Pro Tools 11 – MixCoach’s First Look at “The New Standard In Audio Production”

Pro Tools 11 – MixCoach’s First Look at “The New Standard In Audio Production”

On Tuesday here in Nashville, Vintage King and Avid hosted an “up-close” look at Pro Tools 11 and everything it has to offer. So I headed on over to take a look at what is being billed as “the new standard in audio production.”

The presenters were running a “late beta” of PT11 HD Native via the Thunderbolt port on a Macbook Pro. The setup was basically as powerful as a tower would be, only portable. The demo session they had was a session that contained heavy Virtual Instrument(VI) processing and a full HD video track. It was a session built by the composer of the music bed for a car commercial using many VIs in Pro Tools 11. The demonstration ran into one small technical difficulty at this point. The video window wouldn’t play the video. After a system reboot this problem was solved. The guys from Avid said that this was a bug found by a tester in Germany literally earlier that morning and Avid was getting a new beta version to everyone with the fix later that evening. So from what it sounds like, Avid is definitely very invested in making Pro Tools 11 less buggy than previous versions. And dedicated to making sure it is stable at launch.

After the reboot the presentation was much less rocky. Pro Tools 11 handled a really large, VI heavy session (9 gigs of sample library were being accessed, with at least 4 instances of superior drummer with multiple outputs, as well as the Vienna sample library) with video playing in it incredibly well. The all new 64-bit architecture is what allows this to happen.

Lets talk about this new 64-bit architecture for a second. Previously while using PT we were limited in the amount of RAM we could access for use. Basically PT could use about half the RAM your computer had to offer. In 32-bit architecture the program couldn’t even see all of the other cores. And if any cores were maxed out… BAM!!! DAE errors. With the new 64-bit engine, you can use ALL the RAM in your computer. So now when you buy more RAM, you will actually be able to use it… all of it.

Housed within PT11 there are two brand new engines: The all new, 64-bit audio engine, and the Media Composer video engine. So when you’re running video in your session, it isn’t using the system resources of the audio engine. This also means that you can import video of many different formats into your session, anything in the Media Composer codec is available. No more down-converting upon import and glitchy, laggy, video. This is full quality video made possible by Media Composer. Another aspect of the two new engines is NO MORE DAE ERRORS. That’s right, Avid has done away with them once and for all… of course this is only because the DAE engine was replaced by the all new engine. I find myself wondering what the new errors will be called when they occur… but nevertheless it’s worth noting this change.

Something I was extremely impressed with in PT11 was the new “dynamic processing”. There are two sides of this, “Dynamic Host Processing” and “Dynamic Plug-in Processing.” I had seen the phrase on the various marketing from Avid, but didn’t quite understand the importance of this feature until it was demonstrated to me. Basically your computer won’t have to use processing power until it needs it. So say you’ve got a session where early on there are a handful of clips playing, but later on more clips enter the session, your computer won’t be “thinking” about those upcoming tracks until they are playing. This also works with plug-ins via the “Dynamic Plug-in Processing.” If at the end of a mix you’ve automated a plug-in to filter the entire track for the last 30 seconds of a song, this plug-in doesn’t affect processing until it is actually inserted. This opens up numerous possibilities from the mixing side of things. You can automate master bypasses essentially “handing off” one plug-in to the next without any worry that all of the bypassed plug-ins are clogging up the system when they aren’t even on. This is an incredibly efficient use of system resources.

Another HUGE change to PT11 is something engineers have been wanting for YEARS. Offline bounce. In PT11 you can now right click ANY output in PT and bounce it to disk. This is a game changer for printing stems and mixes. In the podcasting and broadcasting realm this will save HOURS of time per episode. No more waiting around for a bounce or print to complete in real time. Just right click the output you want to bounce and you can get “up to 150x real time speed”. The actual speed is determined by how much RAM you’ve got and how much processing is going on. The more complicated something is, the longer it takes. An example given was that an hour and a half radio show with music beds sparsely spaced with talking will get roughly 80x real time. This is HUGE. Another super cool thing for HD users is that in PT11 HD you can bounce up to 16 outputs simultaneously. The non-HD version is limited to one output at a time. But still… Offline bounce… best new feature? It may be my favorite.

Some other notable features are:

  • A separate low latency buffer. This means no more switching between buffer sizes when tracking and mixing. When you enter record mode PT11 automatically switches to the low latency buffer which is designed to give you the lowest possible buffer size. So that last minute overdub while mixing need not slow you down.
  • Automation is time stamped. So when you are writing automation it will never be late or early… it will be right where you want it.
  • Redesigned metering. The meters are 30% larger with many different metering types(17 different meter types for HD and 4 types in non-HD). If you’ve ever used a Venue or a D-Command, the metering options are very similar. And don’t worry… a “classic” metering mode is still available for those who don’t like the idea of change.
  • Gain reduction metering. On the channel strip there is a meter showing your gain reduction. So any compressor or limiter you add to the channel can be displayed on the the meter. You won’t have to bank through plug-ins to see the gain reduction.
  • High resolution graphics. These are optimized for retina displays. You can now see your waveforms and buttons more clearly.
  • A few great new key commands. You can now bypass all EQ’s, Dynamics, Delays, Reverbs, and Modulators withe the touch of the keyboard. (shift + E = EQ, shift + C = Dynamics, shift + D = Delays, shift + R = Reverbs, shift + W = Modulators)
  • A consolidated workspace browser. On the menu side of things the workspace browser has been consolidated to make things simpler. This is now a one stop shop instead of banking through multiple browsers and windows.

One other note worth mentioning:

Waves Mercury Bundle will most likely ship with PT11. With many other plug-ins shortly after. For those worried about compatibility issues between older versions of PT and PT11 there is a co-install feature between PT10 and PT11. Basically you will be able to have Pro Tools version 10.3.6 installed on the same system as PT11. So say you pull up a mix you did a while back and are missing a plug-in, or there is some other problem between how the RTAS or TDM plug-in translated to AAX… You can now close out of PT11 and just open the same session in PT10. If you have PT9 or older, you’ll need a separate rig to go back to.

$$ – Pricing – $$:

Ok, so let’s get down to the heart of the matter… How much will it cost you. So there’s good news for some… If you bought PT10 on or after April 11th you’ll get an upgrade to PT11 for free. If not there is an upgrade pricing chart HERE. If you are looking to upgrade, call your Sweetwater rep, or if you don’t have one, give the MixCoach and MixCoach Member representative, Robby Resnick a call. He would be absolutely happy to help you as well as answer any questions you’ve got.

In Summary:

I’m not going to lie I was a bit skeptical going in to the presentation. Avid has under-delivered when putting out a new version of Pro Tools before, and I honestly didn’t grasp the magnitude of the changes made to the system. Yes, I knew it was supposedly an overhaul of everything under the hood, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. After seeing it in action, what it means is, you’ll get the look and feel of the Pro Tools you know and love (except for the larger meters) with a newer, faster, more efficient, engine under the hood. This is Pro Tools stepping into a new generation. Only time will tell whether this is truly, “The new standard in audio production” but at the very least, it’s shaping up to be a great start.

 

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