Monday, September 19, 2005

WOW

Well, I was able to try out Digital Performer 4.5 (and 4.6) a bit this weekend, en route to our official upgrade (gonna mail that check any day now, just have to figure out how we registered when we did our last update!).

Let's just say, there is no longer anything holding DP back. Motu has really nailed it with this one.

The upgrade is truly remarkable. One of the only flaws with DP was the way the windows worked - lots of windows open, all over the screen, often hidden by other windows which made the system a bit unweildy. Just a bit, because once you were used to it it wasn't so bad, but the new version allows you to consolidate windows, putting them all in one big window where everything can be seen, moved around, resized, etc. In a few minutes I was able to tweak the look of the program and make things MUCH more efficient.

The most significant update, though, is automatic latency compensation. This is nothing short of a revelation, a major shift in the way the program deals with audio, and firmly places DP WAY ahead of the ProTools curve. I know at least one studio that's switching from ProTools to DP based on this alone - a studio which has invested considerable time and money in ProTools but is sick of the limitations Digidesign places on its users (such as limiting track count to 32).

Let me explain this latency compensation thing.

All digital audio is subject to latency, which is simply the time it takes to do math to the audio file before it's sent to the speakers. Different processes take different amounts of time; if you run a simple equalizer across a track, the track's audio is slightly delayed. Different effects have different latencies.

In some cases this doesn't matter - it can be minimal and inaudible. But in some cases it's a major issue, for example if you have 9 tracks of drums (kick, snare, 3 toms, 2 overheads, and two room mics) and you run one EQ here and a compressor there, your tracks are out of synch, and thus out of phase.

This is the biggest issue with digital audio (once a certain level of quality in the initial analog to digital conversion is achieved), although its effects can be so subtle that often they only register as "not sounding quite as good."

The new DP looks at the tracks it's playing, the effects that are on them, and adjusts its playback to keep everything in synch. It's just that simple, and just that revolutionary.

No, the stock ProTools does not do this.

I could detect an immediate difference - take for example one tune I worked on this weekend with a bass track that's actually 2 tracks, a direct signal and one from a mic'ed amp. Running effects on the direct signal puts the tracks slightly out of phase, mushing up the bass sound. DP 4.5 takes care of this with no effort on my part.

The free upgrade to DP4.6 adds another revelation. Built in pitch correction, complete with automation and the ability to take the pitch info from a track and convert it to MIDI.

This is huge! DP will now correct pitch for you without the use of a plug in, allowing you to draw in the correction curves right over the audio in your main windows, as if it's a simple volume or pan adjustment. The pitch info can be copied right into a MIDI track and sent to a synthesizer, so you can have that solo doubled without even knowing how to play it.

There are other improvements too - better management of CPU resources, some new plug ins, a more streamlined "Bounce to Disk" option, and plenty more.

Has DP surpassed ProTools in terms of features? No question (it probably did when DP4.0 was released, but now there's really no comparison). Will tracks recorded at Smoke and Mirrors sound better now? Again, no question.

8 Comments:

At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Tony Alva said...

Does the new version tax your G4 CPU capacity more, or does it do better handling the Chrispy lightning like point/click speeds?

BTW... I just got an e-mail back from Alesis letting me know that they have decided NOT to manufacture the ADAT Director controller for the HD24 at this time. They had confirmed to me a few months ago that beta units were produced and software development was continuing. The guy who wrote says his reaction was "WTF" too, since the HD24 is their best selling product and reaps them the highest margin compared to anything else in their product line.

Perhaps they're building a proper computer based controller for the HD. After all, it's the proprietary disc writing protocol and the hot swap hardrive dock that's make it an attractive peice. Having to navigate using the units front panel is not at all optimum.

 
At 11:26 AM, Blogger Chrispy said...

The new version seems to be a fair amount faster when dealing with my cat-like pointing and clicking. I think the new way it handles drawing windows has sped it up some, and now the program looks at audio tracks with sections that have no data that are also running effects and reallocates the processor resources elsewhere.

All in all, it seems much more responsive.

For the HD24, I can't imagine it would be very hard to control it from a computer based DAW, like DP. Depending on how it can receive controller info - for example, if it can do everything via MIDI commands - you might be able to run it from a simple MIDI controller or one of the Mackie units (like the HUI).

 
At 12:03 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

I would like to point out that in no way will this speed up George's production of the Brain Shivers record, but will insure that the collection of B-Sides, Brain Slivers, will preceed the release of it's parent project.

 
At 12:46 PM, Blogger Chrispy said...

Yes, this is probably true.

It's not every day the B-sides get released before the A-sides. But I want to get something DONE.

 
At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Tony Alva said...

I heard ProTools v48.5 will have new functionality built in to speed up the post production of Brain Shivers. It will also have improved RSS feed links and be able to hand out keys not just to the tenents on your floor, but to the whole building as well.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Chrispy said...

Yes, the new ProTools might be able to hand out those keys, but sadly it'll never be run at Skyway, mostly because George is too dependent on his, uh, "specially priced" plug ins.

If all of the ProTools lovers actually had to pay for their software you'd probably see a bit less of them around...

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger Jackson said...

It's the fault of Big Business you know....

 
At 2:39 PM, Blogger Chrispy said...

It is, it is!

Digidesign is owned by... AVID!

Big business, all right.

Because AVID held a near monopoly on computer based editing (until Final Cut came along, but AVID is still the industry standard), it was simple for them to force their computer based audio workstations down everyone's throats.

Of course, the product is inferior, but who cares when you've got that kind of market share?

 

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