I'm old enough to remember when mixers who had previously used DSP consoles such as the AMS Neve DFC, started mixing "in the box". For me, it was in 2002. I jumped straight from mixing the output of Pro Tools and other DAWs through a DSP console, to mixing 5.1 entirely within Pro Tools 5HD. This means that for over fifteen years, mixers like me have been asking for Pro Tools to include one particular feature - a non-destructive monitor section.
When mixing in surround, having multiple speakers around you can easily lead to confusion, so at times it is very handy to be able to selectively solo or mute monitor speaker channels non-destructively, which means that the act of soloing a speaker will have no destructive effect on the actual mix going through Pro Tools.
Hardware monitor controllers are limited in their future proofing by the very fact that they're hardware. I have an old Blue Sky 5.1 monitor controller, that since I went 7.1 has been useless. It was on its last legs anyway, with a noisy power supply, hiss and VCA zipper noise, so when I went 7.1 I started using the TotalMix control software on my RME Fireface 802 as a rudimentary controller.
This is where Source VC comes in, being a multi-channel Native AAX plugin that works as a software control room monitor controller solution, controllable by any assignable MIDI or ASCII keyboard. This also includes the original Source Talkback iOS app, which has been updated to include the Volume Controller.
This plug-in addresses a basic need that multichannel audio Pro Tools HD users have been looking for, for years - the ability to be able to control the volume of, and non destructively solo, mute and calibrate, the main 5.1, 7.1 or even 7.1.2 monitor outputs, fully “in the box”. It is very common to find multichannel audio interfaces that have a soft and/or hardware “monitor” output control, but these are most usually stereo only. Source-VC can be placed as an insert on your main monitor path in any format, from stereo up to 7.1.2.
The user interface is easy to use, full of right-click functionality, plus of course has the added bonus of being able to store presets for different setups, such as TV Surround, Dolby Home Atmos and Dolby Theatrical. The controls are not automatable though, which is probably a very wise move indeed!
Talkback And Volume Control iOS App
Source Elements have also incorporated a remote control for the plug-in into their existing Source Talkback iOS app, which allows you to control the plug-in from your iPhone or iPad. It is bi-directional, so adjustments to the plug-in are reflected in the app and vica-versa. There's a bit of MIDI setup to do, but there are really clear easy to follow instructions built into the app itself, so the initial setup is a breeze. It is equally easy to assign any key from an ASCII keyboard, keypad or any MIDI device to any control on the plug-in. It should even be possible to use the RME ARC USB remote I've reviewed, as a hardware controller for this plug-in, as it's a standard MIDI device.
Source Elements Source-VC retails for $175. While this may seem a little pricey for such an apparently simple plug-in, when compared to the hardware equivalent it is very good value indeed and far more future-proof. As a tool to help your workflow, however, it is invaluable. Once you get used to having it, you'll literally feel "lost in space" without it. The only downside at present is that it's Mac and iOS only. I would absolutely love to have this on my Windows machine and Android Phone & Tablet, so let's hope Source Elements have that on their list!