Entries in comment (10)
Some would suggest that the Pro Tools Ideascale site is a good idea, helping users feedback their ideas to Avid to be considered for inclusion in future versions of Pro Tools. Whilst in principle it sounds like a great idea in practice it must be a bloody nightmare to deal with. Granted, some of the top suggestions are worthy ideas to consider for inclusion, yet others range from the plain barmy to those who simply don’t know how to use Pro Tools, rather than any insightful product development ideas. I write this knowing that Ideascale has been cited, on numerous occasions by Avid, as a driver behind product development. Right at the top of the list have been features that 99% of users have been screaming out for years for. Thankfully these do not include a two voice bass synth for left handed drummers or the option to colour code every MIDI note with a different Skittles flavour.
Pro Tools 11
I’ll cut to the chase, for those wanting a lot of bells and whistle, more stuff to fiddle with, you ain’t got it. For those who wanted the next generation of rock solid 64 bit DAW, Avid delivered.
In short Pro Tools has had a heart transplant not a boob job and as a professional I’m pleased, in fact I might go as far as saying I’m ecstatic.
So let’s see what boxes have been ticked;
Many of you responded positively to our open letter written to the new Avid CEO this week, it has been the most read, shared, and liked article ever on the site. Furthermore, many leaders from the industry responded to it by email, not wishing to go on record, but wanting to say how much it resonated with them.
We do hope Avid don’t think these were the usual suspects who ‘just like to moan’. These are top people who come from the world of production, top music and post studios and TV, software and hardware development, and all of them are passionate in their desire to see Pro Tools flourish. Dismissing their feelings would be a grave error at this juncture of the Avid journey.
A small proportion of readers felt it was a little harsh and gave the man little chance to set out his vision or his plans. For the tiny few who felt it too personal or offensive, then it was not meant to be either, simply expressing our disappointment at an opportunity missed by the new CEO to demonstrate an empathy towards the creative customers that Avid serve. It may be a cliche, but there is a lot of truth in the expression ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.’
In the meantime we have submitted some questions to Avid which are pertinent to the questions being raised by the creative community they serve. In the meantime our friends at Broadcast magazine have published an interview which puts growth at the central message of this new tenure, although it is light on detail, but that may come in the weeks ahead.
So, we hope that this plea to the new CEO of Avid, will be read and considered by him. We firmly believe that any growth plan has to put creativity at the heart of it.
We are not alone, take this article by the Guardian writer Damien Walter it is long, but this resonates so loudly with current thinking, here is an excerpt “But the green shoots of a creator culture are only just bursting through the rubble of consumerism. Most of us are still plugged in to a mass media that equates creativity with branding and marketing and ignores its potential for human development. Businesses are still afraid of the ideas of their own employees, missing the fact that this creativity is their only hope of adapting to changing times” he summarises his article with “Our systems of government, business and education must make it their mission to support the creative fulfilment of every human being.”
Dear Mr Hernandez
Thank you for your recent letter, which I received promptly by email soon after your new position was announced. In fact for some reason I got three copies, so I’m glad it wasn’t an actual letter, as that would have made me immediately suspicious as to the idea that you had a seat on the board of a paper mill.
However, I digress, but I felt it only respectful to respond to your taking the time to write to each Avid customer personally, with an early observation.
Whilst the content of the letter was well thought out and considered, forgive me of course it was, it had been past at least one copywriter, a PR professional and a lawyer, however what it did not seem to have passed the test on was cultural sensitivity.
I may be someone who runs my own business, an entrepreneur, but at heart I’m a liberal creative - an artist. We make up a large contingent of your customer base, yes we use technology, but as a means to an end and that is making beautiful things with our art.
Therefore, however well meaning and considered the contents of your letter may have been, you may as well have written to many of us in Martian - it would have made as much sense.
So may I respectfully suggest that you use some of your extensive experience from ‘complex vertical markets’ to reposition the communications of Avid, so they better reflect the language of people who add value to your brand and not just the people who try and make money from your brand. It’s as simple as using a mailing database that is sorted into groups, Mailchimp is very good and for the size of your database you could get it for a few hundred dollars a month. Mailchimp is easy to use and has lots of pictures of a funny monkey - but perhaps that kind of stuff only appeals to artists like me.
So observation number one, creative people are not stupid - but the majority of us are simply not interested in the language of the stock market, so please try and keep that kind of stuff to a minimum, it only reinforces the view of Avid being a corporate machine.
My letter is written with complete sincerity, this is not an early opportunity to try and knock you, in fact it’s complete the opposite, if you like you can call it my free PR advice. Some would suggest yesterday was ‘same sh*t different suit’ and simply nothing more than rearranging the chairs around the boardroom table. At Pro Tools Expert we’ve worked hard to gather a loyal community around Pro Tools and add a lot of value to your brand - so please prove the cynics wrong, be courageous, put your customers first and your shareholders will be rewarded later on down the road.
We look forward to talking to you about how Pro Tools users make the world a better place through their creativity - what we need from you is the best possible platform to do that AND at a fair price.
Which reminds me, Sean and his team (a great team, may I add) have worked miracles in the last few months and started to get Avid out of what have been a pretty bad set of PR disasters, one of which was the Pro Tools 10 pricing fiasco - please use all your powers to ensure all that their hard work is not derailed when pricing Pro Tools 11.
On behalf of our community our very best wishes - we look forward to a continuing meaningful dialogue with you.
Waves announced their new DigiGrid at NAMM 2013, offering another DSP hosted solution to the market.
It didn’t take long before this announcement set discussions and comments around the web that are leaving the audio community scratching their heads. For example…
There are equally confused discussions on many popular audio forums which reflected the feeling on the floor of NAMM, not just by those expected to buy it, but also by software developers who were been asked by Waves to develop for the new platform. At least three of the top plug-in manufacturers told Pro Tools Expert ‘we are sick of porting our plug-ins for different platforms - we don’t need another one.’
So you might ask what is so wrong with what Waves are doing? UA Apollo uses DSP to host plug-ins and Apogee and Lynx use reverse engineering to trick Pro Tools into thinking there is Pro Tools HD hardware hanging on the end of it. However Apollo isn’t claiming to be an HDX AAX DSP alternative, neither are the offerings from Apogee or Lynx trying to offer an AAX DSP alternative.
Pro Tools HDX offers the real Pro Tools HD experience for those needing serious horsepower. UA Apollo offers the best native experience in the opinion of most, DigiGrid just feels like a bodge for Pro Tools HD users.
The consensus from those we spoke to, both users and software developers, can be summed up with ‘what the hell are Waves doing?’ We are not sure either and trying to figure out the motivation of others is damned near impossible, so we won’t even try.
Perhaps facing the impossible challenge of porting Waves plug-ins to the new AAX DSP platform was too much for Waves, it is suggested that it would have taken more man-years than getting us to Mars. Perhaps Waves were trying to outsmart Avid? In this case they may have outdumbed them.
The question I’ve been getting asked again and again as I’ve walked around NAMM, is what is the best thing you’ve seen. This time last year the show was buzzing with the Universal Audio Apollo amongst other things, there’s always some star of the show that everyone rushes to get a look at, to touch, as if some sacred relic that will transform them and leave them glowing in recording glory.
Granted there are some great new things, but nothing setting the show buzzing, no one has been running around the show saying ‘you have to see this!’
However, many of those attending have commented to me on something far more worthwhile than stuff and that’s an almost palpable sense of optimism around the show. In a world that still has many problems on a global scale, some that seem almost insurmountable and in a business which has faced fiscal challenges of its own, then optimism is a welcome addition to NAMM 2013. You may think this is just flowery mumba-jumbo and adds no real value to our industry, but business analysts know that business confidence is essential to a healthy economy.
We will always have new stuff, relatively speaking that’s easy to cunjur up - but to give our industry some sense of new hope, that’s got to be a good thing in my book.
No one would have put optimism on their shopping list for NAMM 2013, but I’m sure that a new sense of hope would have been top of everyone’s wish list.
It seems a little ironic that as we celebrate the achievement of the creation of the standard MIDI protocol with its 30th Birthday, we now have plug-in manufacturers lining up to give us different platforms and standards with which to host them.
Yesterday, Waves announced their new DiGiGrid describing it as ‘The perfect partnership of audio hardware and software.’ UAD offer us their highly popular UAD processing platform, Avid offer HDX, then there’s the assorted plug-in formats, with everything from VST to AAX.
We will all have an opinion about which is the best format, each manufacturer obviously claims it is their format. To be frank, I don’t care, this is not my attempt to proselytize for one brand or the other, I already use three platforms in my sound creation. If you think it’s frustrating for those of us buying the stuff, then imagine being a plug-in designer who has to create different versions of the same plug-in, simply to work on another platform, spending time porting plug-ins to new formats instead of designing new ones.
As each new ‘better, faster, higher, longer… blah, blah, blah’ strapline flashes before me, I just think, come on guys, I know you have businesses to run and brands to build, but so did Roland, Sequential Circuits and all the other brands that agreed on the MIDI protocol 30 yrs ago. By all means go ahead and invent, but another wheel? No thanks.
It is said that if the drug companies worked together instead of competing for market share, then we would have already have cured half the illnesses that kill us. I don’t know how true that is, but I do wish we could all settle on one format and then get on with it. Perhaps I am living in cloud cuckoo land? If I am, then it’s an expensive place to live.
Mike here from snowy UK. I have been having very similar thoughts. It never ceases to amaze me that MIDI is the only true standard in our industry, ie there is only one of them. Every other part of our industry whenever you talk about a standard, there are more than one you have to choose from. For example, audio file formats, wav bwf aiff etc; sample rates, 44.1k or 48k; loudness spec, ATSC A85 or R128, even balanced audio on an XLR is it pin2 hot or pin 3 hot; I could go on and on and…. Other than MIDI we have never been able to agree a universal standard. That said, MIDI, at the end of the day, is a communications standard enabling different brands to communicate using a common language. However that still has limits, I can’t transfer patch settings from one brand to another, the “System Exclusive” mode only allows me to transfer brand specific data over MIDI.
As to the announcement from Waves, if you add that to other developments we have a growing number of dedicated boxes on which you can only run that brand’s plug-ins. I have an HDX system, but I cannot run UA plug-ins unless I buy into the UA brand and buy some hardware and then the software, because I cannot run the UA plug-ins on my HDX system.
All this got me thinking, what if the manufacturers could agree on a universal processor platform on which you could run any brand of plug-ins? Surely they could find a processor format that could this. What about the Intel Processor chips? Instead of creating proprietary hardware formats why not agree to use the Intel processor chips. Anyone producing Native plug-ins is already writing for this platform whether it is Mac or PC. Then manufacturers could create hardware boxes like the Apollo or DiGiGrid boxes with Intel processors, put their own stamp on the from factor, how it looks and their own take on what I/O should be added. We could all run our chosen plug-ins on our chosen hardware solution. It would also improve project portability, because the proliferation of different hardware boxes also makes transporting and sharing projects so much more difficult, not only do you have to have the same plug-in but they also have to be on the same hardware platform.
The manufacturers managed to sit round the table and agree a universal MIDI protocol 30 years ago so how about agreeing a universal plug-in platform protocol?
Music making has a rich history of anti-establishment, subversive and counter-cultural creativity. I’m not simply talking about throwing TV sets out of hotel room windows or smoking pot, I’m talking about the core motivator for many great songs and acts. Many people used music to ‘stick it to the man’ and demonstrate our liberal artistic credentials to society. We sang of everything from ‘Teaching The World To Sing’ to ‘F*ck The Police’ and everything in between those two polarities.
It seems the number of record stores closing is in direct proportion to the increasing number of people we let near a home recording system… weird. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who thinks ‘recording should only be allowed to be done by an appropriate adult with a licence’, 85% of the crap hitting the charts is being created by so-called professionals, but it is perplexing that the more freedom we give for people to create music, video and pictures, the less live places there are to go and listen to it and outlets to buy it from.
I wonder if you have ever jumped off a bridge with just a cable wrapped around your ankles, or from a plane with just a piece of fabric to stop you from breaking you neck.
When it comes to these kind of pursuits I'm risk averse. For one I'm not a big fan of heights and two knowing my luck I'm likely to be the one whose rope snaps or parachute fails to open!
I also wonder when was the last time you took a risk in the studio? I don't mean hired a drummer who couldn't keep time, or a tone deaf backing singer, but when did you last step out of your comfort zone or away from convention?
In a recent interview with Sound On Sound magazine, legendary UK producer 'Martin Rushent' tells the story of a serendipitous moment during the recording of the Human League's number one hit 'Don't You Want Me'.
Martin tells how he was programming a synth line on a Roland 800. During playback the sequencer messed up and played the line half a beat late with the track.
Both Rushent and his assistant Callis loved it. The 'mistake' made it into the final track.
So why not try different quantize values or random sounds when recording, you never know what you might discover!
I was at AIR for 2 days, which I thought was longer than I needed, but in hindsight had been wise thinking on their part, over that next two days I was to meet and discuss matters with content developers, software engineers, testers, in fact I was given access to every member of the team - which considering how busy they are, spoke volumes to me.
AIR is not the kind of building you find in Silicon Valley, it's a city based (highly secure) tower in the centre of Bremen. They take security seriously here, to get to the AIR office you need to clear a locked secure code door, a secure coded lift before you even get into the AIR offices, which occupy two of the five floors of the building.
My first experience was to sit (in fact stand in) on their 'scrum', a daily team meeting to discuss where they are and what needs doing. It's held in a meeting room with a huge white board covering the wall. That board looks like a global map, it shows the status of software development, OS updates, bug logs and their status, and before you ask, there are no photos of the white board. To be allowed this kind of access is unprecedented, so their are clearly defined parameters to what can be shown and what can't. In this meeting I was impressed by two things - first the clarity of the discussion and the speed with which they executed decisions. It was impressive to hear a question asked about a serious matter and within moments be hearing clear concise answers. Secondly I understood everything that was being said because everyone spoke English, this was impressive too. Not only software developers but bi-lingual ones. This meeting led me to think about the times when I've read criticism of the AIR Team, so I wanted to see for myself how sharp these guys are - the answer is very sharp.
Which leads me to the next thing I found out very quickly. The AIR development team are all musicians, engineers and producers in their spare time, they use the same tools they want us to use and so know when things are wrong. Secondly they are incredibly conscientious and caring, and very hard working. We went out for lunch on day one and I was the only one drinking beer, I thought this strange so asked why and the reply was 'we can't do our job right if we drink', after hours is a different matter, but when these guys are being paid to make the best plug-ins in the world, they take that very seriously. It became clear as I sat with each if them and talked about their roles they are very bright individuals.
One way I tested this was in the scrum, I brought up the question about the yellow interface issue that plagues some Mac users and I simply wanted to know why it happened. Within a second the answer came back, the only trouble was I wasn't wasn't smart enough to understand it. It became a team joke, until finally in a session with developers it was explained to me in a way I understood. It is related the the change over from PPC to Intel and the way subsequent versions of the Mac OS have interpreted the RGB tables.
After our first session it was my turn to speak with the whole team and let them know more about me, the blog, what it had achieved and then to take questions. There support was huge and it soon became evident that the guys regarded me as an unpaid member of their team, acting like a bridge between them and the community of AIR Users.
They want to hear from you guys, for this reason I've set up a feedback site that you can use to feedback ideas. I've used Ideascale so that you can use the login you've created for the Digi one.
This is an introduction and over the next few days I'll be bringing you more news and information from my trip to AIR, plus some very cool tricks!