do your final export from Flash. So if you're going to use the audio in Flash, just use the AIFF audio file as described above.
Generating Compressed QuickTime Audio
The QuickTime player becomes "QuickTime Pro" when you register (pay for) the product. At that time, the QuickTime Player gains the ability to transcode between dozens of media formats.
Note: You can achieve similar results by importing the AIFF into iMovie or Final Cut Pro and then exporting, using the same principles shown here.
Launch QuickTime Pro and pull down File | Import. Navigate to the AIFF file you bounced from Pro Tools and click OK. Your AIFF file will load into QuickTime.
Pull down File | Export and navigate to an export location (such as the Desktop). Alter the output filename if you like (being sure to keep the .mov extension).
At the bottom of the file panel, in the Export section, select Movie to QuickTime Movie from the picklist, then click the Options button.
The Video section of the next panel will be dimmed out. In the Sound section, click the Settings button and select:
The panel should now look like this:
Click OK. The QuickTime export panel should now look like this:
Be sure to enable "Prepare for Internet Streaming" and select "Fast Start" as the streaming type (unless your audio will live on a QuickTime Streaming Server rather than a regular web server, in which case you should selected "Hinted Streaming.")
Click OK and the compression process will begin. This may take a few seconds or a few hours, depending on the length of your source file.
When compression has finished, compare the file size of the original AIFF to the filesize of the exported audio file. Next, compare the audio quality of both by double-clicking them and listening to them carefully in your audio player of choice. If not satisfied, experiment with other options in the Settings panel above (but we have found these settings very satisfactory for general purposes).
To learn how to embed QuickTime audio into web pages, see the tutorial Adding Multimedia Elements to Web Pages.
Generating MP3 Audio
If you'd like to convert your audio to the ubiquitous MP3 format rather than QuickTime, note that neither QuickTime Pro, iMovie, nor Final Cut will allow you to do this. However, you can generate MP3s from within iTunes.
In iTunes, create a playlist by selecting File | New Playlist. Select the playlist and you'll see that it's empty (we only use an empty playlist here to keep your audio from getting lost in a larger collection of music).
Drag your AIFF file into the empty playlist window.
Next, you need to make sure iTunes is set to generate (encode) MP3s, and not some other format. Pull down iTunes | Preferences and select Importing. Make sure the "Import Using" picklist is set to MP3. Set the Setting picklist to 128kbps or 160kbps (again, you can adjust this up or down later according to your filesize vs. quality needs -- you might want to use a higher bitrate for high-fidelity music, or lower for spoken-word pieces). Click OK.
Select your AIFF file in the otherwise-empty playlist.
Pull down Advanced | Convert Selection to MP3. iTunes will churn for a minute as it converts your audio file. When it's done, you'll see another instance of the original track title in the playlist -- one of them is the original AIFF file and the other is your MP3.
Drag the newly created MP3 file from iTunes to the Desktop. You can upload this MP3 file to any web server, link to it from any web page, etc.