Q It Up: Still not using Pro Tools? Why haven’t you made the switch? - Part 2

Q-It-Up-Logo-3And now the rest of the interesting responses we received to the latest Q! And since this was apparently a hot topic, we’ve posted the question on the RAPforum (www.rapmag.com/forum) for anyone else that wants to weigh in.

Q It Up: Still not using Pro Tools? Why haven’t you made the switch? What program are you using now, and why have you stayed with this one? Have you tried any others along the way? And if you are a Pro Tools user, have you always been, or did you switch from some other program? Which one or ones did you migrate from and how did they compare to Pro Tools?

Randy Brown [randb[at]mindspring.com], Brown Media, Inc., Alpharetta, Georgia: As a guy whose primary job is voice imaging, Pro Tools is just overkill for most of what I do. I still occasionally produce imaging or commercials, and when I do, Pro Tools 9 is my choice. But for editing voice tracks, the whole “Bounce to Disc” process is just an enormous time-killer. So I prefer to record and edit all my voice work in a little Mac-only app called Twisted Wave.

Pro Tools is terrific for multi-track production, and certainly is the tool of choice if you’re doing any MIDI work (although most musicians I know prefer Logic for MIDI work, then mix in Pro Tools... but I digress).

But for straight cutting of voice tracks, if I were still on Windows, I would still use Sony Sound Forge. Since I’m Mac all the way (and I refuse to install Windows on my Mac), Twisted Wave is the best option. Besides, the guy who wrote Twisted Wave has been extremely responsive to my requests to adapt the software to more closely approximate the work flow I use.

Andrew Frame [andrew[at]bafsoundworks.com], BAFsoundWorks, Lehigh Acres, Florida: Mostly, I saw, and continue to see, no need to change. I still use Cool Edit Pro 1.2 on a ten year old Windows XP desktop. It works, it’s stable, and it does what I need it to do.

We score for TV commercials, do a lot of v/o sweetening, radio spots, on-hold work, and even ADR from time to time. The plug-in set is still very good; it will do real-time effects, and the integrated edit/multitrack windows means I don’t have to do critical editing or simple sweetening in multitrack mode. I can import/export in 20+ formats and do sample-level editing at a 32-bit level.

And, the final point is that every session we’ve ever done has been in Cool Edit Pro 2.1. So, to switch to PT, I’d have to buy new hardware, buy a new OS, buy new software, spend a couple of months on a learning curve - while already clocking 14 hour work days?

No thanks.

Joel Moss [jcmoss[at]fuse.net], WEBN, Cincinnati, Ohio: Simple answer for me. First, a bit of history. In the late ‘90s, when decisions were being made as to the switchover from analog to digital, the Chief Engineer at the time at WEBN was familiar with a product from Roland. The DM-80. Anyone who had any experience working within its considerable constraints remembers it as a very bad transitional piece of technology and/or shit. With the Mac computer, the entire rig was around 25 grand. I’m still shocked it ever was approved as a capital expense.

A few years later, and after the nightmare of trying to produce on a DM-80, a different CE suggested a cheaper option than Pro Tools, Sonic Foundry’s Vegas Pro software. Primarily, the choice was PC v. Mac at the time, and Vegas seemed to be worth trying. Now, 15 years later, Sonic Foundry no longer exists but the software development continued with their sale to Sony Creative Media. I’m currently using Vegas Pro 9 (10 is the most recent update) and as with every new version, I find it to be both robust and elegant. With the right processing power I’m able to do very complex projects, i.e. multiple automation fx plug-ins (including third party VST compatibility). The only limitations are what I bring to the box. It’s capable of doing much more than my skill level, but Vegas has always been very intuitive. My biggest audio project of the year is the soundtrack for the annual WEBN Fireworks; I find that project becomes more ambitious every year because the software allows me to attempt to do much more as I learn more each year. It’s a good way to annually measure some typical baselines… the time it takes to produce, and the actual quality of the completed track. The latter, of course, would be a subjective call; but there’s no denying that the software has certainly kept up with me.

Additionally, as I do more video production, sound design for video, etc., the Vegas software offers video capabilities that translate seamlessly from the audio side.

I think DAW preference always comes down to what you’re familiar with; I can only speak from my experience, which doesn’t include direct Pro Tools work. It’s pretty interesting that producers become so passionate about their particular system. Clearly, we spend so much time working with our chosen DAW, it would be difficult to imagine you’re not working with a tool that allows you to be as creative as possible.

The question for this Q It Up says it all… “if you haven’t made the switch, why not?” It assumes so much. My simple answer is, I have no need or desire to switch. Indeed Pro Tools is the standard of the industry, and the initial Mac protocol for Pro Tools has a lot to do with that passion. So many in the audio/production industry were Mac users, and from the beginning DigiDesign was developing their products accordingly. Today of course, Pro Tools operates with either OS, but it was that first decade or so that joined so many to what is undoubtedly a fantastic program. The most creative producers I know use Pro Tools; however, I’m totally secure and happy with my daily trips to Vegas.

 Jay Rose [jay[at]dplay.com], www.dplay.com: I switched from PT to something else. I got spoiled by doing so much production on the DSE7000/Audicy boxes. After Orban discontinued the series, I looked for a different upgradable path and bought a small PT rig. (This was in 2005, so I got LE6 with Video Toolkit. Half of what I do is to pix).

It was fine... but compared to the Audicy, it really slowed down my throughput. Even after I got thoroughly used to the UI, I still was spending too long on most operations.

So I tried Nuendo. And fell in love not only with the way it’s built for edit-intensive production, but also how easy it was to customize the keyboard shortcuts and build macros. It has other advantages that probably aren’t relevant if you’re doing mostly spots and sweepers, such as the ability to render multiple versions much faster than real-time... those are important to my work as well.

But there are two caveats. First, I stopped upgrading PT at version 7, and have no idea what it can do now. Second, PT IS THE STANDARD. THEY’RE THE MICROSOFT OF AUDIO. You can always find trained engineers, tutorials, and specialized plug-ins for it. That’s important in a lot of situations.

Hey… when you get right down to it, we’re still doing the same things that once required razor blades and multiple playback decks. Technology has made things faster, but good production will always depend on who’s using those knobs or blades.

Walter Wawro [wwawro[at]wfaa.com], WFAA-TV, Dallas, Texas: I slowly incorporated Pro Tools into my production skill set around 2000. I became a full time PTHD user in 2004. Before that I cut my digital teeth on the Solid State Logic Screen Sound system, beginning in 1993. It was an 8-track “cuts and faders” audio editor, with simple automation and no plug-ins. The system was proprietary, and for storage, how about three 2-gigabyte drives! The important thing about the Screen Sound was that it was easy to lock to picture with the system, important in TV. Screen Sound would chase a Sony Beta SP machine all day and never complain. Cost for all this digital goodness in 1993? Around $100,000! It never crashed and paid for itself within 2 years. The system was still working when removed from the rack in 2009 and is sitting on the floor of my announce booth. If you need parts for one, let’s talk.

Today I’m running PTHD 7.3. I need to update my Mac (an early G5 PPC) in order to take advantage of PT9. Working to picture simply involves creating a lo-res .mov file and dragging it into the project. I like PT, but I also like Audacity, Bias Peak and Sound Forge. I’ve never used Audition!

Richard Stroobant [richard.stroobant[at]sait.ca], Southern Alberta Institute of Technology: We have taught Adobe Audition for 5 years now (don’t ask what we had before) at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary, Canada. When I left the business and started teaching, my old radio station (CJAY 92) gave me all the old Pro Tools stuff when they upgraded, and I installed the 2 units here at school and have the students learn a little bit on Pro Tools. We have just upgraded our Adobe to CS5.5 for this fall and will have the latest Audition software running on all student laptops and labs. Additionally, with the release of Pro Tools 9, we have 2 new licenses for that. So, our students will have access to Adobe almost everywhere and Pro Tools in the 2 main production suites.

I believe it is good to have them learn both because you never know where they are going to work and what package the stations will have. In Canada, in most major cities, Pro Tools is king and most stations have it. In the medium and smaller markets, Audition is the unit of choice because of cost. But with Pro Tools 9 and its price being more accessible, that may change soon. I used Pro Tools for 10 years at CJAY and LOVED it. But when it was time to install a DAW on 100 student laptops and labs, it was waaay too expensive, so we went with Audition. I like Audition, but Pro Tools, for me, was always the DAW of choice. I’m interested to read what other stations (cities) use to make sure we are training the next wave of broadcasters with the right tools.

Kevin Genus [kevin[at]kevingenus.com], www.KevinGenus.com: It’s tough to find tools that work with you, rather than against you. I bought a Digi001 in early 2002 and thought Pro Tools was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but as time went on I had to pay for software upgrades, plug-ins, you know what I’m talking about – the then DigiDesign total cost of ownership. I upgraded to a Digi002 around 2005, but there were always problems running Pro Tools under Windows. You would hit record, go in the booth and start recording, when you came out you would see an error for some awkward reason. Other times you would be trying to meet a deadline and all of a sudden your plug-ins would take the system out. I eventually switched to a G5 Mac after hearing Pro Tools support refer to my problems as Windows related, they were right.

At the time my G5 was replaced for an Intel chipset, I upgraded audio interfaces leaving Pro Tools. I tried a number of different DAWs during that period, and I clearly remember “hearing” the results from a mix completed with Harrison Mix Bus in mid-2010. My initial thoughts were using it for its analog feel and sound, but that HMB was fast, very fast. It never failed one time during recording and creating mix-minus setups for the Telos Zephyr and TelosONE was total cake. Nothing I’ve used sounds like HMB. It has some drawbacks (like it only works with WAV or other uncompressed PCM formats), but sonically the benefits are well worth it.

I’ve taken heat from my peers because it’s not something they know, but believe me when I say I have no excuse, I’m just using the tool that works for me.

Brian Wilson [brian.g.wilson[at]citcomm.com], Citadel Media, Dallas, Texas: I started out on Spectral’s Systems DAW in the nineties, and progressed through a number of programs. Vegas, Nuendo, Cubase, Pro Tools Free, Logic, and for two track editing, Sound Forge and Wavelab. Of them all, my swiss army knife is Cubase 6 and Sound Forge for pre/post editing and conversions. SAW and Cool Edit started off as consumer shareware, and I have never taken them seriously. Pro Tools has always annoyed me because of their proprietary RTAS and TDM formats, with outrageous price tags on effects. Even Pro Tools Free came with a coupon for a free reverb plug-in (a $500 Value!). $500 is enough to buy any PC based DAW, and VST plug-ins usually work in every other program.

I love Vegas, I have every edition from the first to the current (10), but I do a lot of video editing. I love the way Sound Forge and Acid will integrate into Vegas, and now Vegas has Touch Automation which is appreciated. It’s a familiar interface, and if I didn’t have Cubase, that would be my pick. Then Pro Tools 8 came out and guess what? It looks just like Cubase now! PT8 has free VST instruments and transcription software, both of which Cubase has had for years. But Pro Tools still does real-time render, and that is unacceptable for me. I do a lot of block program work; I can’t wait an hour for an hour long show to render. Cubase: 3 minutes!

Here’s the kicker, I own Pro Tools 8. I bought 3 iMacs at the network loaded with PT8 for people who are more comfortable with Pro Tools. But I am so much faster on Cubase or Vegas because the interface is familiar, and the programs are more intuitive.

And one more thing: I have to deal with Pro Tools snobs constantly. Some even claim that Pro Tools sounds better than Cubase. But these are the same people that believe the setting “128k mp3” really is CD quality.

Dave Spiker [davespiker[at]aol.com]: Ahhh, the PT question! Yes, yes, yes. I produce long-form, syndicated radio broadcasts. One of the half-hour daily broadcasts I produce has 9 versions. So real-time mixing in Pro Tools would decimate my productivity. A friend has PT and also produces long-form programs. He has 3 computers and has to do tag-team mixing between the 3 computers. With SawStudio, I can mix a half-hour broadcast in about 45 seconds. Now, I would enjoy some of PT’s features/options -- like the built-in time compression -- but can’t give up SawStudio’s efficiency. If I had PT, I’d have time to make this response longer. But SS just finished my mix so I’m going to get back to work.

Talal Malik [talal.malik[at]marinafm.com], Marina FM 88.8, Kuwait: I’ve been imaging Kuwait’s Arabic CHR station Marina FM for the past 5 years. I started with Adobe Audition 1.5 then jumped to version 3. In 2008 I got my first Pro Tools LE system but failed to use it steadily. The interface looked cool but I was impatient to learn it. I continued using Audition 3 for work, and it just hit me that I have bought 3 different Pro Tools LE versions and hardware but still used Audition as my main DAW.

However, 2 months ago, I felt that I have been in a loop with Audition, since the only plug-ins I liked and used were the ones that came with it. They have excellent dynamics and reverbs. But I knew I was missing on something that would make my production sound richer and deeper. I then decided I should try Pro Tools again, especially since I could cross-grade from LE 8 to 9 for a good price and for the first time won’t require any hardware to run. If you’re asking about my routine, I do all the VO work in the station’s studios and copy them to our FTP storage, which I can later access from any computer.

I was so excited about PT9 that I put it on my MacBook Air 11”. Aha! I also did some excellent production on this baby that I’m willing to share if you’re interested. However I recently went out and got me 2, yes two iMacs to create the perfect PT experience -- one for home and the other for work. PT9 is now running so smoothly with some heavy Waves to compliment it.

I still use Audition on my sucky Windows machine at work for quick tasks with minor editing. I’ve dedicated the iMac with PT9 for the creative tasks. I’m not annoyed yet by the real-time mixdown of PT because most of my production is not longer than a minute (promos, sweepers, power intros).

Terry Phillips [terry[at]terryphillips.com], www.terryphillips.com: Interesting question… If you add up all the production rooms in radio and check what DAW they are running, I think you might think about rewording the question.

First a mini-rant: the DAW software is a tool, and there is amazing work being done on Audition, Vegas, Pro Tools, and even still the Audicy. Heck, all the amazing work John Frost did in LA was done on an Audicy! Yes, the no mouse, only 10 track, million click/button combo just to move tracks Audicy, yes seriously! If you know your DAW and can make it fly, that’s all that matters.

Okay, my personal choice, and why: I’m an Audition junkie. For me, it can do what no other DAW can, and do it faster, too. A double click and I can do destructive editing on a single audio file in as big of a window as I want. A button press shows me the spectral display and allows me to edit it. I can move, adjust, resize, and customize any and all parts of the interface… including having a Phase Analysis and Frequency Analysis window running while I’m editing audio! I can have hundreds of audio pieces at instant access, and preview any of them with one single click…. Nothing else can do all of that. And at the speed I can make things happen, again for ME, makes it priceless. And no, I have played with others.

I really dug into a DAW for the first time with Pro Tools over 14 years ago, had a brief time that I was settled with an Audicy, and got to choose here at CBS almost 11 years ago. At both work and my home studio, I have not only Audition, but Vegas (for quick video+audio editing), and Acid for beat mixes and quick simple bed creation. And in my home studio, I have Pro Tools 9, Studio RMX, and some other toys. But when I need to really work, I am running Audition. It’s my first and last choice, and the one loaded 99.9% of the time.

There are things that all of these DAWs do better than one another, and there is nothing inherently “better” about ANY of these editors. Pro Tools started as a program for recording studios (music), Audition, SAW, Audigy and Vegas started as Radio production tools. Vegas added quite a nice suite of video tools and has grown that way. Pro Tools has added the beat syncing of programs like Acid along with more refinement over the years. Audigy has been pass by, but had an amazing compressor, reverb, and other effects built in. And Audition has gotten more functional and added some of Pro Tools’ music goodies, yet still remaining the most flexible and fast… at least to me.

Point I guess… I’ve tried them all on, and continue to play with as much as I have time (and money) for. I’ve found the right one for me. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Paris, Texas or Detroit, don’t believe the hype; amazing DAW software is out there. Try them on. Find the right one for you.

Oh yeah, and more radio stations’ production rooms use Audition, than any other software suite. So there, nah.

Novell Tagailo [email[at]radiojinglespro.com], RadioJinglesPRO.com: I do have Pro Tools on my workstation. But I have a few reasons why I have never completed the switch, not that I have no plans of switching. So here is my answer.

I have not completed my switch to pro tools because: 1) The transition phase is time consuming, 2) No one is willing to teach, 3) Besides, my Adobe Audition has given me the right results.

Pro Tools for me is like the “iPhone” for smart phones. Why focus on Apple when you can get BlackBerry?

As a radio producer in a third world country such as the Philippines, it doesn’t really matter what you use, what matters is what comes out on the speakers, and if they deliver, then you are on the right track.

I don’t really see switching to Pro Tools as a way of upgrading my resume. Although it sounds obvious one might embrace Pro Tools to be “cool”.

Scotty Matthews [scotty[at]scottymatthews.com] Citadel Broadcasting, Syracuse, NY: I did my fair share of 2-track splice editing and analog multitracking during my first decade in the radio production department business. Everywhere I’ve been, the most important buzzword was FAST. That my stuff sounded better than anyone else’s VO and production was just icing on the cake for the sales reps. They just wanted the stuff on the air NOW so they could make their goal for the month.

My first digital unit was an AKAI DR-4 (just the box, without the screen-based control interface). That and an Eventide Harmonizer, and there was nothing I couldn’t do; and fast. When I switched to another company, they had the original SAW (the straight 4-track) in the studio. There was nothing I couldn’t do with THAT. The next company had a Digidesign Session-8 running on a buggy old MAC. Not being a MAC guy, I couldn’t tell you which one, but I was told that model was the worst MAC ever made. It crashed all the time, blowing hours of work. The only backup was to DAT, and it had to dump each track one at a time in real time, took forever!

By this time, I had gotten SAW Pro for my home studio, and touted it like a religion for a long time. Instead of using the Session-8, I’d just do a lot of my spots at home. About the time I got the 1996 shareware version of Cool Edit (the single-track stereo editor) the company who created SAW went bye bye and it was no longer being supported. I quickly discovered that for productions requiring multitracking, I’d use SAW, but for simple stuff like voiceover with a music bed, even with a few sound effects, Cool Edit’s editing was worlds easier, and the mix-paste function was almost as good as multitracking for most radio production. When the morning guy across the hall got the beta test version of Cool Edit Pro, with its multitrack capabilities, and started raving about it, I was skeptical till I actually took it home and played with it for a weekend. Since then I’ve been completely onboard the CE/AA bandwagon.

I can take any intern, sit them down for half an hour of training, and have them producing fairly competent multitrack work in Adobe Audition. Try that with ProTools. To be fair, I’ve never really used it. I test drove a PT system about five years ago, for about 90 minutes, and came to the same “non-intuitive/overkill” conclusion that a lot of other radio producers do. If you like it, and that’s what you want to use, great. Knock yourself out. But when it comes to radio spots and straight voiceover, I’ll race you with my AA any day. I’ve heard people rave about Vegas, and if there ever comes a time when I meet a project that I can’t do efficiently in AA, I’ll look at other systems.

But so far, I’ve met no such animal, and my work has been heard on every continent on this planet. Well, maybe not Antarctica. I’ll have to check my website stats on that one.

Frankly, I get more than a little defensive when PT devotees insinuate that if I’m not using ProTools, I’m not a REAL producer, not an authentic professional… especially when my finished product sounds better than theirs. After more than 25 years and with more than 100,000 commercials under my belt, I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.

I echo the many fine colleagues in last month’s column who pointed out that it’s not the software which is making stuff sound great, it’s the producer. I’ve heard some real crap come out of ProTools studios too.

I was doing killer stuff back when all I had to work with was a Tascam 2-track, a Dynamax cart machine, and $70 Technics CD player. Maybe ProTools is a superior system. But the guy driving the BMW doesn’t look in the next lane and wish he had the Jaguar; he just drives a little faster.

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