Entries in Pro Tools (469)
Monitoring Without Headphones
Some vocalists hate using headphones when tracking vocals, instead preferring to monitor through speakers.
The problem is that this gives excessive bleed of the rest of the instruments though the vocal track.
This video tutorial shows you a trick that helps to remove a lot of that bleed and cleans up the audio for further processing.
There was a time when to get real power and flexibility from Pro Tools then one had to take the plunge and invest in their hardware DSP solutions, either HD or HDX. However this option is becoming less necessary for modern music making.
If you are considering how to develop your Pro Tools enabled studio then things you need to consider.
DSP Comes In All Shapes And Sizes
Pro Tools HD/HDX systems are not the only solutions to offer DSP, the hugely popular UAD powered platform uses DSP chips to power the Universal Audio plug-ins. Waves now have their DiGiGrid platform to offer DSP power for Waves and possibly other third party vendors.
Studios Come In All Shapes And Sizes
It is sometimes easy to forget when working in music how small track counts can be compared to those working in post. Post sessions can extend to hundreds of tracks and can make the average album session look like a Portastudio when compared. In this scenario then the need for high track counts at high sample rates and with near zero latency make the need for Pro Tools HD/HDX a no brainer without it these sessions would be impossible to run.
Virtual Instruments Change The Equation
When it comes to composing in Pro Tools and using virtual instruments for making music, then DSP is nigh on useless. Yes it might take the strain away by using DSP for audio plug-ins already in this mix, but 99% of VI plug-ins require the power of native processing. Pro Tools 11 helped a great deal by going to 64bit processing, this means that all the memory in a computer is available for hosting large sound libraries.
Native Processing Is Enough For A Lot Of People
We ran some tests at Pro Tools HQ last week with the new Mac Pro ‘trash can’. We ran a couple of sessions, one with tracks running native versions of Avid Channel Strip and Dverb, as well as 32 channels of Eleven. In the second test we inserted a copy of Exponential Audio PhoenixVerb on every channel, which claims to be super efficient. In both tests we ran out of tracks and voices before we ran out power.
Latency, Latency, Latency
The million dollar question for many people is the issues of latency. As track counts get larger and sample rates to as high as 192Khz then this has an impact on latency. For some people this is going to require them to invest in Pro Tools HDX, there’s no getting around that. However for those working at lower sample rates then there are equally well thought through solutions, for example the UAD Apollo Console offers near-zero monitoring when tracking and also enables the user to monitor via UAD plug-ins when tracking, you can even choose to just monitor or print the effects, like a good old tape machine. You can see this in action here. Other brands also offer monitoring solutions, such as Focusrite, RME, MOTU and many more, although the elegance of the implementation can differ greatly.
What Should You Do?
Well that depends on what you need your Pro Tools system to do. Let’s answer the question with some questions for you to consider?
In this Pro Tools video tutorial Russ shows how using filters on compressors can help to control dynamics in complex material.
Often a compressor is required on a track but with complex material the compresor may be triggered by a certain frequency such as the kick drum in a loop. Russ shows how filters enable you to zone in on a certain part of the sound such as the snare.
Our friends over at Avid want to make sure you get the best from the free instruments that come bundled with Pro Tools. Many of them are hidden gems with many features that are easy to overlook.
Pro Tools ships with 6 virtual instruments from AIR, Boom drum machine and sequencer, DB-33 tonewheel organ emulator with rotating speaker simulation, Mini Grand acoustic grand piano, Structure Free sample player (based on AIR Structure), AIR Vacuum monophonic vacuum tube synthesizer, and AIR Xpand!2 multitimbral synth.
So we’ve worked with them to compile a large collection of tips and tricks videos for Xpand, DB33, Boom and many other Pro Tools plug-ins.
There may be times when you are working on a Pro Tools session and your running out of juice.
However, there are ways to reclaim some power which cost nothing, just a little time. Here are a few you may not know.
Use Pro Tools AudioSuite Plug-ins (Any Version)
A greatly overlooked feature of Pro Tools is the AudioSuite option for many of the plug-ins. Whilst many processes such as reverb and delay may be best live, cleaning up a vocal with a de-esser, or filtering the low end could be handle by an AudioSuite plug-in. Guitar amp modelling is notoriously processor hungry, once you have the sound you want then use an AudioSuite process to print the sound. No AudioSuite version of your plug-in? Then use the Blue Cat Patchwork to create one as seen here.
Use Pro Tools Offline Bounce To Freeze Tracks (Pro Tools 11)
If you are using a lot of virtual instruments then one way a lot of DAWs handle processor load is to freeze the tracks in place. If you have Pro Tools 11 then you can do this fast by bouncing them to disk and then reimporting them after bounce. If you are using Pro Tools 11 HD software then you can do this on a number of tracks at the same time.
Use Pro Tools Dynamic Plug-ins (Pro Tools 11)
If you have a session with lots of tracks and with elements that come in and out, for example synths just in the chorus, or a stack of vocals, then use the dynamic plug-in option. This means that when tracks are empty then your processor is freed up. You do need to make sure that the audio is only showing in each track when you need it. If like me you like all your audio to run across the whole timeline then dynamic processing is not going to work. So get slicing and see the difference it can make to your CPU power.
Use Pro Tools Disk Cache (Pro Tools 10 And 11 HD)
Disk cache places audio into spare RAM which then gives you a snappier Pro Tools timeline and reduces the load between the session and your hard drive. It’s a HD only feature so you either need Pro Tools HD hardware, or a version of Pro Tools with a Toolkit.
Bounce To Disk And Use The Stereo Mix (Any Version)
As a last resort, but if all options are off the table then you can simply use bounce to disk to create a stereo pair, or a set of stems and the carry on working with them. In the bad old 32 bit days of Pro Tools I would sometimes do this if I was building a track with a lot of virtual instruments. Thankfully now Pro Tools is 64 bit then this is less of an issue.
Of course many of these are workarounds, but if you are short of money or just need to get the job done then give these a try!
We recently ran a series of polls asking the Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton and Reason Expert communities to let us know how reliable their DAW was. For each DAW we chose the latest version, Pro Tools 11, Logic Pro X, Ableton Live 9 and Reason 7.
The poll asked how often workflow was affected by crashes and broke these answers down into hours, days, weeks and months.
We first asked the Pro Tools community how reliable they felt Pro Tools 11 was, however one of the factors affecting reliability is third party plug-ins, some felt it was unfair to single out Pro Tools because of this. So we decided to throw the net wider to other DAWs that also host third party plug-ins to see if this was a factor in DAW reliability.
Pro Tools uses the AAX format, Logic Pro the AU format, Ableton both AU and VST and Reason the Rack Extensions format.
DAW Reliability - The Results
There were a number of questions that covered how often crashes occurred in each DAW. Combining the results of these answers that broke the frequency of crashes down into hourly, daily, weekly and monthly. This gave us some indication of how likely it was that a DAW would crash. Here is how the four DAWs come out. These results were correct at the time of publication.
- Around 70% of Logic Pro X users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (32%) occurring about once a month.
- Around 68% of Pro Tools 11 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (23%) occurring about once a week.
- Around 68% of Ableton Live 9 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (37%) occurring about once a month.
- Around 11% of Reason 7 users experienced some kind of crash with the majority of those crashes (7%) occurring about once a month.
As you can see, Logic Pro X came out worst in our poll by a tiny margin, although crashes were most likely to happen around once a month. Pro Tools 11 was marginally better in terms of total amount of those affected by crashes, it scored exactly the same as Ableton Live 9 but Pro Tools 11 crashes were most likely to occur on a weekly basis, whereas Ableton Live 9 crashes were most likely to occur around once a month. Just 11% of Reason 7 users (about 1 in 10) reported some kind of crash with the majority of that group saying it happened around once a month.
The answer “It is rock solid and no crashes or bugs have occurred.”
- Reason 7 - 89%
- Logic Pro X - 27%
- Ableton Live 9 - 26%
- Pro Tools 11 - 15%
In terms of confidence Reason 7 users (around 9 in 10) reported their system to be rock solid. Around a quarter of Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 9 users are able to report this. Sadly only around 15% of Pro Tools 11 users were able to say their system is rock solid.
The answer “I have delayed upgrading because of reliability reports.”
- Pro Tools 11 - 11%
- Logic Pro X - 3%
- Ableton Live 9 - 3%
- Reason 7 - 0%
Around 11% of Pro Tools users have delayed upgrading to Pro Tools 11 because of reliability reports. Logic Pro X and Ableton Live 9 have a negligible score from those delaying purchase. Reason 7 users scored zero, Reason’s reputation for rock solid performance is a message that is getting through.
The answer “It is so bad I have gone back to an earlier version.”
- Pro Tools 11 - 5%
- Logic Pro X - 0%
- Ableton Live 9 - 0%
- Reason 7 - 0%
Only Pro Tools users said that their experience was so bad they had taken the advantage of going back to an earlier version. This proves that Avid offering a co-install of both Pro Tools 11 and 10 was a wise move.
One thing that came up in discussion when we first looked at the Pro Tools 11 poll results was that third party plug-ins and computer set-ups had an effect on the performance of any DAW. This is of course a fair point to make, but still raises other questions to consider.
Let’s start with Logic Pro X, Apple make the computers, OS and the software, they also manage the installation process via the App Store. They do not have multiple OS platforms or infinitely variable computer builds to have to account for, so Logic Pro X should be the most stable DAW on the planet and yet in our poll it came out, albeit marginally, as the least stable. This too may have something to do with the third party plug-in implementation argument, but again Logic only has Apple’s Audio Units plug-in format to deal with.
Secondly, Ableton Live 9. Ableton have less control over the process than Apple, so although the poll scores were similar, Ableton have multiple OS platforms, almost infinite computer build permutations and also both VST and AU plug-in formats, so there is more to go wrong.
Thirdly, Pro Tools 11. With 68% of those polled reporting crashes and bugs and many of them at least once a week, Avid have a lot of work to do to reduce this lack of stability. In some ways Avid have more at stake being perceived and touted as the choice of the professional, then Pro Tools 11 should be the most, not least ‘rock solid’ DAW on the market. Avid do have multiple OS platforms and computer builds to contend with but they don’t have an open plug-in architecture instead having their own AAX format. One of the things that AAX is meant to do is to give Avid control over plug-in quality, it would seem that AAX is not delivering on this fully right now. Although not all Pro Tools 11 crashes and bugs can be left at the door of third party plug-in manufacturers, some of the large issues and bugs in Pro Tools can only be fixed by Avid, latency bugs, step input and poor video performance are three examples that immediately come to mind. Whatever reason it is, Avid have control over both their internal code and the AAX architecture and so should be working hard to deliver a better experience for Pro Tools users.
Finally, Reason 7 proves that there is such a thing as a reliable DAW. With 89% of users reporting rock solid performance that’s impressive in the world of software. Propellerhead’s pride itself on the rock solid performance of Reason and rightly so, our poll seems to confirm that claim. Propellerhead’s have achieved this by creating a closed system and opting to create the Rack Extensions format. This allow third party developers into the eco-system but in a tightly controlled way and ensure a consistent user experience. It doesn’t always allow developers to be able to do direct ports of their plug-ins and can be somewhat feature limiting, but it seems that the Rack Extensions format is protecting Reason users from any possible issues from errant third party plug-ins. Avid take note, closed systems can protect DAW users from plug-in problems - Propellerhead have proved it, we are not sure if the same can be said of AAX.
No sane person on the planet would ever suggest that software is ever going to be without its issues, but Propellerhead have shown that even if we can’t have perfection we can get pretty close.
Depending on what forum you find yourself in and the thread you are reading you could be forgiven for either thinking that Pro Tools 11 is full of bugs or conversely rock solid.
There are some well documented issues surrounding Pro Tools 11 which Avid have acknowledged, at Pro Tools Expert we get a lot of emails from users asking us about different issues not documented, are they general bugs or specific computer issues? It can be the case that how a computer is configured can greatly affect performance, you can read our report here.
However, we thought it might be helpful to see how often users of Pro Tools 11 have their workflow interrupted by Pro Tools bugs and crashes. Reliability is an essential requirement of any professional software application, so is Pro Tools 11 meeting the mark or falling short?
So take our poll for both Mac and Windows users, of course please also let us have your comments.
Are you on cloud 9 or ready to throw the towel in?
In this FREE Pro Tools video tutorial Russ shows those who may have limited budgets that you don’t always need to spend money on plug-ins to get great results.
Russ takes users under the hood of Xpand2 to show how to create rich and complex textures that can be controlled during a performance.
In this video Pro Tools users will learn how to stack sounds, use arpeggiators to create movement, assign filter controls and use MIDI CC for extra control.
There was a time when VST owners were getting all the free plug-ins, but not anymore. Following the recent update from Melda, our free Pro Tools plug-ins list now runs to over 100.
They include plug-ins from top software developers like Softube, Bluecat, Fxpansion, Brainworx and more. This list include instruments, effects and some really cool tools.
Head over and search this list, if you think some RTAS and AAX plug-ins are missing then please let us know.
Marcus takes an extended look at creating a Pro Tools template from scratch, getting it just how you want it and then saving it for later use.In this video he includes a lot of very cool shortcuts and tips and tricks, before long you’ll be a Pro Tools ninja flying around the keyboard and having more time to make great tracks.