Pro Tools 11 released. What does it do for Post?

Video Engine

As we spend so much of our time looking at video, this is huge. The improvements in the video engine open up a massive world of workflow extensions. From the ability to use MXF based video files natively within Desktop Video or output via Blackmagic or AJA video interfaces to the fullscreen mode and native playback of all quicktime formats without transcoding.


The new default meters are Digital VU which match the System 5 in ballistics and are a vast improvement over the “Pro Tools Classic” meters (which are included for comfort). You can also have different metering on Master faders than on all other tracks if you so desire. My favorite aspect of the new metering is the Output metering you can have in the Edit window toolbar, put a faux-5.1 bus into your session and send all your tracks to it and you’ll have a Printmaster meter solution. 

Audio Engine

The new Audio Engine is not just a new name, it is smaller and leaner than DAE ever was and with that comes bigger track counts with lower overhead. 

Multiple Expanded Sends

For those TV (generalisation) mixing scenarios where you are using sends to route your tracks rather than outputs the ability to expand all of the sends out is huge. The downside is that you lose the track metering at this point but if you flip the faux 5.1 bus onto the output paths then they come back. It’s a workaround but it does work.

Faster than Real-Time Bounce

Want a backup for those virtual predubs? Knock them out in faster than real time. Try it once, you’ll love it.

More Metering!

Gain reduction Metering on every channel with a dynamics processor inserted. This is awesome and the best part is that it also displays on each track in the edit window too. 

More processing

The new audio engine allows many more intances of your favorite plugins than ever before, the AAX2 format is tuned like one of those car engines you all love designing so much.


If you are still not sold then the only thing I can advise you to do is to download 10.3.6 and then install the PT11 demo. I’ reasonably certain that your plugins won’t all be available, but that will change over the next few weeks and months but try it for yourself. I’ll be posting some updated templates with PT11 tweaks in the coming weeks. More to follow…

Pro Tools 11 released. What doesn't it do?

By now you have probably: Seen the announcement of PT11 from NAB 2013, read countless blogs and reviews about the new features and maybe even attended a pre-launch public demo with question and answer time.

Not a whole heap to add but here’s the hit points.

  • 64-bit memory space

  • 32-bit float mix engine (yes they are different things)

  • New metering options including Gain Reduction metering

  • More undo’s for all the errors that you can make faster now

  • More VI’s can be used

  • New Audio Engine

  • New Video Engine

  • Faster than Realtime Bounce

  • …and much more

But what doesn’t it do? This is not a bash of Avid in anyway rather a way to quickly answer a lot of questions that begin with “So can you…” and end with “…yet?”

  1. So can you…have multiple video windows…yet?
    No, the new video engine is vastly improved in it’s framework and has great features built into it like Draft and Best Performance video views as wel as Full Quality. It can have MXF based video files directly in the timeline as well as a number of new and developing industry-supported formats such as OP1A. you can mirror your picture to Desktop Video and external hardware but you can’t yet have two different videos displayed in your session windows.

  2. So can you…have multiple sessions open…yet?
    No, and actually in my humble opinion this is a good thing. I know there are captivating reasons to be able to do it but I like the single session operation, I used to use Logic and this is one thing I definitely do not miss.

  3. So can you…have bin/folders in the clip list…yet?
    No. I’d really love to have a compelling reason for this, what exactly does the in paradigm add to your Pro Tools session? Folders I can get on board with to a point but if you can convince me of bins please feel free to comment. The new workspace is a great start at a new database format for the software, it is much faster in searching and indexing drives and the searching is great too…different but great.

  4. So can you…freeze tracks…yet?
    No, not really although if you 1 to 1 your outputs to a desk then you could offline bounce 16 of them at a time and reimport. Not the same I know but 4x16 track width offline bounces will take less time than 1x64 track realtime bounce or rerecord pass.

  5. So can you…have mulitple marker tracks…yet?
    No, if you are importing from an media composer created omf/aaf then you’ll be able to import the different marker colors from that file but you can’t create different color markers or multiple marker tracks yet.

  6. So can you…run VST plugins…yet?
    No. AAX2 is the one and only plugin format in Pro Tools 11.

  7. So can you…have clip based effects or panning…yet?
    No. Clip based gain is the one man show of clip based realtime processing.

  8. So can you…create a folder of tracks…yet?

  9. So can you…export part of a session…yet?
    No, Save Session Copy will do selected tracks only though. My workaround is to duplicate a set of tracks and then top and tail the media needed. Shift+enter will select to the start of the session from edit point, shift+alt+enter will select to the end of the session from the edit selection point. Ok, it’s a 5 step process but it’s called a ‘work’around…

  10. So can you…Send to Avid after you crash…yet?
    Yes, yes you can. If you crash it, report it. Help them help you people. It’s free to submit a crash report and will help the product get more stable.

So there you have it. 10 quick answers to 10 questions I heard after PT10 release. Now, quit reading and go install PT11. You don’t need to uninstall PT10 ‘cause…they co-install. Can’t run simultaneously but then who would want multiple sessions open at one time, right? Oh…wait.

The not so new but still troubling I/O… setup

It’s been so long now that I don’t remember exactly when it happened but at some point (I want to say PT8) Avid then Digidesign changed the I/O Setup that we’d known and loved and replaced it with a new paradigm that many people still struggle with. 
I am in no way claiming to be an expert in this and feel free to refute my information what follows is a walk through of what works for me and hopefully will guide you into your own understanding of this new and wonderful world. 

Where did we come from?

In versions prior to this change the I/O window was simple. You had your inputs, outputs and busses together with inserts and hardware delays. Outputs couldn’t overlap each other, tracks fed busses and everyone was happy. It was a system that worked well and was solid, there were few if any problems.

So what did change and why?

As I said above this was a paradigm shift more about the way in which Pro Tools was being utilised than about any specific issues with the I/O. Large format mixers were being displaced (NOT REPLACED) by mixing ‘in-the-box’ to one extent or another and therefore the output page became less important after all you only had a certain number of monitors no matter what you were doing. At that point even if not physically printing stems within your session you were probably mixing in stems for processing. 

Take for example the FX demo template I posted here. It has a number of sets of audio tracks, feeding busses which feed aux tracks which output to physical outputs. 

For editorial purposes you’ll probably be in a 5.1 cutting room so here you could go one of two ways. Either you could set all of the Aux tracks to output through your Cutting Room output path (do more than one using alt+shift while selecting output), or you could use the new and powerful feature on the bus page of I/O Setup and Map your Aux Outs to your Cutting room 5.1. 

Aren’t they the same thing?

Well yes but now let’s assume that you are sending that session to your (large format) mix room. Your mixer has already established that they will be working in 10 5.1 stems called FX A, B, C etc and so has built their console accordingly. Now instead of doing the Ripple outputs dance (shift+alt+command) they uncheck the box at the bottom of the I/O window that says “Sessions Overwrite I/O Setup” and then remap your outputs from the Cutting Room to their 10, 5.1 outputs. Now instead of PT throwing an error about dropped automation etc the I/O setup Maps to the mix stage outputs flawlessly. 

So I should uncheck Sessions overwrite box?

Yes. Your monitoring is not changing right? That’s the key to this whole thing. Sessions that come to you will add busses as they are required. The Sessions overwrite box relates purely to the hardware inputs and hardware outputs of your system.

If it doesn’t work?

Fix it within the bus page. Pretty much everything that you will need to do is done from the bus page at most (in fact 90% can be done from the Edit/Mix windows)

Greater than and less than 5.1

Good point I’ve used 5.1 as an example not the rule. Mapping is just that though if Editorial has been done in 5.1 you can still map to a 7.1 output. Similarly if you’ve cut in Stereo/ SDDS then the mapping will do the magic in the background. That is not to say you’ll be upmixing/downmixing between formats just that you no longer have to worry about a 5.0 to 5.1 etc. 

What if I don’t want to use aux tracks?

Then don’t. The aux tracks as discussed allow for stem processing, group volume/panning etc  if you don’t need that then you can save yourself some track and bus count i.e. instead of “FXA1” -> “>FX A” -> “FX A>” you’d just have “FXA1” -> “FX A>”.

I have more questions 

Great. Feel free to post comment/drop me an email. 

Merry Christmas from Avid - Digidelivery client for Lion

Arriving in time for the end of support by Aspera comes a Digidelivery client for Lion. It comes with a lot of disclaimers but from some limited testing seems to work very well and runs without the need for Rosetta. This client was released by Avid rather than the new owners Aspera which just goes to highlight how little they actually planned to ever put into this product but good job to Avid for doing this.

Thanks to Bob Russo for the heads up on this.

Avid Pro Tools 10 - Purchasing and Support

A lot has been said about the pricing of the upgrades and how Avid have lost touch with their customers etc. Not alot seems to have been said about the extra purchases that may be relevant. 

Support Plans

Along with the announcement of Pro Tools 10, Avid tweaked their support offerings to add value to what was widely seen as an extravagent purchase. 

First up the new Avid Vantage programme, this provides for unlimited online support from Avid technicians in addition to the forums (although if you’ve spent any time on the DUC lately then you’ll know they are not much help right now). You also get a 50% discount on telephone support. As the value added portion of this package you get a $99 coupon for the avid store for upgrades etc but also a package of 4 Avid Audio plugins to use for the length of your subscription. - Cost? - $149 

Next up is the plan mentioned by Max Gutnik (Senior Director of Audio Product Management), The Standard Support plan. This retails for $599 for the remainder of the year. The biggest benefit of this plan right now comes to HD users. Who can save $400 on the upgrade to HD10 and get phone support, next business day response to issues etc. This does not come with the plugin bundle like the Avid Vantage programme does but is undeniable value for money. 

For more info on larger plans please visit : Avid Support Plans

Value for money

Are the upgrade prices of 9-10 and 9HD-10HD worth it? 

I believe that they are in all honesty. Are they high? Yes, but they do provide incredible value. The audio engine has been completely redesigned to support interleaved files, 32-bit float files; the disk cache feature of 10HD is without a doubt the largest performance enhancement that we’ve seen from Pro Tools in a long time. 
The long awaited 24 hour timeline is great particularly for post. Finally supersessions containing more than 6 reels can be reconformed quickly without shifting of materials to compensate for the 12 hour limitation.

The masses were hoping for 64-bit across the board, this hasn’t happened but Avid have taken steps toward making this possible soon. AAX (64 bit ready), new audio engine (less legacy code), disk cache (64 bit).

As always, if you don’t need the upgrade, nobody is making you upgrade. The only reason that would be the case is if you were buying a new mac which comes with Lion. Then someone is encouraging you 10 is better on Lion than the 9.0.5 beta was. 

Pro Tools 10 - The "Post" release

It’s long been the trend that Digidesign released one version that was primarily music and then one version that was primarily post focussed. Yesterday’s announcement of PT10 was very definitely a Post focussed release. Why do I say that? For a start it wasn’t the 64bit release the music guys were hoping/calling/craving, the RTAS engine didn’t see a massive overhaul and it was clearly defined that it wouldn’t be. 

This version has a feature set that as a Post guy made me incredibly happy. 

1-Clip Gain

I spent yesterday with a group of video editors discussing workflows and such. During the conversations PT10 was announced and I was able to say that for the first time I relaised what on earth that clip gain function was supposed to do on OMF/AAF import. Instead of “converting clip based gain to automation” I can now import both and get a true representation of what they were trying to achieve. For years I’ve had AAF’s come in that clearly had both in and the clip gain has been overwriting the volume automation resulting in messy and confusing AAF’s. Opening an AAF in PT10 I saw that actually the picture team weren’t being sloppy, it was part of the translation process that was. 

Of course the feature is much more powerful than just that but as someone dealing with turnover’s more often than I am being creative.


The screenshot to illustrates the difference. The top tracks are imported using the new PT10 feature set where as the bottom set have been imported into the session after opening the AAF itself in PT9.0.3

Don’t know about you but I like the top version better. 


2 -  Disk Cache

The disk cache feature is the 64 bit part of PT10. Basically it runs as a seperate process outside of Pro Tools which pulls your audio files into the RAM Cache and then presents itself to Pro Tools as a playback device, all in the background. Your timeline is read a little ahead of the playhead and a little behind whilst in caching mode or when you need to refill the cache (if you only had 3GB of RAM and a 5GB session for example it would dynamically cache the data rather than slow down after the 3GB has been played.)

This is a fairly small session for dialog predub. Using a 2GB Disk Cache you can see that it fills the cache but the timeline is 100% loaded into RAM. I have run a large FX session for testing over a wifi connection with media on a G5 machine and recorded predub stems on my laptop, this is powerful and transparent technology. 

Note: The indicators only appear when you have a fixed Cache Size enabled, otherwise it operates in Normal mode which is a very small cache. 

I have 8GB of RAM in my laptop so I can have a fixed cache of up to 5GB, 3GB is reserved for OS and PT operations3 - Bus interogation.

This feature allows you to: Select all tracks routed to a bus/output, rename those busses without entering the I/O Setup window, Show hide tracks going to each bus etc.

Incrediby powerful and intuitive. This will save a lot of time on the mix stage and allow you to focus on just the particular set of tracks you are hearing, for example.


4 - Downmixer

Prior to PT10 there were a number of third party plugins for performing this function. It is now built in to PT10. The presets are taken from the OMNI and the System5 alogrithm for downmixing 7.1, 7.0, 6.1, 6.0, 5.1, 5.0 etc to stereo. There is no Stereo to Mono the lowest track count is an LCR->Stereo.

This sounds great and is pretty low in resource usage. I’ll use this extensively for DME’s after mixes, headphone monitoring feeds etc. 

This is not a Dolby encoder, the stereo it creates is LoRo not LtRt!

That’s a quick summary of my favourite features in PT10, along with the death of Fade Files (Hooray!!).

This is a powerful and feature filled release. I’ll write more about some of the other features soon but just to say if you have been waiting to upgrade to Lion for a stable PT release then go ahead and do it now. 

Avid Pro Tools - Preview @ IBC 2011

At IBC2011, a show primarily for the broadcast sector, Avid showed a Technology Preview with some very exciting features. 


1- Disk Cache/RAM Disk

In the video (linked above), Tom Graham mentions that you can load the timeline into a “Disk cache or a RAM disk”. This feature could be huge. Particularly if it is capable of dynamically loading media. The forums have been alive with discussion about whether this will mean you can load VI’s into RAM and therefore get more instantiations of Virtual Instruments. As a post user, I don’t have a need for a whole bunch of VI’s, maybe it will be tweaked to enable this but for me the focus was on the playing from ISIS shared storage. 

2- Realtime Fades

To sum this up? Woohoo! For a long time Fades have been the bane of my life. These small little chunks of audio that constantly get corrupted/lost. Looking forward to never having to rerender missing fade files again.

3 - Clip Gain

My only run in with Clip Gain has been in the Import Session Data window where I convert it to Volume Automation. It will be interesting to see how this develops. 36dB of gain outside of volume automation sounds like it could be invaluable.  Not sure I’m a fan of another area that can’t be clicked whilst using the smart tool but maybe they have a way around that. 
The envelope function looks promising I can’t imagine that they’d be implementing this feature at anything less than sample level so should be really useful for fixing production audio issues.

4- Cross fade view

While you’ve always been able to see the result of the crossfade in the timeline, this will show you dynamically the two waveforms much like with the Fade window itself. Together with the Clip Gain it was shown how this updates dynamically great for seeing what is actually on the regions.

5- AudioSuite handles

Huge! Not sure how long these Handles are exactly but anyhing is better than nothing. I wonder if it’s Full file and if it is how they deal with a region being used later that referenced the same file? 

If you want to read more then there are plenty of forum posts on both the DUC and Gearslutz frantically debating what this preview means and when if at all we will see these features in a release. Also plenty of people pointing out that at the start of the video there is a disclaimer about this not being a promise to deliver any of these features etc.

General consensus on the disk cache/RAM Cache is that this is a sign that PT is going 64bit. Not sure if I buy that as evidence, Pro Tools has a history of interesting solutions to technological problems. DAE used to be external to the main program for example, the Disk management was too. Pro tools will be going 64bit if for no other reason than both Apple and Microsoft are moving their platforms into 64bit only operation. 

Whether this sees the light of day will remain to be seen but it certainly shows that Avid are thinking about some pretty radical changes to how things have been before. Read the forums, watch the video and then wait to see what happens. 

Pro Tools 9

So with Pro Tools 9, Avid have primarily given in to the masses of forum users who have been begging for a version of PT not tied to Avid’s hardware. They have also switched from the multi-tier platform that existed previously to a three-tier model. 9, 9-CPT and 9-HD.

Lets break them down a bit.

Pro Tools 9 - Upgrade from former 8LE and 8MP


  • 96 Voices
  • Maximum Stereo Mixer
  • Timecode Ruler
  • ADC - Automatic Delay Compensation (up to 4092 samples)
  • Multitrack Beat Detective
  • Session Interchange capability
  • EuCon support


From this list, ADC will be the widely discussed feature but realistically the Session Interchange is perhaps the biggest addition. Enabling interchange between multiple platforms is always a good thing.

Eucon support is great and going forward will only get deeper and more useful. I’m pretty excited about where they will take it in future. 

Pro Tools 9 Complete Production Toolkit

In addition to the features listed above you gain.


  • 192 voices
  • Multiple Video Tracks (up to 64)
  • VCA Mixing
  • Automation and Editing features from HD
  • 7.1 Capability
  • ICON Control


Avid are advertising the Complete Production Toolkit as enabling HD features without the hardware and they certainly appear to be delivering that for the most part. There are some TDM only features still left out but for just over $2000 you would be pretty happy about the features provided. 

Pro Tools 9 HD

So what differentiates HD from CPT?

Well the ability to use Avid’s Top-End interfaces for one. Many people have asked where HD-Native lies in the new scheme, well this is where. With HD-Native using Pro Tools 9 you have access to 64 channels of input recording on one card via the MADI, as I said before this makes it perfect for a dubber. You want to be able to add to it without extra cards? Then add on FireWire interfaces to your hearts content and create an Aggregate interface. 


  • Solo Bussing AFL/PFL
  • Track and Destructive Punch


HD’s value as MIX before it has always been in the additional processing power that has been available on top of native power. That will not change. With Pro Tools 9 Avid have further enhanced a users options for utilising that power. 

One really great thing for many users is the ability to run PT HD without the hardware attached via the ilok. This will be great for all those who like to edit on trains, planes and automobiles. Plug you ilok into a laptop and you are good to go. RTAS conversion of TDM plugin’s is automatic and as far as I am aware will switch back to the TDM versions when reconnected to a TDM capable system. One notable exception to this is Avid’s own ReVibe which continues to be TDM only.


A good set of decisions on Avid’s behalf have made for what should be a solid basis to move forward from. Let’s see how they proceed with development from this point. 

I will post more follow ups as I get through testing.

Pro Tools HD Native

So the worst kept secret in audio technology has been revealed officially. After weeks of Sweetwater putting products onto their site then removing them Avid have bitten the bullet and released Pro Tools HD-Native. 

Is this a good thing?

Well I think that you could look at it as both good and bad. 

On the good side?

  • People have been asking for this for a long time.
  • Opens the way for more hardware options.
  • Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

On the bad side?

  • People have been asking for this for a long time.
  • Opens the way for more hardware options.
  • Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

For the sharp eyed among you, you will have noticed that I have listed the same points on both sides. I feel this is an accurate representation of how this new system will be perceived. So lets deal with these one point at a time.

1/ People have been asking for this for a long time.

Expectations have been built up and many many pages of arguments have been had about why native is better than TDM.  I’ve long been a believer that if native is good then TDM just improves on that. 

If you spend any time on the DUC then you’ll have seen people discussing how their Native LE systems can run 300 D-Verbs whereas HD can only run 60 (or something equally as ludicrous). Now those people can rest happily knowing that you can now fill the 192 tracks that HD Native allows you with a D-Verb on every channel (while still having 108 spare :) ) for that washy sound so sought after by the record buying public. 

The expectations of a Native system have been blown up by those who have been running Logic/Nuendo etc and had unlimited track counts. While there are benefits to unlimited track counts it is not the be all and end all of a system. In my opinion while Logic and Digital Performer are better for music composition the audio editing tools in Pro Tools have been far superior for far longer. I would rather have 32 tracks available and great tools than having unlimited tracks and tools that make me scream. 

2/ Opens the way for more hardware options.

A major problem with the TDM system has been that by the time you have an HD3 a Mac has no more available PCI slots for other peripherals. With this new card you could fill the remaining slots with:


  • Blackmagic Card?
  • eSATA ?
  • RAID ?


If you match the Native card with one of the MADI interfaces you could then fill the remaining slots with eSATA cards. 64 Inputs, Multiple record drives for stability. Perfect for a dubber for example.

This does however open the door for more esoteric configurations as well, which means troubleshooting could become a very elaborate procedure. 

3/ Lowers the cost of entry to the Pro line.

Pros have experience that people are willing to pay for. They therefore have the ability to purchase the higher end systems that enable them to continue to do great work. I can see people buying these Native systems as extra external machines. You would keep your HDx systems for design work etc and then offload other playback elements onto your Satellite linked HD-Native.

This is a lot of power at a price that a cash-flush consumer might just decide to have a pop at. They read articles about Pro Tools capable studios and think that they need that and so buy it without having the requisite knowledge base to back it up. “Yeah I have Pro Tools” became an irrelevant statement when people started buying LE just to be able to say it. It’s the same as people buying Final Cut Studio and then setting up as a compositor/editor/grader on the basis that they have Motion/Final Cut/Color. 

This might seem bigoted but having spent many years reading the DUC and seeing the mentality of the LE users when it comes to Pro Tools I don’t think that I am way out of line in my assessment. 

Will I buy one?

Yes. As an assistant this is a very appealing package, as I stated in previous posts having the ability to build large sessions without attaching many many 192’s to a system. Conforms would occur on fully active tracks. It is very exciting. 

Who else should buy it?

I think it’s great for editors who have been through a mix to offload the playback of stems onto another linked system thus reducing the load on their main rig. 

Dub stages as a recorder. 

Is this just my opinion?

Of course it is yes but if you were venture over to the DUC and take a look at this thread: 

Then you’ll see that many others feel the same way. 

What’s next?

Who knows. I think that an ExpressCard version of the Native would be really nice. Loading an OMNI into a rack bag and hitting the road would be great. 

Maybe a PowerCore like card for RTAS processing? Unlikely but you never know. 

Whatever comes next I think it will be exciting…

New Avid Interfaces

Last month, Avid finally introduced the updated line of interfaces for Pro Tools HD systems. While they may not appear to be revolutionary in the manner that it seems many people were hoping for I think that they are a solid base to move forward from. Let’s look at them a little closer. 


To me this is the most useful interface that there has ever been for PT, in the LE world or the HD/MIX world. Multiple monitoring options including a headphone port, sufficient inputs (6 analog and 16 digital), 2 Mic Pres. It’s the everymans interface for Pro Tools. 


64 Channels on a single interface. While MADI interfaces are now old news on many fronts the very fact that this is an Avid approved box goes a long way with me. Yes SSL make a very similar box but why go third party digital? I can understand the analog arguments, better preamps etc but with digital there are only so many ways to send a 1 and a 0. An HD2 can now be essentially represented as having 4 192’s attached to it. This is wonderful for taking sessions to mix stages.  Why is this useful? 


The replacement for the 192/96 ranges. Available in three configurations: 16x16 Analog; 16x16 Digital and the do it all 8x8x8 which is effectively the new 192 Analog.

What else?

Well, there’s the new version of Pro Tools v 8.1 which has a brand new IO configuration, more to follow on this.

Also the new Mini-DigiLink connection, the question is why change something that has worked so well over so many years. To my knowledge there haven’t been a massive range of problems with the Digilink standard so why miniaturise it? There’s been rumours of ExpressCard interfaces as one example. I don’t know how I feel about that, but I think that if that were going to happen then it would have been released alongside the new interfaces.

I think that this, like Apple’s decision to only support intel for Snow Leopard and Avid’s own decision to End-Of-Life support for Mix interfaces on expansion ports, demonstrates a clear vision going forward rather than continuing along the legacy support that has existed for so long. 

The remote port on the interfaces, whilst not enabled right now, should be able to be enabled via firmware updates paving the way for 9-pin control. The strange part to the remote is why not have it as an Ethernet port which could then tap in to EuCon going forward. I’d stab at it being that the Euphonix acquisition came to late in R&D to add it to the interfaces.

More detailed breakdown of these interfaces coming soon. Hoping to get a hold of units to crash test in the next few weeks.  

Conforming - Part 1 - Assembly

Sound post production is a confusing field at the best of times with the pull-up and pull-downs, sample and frame rates and all other sort of things that have their own names. Then over the years someone decided that calling two entirely different processes by the same name was the best idea since the NLE.

So what do these two terms mean and what tools are around to help with these processes?

Conforming - Stage 1

The first process that is named conforming is also referred to as the Assembly. I think I am right in suggesting that in the US they use assembly more than conform for this process but I’d imagine it varies between companies even then. 

This process involves the construction of traditionally split channel audio from the mix downs that were used by picture editors to edit with. Why is this necessary?

On set the Floor Mixer who is often referred to as the Sound Mixer (different from re-recording mixer) on credit rolls and the like will take the various channels that are being recorded (for the sake of argument lets say 8 discrete channels) and create a rough mix of these channels. All recordings on set contain a timecode reference that is linked with the cameras on set. Once the shoot has finished all of the footage is loaded into the picture editing system together with the sound recordings (sound rolls) and either auto-synced or manually synced by the picture assistants. 

The mix track created by the sound mixer will be used on track A1 and A2 of the editing system as track limitations exist in all of the picture editing platforms. (they have increased in recent years but they still have limits)

Once a picture has been finished to a decided milestone then the picture editor will turn this picture over to their assistant to provide to the sound crew. 

A standard turnover for a feature project will contain: Picture, Audio Guide Tracks, OMF/AAF (Open Media Framework/Advanced Authoring Format) which presents the picture editors sound tracklay and EDL’s (Edit Decision List) both audio and video versions.

(It should be noted that while change lists are often provided to help with the second version of the conforming name they have become less reliable with the dawn of visual fx drop ins etc and are often so polluted that they are unusable)

After all that we reach the conforming (meaning 1) or the Assembly. A sound assistant will take the Audio EDL that was provided and either by hand (very rare) or using an automated program construct an expanded version of the OMF/AAF for use by Dialogue editors (primarily). 

The EDL contains references to the Tape used (sound roll) and the Timecode start and end. 

Traditionally this process would have involved recording the relevant audio into the edit system from DAT tapes etc, but this has now mostly changed with the advent of hard drive based recorders. More often than not the assistant will be referring to a list of folders on a drive. In order to perform this process manually they would refer to the sound report sheets for the start/end TC’s of the files. 

Thankfully programs exist that do this leg work for you. The most frequently used is Titan by Synchro Arts, as of version 4 this is now capable of writing/reading to and from Pro Tools version 7 format files as well as to the AES31 format.

Useful Programs to help

Ediload - Great application for tidying up EDL’s. Discipline in naming of sound rolls appears to be becoming a thing of the past but this really helps sort those issues. Batch editing of sound roll names etc.

Titan - The only application to consider for large scale assembly projects

Alternative/Up and coming methods

As of version 7.2 of Pro Tools, Avid have been including a feature set labelled “Field Recorder Workflows”. The feature set is now getting quite deep and significant improvements have been made to the way in which Pro Tools selects alternate channels etc. On projects with up to 15 sound rolls then you should give it a look. There a some prerequisites that are all listed within the documentation as to the best practices that should be observed but as long as sufficient metadata is being kept then you should have some degree of success. Unfortunately as your sound roll count increases you may find it difficult to maintain performance levels with this path.

Part two will cover the other process referred to as Conforming.

Any questions/comments please add them in the comments or drop me an email via the link on the left.

Cracks in the system?

So having just regained some time to look around and see what’s been happening in the world of technology and audio it seems that there was some kind of ‘crack’ released to allow Pro Tools HD to run without HD hardware. 

Russ at the Air Users Blog has already written a series of articles to both point out the existence of the crack and indeed to tear down the fact that this doesn’t appear to be a true ‘capable’ crack. 

Software cracking has been around for as long as people have charged for software. In fact before that they would take open license to adapt previously written code. The most widely distributed software of all time was itself basically a crack/adaptation of another program. (That would be Windows by the way). Bill Gates took software written by Xerox and adapted it to serve his purposes. Of course he did it with permission from the programmers wife but it was still not wholly completed by Mr. Microsoft…

I’m not in anyway suggesting that what happened in the early 80’s was illegal. Just that it represents an example of someone taking existing software and adding to it, changing it and redistributing it as something else. 

Where the illegality come into software cracking then?

In the case of Pro Tools’ latest crack it comes from a direct decision of the programmer to circumvent both the hardware requirements and anti-piracy devices put in place by Avid (formerly Digidesign) to protect their intellectual property. That is illegal. 

What will Avid’s response be? Will it change their plans? Does it matter?

I would doubt that Avid will change their plans over this. I wouldn’t think that they even care that much that this has happened. In my opinion Pro Tools is the DAW of choice for a reason, that being that it has the most complete and easy to use feature set for it’s given customer base. While there are alternatives on the market they are all compared to Pro Tools and strive to as far as possible maintain some form of interoperability with Pro Tools. 

Avid are market leaders in both picture and audio NLE systems and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. Anyone who has tried to do feature post work in Final Cut/Soundtrack Pro or Logic will tell you how far behind Apple is. Steinberg have just shipped Nuendo 5 which has some really nice features. It always has had some really nice features, but still in their advertising literature for the program they point out how much more compatible it is with Pro Tools. 

Native only software 

Computer systems are getting faster and more powerful with every month. Mac’s slightly slower than every month but still with frequent updates… This is a great thing, without a shadow of a doubt. Where Pro Tools has the advantage is it can utilise large amounts of that power and also have all of the processing capability and reduced latency of their own TDM processing power. 

As long as they utilise this advantage they will never be left behind. Native systems maybe able to have 200+ D-Verbs on the channels where HD can only have 12 (or whatever the numbers are) but have you heard D-verb? It’s horrible. Revibe, TL Space, Altiverb. Three reverbs that sound infinitely better than d-verb, and two of which require an Accel processing card. 

I’m sure at some point that Avid will follow the path that they have with Media Composer and make a software version of HD but why would they shoot themselves in the foot and drop their HD processing cards? What advantage would that allow them?

Why the interest in this crack then?

Well to be honest it represents a remarkable achievement and shows that there is some interest (if not a lot of interest) in a version of Pro Tools HD that can run without needing to have a full HD system in tow. For a start those rigs get very heavy :). I’d love the ability to build mix setups on the train using my laptop or quickly check back through versions for a specific change. LE doesn’t really cut it for doing the job that I used to do. It has too many oddities with 5.0 automation and plugin data to be relied upon to not mess them up. Full PT HD even without the Audio Engine would be great to have. Make it run off an iLok authorisation for all I care.


This crack exists. I won’t use it. I have no interest in a compromised version of a great package. I think that all Avid should take from it however is the fact that people are interested in an untethered version of their software.

Frankly I’d like certain parts of the program to be made available outside of the software even. I’d love a Digibase application as a standalone; an offline IO Setup that would allow you to drag 192’s etc onto it to build a mix stage setup and create routing paths without the need to be attached to the hardware itself. 

Not sure it will ever happen but those are my desires. For what it’s worth. 

Digidelivery - The demise of a great product

Mid 90's - Internet is taking hold in a big way. Connections are getting faster (particularly in the US with Cable's proliferation). A company called Rocket Networks create a system for collaborating on music over the Internet. The system is nice, easy to use, ties in with existing products. Funding for such a venture is tough. Rocket Networks eventually folds. 

Digidesign, makers of the industry leading DAW (Pro Tools) buy the technology behind Rocket Networks and turn it into Digidelivery. A secure file transfer system that encrypts data sent over it so that only the end user can receive the files. It is great, there's Server-to-Server functionality meaning that if you upload to your local server in London a file destined for another Digidelivery server owner in LA then as soon as it's uploaded to your server, the files transfer to theirs and they download from their server. 

It's simplicity and power made it a popular and nearly ubiquitous product. Sending directly from Avid editing systems as well as Digidesign's Pro Tools followed. It became as easy to send a file to the other side of the world as it was to save to your desktop. 

Then in 2007, Digidesign sold Digidelivery to Aspera Soft. The wheels fell completely off the wagon. Deliveries would fail to upload, fail to notify the recipient, the client software crashes and there's no support available for long-term users.

Development of the system has ground to a halt. There is NO client for Windows 7 or Snow Leopard. Aspera seem to have little to no interest in even maintaining the system let alone upgrading it. At NAB 08, Aspera released this statement:

"DigiDelivery integrates Aspera's product line

Last fall, Aspera acquired DigiDelivery, the simple, secure file exchange system developed by Avid's Digidesign audio division. DigiDelivery is now a fully fledged member of the Aspera product line as Aspera is introducing new service options and software updates, and announced upcoming interoperability between DigiDelivery and Aspera's faspex[TM] digital package delivery system."

It's now 2010 and the client software has been updated once (with no feature increase), the server's have been patched once but certainly not with this FASP integration. It seems Aspera bought Digidelivery to kill it so that consumers would be forced to buy into their more expensive, less user-friendly systems. 

Frankly I mourn the loss of this great product.

Picture Codecs

Inspired by :

What is the best picture codec for use in Pro Tools?

Many picture houses try to supply us with H.264 codec as this ‘looks great’ and has small file sizes. While this might be true, working with it in Pro Tools becomes a nightmare. Scrubbing fails to operate smoothly, moving round the timeline is positively glacial and altogether it’s more hassle than it’s worth. 

As stated in the above blog post Intra frame images are single snapshots of each frame of the movie. This means that for each second of picture there will be 24 frames of video (assuming a 24frame project, replace this figure with 29.97, 30, 25, 23.976 as appropriate).

Why is this good?

This is good because the computer only has to process that frame. It doesn’t need to think about frame 10 if it’s on frame 23 meaning that scrubbing, timeline jumping… everything about the operation of the DAW is smoother. 

The various QuickTime codecs that are available at this point become reasonably similar, certainly in terms of processing requirements. 

As a company we have tended to stick with DV based codecs for the vast majority of our projects. As stated in a previous entry we use MPEG Streamclip for converting the picture if a picture department refuse/are not able to produce a DV codec for us. The most common codec thast we have been using recently is the DVC PRO NTSC. This is a DV based NTSC (29.97) codec that is well suited for the 23.976 workflows that have been prolific over the past few years. 

In the US they tend to work with Photo JPEG files. These have a higher picture clarity due to each frame being a JPEG image of the video footage. There is a trade off here with file size. a DVC file of 20 minutes comes to around 1.6GiB while a PhotoJPEG comes in at more like 2.8GiB. It’s not a massive difference but it adds up over the course of reels and 15-20 versions (excluding VFX updates).

What else is there?

In October of 2009 Avid released a new codec for QuickTime that has yielded some impressive results in testing. It’s called the Avid DNXHD Codec for QuickTime and it is wonderful. In my opinion it looks much better than the H.264 equivalent and it has NO additional overhead to a system. 

A standard photo JPEG/DVC Pro QuickTime requires 8-10% of a CPU to playback within Pro Tools. The Avid DNXHD codec for QuickTime plays back with maximum (in testing) 8% CPU usage. 

For the next show that we do I’m going to try to specify this as our preferred option as it is closer to the playback specification for the stage. It’s only downside is that files are larger. 20 minute reel will be in the region of 4.5GiB. I figure we’l just keep fewer versions ;)