All of us that use Pro Tools on a day to day basis – especially considering the history of Pro Tools over the past couple of years – will have had many questions about what direction Avid is going in and how it’s all going to sit in today’s very different industry. Sitting down for a detailed look at Pro Tools 11, I very quickly learnt that the last major releases and developments in hardware have been building up to this moment. This is, so to speak, the answer to those questions. Avid’s message is very clear – Pro Tools 11 is a complete re-write and re-structure of the existing software, taking great advantage of the new hardware available today, to deliver, as they put it,
“A quantum leap in creative power,” and better workflows for today’s challenging sessions and deadlines.
The upgrade is built on 64-bit architecture and a completely new Avid core audio engine which, when combined together, can now deliver many times more processing power than Pro Tools 10 on the same hardware configurations. The benefits of this speak for themselves, giving you massive increases in the number of simultaneous virtual instruments and plug-ins for the most demanding sessions.
The new audio engine utilises something called ‘dynamic host processing’, which essentially relocates processing resources where they are needed to allow a much higher plug-in count. For example, if you have a track with a particular instrument for just eight bars perhaps, PT11 will only allocate processing power when it is needed, rather than for your entire timeline.
The new engine in Pro Tools 11 now also delivers the ability to do off-line bouncing, which simply wasn’t possible with the 12-year old HD Accel hardware.
This is for all mixes or stems that can be taken from any bus or output. This is obviously a huge bonus for Pro Tools users, especially when running projects with quick turnaround periods. Some will see this as ‘a long time coming’, but the legacy hardware was always the barrier here. There is also a new separate hardware buffer size for inputs only, providing low-latency recording without having to adjust your session set-up or sacrifice plug-ins.
A major new feature available to HDX hardware users is the new expanded metering. As well as the standard track meters, there are now mini-meters on channel inserts and send slates to help you see what’s happening in your signal chains throughout your mix at a glance. Avid has now also included many metering standards including K-style metering, peak, RMS, VU, and PPM, etc. This will assist the user to fall in-line with broadcast specifications for example, and have a good understanding of loudness and how their audio is behaving. I think this is a great tool for the DAW, instead of relying on plug-ins or hardware that might or might not be available. It will be a standard you can get used to and rely on if you move between studios and set-ups. The new meters can display gain reduction as well, so you will be able to identify any potential issues in your mix from a global view. The notable absence here is metering for the new broadcast-specific True Peak and Loudness Unit standards. For that you will still need to spend extra.
A new Avid video engine enables HD video workflows directly in your timeline without transcoding. This is the same engine as is built into Avid’s Media Composer, and along with the 64-bit architecture, Pro Tools 11 users will be able to collaborate directly with Media Composer editors. Basic video edits can also be carried out directly on the timeline. Avid says many video codecs and formats will be supported, and it isn’t driven from QuickTime any more. This should mean that it will be a lot more solid without dropped frames. As part of Avid’s attempt to boost creativity, a lot has been removed from the user-end of Pro Tools, and a lot more is calculated under the hood to hide complexity. For example, there are no more delay compensation settings – it is all taken care of for you, so you can just concentrate on the job in hand. This is a great little update as so many people were making mistakes using the delay compensation settings in the wrong way. Now it’s seamless.
For further examples of version 11 being focused on saving time for professionals time, day-to-day, are many minor workflow enhancements. There is now a master bypass of all or some plug-ins with a single key command for fast AB comparisons.
A new database engine for a new workspace window has been designed for better media management.
The old workspace environment has long needed a fresh look and more functionality, so I am looking forward to seeing how well this performs.
Version 11 is actually the result of a couple of years of design and engineering at Avid. Some of this had to arrive on a drip feed – a gradual upgrade release program through versions 9 and 10. Now 11 is a much more intelligent piece of software. Avid has had to find a way to break away from the old TDM hardware, which was already running at its maximum thrust.
It’s in this final stage of evolution that Avid hopes to allow the professional to be more creative and make way for exciting future development possibilities.
This does mean, however, that the old TDM PCIe cards for Pro Tools HD and the blue legacy I/O interfaces are no longer supported when running version 11, which was expected and is in line with previous announcements from Avid. However, the company will continue to offer upgrade packages and support for those customers still on legacy hardware. Avid will also be including a version 10 installation and license with every version 11 installer for free. This dual installation means you could potentially run version 10 as usual or version 11 native, but just monitoring through your existing hardware without any on-board TDM processing.
Due to the 64-bit architecture, RTAS and TDM plug-ins are no longer compatible. HDX cards are required for AAX DSP plug-ins.
There are many third party plug-in manufacturers that have already prepared 64-bit AAX and AAX DSP versions, and any third party with existing 32-bit AAX versions will find it easy to move to 64-bit.
Waves and UAD have announced that they will support AAX Native 64-bit, but not AAX DSP 64-bit. To help provide customers with the most up-to-date Pro Tools 11 compatibility information, Avid will be updating its plug-in finder web page (see information panel) when Pro Tools 11 ships to allow searches for all plug-ins that support AAX and AAX DSP 64-bit.
To keep all Pro Tools users working together, and in case you’ve been using Pro Tools for years and have old sessions created in previous Pro Tools versions, Avid has confirmed it is continuing with bi-directional session compatibility through versions 5.1 to 11. Version 11 will intelligently substitute TDM and RTAS plug-ins for Native and AAX plug-ins in the most optimum arrangement to minimise delay compensation and processing power.
Finally, there is a completely new installation method that leaves a much cleaner spread of files into your system, which is another example of the lengths Avid engineers have gone to.
Avid has clearly acknowledged its responsibility to provide the modern professional with the tools they need for complete creativity. In the fast-paced industry we work in today it is, in my opinion, an excellent move for Avid to take a really close look at what we actually need from a DAW today.
There are many minor changes from a user’s point of view, but they are all there to assist in making even the most complicated workflows much quicker to deliver. They’ve done this by very intelligently increasing processing power from a programming end and cutting down on our day-to-day tasks and the time spent on them, so we have more time and energy to spend on the production.
The accumulation of all these changes gives us the most refined version of Pro Tools yet.
Some may view some aspects of this release as ‘catching up with the competition’, and Avid might have a hard time convincing certain customers of its importance. Those people miss the point.
Pro Tools 11 brings everything together that we already have in terms of hardware and computing power and makes the most of it, so it can continue setting new standards in what’s possible. Along with Avid’s heritage and reputation for reliability, and based on the details I’ve seen, version 11 is set to be very solid and more user-friendly than ever before. This is a really significant milestone for Pro Tools and, potentially, for all DAWs.
New features include:
- All-new 64-bit core audio engine
- Dynamic host processing for efficient plug-in use
- Expanded metering facilities
- New Avid video engine
£459.00 (exc .VAT) full version, other prices available for upgrades.
Simon Allen is a full time sound engineer and record producer. Previously studio manager at High Barn Studios in Essex, he is now based at City Studios in Cyprus where he is Senior Engineer and heads up the new music studio.
From the manufacturer
“Pro Tools 11 represents a quantum leap in creative power. The newly designed architecture turbo-charges production with more plug-in processing, the ability to run more virtual instruments – and a host of new features – letting users create ambitiously, without holding anything back” Chris Gahagan, Senior VP Products & Services, Avid