Getting to know Pro Tools

Hi, I’m Dave, and I’m a DAW junkie  (DAW is a digital audio workstation, or software version of a mixing console for all the non computer music people)  I’ve worked with several different DAWs over the last 20 years or so… First Cakewalk / Sonar, then Logic, then Studio One, and back to Logic X.  I’ve usually stayed away from ProTools, as the hardware requirements / copy protection and perceived complexity have always been issues for me. A couple of years ago, I purchased an Avid MBox 3 Pro which included a copy of ProTools.  I didn’t really think much about it, but was able to get Version 10 and 11.  I plunked around with ProTools, but quickly went back to Logic, as Logic X came out.  For the most part, I’ve sat out all of the drama surrounding Avid and their upgrade policies, as I really wasn’t interested in upgrading…

That was until about 3 weeks ago…  A band I’m with recorded a live video at a studio, but we tracked all of the audio to a ProTools session.  I wanted to see what I could do.  After working with the guy who did the recording to come up with a mix for the 6 songs, I wanted to see if I could do a different job.  Since I knew I might need to bring the session back, I went ahead and did my upgrade to ProTools 12, and opened up the session.

From this point on, note that all of my statements are going to be subjective and not based upon comparisons.  I did no null testing, I didm’t try to duplicate my mixes in every DAW; i’m just going off of my memory, so take this with a grain of salt…

The first thing that I noticed was how open the sound was.  This may be due to the fact that the recording was done inside of a big room, not the normal small studio, but I’ve done a bunch of live band recordings and worked with Logic, and none have started off with the openness that I was hearing in Pro Tools.  The second thing that I noticed was that the meters in Pro Tools were REALLY good.  I feel like in Logic, there’s a bit of a ‘fudge factor’.  With the ProTools meters, i was able to see the peaks really well.

I started off my session pretty simply, just using some Waves plug-ins.  That didn’t get me exactly where I needed, so I brought in a couple of tools that turned out to be critical to me getting through my mix.  The first set of tools was the FabFilter Pro Bundle from FabFilter.  I used every plug-in in that bundle.  All of these plug-ins are incredible.  The spectrograph on the EQ is very helpful for ‘seeing’ problem frequencies, and dealing with them.  All of their plug-ins show you what they are doing to the sound, so you can really understand what is happening.

Second tool that I would not use ProTools without is Melodyne.  I’m no fan of doing ‘fixing’ vocals and guitars with plug-ins like Melodyne and AutoTune, but, there are times when it’s useful.  I was able to take a song that didn’t sound very good to pretty rockin’ with Melodyne.  Given the time and budget constraints, Melodyne worked REALLY well 🙂  Sometimes, you just have to make it sound good, and darn the ‘how’.

Finally, the last thing that got me to really like Pro Tools was the mix down.  Normally, when I do a mix down in Logic or Studio One, especially to MP3, it feels like the MP3 doesn’t sound very good compared to playing the audio out of the DAW.  With Pro Tools, I FELT LIKE THE MP3 SOUNDED AS GOOD AS THE DAW.  To re-iterate, this is VERY subjective, I did no testing.  I just know that with Logic and Studio One, my MP3 mixes never sounded as good a the DAW mix.  With Pro Tools, the MP3 equaled the DAW.  That ALONE is reason to use it.

In the end, my final result came out pretty good.  I definitely had a couple of ‘oopses’ that I wish I’d been able to fix at the time. I’ll probably do more learning about Pro Tools, and hopefully getting faster.

One last thing that I think is very telling… Graham from The Recording Revolution constantly tries different DAWs, but he always seems to come back to Pro Tools.  I know that he knows what he’s doing, and I’ve seen him do awesome mixes in Garageband, Reason, and definitely Logic, but he has always returned to Pro Tools.  I can assume that part of that is comfort factor, but I also assume that there is something more.  I certainly can see why Pro Tools is different, and I hope to learn a lot more!

Thoughts on Microsoft…

I’m an Apple fanboi.  I love how I have very little trouble with my hardware and software integration.  But… I make my living as a .NET (C# & VB) developer.  So, I like to at least TRY to keep up with Microsoft…  And there’s a LOT to keep up with, and lately, they have been very good!

Over the summer Microsoft launched both Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10.  To the tech industry, these have both been very bold steps.  Windows 10 has been build one the concept of ‘update often’.  Microsoft is seeding updates to Windows 10 to the testing community almost every other week.  And yes, it needs it, but that’s because Microsoft is trying something very different.  They are actually listening to their customers and trying to address concerns as quickly as possible.  It is refreshing.  Windows 10 does have some issues, but they seem to be getting better with each iteration.  As an end user, I’ve been VERY thrilled at how Window 10 is doing, and it makes me happy to be a .NET developer.  The Visual Studio IDE is awesome, and having a OS that helps rather than hinders is great.

Microsoft ALSO had a hardware announcement recently.  From all appearances, Microsoft is finally tired of waiting for a partner to step up and create interesting, innovative hardware.  Microsoft has finally decided to follow Apple in creating both the hardware and the software.  The latest Windows Phones, Surface Pro 4, and the new Surface Book are all great products that I hope do well.  Yes, they are much higher on the cost scale than most ‘normal’ Windows boxes, but, in my opinion, I think that they NEED to be.  We, as consumers, want everything to be free or cheap.  Unfortunately, if a company does not make money, there’s no way to provide a product and/or support.  That’s one of the things with cheap hardware is that there’s usually no one to support it.  I love the fact that Microsoft IS charging more.  I’d gladly recommend a Surface Pro to someone needing a Windows tablet.  Heck, I may even pick one up for myself!

I think Microsoft is definitely on the right track, after floundering for the last 7 or 8 years.  Hopefully, they will continue to improve!

Thoughts on Apple (iPhone 6S+ content included)

For everyone reading this who doesn’t follow Apple, they had a recent event in September announcing a LOT of new goodies.

The first one really available to the public is the updated iPhone 6S (and 6S+).  I’ve had the 6+ for a year now, and even though the outward appearance of the phone hasn’t changed, almost everything else has.  I didn’t think I would update, until I really got to see the phone in person.  Right off the bat, one thing literally jumped out at me… the new S feels sturdier.  The 6+ always felt like you could bend it easily.  I never felt comfortable leaving it in my pocket when sitting down, as it felt like it would bend.  The S certainly does NOT have that feeling.  The S feels very solid.  That alone made it worthwhile to get.  Second, the camera upgrade was important to me.  In the past, I haven’t really been a camera freak.  I’d take pictures, but they were so ‘meh’ that it wasn’t important.  The 6+ changed that for me.  Between videos of my cats and pictures of just about everything, I really ended up using the camera.  The bump from 8 megapixels to 12 megapixels and the low light photo improvements made me instantly want the new phone 🙂  Also, the ‘live pictures’ are pretty cool.  I’m beginning to feel like I’m a Hogwarts… 🙂  One thing that I thought would be interesting is the 3D touch.  So far, I haven’t gotten a warm and fuzzy from this feature.  I think the idea is very cool, but nothing I use really makes use of it.  Now, when they get 3D touch on an iPad and my mixer software starts using it, I’ll be really impressed.  Overall, I like the 6S+ upgrade.  I was able to get AT&T to get me switched over to vNext fairly reasonably.  One last thing, it’s awesome that AT&T *FINALLY* enabled Wi-Fi calling.  I’ve been waiting a YEAR for that feature.  After some initial bumps, it’s doing pretty well.

The next new Apple goody is the iPad Pro.  I’m very interested to see one of these in person.  With my wireless mixing, any extra surface area will be awesome.  I wish 3D touch was included, but the idea of a better screen & sound really has me interested.

Finally, the AppleTV looks interesting.  Even if it’s just a better way to stream iTunes to the TV, it will be a winner.

Lots of good new stuff from Apple, but are some things that are becoming a concern.  There has been no significant update to the iWork applications (Pages, Numbers, and Keynote).  My guess is now that Microsoft has gotten serious about Office on the Mac with 2016, Apple doesn’t feel the need to really do much more with the iWork apps.  The iLife apps of Garageband and iMovie received a bit of love, but no major new features lately.

All in all, lots of good stuff!

It’s been a while! Lots of things going on since July!

I’ve usually blogged at least once or twice a month for almost 10 years.  I can’t believe that I’ve missed the last couple of months.  Too much has been going to for me to even *remotely* keep up.  I’ll be doing that now, as there are lots of thoughts running through my head lately!  There’s a bunch of Tech that’s been interesting, including Apple and Microsoft’s new toys.  My music product days have settled down in a big way, and you won’t believe what I’ve been playing with.  About the only thing that hasn’t changed is the car 🙂  Onward to new blog posts!!!!