PRODUCT: Avid's Pro Tools 10
PRICING: Pro Tools 10: $699; upgrades and crossgrades begin at $299; Pro Tools HD Native hardware and software bundles start at $4,999; Complete Pro Tools HDX systems start at $9,999; College and secondary education students can purchase PT 10 and get four years of free upgrades for $295.
When Avid announced the release of Pro Tools 10, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Hadn’t Pro Tools 9 just come out? Jump cut to last year’s AES convention, I had the opportunity to see an Avid presentation highlighting the new features of Pro Tools 10. What caught my interest was a set of features that were geared towards post production and Pro Tools 10’s interoperability with Avid’s Media Composer 6. Having first hand experience troubleshooting workflow issues between audio and video post houses, I immediately sought out the benefits of upgrading to Pro Tools 10 to help alleviate some of the stresses of an already high-pressure environment.
Avid’s enhancement to Pro Tools extends over a multitude of technical features, but they didn’t leave out the chance to address the DAW’s nomenclature. In today’s post production world, engineers and editors alike are being forced to take on more responsibilities because of shrinking budgets. A video editor’s tasks can extend into audio, the same going for engineers to video, and often times with that a new set of terms not native to their respective disciplines. Avid looks to be bridging the gap by bringing familiar video post terms to Pro Tools 10.
The biggest change in Pro Tools nomenclature is regions are now called clips. “Clips” is a term often used in video editing software to designate short sections of audio and video that are edited together to form a sequence. Edit selection start and end are now referred to in Pro Tools 10 as in and out points. Audio Suites “processing” also got the cut and is now deemed “rendering.” These small changes are worth noting because in an industry were communication is the success to any project, these minor changes can help audio and video post converse on the same page.
Before fully diving into all the technical advancements Avid has made to Pro Tools 10’s workflow, I think it is worth sharing a key disk performance enhancement. Its new architecture now allows users to designate RAM for smoother and quicker playback of sessions. What Pro Tools 10 does is cache, or pre-load, the audio files closest to the play head using the host computer’s available RAM. This new feature can be set in the “disk cache” located under the playback engine menu. What makes this new option interesting is Pro Tools 10’s ability to play nice with shared media storage. Pro Tools 10 loading files prior to actual playback will help offset the time it takes to pull data over a network. Projects have become bigger and more intensive, and so has the need for an efficient DAW that takes advantage of multiple users working off of the same drives.
A big challenge to workflow between audio and video post production can be getting material from the video editing software into the DAW as the video editor intended. Avid has given Pro Tools 10 users a helping hand to this challenge by adding a new set of features to the import and export functions. A key import option is the “Adjust Session Start Time to Match Source Start Time.” This option helps elevate doubts that the mixer and video editor are not on the same page as far as timecode is concerned. This can happen when audio post is working in conjunction with visuals that have not been locked. Multiple OMFs or AAFs can be delivered as the visuals reach their final cut causing a tedious process of checking sync between audio and video.
In earlier versions of Pro Tools, if OMFs and AAFs didn’t contain a two pop for audio sync, then it could become cumbersome to verify that audio was frame accurate to the picture. This added feature can give an engineer a sense of security that newly added OMFs or AAFs are accurately syncing with their sessions.
Importing has also become more flexible and efficient. Pro Tools 10 now allows for multiple file types within the same session. This change goes in step with Media Composer 6’s ability to work with multiple types as well. No longer will disk space be used to convert and save files to a single type unless the user chooses it to. Clip based gain is another great option to the import function. This new feature deserves its own section and will be explained in depth shortly.
Exporting also got a make over. Users can now export selected tracks to a new session fast and easy. This option allows sessions to be broken out into its proper parts quickly. If a Mixer needs to get a batch of sound effects to a sound editor for some tweaks then they can simply use this option to copy the appropriate tracks into a session. From here the freshly created session can quickly be handed off to the sound editor. Once the changes have been made, these new tracks can be imported just as easily using the import session data function.
A few notable additions to the export function are the ability to send bounces directly to iTunes and SoundCloud. These enhancements can seem a bit populist, but having the ability to dump a bounce into either of these programs is a real time saver. Through iTunes engineers can hear their mixes back on computer speakers and on SoundCloud, engineers can share their latest work with colleagues and clients.
In step with the nomenclature change to clips Avid has brought the flexibility of clip-based gain to its Pro Tools application. In the past, when importing OMFs or AAFs, clip-based gain used within video editing software was stamped into the audio files as they were converted into a Pro Tools session. This could be avoided by clicking ignoring clip-based gain, but why lose out on any audio work the editor may have done while constructing their sequences. Mixers can also easily change clip levels, helping speed up the dialogue leveling process. The name of the game is efficiency and now engineers can view the intentions of their video editing counterparts by importing clip-based gain and making changes to it as they see fit.
Clip-based gain isn’t the only enhancement for Pro Tools 10 that eases the workflow for engineers once they get their sessions set up. A huge issue when mixing audio for long format was audio suites destructive processing, or “rendering” of files. Often times when coming across a bad piece of dialogue I would grab my favorite de- clicker or de-noiser and process the file that was giving me trouble. A major drawback was if the client, during the review, needed me to pull out the audio on that particular clip, I was stuck and any fades I may have made on previous passes would be imprinted. There were a couple of workarounds, but none as easy as audio suite just not being destructive. An added bonus is the ability to have multiple audio suite plug-ins open. Too many times have I just wanted two audio suite plug-ins open and ready to go.
Another great mixing workflow addition is Avid’s new down mixer plug-in. Truthfully if you’re in post production already there is a good chance you already own a third-party mix monitoring plug-in, but I’m always down for the freebies. Plus, this gives up and comers a chance to gain experience in a plug-in that may have been out of their price range. The new down mixer plug-in allows mixers to quickly monitor their mixes in mono, 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1.
Avid really showed me up with Pro Tools 10. I did not expect this latest version to offer anything I could really write home about. With all that said, I’m excited to see Pro Tools 10 as a powerful, flexible, and most importantly efficient DAW. The upgrade at face value can seem a bit overpriced, but with the potential to save time, which can equal money, I think most people will get behind Avid’s Pro Tools 10.
Josh Moyer is a Producer at Pomann Sound Inc. in NYC. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.