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Some thoughts on the upcoming Pro Tools 11

Anger, frustration, trolling, baseless bashing, rare real critic, hype, amusement, excitement. If I want to summarise the last few weeks about Pro Tools 11 in one sentence. Of course we better get used to the fact that we unlikely to see any new products which wouldn’t generate the same diverse response. This post reflects my own opinions.

First of all, it never cease to amaze me that many already bashing a software which is basically not exist yet. Yes, we saw the announcement, know that it will come, but let’s be honest for a moment, the vast majority of us have no idea how good or bad it’ll be. The only thing we know that it is supposed to be a amazing upgrade. Let’s see some of the new features.

Features

  • Offline bounce: the long awaited feature, which honestly doesn’t make a big difference at all (at least for me). Don’t get me wrong, it is a very useful thing and I can see that I would use here or there, but honestly I am not that brave to hand out a final mix without listen to it from start to end realtime! And honestly with all due respect I don’t know any serious professional who would… So while I agree it’s a nice feature which can help us to make certain things much faster, it’s far from being the most important thing. For many of us, the good destructive record to track still has many advantages over offline bounce.
  • 64bit architecture. Now this is a much more important thing in my opinion. Hopefully gone are the days when we get memory related error messages, not to mention occasional crashes with huge sessions.
  • New video engine. Oh I prayed for this one. Cannot really comment on this until I try it, but I’m very glad they reworked it, or imported it (from Mediacomposer).
  • Metering, gain reduction meter, etc. Although it’s not breakthrough I consider these as highly supportive features. I’m sure I’ll like these
  • New audio engine. Glad they ditched DAE forever. It was high time to do it and make some serious effort to build one from scratch.
  • Only AAX. Honestly I don’t really want to say/write anything about this. We know till Pro Tools 10 has been released. No argument here as I take this as inevitable.

Avidaae

Efficiency, speed and power

For me the biggest promise is that compared to Pro Tools 10, on the very same machine we’ll get much more power with Pro Tools 11. Of course we don’t have any tangible proof of this, but if it’s true, I’ll upgrade. I know that the supported or recommended computer list is somewhat narrower than before, but remember that at Avid if something is not on the list, it does not mean it won’t work. They cannot possibly test every configuration.

For a short example, I daily use Pro Tools HD 10 on a dual i5 MacBook Pro which is not supported, still working rock solid even with big sessions. I don’t encourage anyone to use computers which are not in the Avid list, though you should know that there are laptops and desktops that works flawlessly with PT10, without any Avid qualification. For the record, the main rigs are all supported machines, but frankly many times I use not supported machines at different places, and they’re perfectly working. My experience based on mainly Apple computers regarding this.

I wonder how much more power we’ll get, as a few weeks ago I had to finish a mix on my laptop (i5 dual-core MBP) and the whole session ran smoothly. The session comprised of 134 tracks, 8 effects (reverbs, delays, etc.), 42 buses, about 160+ plugins, including eq, comp., tape saturation, etc. This was not a small mix session but the little laptop handled it. I don’t say that with ease, but without errors, about 60 % cpu load. At the end I recorded the stems into the same session with destructive record.

Upgrade path

Recently Tim Prebble wrote an excellent summary about the possibilities/needs of our future computer rigs and I couldn’t agree more with him. Take the example above. That is only a small laptop, nothing really special about it, yet it handles a mix large enough to “kill” even a few years old tower. And this is only a dual-core i5. Now you can buy for example a Mac mini server with quad-core i7, 16GB of ram, etc. It’s already powerful enough to handle a really large super-session with loads of tracks, plugins and stems in the very same session. So the question is very valid: do we need the huge workstation towers?

I agree there’s a market for those too, but I’m not really convinced that audio, even audio post production would need them. I very well know the advantages come with a dedicated tower, but if you just think it over and calculate a bit, you might end up with multiple Mac minis (just for the sake of a example), some Sonnet expansion, and you spent half the money, yet has more than enough power at your disposal. All this with the probability that PT11 will be much more efficient than PT10 could ever be.

One thing where the big towers has enormous advantage is serviceability and expandability. I’d been building computers for many years and know that how easy and painless a memory or hdd upgrade/change can be with a proper tower. These things are much more complicated in a laptop or in Mac minis, not to mention the the iMacs. But if we consider the price difference, we may face a quite easy decision as from the price of a Macpro, you can buy 4 Mac minis, or two with the Sonnet expansion box. With this you also has some backup if something goes wrong. I’m not completely against the huge towers, but honestly at this point I cannot see why I would choose that upgrade path. Of course anything can happen.

Summary

So, what is my plan? I am certain that I will upgrade to Pro Tools 11, probably as soon as it will come out, as it can co-exist with PT10 on the same machine. On the computer side though, I’m not sure I am interested in a new MacPro anymore. And I’m very determined, because these minis/laptops and other little machines are not only “good for the money” or “good enough for my needs”, but they are already powerful enough for serious work. In the long term (like with the Sonnet box) it’s makes more sense to replace the Mac mini than to buy huge and pricey towers again and again.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tamas,

    Thank you for a well measured and thought though post. I agree with you about the offline bounce, I too won’t deliver a mix without listening all the way through. Bouncing to track saves my client’s time as we can combine the audition and bounce passes, knowing that if something isn’t perfect we can patch it without having to re-bounce the whole programme. Where I do see the offline bounce will help, is in outputting all the deliverables, once the mix is done.
    As to evidence on speed, efficiency and power, we do have some. At Pro Tools Expert we have overseen a comparison with the same session on the same machine on PT10 and PT11 http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2013/5/7/pro-tools-11-exponential-gains-claims-marketing-hype-or-real.html and also we have a quote from a developer about it http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2013/5/8/support-for-the-pro-tools-11-exponential-claim.html
    At NAB 2013, Avid were demoing a film session that with PT10 took 3 separate PT rigs to run, and it was all running in PT11 on one MacBook Pro. So all the evidence we have seen, all points to the benefits from the new Avid Audio Engine. As to computers I wrote a piece on the future of Apple’s Mac Pro and where we should go as pro users http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2013/5/11/the-future-of-apples-mac-pro.html and although I accept your ‘good enough’ point, and for smaller independent users that is a key issue, I am concerned that we will end up with a significant number of add-on boxes to do all that we need.

    Mike.

  2. Tamas Dragon

    Hi Mike,

    because of the Pro Tools Expert posts I am very optimistic about PT11, can’t wait to try it. Regarding the Mac minis, it’s still an ongoing debate, frankly I couldn’t decide it yet, but right now I like the mini approach better, but you are right, there can be many drawbacks in that solution. We’ll see what Apple comes up with.

    Tamas

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