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Pro Tools 12.5.2 update

After gathering some information online, it seems that the general consensus is that this release happens to be one of the best lately. So I thought I give it a try to see if that’s true. By the way I always love to be on the latest stable version for many reasons.

One being that the latest versions have the most goodies. The second is that these versions contains improvements and bug fixes, well, at least hopefully.

But I have to be cautious because it’s all fine if I only screw up my own system, but I must be much more diligent when it comes to our studio systems. They must be working 24/7 so no premature update there. My method became that my own MacBook Pro is the first test. If everything is fine there, than I update one of our main rigs, where mainly I work the most. If that’s still a success, only then I update all the other rigs in the house.

Even if everyone on Earth would swear that we received a perfect update I’d keep this order just in case. I love to be on the latest-greatest release but also I want to work without major hiccups.

At the weekend I downloaded the installers from my Avid account and installed it onto my laptop. Deliberately first I don’t clean the prefs and databases, simply I just install it on top of the other. Worth mentioning that you can find the Codec and HD-driver installers inside the package. I also updated those.

ProTool12install

Then played a few hours with it and to my surprise I didn’t have any crash. Tried with easy sessions and with more complicated ones, it was stable. The next test was to work from the internal SSD instead of an external one. It is still NOT recommended and honestly I really suggest to always use an external drive for your work. This was only to see how stable the new release is. Still, no hiccups, no strange issues.

Main rig 1

The first main rig is a Apple MacPro with a 6-core Xeon and 64GB of RAM, HDX2, Yosemite 10.10.5, one S6 control surface. I’ll cover the S6 update in another post.

The update went well, as expected. I thought as the laptop install didn’t have any issues, I just do the same thing. No clean install, no prefs and database clean, nothing. Since I installed it (that was at the morning) I deliberately try to break the system, but it’s just works! Feels snappy and stable.

This week I do even more tests as I continue to mix on this rig so only if the whole period goes well I will upgrade the other rigs.

Stay tuned for the Avid S6 upgrade post, as that update bring some new goodies to the S6.

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Pro Tools 11 gems part 3

This time it’s all about metering. Yes, I know it may sound a bit boring, but believe me it can be very important for various reasons.

It’s been long long years that Pro Tools needed a healthy upgrade regarding to its metering. It took Avid so long that actually many of us got used to the “original” subpar metering it offered to the users. Now, with the newest iteration of our beloved DAW, everything has changed for good. We have proper and versatile metering. Better late than never…

I heard many who says now it is completely obsolete as almost the whole audio community is gravitating towards some kind of loudness metering, but still, in my opinion it is a viable option.

First

Many pro got used to different industry standard metering (BBC, VU, etc.) and can work with these so called obsolete metering very effectively, even in the new loudness era. If you learn to keep a few rules, one can still use the old metering standards and the end result will still be compatible with the new formats. How is this even possible? Remember, mixing is about sound not metering. So while you mix, you should check the meters regularly, but don’t stare at them. Mix for sound not to a standard. With little practice, you’ll learn to mix compatible material with almost no help from the meters.

Second

Many post house still need to ingest, rework, remix old material, so having various older standards built right into our DAW can be very, very helpful. This is also true todays ever-changing industry where we seem to abandon analogue technology, but still need to interface the old with the current one daily.

Third

You can modify the preferences of these meters, so basically you can tailor its behaviour to your own needs, which is, obviously, a great tool. Be it a recording session or a mix, you can easily find your own “metering sweet spot” and save that for later projects. With this, you can always use your own kind of metering which serves you best.

metering options

So, here are the different metering options for Pro Tools 11 HD:

  • Sample Peak Provides the default Pro Tools metering. Sample Peak metering is also the only Meter Type used for non-HD version of Pro Tools. The scale and the decay time is calculated in dB/second, which results in slower decay in metering com- pared to lower versions of Pro Tools (such as Pro Tools 10). The Sample Peak option is the only Meter Type that has a 0 sample integration time, and as such shows all dynamic activity of the digital signal at every moment in time.
  • Pro Tools Classic Provides legacy Pro Tools scale and metering ballistics.
  • PPM BBC (Pro Tools HD Only) Adopted by commercial broadcasters in the UK, BBC scaling uses 4 dB spacing between scale marks. Other organisations around the world, including the EBU, CBC, and ABC used the same dynamics but with slightly different scales.
  • PPM Nordic (Pro Tools HD Only) A Scandinavian variant of the DIN PPM has the same integration and return times but a different scale, with “TEST” corresponding to Alignment Level (0 dBu) and +9 corresponding to Permitted Maximum Level (+9 dBu). Compared to the DIN scale, the Nordic scale is more logarithmic and covers a somewhat smaller dynamic range.
  • PPM EBU (Pro Tools HD Only) Is a variant of the British PPM designed for the control of program levels in international program exchange (Type IIb PPM in IEC 60268–10). It is identical to the British PPM (BBC) except for the meter scale. The meter scale is calibrated in dB relative to the Alignment Level, which is marked “TEST.” There are ticks at 2 dB intervals and at +9 dB, which corresponds to the Permitted Maximum Level.
  • PPM DIN (Pro Tools HD Only) Used in German broadcasting, the nominal analog signal corresponding to Permitted Maximum Level was standardised by ARD at 1.55 volts (+6 dBu), and this is the usual sensitivity of a DIN-type PPM for an indication of 0 dB. The Alignment Level (–3 dBu) is shown on the meter by a scale mark at –9.
  • K–12 (Pro Tools HD Only) The K-scales are RMS based scales with an integrated sample peak meter as a secondary value. K-Scales are popular with music mixers that are looking for a meaningful indication of overall loudness. K–12 should be re- served strictly for audio to be dedicated to broad- cast, though broadcast recording engineers may choose K–14 if they feel it fits their program material.
  • K–14 (Pro Tools HD Only) Use K–14 for mastering when working in a calibrated mastering suite.
  • K–20 (Pro Tools HD Only) Using K–20 during mix encourages a clean-sounding mix that is advantageous to the mastering engineer. At that point, the producer and mastering engineer should discuss whether the program should be converted to K–14, or remain at K–20. If mixing to analog tape, work at K–20, and realise that the peak levels from tape will not exceed about +14.
  • Linear (Pro Tools HD Only) Use Linear for post- production and music mixing scenarios. Using a fast decay time, Linear provides direct one-to-one linear metering of sample peaks in the audio signal with a metering range down to –40 dB. This offers higher metering resolution closer to 0 dB (which can be particularly useful for mixing and mastering).
  • Linear (Extended) (Pro Tools HD Only) Provides the same ballistics as Linear, but the meter scaling extends to –60 dB.
  • RMS (Pro Tools HD Only) Provides metering ballistics that display the average loudness (Root Mean Square of the signal) over a range of time. Peak metering, on the other hand, displays the peak signal level at any given point in time.
  • VU (Pro Tools HD Only) Popular for music and dialog mixing, the VU scale used in Pro Tools is extended on the low end from –23 dB to –40 dB to accommodate a wide range of material without the need for stage re-calibration.
  • Digital VU (Pro Tools HD Only) Provides VU ballistics with a modern digital scale.
  • PPM Digital (Pro Tools HD Only) Popular in Europe and Asia with broadcasters, and also with US Film consoles (such as the Avid System5 consoles), PPM Digital has a similar integration time to Sample Peak metering, but different scales and decay times.
  • VENUE Peak Provides the same ballistics as Sample Peak, but with VENUE meter scaling to +20 dB.
  • VENUE RMS Provides the same ballistics as RMS, but with VENUE meter scaling to +20 dB.

definitions grabbed from PT user guide

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Pro Tools 11 gems part two

In this second part I praise another great new feature, which is offline bounce. It was one of the most awaited features for years and in Pro Tools 11 it seems that Avid decided to give us the possibility. Of course I know that most of the DAWs already had it for years, but now Pro Tools has it too. And in the case of HD it is not only a simple offline bounce, but you can bounce multiple sources, that can be different stems for example.

Speed and efficiency

It is great that even on a smaller computer you can bounce offline with amazing speed. Meaning that for example on a simple dual-core i5 laptop a really heavy loaded session would bounce 3x faster than real time, which is a real time saver.

If you’re into sound design, bouncing layers of sounds together takes only seconds, even if you use many cpu hog plugins. After editing certain music or dialogue cues, we don’t have to bounce or re-record them to track real time. These are all great examples where this function can help us a lot.

There are caveats though. With certain plugins, offline bounce can end up giving you different results. Right now the suspects are some Waves plugins and some noise reduction ones from Izotope for example.

Although you can read about this on various online forums, the solutions has not been sorted out yet. We still don’t know for sure if this is a Pro Tools or a plugin issue or both. Still, be aware of this issue to avoid nasty surprises along the way. With all that said, offline bounce is still a very valuable tool, even for me, who is not a big fan of this process (I’ll tell you why later).

Right now I use offline bounce for the following things:

  • quickly render preview versions for director/actor/musician/band, etc.
  • to print out test versions of a mix to check it at multiple locations
  • to make deliverables (the mix is ready, just need that myriad of different formats)
  • to bounce multiple layers into one stereo/mono/surround file

In this way it is almost impossible to encounter with the above mentioned problems, while I still have a great timesaver function.

btd window

Old school vs. offline bounce

To be honest though, my basic workflow hasn’t changed a bit. I still use the “old” and trusty re-record to track method for multiple reasons:

  • destructive record to track realtime means a last QC pass
  • if I need to do some revisions, destructive punch in is much more efficient and much faster than any offline method as you only need to punch in that few seconds, and as you hit the stop button, you’re already finished
  • while you’re listening to the final pass, you still have the option to change things

It’s only a few, but I think worth the consideration. At first it might seem slower, but eventually it is actually faster, more safe and more future proof.

All in all, both methods are good, the trick is to know which to use in a particular situation.

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Notes on the iLok issues

From the date Pace announced that they have completely changed the way we interact with our protection dongle, myriad of issues hit the users badly. Some only had minor problems while others doomed into a license-less state temporarily. Obviously the reaction was anger and frustration.

license manager

As I heard that most of the nasty bugs and issues are solved I thought I give this a try, only with my personal iLok. Right now a downtime would be disastrous, so I wouldn’t be dare to jeopardise our work iLoks. So I headed to the iLok site and downloaded the new License Manager. Although the installation went smoothly, after the first launch and a few minutes waiting, it simply crashed on me while it was frozen in the quite vague “operation in progress” state. I don’t know what operation it was as at this point I didn’t even tried to sign in yet. On the 2nd attempt it was obvious that this software is really, I mean really slow. After multiple failed attempts at signing in, at last I was successful. I think this was the 5th or sixth attempt.

After this I experienced another crash, another sign in attempt failed, then it was successful again. At this point I was less than impressed… At least I am lucky as all my licenses were there not converted into temporary state. Tried to sync the Pro Tools 11HD demo license, but the sync process failed due to “no internet connection available” message. Maybe I don’t need to mention the fact that internet had been available. But after these failures the License Manager was synced perfectly, albeit very slowly.

I’ve read many articles and blog posts about these issues with ILO’s, and to be honest I can totally understand the anger towards Pace. I agree with the Pro Tools expert blog that shouting, blaming, attacking Pace won’t help, I am certain that the Pace support team try to make things happen as fast as they can, but still I think this is a more serious issue. Pace has enormous user base, most of the developers use iLok protection. They are there to protect the developers and us, legal users. They should have been more careful with this whole upgrade process. For many of us, not mention post houses and bigger studios, these downtimes are simply unacceptable.

Remember we (the users) did NOT choose Pace as our superior protector. The developers chose them in order to protect themselves against piracy. This big failure showed that software developers shall think of other viable protection methods, because, in my opinion this was not the first big failure in the history of iLok. I can clearly remember when iLok 1 was cracked and after that incident each and every iLok protected software was available on different torrent sites. So, this is the second big warning sign.

On a closing thought, It’s really getting so bad that we, legal users struggle with the problems of our protection device. I don’t have the monopoly of wisdom here obviously, and I also don’t know what could be a plausible solution for these things, but both the developers and Pace should seriously think about the future if they don’t want to loose customers. I’m absolutely against punishing the developers for these issues, but I know some, who really considering dropping every software which tied to iLok dongle. While I think it’s not a wise decision, it can be a threat on the long run.

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Pro Tools HD 10 review

As this is a huge step both for Avid and the users, I decided to test it thoroughly. We all saw the marketing videos, but as usual, using is believing. Please understand that this is a software review, it won’t cover any other things like price concerns, etc.

Avid declared that this is a huge change, a gigantic leap in sound and speed. Let’s see. As soon as I’ve downloaded the installer, I jumped right into the install process. Of course, as usual, before anything could happen, I made a complete system backup. I always do this and I recommend the same to everyone. Backup ready? Ready to go now.

Installing the new release was a breeze. No hiccups, nothing, just a usual software install. No surprise here, this is the way it should be. To be honest, the install process can hardly cause any problem on a well maintained machine.

For the sake of a real thorough test, I’ve used more than one machine. As many of us often need to work on the move, I thought that using multiple machines with different sound cards will make this test more like the real world usage.

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