There has been much talk about the DAW’s new Cloud Collaboration feature, but does it live up to the hype? Simon Allen finds out...
Like many, I have been keeping a careful eye on the developments Avid has been making with Pro Tools. The company has seen some tough times recently and end users have been sceptical about the constant flow of updates. Plug-in and third-party software manufacturers have had to play catch up, providing new 64-bit AAX versions of its products. However, there is apparently light at the end of the tunnel, and in my opinion Pro Tools has something to shout about again.
Pro Tools has now reached version 12.5, which has accumulated several small but significant updates since my last review of the software.
There’s much to appreciate, which we could easily take for granted. For example, Avid has addressed moving from TDM over to HDX processing and the AAX plug-in format. Initially this also gave us off-line bouncing, but since version 12.4 this also gave us track Commit and track Freeze. These are among the best new features Pro Tools has had to offer for a while.
Pro Tools 12 introduced Avid’s new subscription payment plan, which has been a massive benefit to some of my clients. They are now working with an affordable and appropriate version of Pro Tools that can be used for sending me parts or creating guide tracks, via the same platform that we use in the studio.
However, in addition to the new features and Cloud Collaboration, the biggest reasons for moving to Pro Tools 12, in my opinion, is the quality of audio and the efficient use of system resources. This is for the most part down to the 64-bit engine introduced with Pro Tools 11, but now most plug-in manufacturers are on board with the AAX format. This means we can truly harness this architecture and my own experience with Pro Tools 12.5 is that it’s even more ‘system-efficient’ and stable than its predecessor.
Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools combines and accumulates all the new features mentioned above and many more. This is a significant new aspect of Pro Tools and is already more advanced in my opinion than similar services provided in other DAWs, despite this being the first release.
I trialled the Cloud Collaboration feature with my co-producer who lives in Cyprus. Getting set up with user accounts and experimenting with creating and sharing an online ‘project’ was fairly straightforward, but also highlighted to us the varied uses for the service.
There is an initial learning curve when working with the new Cloud Collaboration features. This isn’t like working with other cloud services; Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration is far more integrated than we expected. Due to this, we realised there are workflow choices and methods about how you might most effectively use this service. This isn’t a criticism, if anything it highlights the flexibility that is already available. Sure enough you can share entire sessions track by track, but where the collab feature really shines is when you are looking for immediate input on your project.
Avid has obviously put some careful thought into the servers which host this new collaboration feature, as transfer times for uploading and downloading are surprisingly fast, even with average internet connection speeds. Therefore, the scenario of introducing a collaborator on a project for additional parts is made easier by sharing the same session for time-based rulers and memory locations, with a few key stems. These stems of course can be created extremely quickly using the new track Freeze and track Commit features.
On the whole, Cloud Collaboration performs extremely well and is already starting to be a part of my daily workflow. There are some minor teething problems, but this is the first release and there are bound to be functions that Avid will address in future updates.
For example, initially I thought that there might have been a concern over ownership of tracks that are shared in the cloud. This is because we experienced some conflicts if we both worked on the same track at the same time. However, I recognise that Avid has engineered the ownership rights to not feel limiting, yet to be secure. I think it is up to us as users to develop certain workflow habits, but perhaps Avid could include extra user control and add new features for managing your local copy of the shared tracks.
There are so many new features in Pro Tools that I simply cannot cover them all in this article. However, version 12.5 has truly tied together so many of these new features, paving the way for the future of audio professionals. I would like to see the AvidArtist Community build a following and look forward to working with my clients and network of professionals in this new virtual world. Avid does however need to address the Cloud Collaboration pricing packages, which are out of sync with current alternatives. If we are paying a premium for its servers, then surely we should be able to use the cloud for storing and backing up entire libraries?
If you are one of the many individuals or businesses that have remained on earlier versions of Pro Tools, due to concerns over stability, complicated updates and fear for loss of support from third-party plug-in manufacturers, now is the time to upgrade. Version 12.5 is not only proving to be stable, but also extremely processor efficient while offering new features you’ll not want to live without. Now that most plug-in manufacturers are supporting the 64-bit AAX format, you will also notice a significant increase in audio quality, which is worth upgrading for alone.
- Cloud Collaboration
- Export Timecode with QuickTime Bounce
- Pro Tools Avid Interplay enhancement for using
- XDCAM MXF media with Send to Playback
- Updated Avid Video Engine (AVE)
RRP: Free for three Projects and 500MB storage space, up to $24.99 per month for ten projects and 60GB
Simon Allen is a freelance internationally recognised engineer/producer and pro-audio professional with over a decade of experience. Working mostly in music, his reputation as a mix engineer continues to reach new heights.