Pro Tools 12.5 Cloud Collaboration – A Post Perspective

Pro Tools PC Owner - Guest Blog Post

I'd like to introduce a guest post for you today by Our friend Mike Aiton.
Mike is a Post Production dubbing mixer & sound designer among many other talents. Mike is also a Pro Tools PC owner running Pro Tools 12 HDX from his purpose build studio in London UK.

As a Post Production specialist the concept of collaborating or at least exchanging files with clients is a core requirement on almost every session so what's Mikes first impression of Pro Tools 12.5 and its new cloud collaboration features from ..... a Post Perspective?

Ok, so a few post production orientated musings on the Avid Pro Tools Collaboration stuff so far….having watched and listened around..

The biggest things for me that seem to be missing/wrong for post collaboration at the moment are:

1) VCAs (and groups)

2) Video track

3) Number of Collaborators more than 3

4) Project creation using “save session as….”

I can kind of get the video track thing in terms of file sizes and internet bandwidth, but I am shocked that VCAs are not allowed yet. My sessions are peppered with VCAs for advanced (back-trackable) control. If I have to coalesce to share suddenly things are not so back-trackable.

Having to “save session as” to create a Project to share – how will that work with when you are referencing your production multitrack wav file audio using field recorder workflow?

There needs to be an “ignore everything in this folder” option and “only upload new audio” i.e stuff that has had to be rendered (an Izotope RX treated clip?) or added (ADR/foley or any new audio).

I have been wondering how many post people will mostly be sending frozen aux inputs so that their “secret sauce” of plugs will not be revealed. Personally, I believe it not what you have but how and when you do it that matters, but that’s me.

Then when updates happen to (say for instance) the dials stem, the bore is that you have to re-render the entire aux freeze. Slightly missing the point?

Security? – this is being discussed to death by people already on the internet with far more knowledge than me on the subject. So I will not comment further.

The number of collaborators allowed is I think a big issue. Even relatively modest dramas on TV are commonly spread over a team of more than three people (Dialogue, Effects, Music, Mixer) and this is commonly simultaneous work too, so dropping collaborators on and off-line in the project may not be viable.

Data size is a real issue for post production. I think the current Avid plans have been written with musicians in mind, not with post in mind. Post projects are tens of gigabytes, not including the video. Even the stems for a standard TV 50 min post project (Dx, FX, Mx. VO, DME, MIX) in stereo and in 5.1 together are large (48KHz 24bit).

But for me the BIGGEST POINT MISSED SO FAR by everyone is that collaboration happens mostly with video editors, and this is where no progress appears to have been made so far in this department. We are still in the dark ages collaborating with video editors. Imagine if the cut changed and your session would auto re-conform with data from the media composer, and new tracks would appear at the right point with new media. Imagine if you freeze your stems at the end of a mix and these are accessible to the editor. Imagine if the Media Composer was sample accurate and you no longer had to tick a silly box that creates silly files to make things accurate for them.

So apart from the bandwidth, the cost, the VCAs, the number of collaborators, the lack of video, the security, what have Avid ever done for us?…. [There’s a joke in there somewhere… 😀 – Neil ]

Well actually it’s a very good start and they are to be congratulated as they have implemented it well so far, but I hope they take on board the above points for round 2, which is I suspect where it may get more interesting in Post’. So far, it may have some use for “light docs” or for “sit-coms” or for interchange with the music composer, but for lightweight drama and above, it’s hurry up and wait.

Now on to some more general Pro Tools 12.5 observations

In my experience so far 12.5 has some other serious flaws that make it unusable for post production at the moment – especially if (like me) you are an HDX user.

12.5 breaks DSP allocation rules for certain plug-ins,  Avid and the plug-in developers are now very aware of this. I have spent time demonstrating this to Avid UK tech support and it is is documented for an urgent fix (12.5.1 perhaps?). For my monitoring, I use the Neyrinck V-Mon plug-in so that I can stem monitor. This plug-in places “listen” plug-ins on the aux masters or record tracks and a “master” plug-in allows me to listen to combinations of these stems without having to resort to solos etc i.e. I can listen to the dialogue and the music stem together or the foley and the effects stems. The DSP for these plug-ins should fit on one DSP chip only but in 12.5 it does not and attempts erroneously, to go across two chips thus breaking the plug-in.

Plug-in sharing rules are also broken, meaning some plugs will load on a chip, use 20% of the chip. then load the next one on another chip. The consequence of this is that a session which loaded on 12.4 quite happily, will not load on 12.5 and either playback or load with the same plug-ins working.

Save Session Copy is also broken and is leading to corrupted sessions files, making the collaboration workflow for pre-existing sessions that need to be turned into projects somewhat doubtful and untrustworthy.

The Avid Video Engine (AVE) is now potentially unstable with some OMF audio material being present in the session

All in all, 12.5 is the first time I have rolled back a Pro Tools software version ever since the days of six point something or other! (more years than I care to remember).

I am able to report this as it is, because I am a working industry practitioner, I am not sponsored, do not sell advertising and this is not a hastily re-written Avid press release. I am not Avid bashing, I like Avid, I like Pro Tools, but sadly for me, this isn’t their finest hour. I am sure better is to come….

Mike Aiton

Mike-AitonMike Aiton was weaned at the BBC. But after breaking free nearly 25 years ago become a Senior Dubbing Mixer at Molinare, Head of Sound at both ClearCut Pictures and also at ESPN, He is now one of London’s busiest freelance dubbing mixers, and he can mostly be found in his Twickenham dubbing suite, mikerophonics, thrashing gear to within an inch of its life. In his spare time he takes therapy for his poor jazz guitar playing and his addiction to skiing and Nikon lenses.


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