One of the most exciting news items to come out of the NAB show in Las Vegas this week has been Avid’s announcement of the all-new Pro Tools 11. A completely rewritten, 64-bit application with all-new code and a brand new Avid Audio Engine (bye, DAE!) under the bonnet, this audio and music production, editing and mixing powerhouse takes things up to the next level, with the promise of more processing power, more tracks, more virtual instruments, more complex instruments – just more, basically. The 64-bit architecture promises better memory management, with the ability to address as much RAM as your computer can hold, and all-round much slicker performance, particularly in complex sessions with lots of virtual instruments and effects. But, apart from being 64-bit from the ground up, what else is new? Has someone at Avid been listening? Has all the stuff that’s driven us PT users nuts for years finally been addressed? Here’s a closer look at some of the new bits and pieces to be found in Pro Tools 11.
Offline bouncing is here at last, which will have many users literally jumping for joy. The days of watching the progress bar crawl across the screen as the computer wrestles with a real-time bounce of a complex orchestral mix or an hour-long podcast, (only to throw up an error at the last minute, requiring the whole process to be started again through a blurry veil of frustrated tears) are finally drawing to a close. Offline bouncing promises to deliver mixes at speeds up to 150 times faster, which means an hour-long program could be rendered in under one minute. This is sample-accurate offline bouncing to boot, so you always know exactly what you’ll end up with. Stem creation looks like it’s about to get a lot less painful, and it looks likely to be useful as a track freeze function too, a quick way of lightening the CPU load caused by memory-hogging virtual instrument tracks. You can also bounce a .WAV and a .mp3 version simultaneously in PT11.
Elsewhere, Avid have sought to stamp out latency issues by implementing both an input and an output buffer, so that delays introduced by complex processes can be compensated for at the output stage. This all happens transparently, so that by the time it reaches your ears, everything should be in perfect time. To reduce monitor latency when recording, PT 11 has domain latency switching which allows for input-enabled virtual instrument and record channels to employ a super-low, 32-sample buffer while playback tracks operate at whatever your current system buffer settings are. Clever!
Time-stamped plugin parameter automation means that now every automation move will happen exactly when it’s supposed to, rather than a few frames either side of the intended position, which can apparently happen with some current systems when a bounce is rendered.
From Meter You
Pro Tools 11 introduces a batch of new metering systems for Pro Tools HD users – a total of 17 industry-standard metering options are available in the top-end version of the software, including standard VU metering, BBC and Nordic PPM metering, and even Bob Katz’ K System. The master track meters can have their format set independently from the rest of the Mix window, and mini meters now appear on the plugin slots in the Sends view. You’ll also now find a configurable gain reduction meter for dynamics plugins on each channel in the HD version. The channel meters themselves are much higher resolution and also 30% taller than those in PT10.
Video handling is also much improved, with Pro Tools 11 adopting the same video engine as that found in its sister app Media Composer, which was also updated this week. You can now monitor and even edit HD video directly within your Pro Tools sessions. You can add a variety of broadcast level formats (XD Cam, MXF HD, Avid DNxHD) directly to your session without transcoding, which is a real timesaver. There’s also improved support for a much wider range of video interfaces than before, including equipment from AJA and Black Magic.
Bits n Bobs
There’s a host of other tweaks and enhancements alongside the big guns. Dynamic Host Processing cleverly reallocates processor resources away from tracks when there’s nothing playing on them. There’s an updated workspace browser with a faster, improved search feature, and you can now input automation data whilst recording – great for recording live sound. This automation data can also be converted to clip gain when mixing a project.
There’s a set of new, single-handed shortcuts for bypassing inserts – great for quick before / after comparisons of channel strips with long plugin chains. You can bypass all inserts with one keystroke (Shift +A), or use different commands to bypass by placement or category. Graphically, the system now supports Apple’s Retina displays and there have been some visual tweaks to the Mix window.
Notably, PT11 only supports the AAX plugin format – RTAS & TDM plugins are no longer supported from this version onwards because they are all 32-bit code. PT11 is all 64-bit code, so older plugins may need to be sacrificed for the sake of progress, at least until AAX upgrades of those plugins become available. A tough call for UAD users. Interestingly, you can run both PT10 & PT11 on the same machine, which offers a temporary workaround to bridge the transition, but if you’re a Mac Pro user, that machine has to be newer than the March 2009 (Mac Pro 4,1) model. Pro Tools 11 requires OS X 10.8.3 or newer, and an iLok2 USB dongle is required for copy protection.
So, no new plugins or instruments then, but rather a completely overhauled application that promises to provide a smoother and faster workflow, as long as you can take the ‘no RTAS’ hit. Pro Tools 11 is expected to ship in May / June 2013, but anyone who purchases and registers a copy of PT10 between 7th April and the release date will receive a free upgrade to 11 when it ships.
Pricing will be as follows:
Pro Tools 11 software (full version)— $699 USD
Pro Tools 10 to 11 upgrade— $299 USD
Pro Tools 9 to 11 upgrade— $399 USD
Pro Tools Express to Pro Tools 11 cross grade— $499 USD
Pro Tools HD 10 to 11 upgrade— $599 USD
Pro Tools HD 9 to 11 upgrade— $999 USD
For more information, see http://apps.avid.com/protools11