Sunday, December 12, 2004


George Vitray and I started demos for his new project, working title the Robot Trilogy, at Skyway last night. As its name implies, it's a three part story about a naughty lilttle robot who joins the resistence.

I got to drive ProTools for the entire session (minus some editing), as George played keyboards and sang. Let me just say that ProTools is a nice elegant interface, very quick and easy to work with, once you learn how to read the timelines. Digital Performer is easier for me to move around on, 'cause it's a world I've spent a lot of time in, but moving over to ProTools was pretty painless and logical. For setting up quick punch ins, it's a breeze, just move the playback wiper and away you go. Not too many menus, everything is contained in just two screens, and it has an industrial feel I really like.

So am I prepared to stop hating Digidesign, the Microsoft of pro audio? Well, maybe they're not quite the Microsoft. I haven't heard of Digi shipping software with tons of bugs that will be addressed in free "patches" from their website, and as far as I know you can't have your computer hacked from the other side of the world just because you've got their programs installed.

The thing I always hated about Digidesign was their forcing the user to run their software with their hardware only, but from a historical perspective it makes sense. The earliest incarnations of ProTools (such as the two track editor Sound Tools) were very reliant on external hardware for processing, as the early Macintoshes just didn't have the power. So there was always a very close link between the software and hardware, and as the market grew and the Macs got faster, the Digi theory of a dedicated box kind of went along for the ride. In contrast, Digital Performer started out as plain old Performer, a sequencer with no audio at all. As such, it required no hardware to deal with the relatively low bandwith of MIDI, and when audio was added after a few years, MOTU rightly left the hardware side up to the user. Had it started as an audio editor, it wouldn't have been surprising if proprietary hardware had been required.

Now, of course, there's a ton of affordable audio interfaces, most of which are happy playing with any software, but all of which are still purchased by the user, either as part of a complete system or as add ons to a software only setup. We all bought hardware anyhow, the only difference is I could have gotten a brand other than MOTU (which, in the end, I didn't). And now that Digidesign offers the MBox, a $450 two channel interface bundled with ProTools LE, there's really very little difference between setting up a studio with Digital Performer or ProTools; DP alone costs about $400 and includes no hardware.

Still, the 32 track limit of ProTools LE is a bit archaic, although you can see the point in Digi keeping some sort of dividing line between casual users and big studios that'll fork over big bucks for a full fledged ProTools setup. Like Avid (their parent company), Digi will always maintain a separate market for the real Pros, and let the lower end of the sales spectrum sort itself out. The fact that they maintain such a commitment to the harware world means their systems will be less buggy, more integrated, and easier for techs to work on, since the systems will always be the same. Contrast this with software that has to be compliant with every new audio interface on the market, and you can see the advantage.

What does it all mean? Will I be jumping ship and heading down the ProTools path? Let's just say that I have every intention of learning the program inside and out (at the very least, a marketable skill in the production world), and we'll see what happens. I'm not about to abandon all my time and work in DP, but there's no harm in having another hammer in the audio toolbox, even if it's that dirty ol' ProTools.


At 12:30 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

A cross platform/multi platform capability couldn't hurt business.


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