It’s been a long time coming. Some say too long, even after our exclusive interview with François Quereuil, Audio Product Manager at Avid, which detailed the difficult road that this release has had to travel. Well, was it worth the wait? Let’s take a look:
Pro Tools Ultimate 2019.5
We’ll start with Pro Tools Ultimate as it’s the central application that the other two work with. To recap, here’s what Avid have to say about Pro Tools Ultimate 2019.5:
50% Extra Voices For Pro Tools Ultimate Standalone And HD Native Users
Pro Tools No Longer Stops When Undertaking Tasks Like Creating Tracks, Adding Or Moving Plug-ins
Twice As Many MIDI Tracks And Improved Track Management Workflow
Name Tracks Faster (For Pro Tools First, Pro Tools And Pro Tools Ultimate Users)
Performance Improvements For HDX And HD Native Users
New Arrow Key MIDI Editing Key Commands Enhancement
New Key Command for Edit>Snap to Next/Previous
New Video Settings
Accessibility (Voice Over)
Support For macOS Mojave And Latest Mac Computers (For Pro Tools First, Pro Tools And Pro Tools Ultimate Users)
Multiseat Licensing For Pro Tools And Pro Tools Ultimate Users
Avid Link Now Bundled With Pro Tools 2019.5
You can read more details on all these features in the article Pro Tools 2019.5 Is Here With Extra Voices, Mojave Support, Multiseat Licensing And More.
All Very Good But How Well Does It Work In The Real World?
As soon as you fire up Pro Tools Ultimate 2019.5 you get an immediate sense that things are in general “zippier” - play commands respond faster, loops are seamless, even with huge track counts, and the video engine seems very stable and responsive (on Windows certainly - Mac users may still find that their experience varies).
The new uninterrupted playback works very well, here are some examples…
Insert, Move, Or Remove Plug-ins
I really like this feature - it allows me to make far more fluid comparisons between plug-ins all within the context of the mix.
Switching plug-ins is generally smoother with Avid’s own plug-ins, but that’s to be expected and I’m sure this will improve in time. If you change to a plug-in which has increased latency that needs the delay compensation to be adjusted, there’s no escaping a momentary blip. What’s most important though is that Pro Tools does not come to a juddering halt.
Making Changes To Your I/O
This isn’t something that I tend to use an awful lot as a key part of an efficient post-production mix is in the preparation, but it is great to know that I’m not going to have to stop my mix in order to make changes to my routing.
Included in this feature is also the ability to create new paths, say routing a bunch of channels to a new effects return (Aux Input), without having to hit Stop. Along with being able to add whole new reverb return setups, without interrupting playback, this feature is already saving me oodles of time and more importantly keeps my creative flow from being uninterrupted.
50% Extra Voices
This is something I’ve been screaming for, for years. That Avid have managed to make this feature work on “Native” Pro Tools and not HDX yet, speaks volumes for the sheer power capabilities and flexibility of today’s host computers and the challenges of getting more out of a legacy system in the time division multiplexing (TDM) where they have now got to divide time up into more slots but not take any more space up. You can learn more about this on our exclusive interview with François Quereuil, who is Audio Product Manager at Avid.
The good news is that it won’t just be post production mixers who will benefit from extra voices - sound editors and designers do as well. Even dialogue editors - many a time, the simple process of expanding the cutting room AAF out to original multi-track recordings could easily consume more tracks than voices. For maximum flexibility and fluidity, dialogue editors need to be able to audition any of the tracks from the “iso” recordings. Even importing ADR recordings made without playlists (especially acquired using systems that don’t use playlists) can push your track count up by hundreds.
Here are the new features in EuControl -
Surface Attention Follows DAW (Attention Most Recently Clicked DAW Area)
Open/Close Window on Workstation When Editing
Monitoring View in Pro Tools | Control and Enable EUCON Monitor
Talkback Via Footswitch
Sum And Intercancel For Sources And Speakers
Un-spill VCA from Dock and Pro Tools | Control
Suspend All Faders and Shortcut to Enable/Disable Plug-In Automation
Momentary Fader Value Display
Scroll to Track and Scroll Into View
Momentary Fader Value Display
Shortcut To Enable/Disable Plug-In Automation (Pro Tools Only)
Most, if not all, of these feature also ripple through to the Pro Tools Control app.
What has struck me most about this update to EuControl is that it builds on an already very solid control system, irons out some bugs, but most importantly, allows you to really customise your own user experience. Being able to spill and un-spill VCAs out to my Artist Mix surfaces is invaluable and allows me to tweak relative levels of large amount of tracks, in just ONE pass, rather than multiple passes having to tweak channels individually.
I’ve always been a “physical faders” mixer - I find faders and knobs far more intuitive than touch screens and mouse control. I’ve found this latest version of EuControl to be the most stable yet. Gone are the days when I was having to regularly power-cycle my Artist Control, or that EuControl unexpectedly quit, taking Pro Tools with it.
Improvements to reliability and customise-ability all add to increasing the speed of my mixing and editing workflow. It also encourages me to use my control surfaces more and my keyboard and mouse less. This in turn reduces the physical demands on myself, as I am more often in the correct mix position, in the optimum monitoring position. Having physical controls at my hands also makes it easier to execute a change without even looking directly at the surface.
Pro Tools Control 19.5.0
All the general improvements in EuControl would be to no avail if the Pro Tools Control app that forms the centerpiece of my Pro Tools Dock, wasn’t performing as well.
The main downside to upgrading to Pro Tools Control 19.5.0 is that if you own an iPad that cannot run iOS12, you will have to upgrade your hardware. The latest version of the Pro Tools Control app requires iOS12. However, regular listeners to our podcast will know that there are ways to do this cost efficiently. If you are lucky enough to own one of the new iPad Pro 11-inch models then you will be pleased to hear that they are supported, though due to the different aspect ratio screen from all other iPads, there will be black bars at each side for now. To adjust the whole screen layout just for a couple of premium iPad models will necessitate a ground-up re-write. I’m sure that most users agree with me that Avid have far more important things to attend to. The other downside of owning one of these iPads is that the charging socket cut-out on the Pro Tools Dock is not correctly aligned. This is a hardware modification that Avid will be including in future builds.
Our advice, if you are in this position, is to pick up a cheap second hand regular shape iPad to use exclusively in your Dock. As iPads do not properly multi-task, if you switch to a different app on your iPad, EuControl effectively thinks that it is disconnected. As the Dock relies on the iPad for functionality, this can have unfortunate side effects. An iPad Pro is total overkill for Pro Tools Control in any case.
Unfortunately, as my audio interface - an RME FireFace 802, isn’t Eucon controllable, I am unable to take full advantage of the new Monitoring section (although there are various ways to MIDI control the RME TotalMixFX software from Eucon, but it is very complicated). Were I lucky enough to have something like the Avid MTRX, I would very much be taking advantage of this feature. It really brings S6 functionality into the reach of S3, Dock and Artist series users.
As with these latest Pro Tools and EuControl versions, I’ve found Pro Tools Control 2019.5 to be far more stable and responsive, though that might also be to do with my upgraded iPad.
Conclusion - Lots Of Little Tweaks That Really Add Up
This has been my lasting impression of using 2019.5, “at the coalface”. Recently I’ve mixed 38 film trailers and the improvements in general workflow have become very apparent. It’s obvious that Avid have been really hard at work with this release - the overall user experience feels far more fluid and zippier.
One big example for me is that the Import Session Data process has really sped up. It used to be common when opening AAF files, particularly from NLE’s that aren’t part of the Avid family, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, to have a long delay between selecting the file and being presented with the import dialogue and track selection. Now it is almost instantaneous.
There’s only one feature I would really like Avid to add - some form of display that shows me, on a software only system, how many voices are being used. At present, unless you have HDX, no such display exists for “Native” users.
Not Just About Headline New Features
Yes, these long-awaited releases do have some big new features, which a lot of us have been wishing for, for some time. I know from a lot of Mac Users that Mojave support is way overdue. As I run Windows mainly and have stuck with Sierra on my one MacOS system, I’m not able to report on that.
I am very happy to say though that on all of my systems, installation was simple, fast and worked first time, and that all these little tweaks and improvements really add up to a very smooth intuitive user experience, for me, working in fast turnaround post-production, in surround.
For me, doing the work I do, day in, day out, Pro Tools 2019.5, EuControl 2019.5 and Pro Tools Control 2019.5 have very much been worth the wait.
I’ve been privileged to be part of the beta team and this has given me a valuable insight into the care and attention that Avid’s developers and beta testers put into every release. It’s no easy task I can tell you. I’ve been involved with DAW development for nearly three decades now and can put my hand on my heart and tell you that there really is no easy fix and delays are generally never down to laziness.
How Are You Finding Pro Tools 2019.5?
Is Pro Tools 2019.5 everything you’d hoped for, or are you finding it still to be lacking? Do you think it’s been worth the wait? Let us know in the comments section below.