New Features: Avid Pro Tools 11

So what’s new in Avid Pro Tools 11? Will your older equipment be compatible? With the host of new features being introduced, this is a historical change to Pro Tools and not just another upgrade. If you really look at what has transpired over the past 15+ years, we should be calling it Pro Tools, The Next Generation containing the most revolutionary change to Pro Tools, ever

History of Pro Tools with DAE

In order to truly understand where we are going, we first must take a look at our past. While Pro Tools, or it’s earlier cousin Sound Tools have been around since 1989, the true watershed moment came with Pro Tools III systems in 1994. These systems utilized a technology known as TDM, Time Division Multiplexing, essentially a telephone network, to provide dedicated power when working with audio. Every incarnation of Pro Tools after this, whether it was Pro Tools|24, Mix, or HD utilized the same basic TDM technology. Over the years there were revisions to the software and the cards, most notably the introduction of TDM II with the HD systems in 2002. However, the fundamental technology remained unchanged right up to Pro Tools 10. In my studio I am currently running the same HD cards I had 10 years ago running version 5 software. The only thing that changed has been the software.

With every version of Pro Tools released up until now, the only true differences have been feature driven, not in the language and technology of the core engine. Think of it this way, Pro Tools 10 is just a more capable version of Pro Tools 5. Both operate on the same engine and utilize the same TDM language, as well as access and distribute media in identical ways. This engine, known as the DAE (Digidesign Audio Engine) has worked in the background the entire time, keeping your audio dreams afloat. Over the years the software engineers have done a masterful job of refining the architecture and bringing new feature to life. While this tried-and-true technology is very capable of doing a good job, it has many features it can never perform due to its age. After so many years of dedicated service, it was time to retire the DAE and allow it to bow out gracefully. As Sheryl Crow said “A Change Would Do You Good”.

 

AVID AUDIO ENGINE (AAE) – TDM IS DEAD

Welcome to the wonderful world of the all-new Avid Audio Engine (AAE), where 64-bit processing is the norm and TDM is dead. Due to the restrictive nature of the 32-bit DAE, there were a lot of obstacles to overcome, such as a 3GB limit on RAM usage, no support for Offline Bounce, as well as a host of other related performance issues. Pro Tools 11 addresses all of this by introducing a true 64-bit environment that provide never before seen capabilities and features. By re-writing the fundamental engine that has driven Pro Tools for all these years Avid has been take a giant leap into the 2nd chapter of professional digital audio. There is no telling where the next 15 will take us, so for now let’s look at all of the questions you have about Pro Tools 11.

There is no support for RTAS or TDM plug-ins

Starting with Pro Tools 11, only AAX plug-ins will be supported. They are a 64-bit architecture, which provides more accessibility to RAM. This will be a huge help to anyone using Virtual Instruments. Unlike RTAS and TDM plug-ins, which only access a total of 3GB of RAM, AAX plug-ins can finally access the large amounts of RAM found on modern computers. Furthermore, AAX supports the new Offline Bounce feature, enabling non real-time bounces of material at up to 150x normal speed. This was never capable of being handled by the older plug-in architecture and DAE. Another huge component is that we finally have sonic parity between DSP and Native plug-ins since both are utilizing the same AAX architecture. For pro-level users of HD systems, there has always been a known sonic difference between the plug-ins running Native (RTAS) and DSP (TDM), due to the different languages utilized by these formats. With AAX there is no difference between the plug-ins running on the HDX cards and the Native processing on the CPU.

Pro Tools HD DSP systems will not support Pro Tools 11

The older TDM architecture is not compatible with 64-bit processing. Only the newer Pro Tools HDX cards are supported for DSP processing. This obviously impacts many people in the world as HD systems are currently installed in every major production facility around the globe. Those of you using HD Native systems will not suffer the same fate as HD DSP systems. For those curious, yes, there are trade-in packages available to transition up to HDX available through Avid Authorized Dealers.

Will Waves Plug-Ins support AAX?

From the moment Avid introduced AAX in 2011, the first question most music engineers had is “Will Waves work on it?” Absolutely! Waves will release AAX plug-in updates for AAX by this summer. However, there is a catch. Waves will only be supporting AAX Native, NO DSP support for HDX cards. Waves is planning on introducing a very cool looking DSP based solution later this year and I don’t want to give away any secrets.

 

Not all older audio interfaces are officially supported.

Many of us have slightly older audio interfaces in our studio and it’s worth noting what will not officially be supported and what Will Not Work!

Not Officially Supported by Pro Tools 11 (Untested but should work)
  • 192 I/O
  • 192 Digital I/O
  • 96 I/O
  • 96i I/O
  • Sync HD (blue)
  • Pre I/O (blue)
  • MIDI I/O
  • Digi 002
  • Digi 002 Rack
  • Control 24
  • Command 8
  • HUI
  • HyperControl
  • DeckLink

Not Compatible with Pro Tools 11 ( Will not work)

  • Sync I/O (blue)
  • Mbox (original)
  • Digi 001
  • ProControl (including Main Unit, Edit Pack & Fader Pack)

Avid has officially stated that they will not limit the usage of “Blue” legacy interfaces with HDX cards. However, they will not be “officially” tested with the coming generations of Pro Tools. In theory this means that current HD user should still be able to utilize their existing interfaces after upgrading to HDX. We also learned that users of Apogee Audio Interfaces will enjoy the same level of relief as there are plans to support Symphony I/O as well as D/A – A/D series interfaces. Stay tuned to our newsletter as I will be publishing the results of our current testing underway with HDX cards and “Blue” series interfaces.

iLok2 is required for Pro Tools 11

If you don’t already have a current iLok2 key, you must purchase one before upgrading to Pro Tools 11. The older “blue” generation 1 key is no longer being supported. However, there is something to look forward in this migration, Avid is giving everyone purchasing Pro Tools 11 an additional Pro Tools 10 authorization.

Yes, You Run Pro Tools 10 and Pro Tools 11 on the same computer!

We can all agree that being in a transitional time can always be challenging. Avid has realized that there might be a need to go back-in-time with certain projects which is why every Pro Tools 11 user gets the additional Pro Tools 10 authorization. Since these two programs are so fundamentally different, they can exist on the same computer. You will be able to keep using current plug-ins in Pro Tools 10 format as well as finishing the session in Pro Tools 11. It really seems like the most logical way to take a giant leap forward while staying planted in the present.

Offline Bounce is coming in a big way

After years of begging and pleading, the audio world finally has the ability to bounce in non-real time (offline). In the past, if you had a session that was an hour long, it would take an entire hour to bounce the session for final delivery. Furthermore, if you needed to bounce a .wav and .mp3 it would require two separate bounce passes. In the case of most music sessions it wasn’t a huge bother because most songs are under 5 minutes, however, in the post world a session could be up to 3 or 4 hours long. The new Offline Bounce feature of Pro Tools 11 allows you to bounce in non-real time up to 150x speed, resulting in an hour long session bouncing in about 1 minute! Furthermore, you have the ability to bounce multiple file types at once, meaning you could bounce the .wav and .mp3 simultaneously. Yet another feature is the ability to bounce from multiple output sources simultaneously. In the music world a handy use of this feature could be to bounce stems of the mix for final delivery to Mastering. Post production engineers will find this especially useful as it would allow them to bounce multiple formats such as 7.1, 5.1, Stereo, etc... These features have been really though out to provide a whole new workflow for all Pro Tools users.

As of this article, Avid has stated that Pro Tools 11 will be available by July 1, 2013. Anybody that purchases Pro Tools 10 on or after April 7, 2013 will get 11 for FREE when it ships. For anyone looking to upgrade to 11 from a previous version of Pro Tools there is a set pricing structure in place by Avid as per the chart below:

 

Over the coming months we will be exposing more and more of the features of Pro Tools 11. Stay tuned to our newsletter and www.ProToolsTraining.com for the latest. If you are interested in learning Pro Tools hands-on, take a few days of courses with us at one of our Pro Tools Training facilities in LA, NY, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, Chicago or San Diego.

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