You only have until March 17th 2019 to place your vote in the 2019 ACA Vote. In this article, we are going to take a closer look at each of the 21 options that are in the list of options in the Pro Tools Hardware and Software section of the 3rd Avid Customer Association Survey.
As with our earlier ARA article, we do not have any ‘inside knowledge’ but the choices made by Avid and the ACA team for the different options, that there are some old favourites, as well as some new feature suggestions and that some have morphed into different options gives us an insight into where Avid are planning to take Pro Tools in the coming years.
1. “Smart Solo Feature" including improved bus interrogation, AUTOMATED SOLO SAFE and GUI visibility of signal path
How could this work? At the moment if your audio path from a track goes through a number of subgroups and even record tracks, unless every single one of these has been solo-safed, when you press Solo on the source track you won’t hear anything. Wouldn’t it be good if Pro Tools could look through the audio routing and automatically enable Solo Safe on all the tracks in the signal path so you don’t need to worry about having to manually Solo Safe everything. This should also include signal paths routed via aux sends too. In the process it would be great if Pro Tools identified the path, by highlighting each of track’s Solo button, making it easy to see the actual audio path through complex routing.
Then there was the suggestion for bus soling that was the 4th most popular unimplemented feature request from the Pro Tools Ideascale. The original post said “Bus Soloing Feature - We could use the ability to solo a bus instead of having to select all the individual tracks in order to hear the mix. It's not so bad when there are 2 tracks but with big sessions this gets complicated. There are two blank spots next to "Mute" and "Solo." These could be used for intelligent buttons that solo all the tracks being routed to that specific bus/aux track. This would require very simple programming and would make everyone's workflow a lot more efficient”.
2. Advanced Pro Tools’ MIDI capabilities (audio-like MIDI editing, in-app MIDI keyboard, MIDI plug-ins, step sequencer, etc.)
Enhanced MIDI Functionality with New MIDI tools to further music creation workflow was in the 2017 ACA vote and was planned for a planned 2017 release. In fact it was Pro Tools 2018.1 released in January 2018 that gave us a raft of new MIDI features in Pro Tools including Retrospective MIDI Record and Extract Chords From Selection as well as a raft of new MIDI shortcuts. So what else could Avid bring to the table to improve the MIDI editing features in Pro Tools? As MIDI doesn’t sit in my workflow I asked Julian Rodgers for his thoughts on how Avid might implement these new feature requests.
To really dive deep into this stuff then software like MAX/MSP/Jitter offers virtually limitless possibilities but we really don’t need to go there (and I’ve been there. It is to composition what modular synthesisers are to quickly selecting a bass patch and getting on with playing…). Some real world additions I’d love to see would be some basic MIDI plug-ins and way to play from the qwerty keyboard (AKA Caps Lock Keyboard). Qwerty MIDI control doesn’t strike me as too hard and considering how many people work on-the-go from a laptop it would be very popular.
As for MIDI plug-ins, it’s all about where you draw the line. I’ve used them before and some of them are really useful, some of them I can’t envisage ever needing. I’d love to see an arpeggiator, a MIDI echo, a MIDI transformer for turning one type of MIDI message into another (like the powerful but largely indecipherable Logical Editor in Cubase) and a pattern sequencer.
3. Enable Pro Tools virtualization on-premises and/or on cloud
I am not quite sure what this could mean. Could it be like a virtual computer that is in a server farm somewhere and you access it over the internet or intranet? Maybe an audio equivalent of virtual non-linear video editing where you are watching low-grade proxies over the internet or intranet rather than having the software and media hosted on your local computer. This could mean the local host doesn’t need to be as powerful, but it would mean we would probably be working on data-compressed audio so as to get the audio over the internet. It might be possible to do off-line audio editing and track laying this way but it feels clunky. There are benefits in streamlined storage by having all the media assets in one place, whilst enabling creatives to view and select rushes, but I am not sure I would like to work on audio in this fashion.
4. Extend Pro Tools’ audio file format support (compressed audio, lossless, export more formats AAC, MXF, etc.)
It would be nice to have some other lossy codec options in the Export menu like AAC. However the idea of lossless options like FLAC maybe a little late, I needed this in my workflow 5 years ago. That was a time when I would use FLAC to upload finished programs to the BBC Servers to reduce the upload time on a less than idea broadband internet connection. With the increases in internet bandwidth, there is little need to use lossless codecs to reduce file sizes for uploading.
For me, what is the most interesting part of this feature suggestion are the 3 letters MXF. Imagine being able to bounce a mix into an MXF and add the mix to a pre-existing MXF wrapped video file all within Pro Tools? Now that would be powerful, and enable me as the audio person to make sure the audio is embedded in the MXF wrapper with the tracks in the correct order as well as any downmix files and stems, rather than having to hand audio files back to the video guys and hope they get the channel order and format correct.
5. Integration of 3rd party video engines
This is the first of the more vague feature suggestions. Looking back, with the release of Pro Tools 11 Avid brought the video engine from Media Composer, which was supposed to banish video problems from the Pro Tools workflow. Instead, we seem to have some users who are able to run video on their Pro Tools rigs without any issues, whilst others have all kinds of issues.
What does Avid mean by 3rd party video engine? Could it mean, that Avid would allow you to use another manufacturer’s video engine? For example what if you could replace the Avid Video Engine with the Non-Lethal Applications’ Video Slave Pro 4? What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below…
6. Make Pro Tools a central platform for audio workflows: open up Pro Tools APIs to enhance specific workflows with third-party applications and allow customers to create custom workflows.
I wonder if this is intended to help game developers and improve the workflows with game audio. That said, game audio has had a checked history in the ACA Votes. In the 1st round of the 2nd vote Avid included ‘Game Engine Integration Workflows - Integration of Pro Tools into game engine workflows’ which had been ranked 13th in the 1st survey in 2017. However, in 2018, it failed to make it through to the 2nd round of the 2nd vote. Perhaps Avid have taken another look at how they could best help the games audio sector? After all, game audio is a major growth market with the big games having cinematic budgets to play with. Anything that will improve game audio post-production is going to give Avid a leg up in potential sales in this sector. To me, this would be the most obvious use of APIs to improve the workflow from DAW to game engine.
Do you work in games audio and use Pro Tools? Do you have any other suggestions for how this feature suggestion could work? Do share them in the comments below...
7. Extend Pro Tools’ existing support of many surround, immersive and VR audio formats, to generic immersive audio and other existing formats such as DTS-X, MPEG-H and Auro-3D.
Although I suspect Dolby is very happy with the fact that Dolby Atmos is the only immersive format with tight integration with Pro Tools, Dolby isn’t the only game in town. As Pro Tools users, we still need to have smooth and integrated workflows for other immersive audio formats like DTS-X and Auro 3D as well as supporting the MPEG-H format, which is providing a format agnostic object based audio delivery format. MPEG-H is already being used for object-based audio delivery for content like sport enabling the end user to be able to adjust the volume of the different elements like commentary, FXs etc.
VR, like games is another growth area. Anything Avid can do to improve VR workflows in Pro Tools has got to be a good thing. How would you like to see Avid implement this feature suggestion? Do share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below…
8. Improved data interchange between sessions (better Import Session Data functionality, multiple sessions open at the same time with drag & drop)
This first appeared in the 2017 ACA Vote and was listed in the top 10 as ‘New Post workflows offering folder tracks, multiple sessions open at one time’. This is long overdue and is one of the options that has been on the previous 2 ACA surveys in 2017 and 2018.
This was first suggested in the Pro Tools Ideascale 10 years ago, with the suggestion that there should be “the ability to open 2 sessions at the same time with only one session being active - the other one inactive (active/inactive switch). You then could compare two sessions and copy/paste instantly regions/region groups etc. without having to import/export whole tracks”.
One of the comments added “Even just the ability to open the edit window of another session in order to copy/paste out of it into your current one would be very helpful”.
Another suggested tabs “Almost exactly like tabbed browsers like Firefox, Safari, or IE, we should have the ability to open new sessions in a TAB. Would be an awesome convenience to switch quickly from other sessions”.
In 2018, this feature was the 6th most popular feature request on the Pro Tools Ideascale yet to be implemented.
It would be great to be able to drag and drop clips, tracks, plug-ins etc from one Pro Tools session to another by having them both open at the same time. Although the Export Track option is a significant improvement by enabling you to work in the source session, choosing the elements you needed and then exporting them from that session into the destination session, improving the ability to move a wide variety of content from one session to other, especially with drag and drop, would be very welcome.
What do you think of the Tabs idea? How would you like to see this Multiple Sessions feature implemented? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below…
9. Better Pro Tools interoperability and integration with the Avid ecosystem
Although OMF, and now AAF, work reasonably well with Avid’s own products, there is still work to be done here. It would also be great if Avid could work with other developers like Adobe to improve the AAF workflow from Premiere Pro to Pro Tools, although that arguably falls out the remit of this topic as Adobe is not part of the Avid Ecosystem.
But what about closer integration between Pro Tools and Sibelius? After all, Sibelius is in the ‘Avid ecosystem’. Avid had ‘Enhanced Integration: Pro Tools & Sibelius offering improved workflows to allow better integration between Sibelius and Pro Tools app’ in the 2017 ACA Vote and slated it ‘In the queue for 2018’. However, Sibelius integration did not make it through in the 2018 ACA Vote.
What was there, was ‘Interop with Media Composer - Qualification for Pro Tools on NEXIS to include support for 12+ workstations and high track counts plus video (Previous Vote: Ranked #12)’ which was slated as ‘under investigation’ which might give us an insight into what Avid could still be planning.
Could this also include ‘Phonetic Indexing of Audio in Pro Tools (phonetic text search of audio in Workspace to find all dialog matches for entered text)’ from the 2018 ACA vote? This was ranked 14th and slated ‘Under Investigation’ After all, ScriptSync and PhraseFind are also part of the Avid ecosystem. We discussed this in our article Should Avid Add ScriptSync and PhraseFind Features To Pro Tools?
10. Improve video engine performance and expand video file format support
‘Enhanced AVE (Avid Video Engine) Workflows offering support of new codecs, enhancements to existing video interoperability inside Pro Tools’ came out in the top 10 in the 2017 ACA Vote and was initially slated for a planned 2017 release but subsequently pushed back to a ‘In the queue for 2018 as a planned release’.
In the 2018 ACA vote, it was in 5th place and listed as ‘Planned Release in 2018’. We are now in 2019 and it seems to have been morphed into a slightly different feature suggestion in the 2019 ACA Vote.
This also has some common elements with other feature suggestions. There is no doubt that we need more video file format support. Although currently we can still bounce to QuickTime, Avid will need to replace this feature by the time Apple bring out the macOS that will replace Mojave 10.14. This is because QuickTime is 32-bit and support for any 32-bit apps will be dropped by Apple in the next macOS. In addition, Apple tightening down its support of video file formats natively in the macOS, which we covered in our article Apple Announce End Of Native Support For Avid DNx Codecs - Avid Respond. Why This Matters For Pro Tools Users and are leaving it to 3rd party software developers like Avid to support all the other video formats in their own applications. So it is really important for Avid to get this resolved and built into Pro Tools before Apple releases its next OS, possibly in September 2019, based on Apple’s previous track record.
11. Integration with third-party tools allowing for metadata tracking, content protection, distribution and monetization, straight from the Pro Tools application.
This is another feature suggestion that seems to have morphed somewhat. In the 2018 ACA Vote there was a feature suggestion identified as ‘DDEX-compliant Metadata Recording’. DDEX is a consortium of media companies, music licensing organisations, digital service providers and technical intermediaries, focused on the creation of digital supply chain standards. To support the automated exchange of information along the digital supply chain, DDEX has standardised the format in which information is represented in XML messages and the method by which the messages are exchanged between business partners.
DDEX standards have been designed to help rightsholders, retailers and technical intermediaries to more effectively communicate information along the digital supply chain. This leads to efficient business transactions, reduced costs and increased revenues for all sectors involved.
The DDEX standards need to cover not only the music industry sector but we also the TV, OTT and film production sectors too. The more online delivery content there is, with the rise of the likes of Netflix and Amazon, the more important the subject and implementation of metadata becomes. For example, metadata will help musicians get paid for music used in other people’s projects if the metadata embedded in the music file used in a Pro Tools session could be transmitted through to the programme master. Metadata may be boring but it will be the oil that lubricates the money flow.
12. Enhance Pro Tools’ session organization capabilities with track folders and audio clip folders.
This first appeared in the 2017 ACA Vote and was listed in the top 10 as ‘New Post workflows offering folder tracks and multiple sessions open at one time’.
In the 2018 ACA vote Folder tracks had been separated from having multiple sessions open at the same time and was ranked in the top spot and slated as a ‘Planned Release in 2018’. There was no mention of folders in the clip list in the 2018 ACA vote so I am especially pleased to see that they have been brought together in the 2019 ACA Vote. Back in the days of the Pro Tools Ideascale. Folders in the `Clip List’ was the most popular feature request from users. The Ideascale post said… “Folders in the Region List - For better region management I would like to see folders in the region list. It would be great if you could assign one or multiple tracks to a folder in the region list and all the recordings and edits of the track(s) end up in the designated folder in the region list. This folder could then also be created in the Audio Files folder for even better file management”. Note that you can see how old this one is, it still refers to regions. Remember that Regions became clips with Pro Tools 11!
Track Folders was down in 8th place on the Pro Tools Ideascale in July 2018 and the post said “Big mixes require good organisation, it would be great to be able to have track folders (for example: for your 32 tracks of drums!)”
Let's hope we don’t have to wait for this too much longer before we get these highly-requested features into a future version of Pro Tools.
13. UNDO Deleted Tracks
Although this is a new feature suggestion to the ACA votes it was added to the Pro Tools Ideascale 9 years ago and in 2018 was the 5th most popular feature request, yet to be implemented with 847 votes.
It is an understatement that this would be brilliant to have in Pro Tools. It is one of the few ‘undoable’ changes you can make in Pro Tools. Nearly everything else is non-destructive, but deleting audio tracks is not. Obviously, you can refer back to a previous save and export that track, but that is an unnecessary workaround when it could be made undoable in Pro Tools.
14. Improve satellite link performance and functionality
This is another one of those more vague feature suggestions. The opening up of the video engine could make this option easier and if products like Video Slave 4 could be embedded into Pro Tools reduce the need for Video Satellite. Video Satellite also only works with other Avid systems. You can’t use Video Satellite with say Adobe Premiere Pro. What improvements could Avid make to the video satellite functionality? Do share your thought in the comments below.
15. Support for ARA technology (Audio Random Access) allowing increased communication of key information between the Pro Tools timeline and specific plug-ins
We have covered this in detail in our article ARA Integration In Pro Tools - Videos And Screenshot Concepts Show Why This Is A Highly Requested Feature.
16. Provide more user customization capabilities to Pro Tools, such as feature modularity, abstraction of functionality user doesn’t need, custom keyboard shortcuts, and portability of user preferences
Pro Tools have a huge feature set. It services a huge range of workflows with 3 versions of the software. Because of the huge and broad range of feature sets that enable Pro Tools t be used in a wide range of applications is that there will often be significant features that some users simply never touch, they are not part of the workflow for them. So why not be able to turn them off? It would seem to make a lot of sense, or does it?
As we discussed in podcast 359, this could mean that one of the key benefits of Pro Tools, in that it is the same, would no longer be true. What if you could reprogram the shortcuts? What if you were on shared machines used by a range of people, then a freelancer comes in and shortcuts, menus etc were different? This would waste valuable time because things would no longer be where the freelancer expects them to be. All their muscle memory skills would be lost and it would also like having to learn a new DAW.
How could the portable user preferences be implemented? Are we going to need to depend on USB sticks with our individual preferences on them? Some places will not allow you to plug anything in because of security restrictions. What if the user preferences were stored in the cloud. That would be an issue if you didn’t or couldn’t have access to the internet.
17. New, professional audio interfaces
In the 2017 ACA Vote, Avid announced a ‘New low-cost hardware audio interface with network capabilities and sync’ adding a new hardware interface for Pro Tools that would retail under $1K US, include DANTE and up to 16 channels of I/O and was slated as ‘under investigation’.
In the 2018 ACA vote it was ranked 3rd but was still slated as ‘under investigation’.
In the 2019 ACA vote, it now seems to have morphed into another vague feature suggestion. Perhaps another feature request from the 2018 ACA vote might give us an insight into Avid’s thinking here. Ranked 12th was a feature suggestion ‘Pro Tier of Network Audio Interfaces’ which was slated as ‘In the queue for 2019’. Perhaps Avid are looking at a DigiLink equipped interface with AoIP connectivity. This would tie in with one of the other feature suggestions in the 2019 ACA vote ‘Audio over IP capabilities: Dante, Ravenna, AVB, AES67…’ More on this below...
Back to ‘new professional audio interfaces’, does it mean just Avid interfaces? If so, does it mean Native or DigiLink compatible interfaces? Why use the word ‘professional’ in this context? Is this the replacement to the sub $1000 interface with Dante etc that has been in the previous 2 ACA votes? We don’t know. What would you like to see from Avid as a ‘new, professional audio interface’? Do share your thoughts in the comments below...
18. Adapting current cloud collaboration to work on-premises….and developing to allow POST workflows
This has always been a big hole in Avid’s collaboration workflow, ever since Avid introduced cloud collaboration in Pro Tools 12.5 back in January 2016. For areas of our industry where the internet is a closed door like film post-production, the features and potential workflow enhancements that Avid’s cloud collaboration services offer have simply not been available for large team based post-production workflows, where if implemented well, could be a great help. Would you like to see this implemented for large secure teams to be to collaborate? How would you see the collaboration features helping in film post-production? Do share your thoughts in the comments below…
19. Audio over IP capabilities: Dante, Ravenna, AVB, AES67…
This is very interesting. Take Dante for example, even though we have the Dante Virtual Sound card, which can work with Pro Tools, the problem is that it interfaces at the CoreAudio level on a Mac. You can set up the Dante Virtual soundcard to work with Pro Tools (see our tutorial How To Set Up The Dante Virtual Soundcard) but it has to be the Playback Engine. If you want to use the Dante Virtual Soundcard with another interface then you need to use Avid’s Aggregate Devices. That is all for Pro Tools Native. Once you jump to Pro Tools HD hardware, currently you need a Dante equipped DigiLink interface, like the Focusrite Red series and or the Avid MTRX, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way of getting a simple Dante only Interface that could connect to a Mini DigiLink port. Nothing but an Ethernet port and a Mini DigiLink port on a box. What if there was a version of the Thunderbolt HD Native box that also had an Ethernet port on the back. There is no doubt that with the growth of Dolby Atmos workflows we need less and less audio I/O and more and more Audio over IP and MADI I/O.
20. Allow use of the "Dolby Audio Bridge" for connection with renderer software.
Talking of Dolby Atmos, the Dolby Audio Bridge is a clever piece of software that enables you to interconnect Pro Tools with the Software Renderer in the Dolby Atmos Production Suite. It offers up to 128 channels of audio interconnection to the Renderer with applications like Nuendo using CoreAudio, but on Pro Tools that is limited to 32 channels because of the channel limit imposed by Avid for Pro Tools Native. Dolby advises HDX users to use the existing Send/Return Plug-In architecture that is still available in the Dolby Atmos Production Suite. With this feature suggestion it looks like Avid is considering a solution that would improve the access to the Dolby software RMU, giving us more channels when working with Dolby Atmos.
21. Future higher power more modular HDX replacement
Last but not least, this is about as vague as it gets. In fact, it seems to have some parallels with the Apple Modular Mac Pro, in that what do Avid mean by ‘modular’ in this context? There is no doubt that the HDX infrastructure is getting a little long in the tooth and the DSP chips used on the cards are seriously old technology now and in need of replacing but the six million dollar question is, with what? I am not a software developer but it would seem to make sense to use some kind of normal processor chips for the DSP on an HDX replacement, say like the Intel processors we find in most computers. These are relatively easily upgradeable, as I showed in my article on How To Upgrade Your Mac Pro 5,1 With New High-Performance Processors To Get An Improved Pro Tools Computer. Imagine a DSP farm with Intel processors that you could upgrade. Then dump the PCI-e card form factor and put the processors in a box with Thunderbolt connectivity to the computer.
What’s Missing From The 2019 ACA Vote?
That covers all the 21 feature suggestions that Avid has included in the Pro Tools section of this latest ACA Vote, but what about the features that they haven’t included?
Pro Tools As An iOS App - In the 2017 vote there was an option to have an iOS App for Pro Tools, which would be an iOS version of Pro Tools for mobile recording, editing & sharing of ideas for collaboration. It was slated as ‘under investigation’ In the 2018 ACA vote it appeared again and was ranked 8th and remained as ‘under investigation’.
Integrated Pitch Correction - In the 2018 ACA vote was a feature suggestion simply identified as ‘Integrated Pitch Correction’ hat was ranked 6th ad salted As ‘under investigation’. It wasn’t clear what ‘Integrated Pitch Correction’ actually meant? It could simply mean that X-Form could be bundled into Pro Tools, or post related pitch correction could be fully integrated into Pro Tools so that you could correct the audio when there are frame rate changes.
Marker Track Improvements - Also in the 2018 ACA vote was a feature suggestion called ‘Marker Track Improvements’. It was ranked 9th and slated as ‘Planned Release in 2018’. This came from the top 10 more requested features in the Pro Tools Ideascale. The original post said “I would REALLY love a change in the markers. Please have multiple marker rulers in the edit window. I would also like to be able to set custom colours for certain markers. Also, in the marker list, I would love to be able to re-sort alphabetically and renumber sequentially after re-sorting. Primarily what this would allow me to do is set ADR markers, foley markers, music markers, dialog markers, etc.”
Now lets look at the what is left from the top 10 from the Pro Tools Ideascale that haven’t been covered above…
Phase switch on every track in the mix window - Would make life so much easier, especially when recording with multiple mics.
Bus Soloing Feature - We could use the ability to solo a bus instead of having to select all the individual tracks in order to hear the mix. It's not so bad when there are 2 tracks but with big sessions this gets complicated. There are two blank spots next to "Mute" and "Solo." These could be used for intelligent buttons that solo all the tracks being routed to that specific bus/aux track. This would require very simple programming and would make everyone's workflow a lot more efficient.
Shortcut for making two mono audio tracks into one stereo - This is kind of the opposite of Split Stereo Track into 2 Mono Tracks.
VST Support - Pro Tools should have it's own VST capability so us Pro Tools users can have a much wider palette of instruments using only one DAW.
Sum To Mono Option On Master Fader - To check mixes in mono. It's kind of self-explanatory.
Whatever the speculation is about what each of these feature suggestions, is that based on what is in the current 2019 ACA Vote, none of these are in the frame. It would appear that Avid isn’t pursuing any of these 8 options. They are certainly not asking about them in the 2019 ACA vote.
Are there any feature suggestions that we haven’t covered in this article that you are waiting for Avid to add to Pro Tools? If so, please let us know in the comments below…
Have You Voted Yet?
As we said at the end of our 2019 ACA vote article, decisions are made by people in the room so if you haven’t taken part in the 3rd ACA survey and had you saw about what new features you consider to be the most important then we commend to to get involved and vote.