We've had Pro Tools First, the free version of Pro Tools for about a week now and as you can imagine we wanted to put it through its paces to see what is and isn't possible. So here are 5 things we've learnt about Pro Tools First.
1. It Has An Idiot Proof Audio Interface Set-Up
Anyone who has used Pro Tools for any length of time will have experienced what happens when you switch audio interfaces. You often find that the I/O is all screwed when you go to track something, you've opened Pro Tools with an Apollo and it still thinks it has an Apogee Ensemble connected. It can be infuriating to say the least and means a trip to the I/O settings to sort it all out. Not so with Pro Tools First, if you change the audio interface Pro Tools correctly allocates the I/O without you thing to think about it. Hooray - it may be idiot proof but this idiot likes not having to think about the I/O. Avid should consider an 'Easy' audio engine mode for those of us who don't need to go tinkering around and another option for those who do need complex routing in all versions of Pro Tools. In my opinion for an out-of-the-box experience the way Pro Tools First handles the I/O is a winner. Pro Tools first allowed us to set our interface from 44.1Khz to 96Khz, this means you can work at higher sample rates and indeed bring in audio of higher sample rates, which leads me to my next point. The audio engine doesn't have all the usual stuff to set up, simply an option to have the buffer optimised for Playback or Record.
2. You Can Work Without Being Connected To The Cloud
Once you have launched Pro Tools First and signed in then you can pull your connection to the web and carry on working. We've tried this extensively to the point where we kept tricking Pro Tools First over a period of time into thinking it was offline and every time it didn't insist we login to open the last project sitting in the cache. We are not sure if the not logging in option times out after some time, but we did not find ourselves locked out of Pro Tools First at any time. It's worth remembering though that you can only access the project in cache and it seems to be the case that you need to be connected to the Avid Cloud to create another of the 3 projects. You can of course simpye scratch the idea by deleting all the tracks and start again, if that's what floats your boat and you are in desperate need to record without access to the internet.
3. You Can Have Pro Tools First And Pro Tools On The Same Machine
You can have Pro Tools and Pro Tools First installed on the same machine without the install or the iLOK assets getting their knickers in a twist. You can't have both open at the same time as far as we could determine. One thing that does happen is that if you have Pro Tools First and Pro Tools on the same machine then Pro Tools First insists on scanning your entire plug-in folder each time, which if you have GAS is a problem. In reality no one (except testers and reviewers) is likely to have both versions on their machine at the same time, so all the aforementioned is purely theoretical.
4. You Can Move Between Pro Tools First And Pro Tools
One thing that has perplexed many with Pro Tools First is that is does not open Pro Tools files and you can't open a Pro Tools First file in Pro Tools presently. However Pro Tools First allows you to consolidate your audio and export it en masse just like a regular Pro Tools session. Furthermore you can export MIDI from the session, we also found that the plug-in presets we created in Pro Tools First are stored in the same place as the presets for regular Pro Tools, so we could open the same plug-ins and use them with them same set-up. So if you are determined you can get the audio and MIDI both ways (the MIDI can contain the session tempo too) as well as any presets from a mix. Yes it's a workaround but if you are determined enough you can move from Pro Tools First to Pro Tools without being connected to the cloud
5. You Can Use Any Virtual Instruments
The inclusion of ReWire in Pro Tools First allows you to use stuff like Ableton Live and Reason, however it also allows you to use an app like Bidule to use virtual instruments not purchased in the Avid Store that you may already own. Watch our video here
This is not a review of Pro Tools First, simply a summary of some interesting things we have discovered whilst putting Pro Tools First through its paces. A review of Pro Tools First is coming, so stand by.