First Impressions: The Pros on Pro Tools 7 Software
Pro Tools 7 software is packed with a bevy of new and improved features geared toward helping artists and engineers realize their creative vision more quickly and easily. But what do some of the top mixers, editors, remix artists, and producers think of Pro Tools 7? How will they use it to produce the music that you’ll hear on the radio and in movie theaters? DigiZine asked Carmen Rizzo, Tal Herzberg, Richie Hawtin, Valgeir Sigurdsson, and Scott Spock for their first impressions of Pro Tools 7. It might not surprise you that they were pretty excited about features that will let them do more within Pro Tools while also enabling them to work much more efficiently.
“For me, the most important new features are the MIDI enhancements,” says Rizzo. “I’ve always used MIDI in Pro Tools and have been able to do whatever I need, but now, with Pro Tools 7, everything is just spot-on. The real-time editing, for example, is crucial. You can do everything in real time and monitor what you’re doing.”
In Rizzo’s busy world, it’s often the small things that add up. “One small thing that’s making my life easier is being able to use the Color Palette to color-code markers,” says Rizzo. “You can quickly see that the verse is green, the chorus is yellow, one particular break is blue. That’s just a little thing, but it can make a big difference.”
Will Pro Tools 7 mean better efficiency? Greater creativity? “Both!” says Rizzo. “Being able to work with a REX or ACID file without having to go through another application, or being able to drag and drop a MIDI file from the desktop — these things simplify my life and let me concentrate on the creative aspects of my work. That’s what a lot of the new features are about for me.”
For Herzberg, it’s the time-saving features in Pro Tools 7 that are most appealing. “The less time you spend managing your workflow, the more you can devote to the creative parts of the work,” says Herzberg. “That’s what I like about Pro Tools 7. A lot of the new features have to do with workflow — they are ‘set-and-forget’ features.”
Region grouping will be a major time saver for Herzberg. “The fact that I can take a multi-tracked drum performance and just make it into one big region, then fly it around, dragging and dropping to and from the Region List, is not only a huge time saver, it’s a concentration saver. Once you set up a Region Group, you don’t need to think about its individual components anymore. It frees your mind and lets you be more creative.”
Overall, Pro Tools 7 will let Herzberg capture inspiration quickly. “It’s not just about saving money and time. It’s more about having an idea in your head and wanting to hear it quickly.
The less time it takes you to set up for it, the easier it will be to capture the initial spark of the idea. Pro Tools 7 lets me experiment more easily. That’s what it’s all about.”
He’s also managed to produce numerous recordings and build the Plus 8 and Minus record labels. His latest production, DE9: Transitions, is the third installment of a sonic exploration that began in 1998 with Decks, Efx & 909 [DE9] — a DJ-styled mosaic comprising scores of overlaid tracks, drum machines, and a range of effects. For DE9: Transitions, a combined CD/DVD release, Hawtin used Pro Tools and Ableton Live software to create a shifting — transitioning — collage of sound.
“There’s a lot of interest in Pro Tools in this underground, electronic music, or techno world that I’m in,” says Hawtin. “Some of the new features in Pro Tools 7 are perfect for that crowd.”
The new real-time MIDI capabilities are among the most important new features for Hawtin. “For me — and I know it’s the same for other electronic musicians — I try to plan out as little as possible. But when something happens, I want to record and capture it quickly. Having the ability to modify things in real time is a huge improvement for me.”
Hawtin also points to the new organizational features of Pro Tools 7 software — such as the addition of a tempo column in the DigiBase browser — as essential for managing increasingly large sessions. “Some of my projects have hundreds of loops and samples,” says Hawtin. “On the DE9: Transitions album, there are 110 different tracks in all, and all of those tracks are broken into thousands of loops and samples. So the new organizational improvements in Pro Tools 7 are really helpful.”
Anything else? “You know what I found that was amazing: The ability to audition files from the desktop.” With Pro Tools launched, you can double-click on an audio file in the Windows Explorer or the Mac Finder and audition the file from within the DigiBase browser window. “I did this yesterday. I was able to go through a directory structure, find a file I wanted to hear, click on it, have it open in Pro Tools, and everything else that was audio in that folder came straight up and was accessible in Pro Tools. I was able to audition possible samples really quickly.”
For Sigurdsson, it is the MIDI features of Pro Tools 7 software that are most alluring. “I do all my MIDI within Pro Tools,” says Sigurdsson, “so I’m quite excited about the new MIDI features in Pro Tools 7. The new MIDI features are going to encourage me to do even more MIDI sequencing and programming.”
Though Sigurdsson does a fair amount of work in his native Iceland, he also travels quite a bit. So he definitely realizes the benefit of being able to use RTAS plug-ins on Aux Inputs and Master Faders on Pro Tools HD sessions — that feature makes it even easier to exchange Pro Tools sessions between a mobile rig and a full-on Pro Tools|HD studio. “I use a 002 with my laptop, and I notice that you can now port better between Pro Tools LE and Pro Tools|HD — that’s going to be really useful. It’s going to let me do more when I’m traveling. I can take a project from the studio on the road, and bring it back again, without having to worry about changing plug-ins.”
What are the most appealing features of Pro Tools 7 for Spock? “The Instrument tracks are an amazing addition,” says Spock. “In the past, my Pro Tools session template got to be so big — I had 40 MIDI tracks and then 40 Aux Input tracks. Scrolling across the page was a nightmare. Now I can really save some screen space.”
The addition of Instrument tracks and a range of other MIDI features will also help Spock keep a singular, simple set-up. “I know a couple of guys who have a dual setup, with Pro Tools for audio and another application for virtual synths. But my whole setup is customized so I can control my synths and everything from one rig. It’s conducive to getting ideas out quickly — that’s what I like. And when you guys make things easier for me, man, I’m excited!”
Real-time MIDI capabilities will also be welcome new features. “We really like being able to use a groove template and quantize in real time — slowly moving notes around until you find that pocket,” says Holmes. “The same is true for velocity. Being able to change the velocity of certain notes until you find the right sound — especially when they’re multi-layered — will be way easier now because you can do it all on the fly.”
How will the new features in Pro Tools 7 affect how Holmes and Spock work? According to Spock, “These changes are going to save me hours and hours of time.”