Few days ago Avid has released a new update for Pro Tools and for the S6 control surface. For some reason I always get excited when a new update is out, reading the release documents to find out what bugs has been ironed out, to see what might be the new add-ons. The problem is, with a quite busy schedule it is very hard to find a few days where I can execute the update, and after the install I have time to test the new updates. As we also use the S6 in live broadcast environment, it’s imperative to test every new update. Stability is the main point. I rather have fewer features with great stability than plethora of options with occasional hiccups and crashes.
This weekend we have fewer broadcast events, so I marked my calendar to update both Pro Tools and the S6 to the latest, hopefully greatest versions. After that, the next two day will be post mix days so I’ll have the opportunity to test the new updates thoroughly.
Usually, after I’m finished with the normal daily schedule, I reach for my trusty test sessions to see if the system is as stable as we need during a live mix situation. Of course, during these tests I do much more than I usually need on a live broadcast event. But I think if it’s capable of performing 2 or 3 times more things than we need, than it’s surely can do what is asked of it. On a side note, so far our experience with the S6 in live broadcast situation has been flawless.
Usually the update process is simple and fast. Download the files from your Avid account, upload the necessary S6 file onto a thumb drive, and transfer the Pro Tools installers to the dedicated computers. From this point, it’s a matter of a few minutes to be completely up-to-date. This is time of careful attention.
I like to pay attention to every nuance from the boot up process. This is important. Is the computer and the S6 booting up as it was before? Is it faster or slower or the same? Any difference can be a clue if something goes wrong. If the booting is fine, start as you would on any regular day. In my case, lock Xmon to the surface, start Pro Tools and launch a session, this time I suggest to have a test session. This test should contain a huge mix with lots of complicated routing and many plugins on channels and buses, some VCA groups and a complete master chain with multiple feeds. I think it’s wiser to build a bigger-than-needed test scenario so you can really see how the whole system perform under pressure. From now on, use the surface ore actively than you usually do. Edit plugin settings, bank from front to back, automate the hell out of your session, while record automation in the session. Add markers on the fly, scroll, zoom and use the Master module on the S6 to edit your master plugin chain. At this point sound doesn’t really matter. I mean your should look for any hiccup or distortion, but this mix is not going to be a candidate for the Grammy award, the sole purpose of this exercise is to see if the system is working absolutely flawless.
I usually do one more thing to disturb the process, modify groups on the fly so Pro Tools has to update the assignments, and also has to update the automation. While this is really not recommended to do on the fly, if you can do this and nothing bad happens, you can be sure about that your system will perform absolutely perfect under demanding circumstances.
If, for some reason I don’t have ample time to test everything then I usually “pre-test” things on my MacBook Pro and if I experience no problems whatsoever, run a shorter test on the main system. However, this is only if for some reason (due to a nasty bug) we absolutely need the update but don’t have time to thoroughly test it.
The last two days proved that the new updates are not only safe to use, but they make our life a bit easier too. Pro Tools is very stable, I experienced no crashes or hiccups whatsoever, not even with the biggest tests I’ve made. The S6 update has some very nice add-ons and the the whole surface feels a bit more responsive. So all in all, I’m very happy with these two updates, and as they proved to be stable, the rig is officially back in live broadcast too.