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Avid Seminar Introduces Pro Tools 11

June 13, 2013

Last night, Boulder's premier pro audio dealership, Wind Over The Earth, hosted a team from Avid, who took over Wind's product showroom/studio for a seminar on new features in the upcoming release of Pro Tools 11. Product specialists Greg Chin (shown below giving the lecture beside the projector) and Jeremiah Ellison (shown below, chatting with an attendee after the seminar was over) did a bang-up job of explaining what's new and cool about the new version. Here's a quick list of the hottest points... and my apologies in advance for the grainy quality of the photos, which were candids taken without a flash during the presentation.

First and foremost, thanks to the new Avid Audio Engine (goodbye DAE!), PT11 is now 64-bit from end to end. For some other DAWs, where projects tend to be smaller and memory requirements tend to be somewhat less, jumping from 32 to 64 bits has been a matter of personal taste, convenience, or subject to the requirements of some particular plug-in or another (virtual instruments based on huge sample libraries benefit from the added RAM a 64-bit system can address). Pro Tools, however, has been running up against the limitations of 32-bit systems in large studios and post houses for years now, and with the full adoption of 64-bit architecture, many of the squeezes, kludges, and workarounds inherent in trying to fit a gallon of bits and bytes into a pint bucket have just gone away. Greg used as his working example a new promo spot for a small-maker hybrid automobile, navigated by Jeremiah on the fly with video alongside the audio; it featured over 150 tracks, loaded with plug-ins, several huge virtual instruments (including four (!) instances of Vienna Ensemble, Synthogy Ivory II, and Toontrack Superior Drummer 2.0), and more... all running and playing back effortlessly on a quad-core MacBook Pro Retina. Wow!

The key topic of the seminar, as Greg laughingly told the audience more than once as per his stern instructions from Avid, was "efficiency". PT11 simply does more, and does it more neatly, than previous versions of the software. To be fair, there are a lot of people who are still getting great work done with old hardware running PT 9, 8, or even 7.4, but it's becoming obvious that as technology moves forward and demands become greater, the entirely new hardware (HDX) and software (including AAX plug-ins) will become necessary to keep PT from becoming a digital dinosaur. And there were a lot of great tricks on display... not so much brand new whiz-bang stuff as moments of "Oh, COOL! I can see where that would be incredibly handy!"

My favorite was a simple demonstration of why Avid's new AAX plug-in format is so important... moving away from the old AudioSuite, RTAS, and TDM specs has allowed Avid to put in a bunch of new stuff, all built on a much more easily extensible framework. Demonstrating the new metering capabilities of PT11, they showed how each individual mixer channel in PT 11 HD could have not only a level meter but its own large gain-reduction meter as well, taking GR data straight from whatever compression/limiting plug-ins might be in the signal path.

"But that's just for Avid's channel strip, right?" asked an attendee.

"No," Jeremiah replied. "You get on-mixer gain reduction metering for ANY AAX plug-in. It's part of the spec, now."

Whoa.

And there was lots more cool stuff. PT11 offers dual buffers, one very tiny one for guaranteed lowest latency while tracking along with a larger one to support more plug-ins and processors. You can now do faster-than-realtime (way faster!) bouncing of stems and mixes, and on HDX systems you can actually specify as many of them as you want and bounce them all down at once. There's much more efficient processor sharing, with PT smoothly ramping all available cores up and down as needed to accommodate your project's needs. Automation is now time-stamped and sample-accurate, so your tweaks stay in place at all times. There are lots more new metering options. A built-in HD video engine lets you play and edit video inside the PT timeline. And so forth.

When explaining the pricing and upgrade paths, Greg and Jeremiah explained that the PT line has been massively simplified from the many versions of previous editions. Now there's the entry level Pro Tools Express 11, the native-based Pro Tools 11, and Pro Tools HD 11 for HDX hardware systems. With the elimination of various other packages, including add-ons like Complete Production Toolkit 2, the company is trying to offer good crossgrade/upgrade deals to ease the pain. One that I noted with interest is that for the first time ever, Avid is allowing native users to upgrade directly into HD systems, offering a path for folks who paid for the Complete Production Toolkit 2 to get into HD software for only $599. (The base price for PT11 remains $599 for native users.)

I'd like to thank Greg and Jeremiah for their presentation, which had the crowd riveted (see the photo below), and to Mickey Houlihan and the always-fantastic staff of Wind Over The Earth for hosting. It was an exciting look at what promises to be a seismic change in the Pro Tools world... which is due to come out of beta and go public at the end of June 2013. Watch for more in our pages!

Greg Chin talks about Pro Tools 11's featuresJeremiah Ellison speaks to an attendee after the seminarAn avid (sorry) audience at Wind Over The Earth

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