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Tiny discoveries

I want to share with you two tiny things which I discovered this week. Both can be interesting to those who might be in the same situation, that is anyone who is experienced the same or affected by it.

Pro Tools

To be honest, this is rather an observation I first noticed weeks ago than a discovery, but still an interesting one. I still have no idea if this is a bug or just a system issue which is happening here on my system only. This behaviour is tied to Pro Tools 11, I didn’t notice the same with any of the previous versions of Pro Tools.

When I create a new session or load an older one, many times I notice extreme cpu load which is not reflected in Pro Tools’ system usage meter. Mainly this is noticeable on my MacBook Pro as the fans tend to get louder in every case. The strange thing though is if I close the session, quit Pro Tools and reload the software, re-open the very same session, cpu load becomes absolutely normal.

For example today I created a session that contained 84 tracks. That’s it, no aux, no plugins, nothing, only the tracks. Imported audio on the tracks. After a minute I noticed that fans were spinning up, my cpu temp has gone up to 90 degrees celsius. Closed the session, hit cmd+q to quit PT, reopened everything and edited 3 full hours in the very same session with virtually no cpu load, cpu temp was at 55 degrees celsius.

Usually the same happens with almost every session. It seems to me that for some reason PT11 allocates the resources badly or inefficiently for the first time. But it remains a secret to me why on earth it can be so efficient on every second occasion. I have no idea if this is an OSX issue or a Pro Tools one, but surely I would like to see bugfix for that, which is quite unlikely to happen as I cannot even reproduce the issue reliably. If any of you dear readers noticing some sort of the same behaviour, please let me know so we can inform Avid, and might some day have a bugfix for it.

Nuendo

Some of you know that these days I have to deal with Nuendo almost daily, and frankly my second favourite DAW seems to be quite unreliable lately. Which is very surprising for me as I’ve used Nuendo for long years back at version 2. I loved it. Ok, to be fair I still like it, but sadly less and less as days go by. To make the long story short, if I ever had so much problem with Pro Tools like nowadays I have with Nuendo, I would’ve switched DAW long time ago…
So this week’s little discovery is that it turned out that the little system usage window in Nuendo is completely useless. We record many many shows with high track counts so just to be sure about the current state of the system, I religiously display the system usage info in every DAW I use. Did the same with Nuendo obviously, but during the last testing and preparing for a big recording session, we discovered that it tells you nothing about the current state of the system.

Case study: set up a session with 120 tracks, initiate record ready state, start recording. In Nuendo 5.5 the disk usage meter will show you that the current usage in percentage is 5% max. Which, obviously, is a huge lie. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that if you record so many tracks, one disk cannot be at 5% usage, this track count can easily put huge burden onto even the fastest drives (maybe excluding SSDs). Now if you are on Windows, open task manager (do not stop recording), and then open the resource monitor, on Mac, open the activity monitor to check the system. What you will see here is that your disk is struggling, fighting for its life, hardly manage to deal with data, while if you take a look at Nuendo’s disk meter, it will still tells you that the load is no more than 5–6%.
From experience, we almost always span the tracks onto multiple drives, however it is still a very bad thing that the indicator won’t tell us what’s going on in our system.

So lesson learned, never trust this built-in meter. If I’ll have the chance to check this feature in other DAWs, I will. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not relying on these meters completely, but still would like to see a fair indication of the system usage, which I think is not a big thing to ask in 2013.