Q It Up: Still not using Pro Tools? Why haven’t you made the switch? -- Part 1

q-it-up-logo2Lots of feedback to our latest Q It Up question, so we're going to split it up and give it to you in two parts, with the second half coming next month.

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?

JV: I haven’t made the switch, and here’s my excuse: I went from analog 8-track to the DSE-7000/Audicy and right to Vegas. Along the way, I had the opportunity to “Test Drive” many of the new DAWs that came onto the market, as I was writing reviews on them for RAP. There were many great products, but none were as simple to use and teach as the Audicy. As time passed, I gave SAW and Cool Edit more than a test drive, and then discovered Vegas. When you launch it for the first time, you get a video editor. But when you shut down the video section, you’re left with one sweet audio machine. I’ve never driven Pro Tools, but I know its real-time rendering would annoy me. I like speed. And I haven’t seen or heard anything about PT that Vegas can’t do, other than look better on a resume. Still, the latest PT version, allowing use on any hardware setup, is tempting, and I’ll load up a demo someday soon just to see what all the fuss is about. But I’m not very optimistic about finding a more intuitive and versatile platform for radio than the one I’m using. I could be wrong about that, but I’ve had more than one PT user look over my shoulder and go, “Wow. That’s faster than Pro Tools.”

So what’s your excuse?

Steve Cook [steve[at]audiooven.com], Audio Oven, www.audiooven.com: Started using Audition about three years ago and still love it. I don’t know, I tried PT way back in the late ‘90s and was really turned off by all the plug-ins required. Is it still that way? I like for as much to be already on-board as possible. Just adds to the Proprietary Big Brother image of PT for me. I don’t know, I just always picture blindfolded gray-faced masses dressed in rocket-ship outfits entering into the government tunnel in Nevada for debriefing and re-programming.

HA! (not really, but I’m just sayin’...) I know I’m probably not being totally fair, but PT obviously doesn’t need my approval, and they certainly have never tried to change my mind (i.e. sent me any marketing collateral). Enh. Just not worth the expense and hassle of switching if you’re only doing spoken-word (mostly sub 17-Channel mixes) IMHO. I’ll keep my Audition and my floppy drive, thanks.

Paul Duffy [paul.duffy[at]98fm.com], 98FM, Dublin, Ireland: I’ve been making the transition over the past year, ha ha. I use Audition 2.0 in the work studio and have Aud 2.0 and Pro Tools 8 at the home studio.

 The biggest problem I have is that I have been using Audition all of my life (since the very first Cool Edit days). I know how to get stuff done and FAST! With Pro Tools, I know how to set up Aux’s and templates, getting stuff into and out of PT, but I am clumsy, at the moment, with the editing part – i.e. editing VSs and the workings of the edit window -- whilst making a promo. I get so frustrated that I close it down and start on Audition. That’s the reason my transition has taken a long, long time. Any tips on how to overcome that frustration??

Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge.com], Johnny George Communications, Inc.: I’ve been using Pro Tools since my Session 8 by Digidesign was outdated and they stopped supporting it. (1995?) I moved over to Pro Tools in my home studio (including Digi 001 & 003) and in my radio production studio at the station wherever I worked. I was on the full HD Pro Tools system at Susquehanna/Indianapolis when I left radio in 2006.

Pro Tools is simple, once you learn it, and it has all the bells & whistles I need in order to accomplish my VO work and occasional “full production” with effects, music and more. I have stopped upgrading my Mac OS due to the fact that my 003 wouldn’t work if I did, according to my IT guy. So I’m still on Mac OS 10.4 and don’t plan to upgrade until I am forced to and I go kicking and screaming to the next level. As a VO guy who normally doesn’t have to worry about anything more than auditions and projects with VO only, I’m set.

Blaine Parker [bp[at]slowburnmarketing.com], Slow Burn Marketing: Let’s get two things straight: 1) I am not a Production Director, so I know nothing, and 2) if you love Pro Tools, I’m probably gonna piss you off.

I’m a writer and performer who learned to produce his own work out of necessity. Typically, as a radio network Creative Director, it was often difficult to rely on radio station production personnel to do anything like what I wanted without either an argument, apathy, or bafflement. (The notable exceptions are the ever affable Bruce Barker of Right After This, and my former Production Director Bob Holiday, with whom I’ve picked up several national awards, including an ADDY and a couple of RAP and Mercury Awards.)

I learned to use SAW (sigh) and then Vegas by watching over Bob Holiday’s shoulder, and finally muddling through by myself. Vegas is enormously intuitive — to the point where I’ve taught myself to edit video without too painful a learning curve. (No doubt, I’m making horrendous mistakes — but I get by. I would also never offer up my work for broadcast. Yet.)

I’ve tried to use Pro Tools several times, and always been completely baffled by the interface. It’s not intuitive. It’s not pretty. It’s not even elegant like any of those lovely, deceptively unintuitive Mac applications that are so equally frustrating. (Oh, did I forget to mention: I’ll probably also piss you off if you love Mac. And yes, I used Macs for over a decade before switching to PC.)

I just don’t get the passion exhibited by riders on the Pro Tools bandwagon. I happened to mention using Vegas in an email to an NBC editor I was working with. I wasn’t even taking a position. It was just an idle comment. He shot back, “You, me, your Vegas, my crowbar. Behind Mel’s Diner in 20 minutes.”

Maybe it has to do with being first on the scene with a powerful application. But here now, a story.

I was talking with a friend who owns a Santa Monica recording studio. He primarily produces radio commercials for feature film releases. (You want to talk about layered SFX? These guys can spend hours creating mind-bending impact effects for horror and action releases.) He has an all-Mac, all-Pro Tools operation.

A few years ago, he saw a demonstration of Vegas before Sony bought it. He was so blown away by the audio tools, he asked if they were ever going to make it for Mac. They said, No. Next, he did the math on converting his entire operation from Mac to PC. He ultimately decided it was just not economically feasible. Had Vegas been available for Mac, he would have defected in a heartbeat.

Of course, I’ve already admitted: I don’t know anything. I’m not a Production Director. I’m not an engineer. Do I occasionally feel like the bastard stepchild for my inability to grasp Pro Tools? Yes. By the same token, I also don’t feel as though I’m any kind of slave to fashion. I muddle through. And if feeling like a bastard stepchild is the price I have to be, c’est la vie. Fortunately, they don’t give the awards for platforms or software. They give ‘em for what comes out the end of the pipe.

Note: Blaine Parker fully expects PT devotees to be lining up behind Mel’s Diner with their crowbars. Know that he lives many hundreds of miles from there in a well-fortified mountaintop bunker that you probably couldn’t find. Even if you could, the mountain roads would eat your car for lunch long before you ever made it to the top. For anyone who can get that far, he has a cold beer with your name on it. Regardless of your editing platform.

Chuck Matthews [chuckvoices[at]gmail.com], Chuck Matthews Productions: To go Pro Tools or to not go Pro Tools. It’s plagued me for some time. In the big picture I’d like to know the basics, but on the whole I can do anything with Adobe Audition and/or Sony Vegas that one can do with Pro Tools. Comes down to what you are comfortable with and whether you want to invest the time.

I don’t do much complex imaging work as I did a few years ago so I really don’t need PT, which arguably is overkill for radio production. As for straight VO work, AA is fine. And of course PT vs. AA/Vegas leads to PC vs. Mac. For the money I can’t see going Mac. If I have $2k laying around to spend on a Mac, maybe, but for $1200 I can have a flame throwing custom made PC to rival any Mac. Again, users’ preference.

Many well known producers have either dumped PT in favor of AA/Vegas (Ann DeWig did so years ago) or have always been a Vegas/(AA) user, like WEBN’s Joel Moss. Until he went Pro Tools about 3-4 years ago I believe John Frost was still producing on an old Orban Audicy. All of the aforementioned I believe produce some stellar work... without Pro Tools.

I would consider a Mac Pro laptop running Twisted Wave but that’s about it. One day I want to learn PT, the other... screw it I don’t “need” to learn it. I use Adobe 1.5 (and 3.0 for Source Connect) along with Sony Vegas/Soundforge products. I LOVE the Vegas plugs, especially the Dynamics processor. And of course I use Waves DX/VST plugs compatible with AA and Vegas. Now, with the above stated, I am considering getting PT/Avid LE since costs have come down more. But AA will always be my go-to, especially for straight VO.

Alan Peterson [apeterson[at]radioamerica.org], Radio America Network, Arlington, Virginia: I installed a Pro Tools system and taught some classes at the Washington, DC campus of the Connecticut School of Broadcasting several years ago. IMO, it’s a superb system but overkill for primary radio production. The MIDI sequencing features might for the most part be irrelevant to all but the hardest hardcore production engineers. Plug-ins can be expensive. And until recently, it would not run on anything other than its own proprietary audio hardware.

I am using a mix of Cool Edit, Audition and Ardour (Linux-based audio editor) with an assortment of free VST and LADSPA plug-ins for processing and mastering, which works on everything from high-end audio interfaces to crap-tastic $8 soundcards.

I won’t turn down a job because the on-site editing software isn’t among my favorites. I would work with Pro Tools if that were the editor of choice at the house. If I had to, I could probably get audio out of an abacus if that was what the facility had. It isn’t the tools, it’s the carpenter.

Erin “D*J*E” Jacobson [dje[at]dje-entertainment.com], D*J*E Entertainment: I’ve tried many programs along the way, with some being easier to use than others. While using a PC, I was very happy with Samplitude. It was a full service program and looked good with all the knobs and faders just like a real board. When I switched to a Mac platform, I also switched to Pro Tools, M-Audio version. I am happy with Pro Tools and feel it is a great program, despite a few difficulties. It is not the most user-friendly program, but can become very easy with some practice and light training. The real downside to Pro Tools is its incompatibility with certain Mac OS updates; one has to wait until DigiDesign approves a Pro Tools version for use with an OS update. Never update your OS if Pro Tools has not yet been approved for use with an OS version (or other program updates). If you do, Pro Tools won’t work and you may crash the computer. I have had hard-drive crashes with Pro Tools before -- always backup your data!

Jeff Berlin [rapmag[at]jberlin.com], www.jeffberlin.com: I initially started with Dyaxis. But in 1992 Kiss 108 let me pick the workstation I was going to get. I spent a lot of time at Parsons Audio near Boston, where I tried Spectral Synthesis, Sonic Solutions, the Roland DM80, the Orban Audicy, and Pro Tools. I decided Pro Tools was destined to become the industry standard, and have been on it ever since. Back then it was Pro Deck and Pro Edit -- two programs loosely integrated. Version 1. Back then it took 20 minutes to program a fade out. Screen redraws took 30 seconds. I don’t miss running that 25MHz Mac IIci.

Today I view the differences between Digital Audio Workstations as the differences between languages and religions. They share similar functionalities, so you should use whatever you know best and feel most comfortable with. The work I’ve heard from the likes of K3 and Frost on older, outdated platforms verifies that it’s not the tool that matters -- it’s what the user decides to do with it.

Chris Stevens [chris[at]devaweb.co.uk], GMG Radio, Manchester, UK: Until Pro Tools sorts out non-real-time bouncing, there’ll always be a place for Adobe Audition! And, while PT is much cheaper, it’s still clunky on PCs, and it still needs some decent plug-ins to make it worthwhile. Whereas Adobe on a battered PC can still be very flexible.

So, I’ll opt for ‘both please’. I use Pro Tools for everything from jingle composition through to promo production, but if I’ve got a podcast to make, or a stack of traffic sponsor tags, I’m back into Adobe.

Craig Jackman [Craig.Jackman[at]ottawaradio.rogers.com], Rogers Media, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: I’ve used PT for less than an hour in my career. It’s not that it’s not good; it’s just that when we switched to DAWs, we started with a different program as the GM wanted everything on PC. So I ended up going the CEP/Audition route with CEP 1.1 and haven’t veered off it up to Audition version 3.0. I’ve never felt the need to switch as Audition provides me all the tools I need, and I’ve got enough knowledge of the program, now I’m the corporate guru on answering other users questions. Audition remains the default choice for production in all our smaller stations, and some of the larger ones too. If I was going to switch to another program it would be something like Reaper, which is fully featured, inexpensive as opposed to cheap, is constantly updated, and has a rabid following, much like the original CEP followers.

David Tyler [david[at]davidtyler.com], www.davidtyler.com: I’ve been using Pro Tools since Pro Tools FREE back on Mac OS9. I delayed my upgrade to OSX hoping there would be a free version for the platform. When there wasn’t, I bought my first Mbox with Pro Tools LE and haven’t looked back. I just upgraded to Pro Tools 9 and have chosen the Apogee Duet 2 as my new hardware to go with it.

Pro Tools is ‘the’ studio standard software. There isn’t one studio that I work in that doesn’t have it. At a minimum, being proficient in Pro Tools is a must for anybody who works in sound. Mind you, I do use Logic for music production, but when it comes time to put a commercial production or imaging package together, I move over to Pro Tools for its ease of use and intuitive interface.

Josh R [b96joshr[at]me.com], CBS Radio/WBBM-FM B96, Chicago, Illinois: Let’s see here... I started on an old digital editor made by Spectral Audio which was the industry standard at the time and gave you the feel of editing tape with the JL Cooper (CS-10) which I believe is still in production today! What it’s used for... no clue. All I know is to date I have yet to hear any D/A hardware that sounds better than the original. As the years passed I moved to a Creamware system called TripleDAT. It was fast yet buggy but I pushed it to its limit. Years later I discovered Ableton 4 & Fruity Loops! I found them to be the best and easiest for making music beds/remixes with the help of a few plugs.

Ahhhh Pro Tools! Until recently it required its own hardware, the audio drivers were buggy as hell (and still are) and I didn’t think it was as fast as everyone claimed it was/is. Unless of course you invested in a 30k HD system. A lot of people always complained about the real-time rendering (which is a pain)... So moving on... Pro Tools sounds great with its own hardware, i.e. DIGI003, and using the hardware with other audio applications I do notice a difference in resolution and overall quality of audio. So I don’t recommend using their hardware with other software suites. Shoot for an Apogee or Motu unit. Currently I juggle between Ableton, Logic, Pro Tools and Bias Peak 7.

Bottom line is, they all can do the same thing and sound good. Use what you’re comfortable with! Hope this helps! You can e-mail me with any questions at B96JoshR[at]me.com.

Bill Jackson [bjackson[at]jrfm.com], 93.7 JRfm / 100.5 The PEAK: When I walked into this job 16 years ago, we were using 4-tracks, with a SAW program on a PC in a back studio that we played around with. We went right from 4-track analog to Pro Tools, based on the research and recommendation of our Chief Engineer, who’s a big Mac fan. It’s all I’ve ever known. We have 3 studios all running Pro Tools 8, with Factory 003 boards. Works for us.

Gavan Bruderer [gavanbruderer[at]gmail.com], North Ogden, Utah: I think Pro Tools is a phenomenal program. However, the main reason it is not my main DAW (I use Adobe Audition and Reaper) is because of a monumental moment in pop culture history. I had been using Pro Tools for a few months, and loved it. It was great. Except for one thing.... real-time bounce.

So on June 25th, 2009, Michael Jackson died. As a CHR producer for multiple stations, my email inbox was FULL of memorial requests. Program Directors wanted sweepers, legal IDs, music mashups. You name it, and they wanted it. With the amount of requests, and the turnaround time needing to be ASAP, I didn’t use Pro Tools. When I realized how much time I had wasted waiting for such a sophisticated software to render out, I made the switch back to Adobe Audition, and have never looked back. Oh, and don’t even get me started on audio hardware issues. I know that now all you need is an iLok to run Pro Tools, but why would I waste money on it again when it still can’t do the one basic thing to make a producer’s life easier? I respect all users of Pro Tools, and like Dave Foxx has said, it’s about the producer, and not the software.

Joe Meinecke [jmeinecke[at]mkeradiogrp.com], Milwaukee Radio Group, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: For several years my personal opinion has been that Pro Tools is for musicians and not really designed for radio people. Since starting in the industry I’ve gone from SAW to the very efficient Adobe Audition 3.0. When we decided to move on from SAW we demoed everything from the quirky Nuendo to Pro Tools. After going through the demo of Pro Tools, “I” personally found it to be overkill and a major time waster for radio people – especially the real-time rendering! Pro Tools proved to be inefficient for our everyday needs. Currently I am still using Adobe Audition 3.0 – easy to use, slick graphics, quick editing and mixing.

Scott Paulette [scott[at]equipfm.org]: That’s basically what I would write [referring to JV’s ‘excuse’ at the top]! (Although I use AA, I’ve wanted to try Vegas but never got to it. I did sample Sound Forge once and loved it, but I was always annoyed that Vegas and Sound Forge were kept apart. Why not integrate so you have something more like Cool Edit Pro/AA -- an all-in-one thing?) Oh yeah, I did use SAW for a while but Cool Edit trumped it.

Part 2 coming next month! 

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