I've just relocated my studio to Somerset, in the west of the UK and have been busy reinstalling my Pro Tools systems - both my Windows and Mac-based setups. Following on from my article about the resilience and reliability of my Windows-based system, it has to be admitted that I wasn't looking forward to trying to get my MacOS Sierra Pro Tools up and running again.
What Can You Always Rely On?
It seems that one guaranteed thing is that the Avid Video Engine (AVE) on Mac will not be happy, even if absolutely nothing seems to have changed. And this time the AVE did not disappoint - true to form, the first time I attempted to open a session with a video track, it stuck with the "Connecting to the Avid Video Engine" progress bar and in Activity Monitor, the AVE was showing up red and "not responding". In fact, its behaviour was completely tallying with this Avid Knowledge Base article - "Avid Video Engine will not launch - progress bar fills but engine never launches".
Uninstalling On Macs Is Simple, Right?
I'd had this before and the way I got around it was to do a full and complete manual uninstall of Pro Tools. Avid's advice regarding uninstalling seems very simple - "Simply drag the Pro Tools app file from your Applications folder to your trash bin and empty".
Being a seasoned Windows user, I'm used to there being a proper uninstall program, that goes through your system and removes all the components related to Pro Tools. This simply isn't the case on a Mac. Even Avid support engineers admit that the Mac Pro Tools install is, "incredibly messy".
Going by Avid's advice, you'd think that every file Pro Tools needs to refer to is contained within the Pro Tools app file, but in reality, the Mac Avid Pro Tools installer leaves files all over the Mac operating system. It took me pretty much an entire day to manually clear every trace of Avid software from my Mac, using a combination of manual search and delete, plus multiple passes using CleanMyMac software.
Check Your Network
I really didn't have time to go through all that again. My situation was that I needed to fire up one of my main Pro Tools systems to do a task that was maxing out my laptop. I hadn't yet set up my wired tech LAN so decided to fire up my Mac system, as it could directly access my WiFi.
I have never ever had any issues with network access (or lack of) on my Windows system. Generally, on Windows Pro Tools is happy whatever the internet connection, provided it's not relying on a wired LAN to communicate with other devices. I decided to give up on my Mac for the moment and get my Windows system up and running along with my wired network. I set it up with exactly the same config as before - twin LANs - one "domestic" and one "tech", both of which are behind various protection from outside nasties.
A few months ago, I had a similar issue and my tech support person asked if anything had changed with the network, or if I had an "unusual" network setup. Aside from running two LANs, both of which are wired and WiFi, my network isn't especially unusual. But once I'd reconnected everything, curiosity got the better of me so I fired up my Mac Pro Tools system. And as if by magic, the AVE fired up, first time, no issues, as if there'd never been an issue. The only thing that had changed was the wired network connection.
Mac LAN Oddities
I'm used to my Windows systems being able to simultaneously access mutliple LANs with no fuss. It can even be a little too transparent, as sometimes I'm not sure which network my Windows system is using. However, with MacOS Sierra and OS-X Yosemite, I'm finding that a wired connection always over-rules. There are various articles on the internet about how to achieve simultaneous connections, but I have yet to find a solution that just works as transparently as Windows.
So Why Is The Mac AVE Sensitive To Networks?
I've never managed to get properly to the bottom of this. The only thing I can think of is that it is part of the Video Satellite system. This doesn't really make any sense to me though as then it would also be an issue on Windows, which it isn't. I think that to understand properly what's going on we have to delve a bit into the history of the Avid Video Engine.
When Avid made the leap of taking Pro Tools 64bit with version 11 onwards, they were hit with a bit of a problem. The QuickTime Player engine had been deprecated by Apple and historically there were always issues with the Windows version, as Apple removed the ability to playback through external video hardware devices, on the Windows version only. They also withdrew security support.
In order to provide flexible video playback on both operating systems, Avid chose to take the Avid Video Engine from their Media Composer software and make a cut-down version to run on Pro Tools. Because of the oft-discussed hardware expansion issues with recent Apple hardware, most Media Composer systems are Windows based. Most Media Composer systems which use shared storage in a Nexis style arrangement, do not have access to "outside world" internet, for obvious security reasons. So, the AVE is most used to operating within and indeed optimised for a Windows environment. Some friends of friends have taken a close look at the code of the AVE and have found traces of Windows code still there.
What Can We Do?
I'm afraid I don't have a definite workaround. This is because I don't believe even Avid completely understand what is going on. It's a bizarre twist of fortunes, to have something be far more reliable and stable on Windows than on Mac and I think Avid is still coming to terms with that.
One could always say to use the excellent Video Slave 3 instead of the AVE, but there are some situations, particularly when making multiple versions of a piece, where having the video track on the Pro Tools timeline is essential.
Let us know your experiences with the AVE and networks in the comments section below.