08 Feb

Avid application manager

Usually I am the lucky one, who just wandering on the forums, reading the horror stories of some unlucky users, try to reproduce the bug, but most of time on our systems, everything is fine. The story could end here…

Avid Application Manager

But here comes the new idea, this app manager which supposed to help us. It should sync with your Avid account, notify you about available updates, checking if you’re up-to-date. You could even download and update your plugins and Pro Tools from within the app. That’s a truly wonderful idea.

But for me, it’s been nothing more than an annoying thing which loads at every startup, usually can’t sync with my account, and if the sync process fails, I can’t quit, sometimes even can’t force quit! If it’s a sunny, beautiful and lucky day, then sync is successful, but if I try to update anything in the list, then it’s an endless failure cycle. Failed downloads, or can’t install things, or interrupted connection, etc.

I was so mad I started to count how many failures I had in the last few weeks. Out of 100 attempts, only 4 were successful, all the other 96 was failure.

So, today, although it’s a beautiful sunny day here, I decided to solve the problem. So I headed to Pro Tools Expert article to learn how to completely get rid of the autostart of the App manager.

Honestly, if you have so many problems with it, I suggest you to do the same. Now back to work.

01 Feb

To win

Probably the busiest time is the end and the start of the year. I just realised I have over 20 articles half-baked, but haven’t published a word for a month now. In the hurry, I always have something to write, jot down the idea and a few words, then rush to the next studio, open the next session in Pro Tools, upload the latest mix for approval.

Well, during this time I just received an email from the Pro Tools Expert team that I have won Nugen Audio’s Halo upmixer plugin. :) What an unexpected thing! It’s not only luck, it is really a true gift as I’m in need of a great upmixer plugin. Thanks to Nugen and the whole Pro Tools Expert team!

On the other hand, it just made me realise that these guys are working pros, who are probably just as busy as I am, yet still make time to help our community with great content, so although I never really make any new years resolution, now I officially promise to finish my jot down notes, form them into useful articles and publish them here. Off to work now.

06 Jan

More than a year with Pro Tools and S6

Maybe a bit late to summarise, it’s already 2016. To be honest though, the end of the year is not the end of the busy schedule so maybe even the start of this new year is just as fine to take a look back and sum up what was it like to use the Avid S6 controller with Pro Tools during many, many demanding production.

Early adopters

We are early, I should say very early adopters. It is because the launch of the S6 was perfectly timed to our bigger development plan. Although back then it seemed a bit bold to jump right into the latest-greatest control surface, we thought that just as with the Icon series, it must be something Avid really take seriously. We decided to purchase two M10 S6 controllers. It fit the budget, and our thinking was if it really is that great, later we can change the brains to M40, buy some additional fader bays and maybe even screen modules for even greater integration and comfort.

The other thing is, you can’t mention any other controller on the market which deliver all the points:

  • deep integration with Pro Tools and Nuendo
  • scalable and easy to make custom configurations
  • will be supported for many years
  • able to become smarter by every update
  • able to reach out to developers

We considered some other products from different manufacturers, but all failed quickly when we tried to check all points. I thought there was going to be a much tighter race, but apparently we had an easy time with the decision.

The first steps

When the huge package (actually lots of little boxes) arrived, obviously we couldn’t wait for another day, immediately started to assemble the controllers. We were all excited like the little child at Christmas day…

And after a few hours of work we had the first working Avid S6 in Hungary. The credit goes to my trusty colleague who assembled it all together while I was working on the MacPro and Magma cases. First it was a strange experience to see that to build a controller today, you might need more knowledge in computer technology than in audio. But hey, it was 2015, we knew it’s not an old analogue monster.

S6 brand new

I won’t describe every tiny thing in detail, all software installation went fine, without any issues, including the S6 activation and software update. The first test run was, of course, like magic. We were unmeasurably happy, I played with it like an amused teenager with his new iPad.

Back then the S6 was not that clever. The Icon series had more features, even the Artist series knew a few trick the S6 couldn’t even emulate. But honestly we put our trust in Avid. I know it may raise some eyebrows, but so far for us, Avid has been responsive and helpful, much more so than other competing companies.

The plan

The plan was ambitious, and probably a bit bold. As we have multiple studios in the building, serving a complete video department, the national radio and tv, commercial channels, foreign broadcasters, producing concert DVDs and CDs and mixing for web we wanted to have the S6 to be also used in live broadcast situations with Pro Tools.

Many told us that it’s simply a bad idea. Others told us that we must be on drugs, while some just thought we might missed our daily pills. Still, our aim was clear: use the S6 with Pro Tools in live and in post production.

To make this really efficient I made some templates that looked like a current digital console today, all channels had a channel strip, had some audio buses, 8 VCAs, and at least four effects. This was the basis for the more demanding and complicated templates. My thinking was to start small and try to expand on that foundation if that works. And, drumroll… it worked so fine that it even surpassed our expectations.

It was the time I still missed quite fundamental things from the S6 software wise. But I didn’t have to wait for long until Avid release the first big update for the controller, transforming the somewhat basic feature set into a much more promising one. I always tested the new versions in one studio, while the other was still on the older version for safety reasons. I follow the same precautions today, but frankly, so far every software update on the S6 has been almost perfect, didn’t cause any show-stopper things to happen.

S6 in action

We’ve some issues on the Nuendo side with PCs, but that might has to do something with our PC hardware configuration. It’s still nothing serious, but we have to be more cautious updating them. On the Mac side though, we never had a problem.

I must say, the attitude of the S6 developer team could be the best example before every company. They are really helpful, very encouraging about user input and it is evident that many of them is or was working professionally in some field in the music and post industry, because they really understand us and improve current things while introducing clever, great new features. Can’t praise them enough honestly.

The results so far…

So, after a bit more than a year, it’s time to look back and summarise our experiences.

Regarding the evolution, we’re very happy with the S6. So much so in the next few years we plan to expand our inventory, maybe swap the brain modules to M40s, plan to purchase screens, fader, knob and process modules, and have even more S6 in the studio department.

With Pro Tools Avid introduced the much debated subscription model. I won’t go into detail here, for us, as a corporation it is a good thing. For my own personal things, well, so far I think it’s good, but time will tell. We have seen rapid update cycle recently which suggest Avid has its momentum with Pro Tools, surely partly because they want to convince the user base to subscribe to their new model. If they continue to improve Pro Tools with the same speed and dedication as they did in the last 1 or 2 months, I’m sure everybody will agree with me that this new system is good for us. Although they introduced some features incredibly slow, I have to say the implementation of the new features are top notch.

And lastly, let’s see our statistics: during the last year we did more than 200 shows with the S6, many of which was quite demanding live broadcast events.

The usual workflow is to record all input channels, record stems if required, record a stereo or 5.1 master mix, while recording all automation (usually volume and send automation). So now, let’s see the results:

During this period, we didn’t have a single crash! Yes, you’ve read it right, NOT a single one (knock on wood…).

PT session

So contrary to the popular internet belief that Pro Tools is unstable, etc. it seems to me that is actually very, very stable and solid. Hope to be able to tell you even greater stories about this at the end of the year.

But now, Happy New Year to everyone, I promise you’ll read many great articles here in 2016!

16 Dec

Upgrade day

During the busy Christmas season it’s very hard to find time to upgrade software, and normally I try to avoid such rapid upgrades, but as we planned, it was clear that if we don’t do it now, we won’t have time for this for months. Not that we couldn’t live without upgrade, but as we have multiple S6s, Pro Tools and Nuendo workstations, Artist series controllers, everybody felt the need of the new functions, only available in the new software versions.

Plan, prepare, execute

Before the big upgrade, honestly weeks weeks before that we started to test everything. Installed Nuendo 7 demos, upgraded one S6 and one Pro Tools workstation and used them constantly to find out if something weird happen.

As usual, I was the test dummy for the Pro Tools & S6 rig. But frankly, the upgrades has been so stable so far that I wasn’t worried a bit. Tested this rig in many situations from live broadcast mix to post production chores and it was really flawless. Honestly I can’t really remember the last time I had a crash with Pro Tools and the S6 (knock on wood…).

So finally, the day has come. Well, we searched for it…

We had a full day “offline” without any need for those studios. It was a fully official upgrade day!

S6

I started with the S6 as it needs not only a simple install, but a tedious authorisation process in order to use the new software version. I think it’s because of the new subscription model, Avid need to check if we have a support plan. I could live without the long activation numbers, but it doesn’t take that long to active the new version, and if your S6 is happened to be connected to the internet, then it’s a much easier process. The whole process went as usual, after the software upgrade I needed to initiate a module update as well.

S6 upgrade in progress… #Avid #S6 #ProTools

A photo posted by Tamas Dragon (@tamasdragon) on

 

Workstations

A bit of maintenance on the OSX side and I was already into Pro Tools and plugin installation for a while as we received some plugins with the Pro Tools annual plan. One thing to remember though, the additional plugins are not the same as if you bought them. They are tied to your subscription, so you can use them as long as you pay the monthly/yearly plan. Still, I think it’s a nice addition as for example we didn’t have to buy all Pro series plugins for all the workstations, we got them with the yearly plans. If you do the math, it’s a really good deal to us.

Everything went well, although I was wishing for a bundle installers with the plugins…

On the Mac, all went well, however, the Windows side needed some trickery. By default, the HP workstations only had one network card, we installed the second in order to have a separate data and controller network. But it turns out that during the boot process the two cards initialised at different times, so we need to delay the Eucon startup a bit to gain ample time for the operating system to get the hardware ready. Once the Eucon is delayed, all things came to life perfectly at every boot up.

During the tests everything seemed to be working perfectly, just as we hoped and tested before. Right now, all the Windows machines run Win7 with Nuendo7, all the Macs has Yosemity with Pro Tools 12. So far so good. :)

02 Dec

The perils of testing

I knew this was coming. As soon as I received the emails about some new plugins, a few grabbed my attention and I knew I had to test them. As usual though I’m really snowed under at the moment so I thought I’m not in danger. However, jumping from one final mix to another, spiced up with many live broadcasts gave me the possibility to test some new, or new for me plugins.

Plugin Alliance as the prime suspect

I already own and use some their plugins but as an ongoing mission to find my ultimate bus compressor I was intrigued by their Vertigo VSC-2 for some time. Always tried to find different reasons not to try it like it’s expensive, I don’t need another compressor, I’m sure it’s fine but nothing spectacular, etc… And then the day has come. I had a few projects where I was in need of a truly great bus compressor so I thought a little test cannot hurt. As usual, they give a generous 14 day trial which is ample time to really thoroughly test it. The night before my test run started I read a bit about it, watched a few videos online then had a good night sleep.

The next morning I authorised my demo license and started to experiment with it. To be honest within a few minutes I knew I’m in trouble.

It handled the bus duties exceptionally well, without the need to tweak the parameters forever. After some more electronic-rock based stuff I thought it’s time to make it sweat. Opened some really delicate symphonic mix which usually easily make a compressor show it’s weaknesses, instantiated the Vertigo right at the end of the chain and started to tweak a little… and frankly I was floored almost immediately. I could go from really subtle to more aggressive without ruining anything in the mix. The most amazing thing was how subtly it could enhance inner details without exhibiting any damage on the mix itself. The real glue we always looking for, or the real detail enhancer, or the solid guard that gently keep things in shape. It can really be any of these depending on the settings. Further tweaking, obviously, you can achieve extreme result if that’s what you want. It’s splendid how this one plugin can be your subtle bus compressor and one audio-bus down the line another instant can be the really coloured pumping processor.

Vertigo compressor

After I really tried everything on some test mixes, I decided to be brave and use it during a live symphonic-pop show mix to see how fast and effortless to achieve the results I’m after. This is a serious point for me.

If you can make it sound stellar, but it’d need deep, long adjustments, then it’s not a good choice for a broadcast situation. But the Vertigo passed this test too. It really simply just works, on every type of material.

Thanks to the pre-BlackFridays at Plugin Alliance I got the VSC-2 with huge discount. My only problem is, I fell in love with the other Vertigo processor, the VSM-3. And frankly I’m not dare to try their new Neve channelstrip yet…

Besides my new favourites, I’d like to emphasise that I think Plugin Alliance is one of the most future proof, wise investment in the plugin world. Not only they really strive to innovate and come up with new things that sounds fabulous while eating very little CPU power, they’re committed to every serious platform, including AAX DSP, and also never forget the guys with control surfaces. I think this becomes more and more important in the future.