One of the most common accusations I hear levelled at Windows Pro Tools systems is that they're a bit unpredictable, a bit scatty, a bit unreliable. That certainly hasn't been my experience, so I thought I'd relate an experience of mine.
Going On The Road
At the moment while I am between studios, I have a temporary 5.1 mix setup in my front room, with both my Windows and Mac Pro Tools systems sharing RME audio hardware, network storage and Video screens. Longtime collaborator and Post Production Sound Engineer Sue Malpass of Tonic Sound and I, were asked to present a seminar at the SoundPro 2017 show in Ealing, talking about and demonstrating the art of Foley.
This involved giving a PowerPoint presentation with video clip examples, while also attempting to do a "live" demonstration of recording foley to picture. To achieve this we decided to take a Pro Tools system along, which would both record the foley to picture, but also then play it back, in place and mixed in, alongside two hundred other tracks that formed a 5.1 mix, playing back to HD broadcast resolution video.
Choose Your Kit Wisely
I had three choices of kit to take with me -
- Windows 10, i7 12 thread x 4GHz, 16GB RAM, GTX660Ti, BlackMagic MiniMonitor PCIe
- MacOS Sierra, i7, 8 thread x 3.4GHz, 16GB RAM, GTX1050Ti
- OS-X Yosemite MacBookPro 8.1 8 thread x 2.2GHz, 16GB RAM, AMD6450
The first is my main studio system, so is fully laden with all the toys. The other two though were going to have to use a GPU output to feed the projector for video playback, so using the notoriously bad desktop video playback, or Video Slave 3. They could all easily communicate with my RME Fireface802 interface, but the MacBook Pro was fast running out of USB ports. Ridiculously enough as well, out of the three, my MacBook Pro has the most fan noise!
So, I chose my Windows system. It is, of course, the largest and heaviest of the three. I loaded up crates with my computer, RME rack, a HD monitor, power, HDMI and USB cables then headed across London to the venue.
We arrived at Ealing Town Hall 45 minutes before our seminar was due to start. The Pro Tools session I was running originated on a Mac Pro Tools 12HDX system. I have to say, even I was surprised at how fast Windows booted and the ease with which the session opened and played back perfectly first time. Before we knew it, it was time for our session to start. We'd been billed as the headline attraction, so no pressure there!
Pro Tools HD 12.8.1 on Windows behaved beautifully the entire time. No crashes, no AAE errors, no system load spikes, no playback stutter and no erratic behaviour from the AVE. With the help of a willing volunteer, sound editor Mike Wabro, we even re-recorded some foley and mixed it back into the show we were demonstrating. There was a momentary issue where I hadn't realised I'd managed to mute the RME monitor outputs, but that was finger trouble on my part.
Rock Solid Reliability
I am shortly going to be relocating my setup yet again to Somerset. During the last two moves, the most resilient system, the one that's booted and worked best, first time, the most reliable system, has been my Windows rig.
Let us know your experiences with Pro Tools resilience in the comments below.