Archive for September, 2010

HEAT Explained

Since posting my Top 5 Questions About the AVID Pro Tools HD Gear, I’ve opened up a dialog with the company. AVID recently sent me a link to a video interview with HEAT creator Dave Hill where he explains what the processor does and how it compares to his Phoenix plug-in. Dave is one of the few audio designers that is able to take his analog knowledge and successfully port it over to the digital realm. The video is a great insight into his thinking process when he creates analog models.

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5 Things I Learned at Mix Nashville

Mix Nashville ended a week ago and it was the best and most successful show the Mix crew has done to date. The panels were great and as always, I came away with solid insights into musicmaking and what’s on the audio horizon. Here are 5 of the best things I came across during the show.

  1. Grammy winning engineer Vance Powell (Jack White, Raconteurs, Dead Weather) is making a record with Seasick Steve. If you don’t know who that is, you should. He is an Oakland, CA native blues musician who is absolutely huge in the UK and Europe. Vance told me it was an all-analog record cut to 8 tracks and if it’s anything like Vance’s past work, it should rock. See the video at the bottom of the page from the Jools Holland show.
  2. Forget what you thought about downloads being the majority of new music sales. At an eye-opening dinner with Andrew Kautz, General Manager of Big Machine Records (Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Trisha Yearwood), he stated that for new releases, CDs still account for 80% of sales through outlets like WalMart and Best Buy.
  3. Mix Nashville panelists Shane Wilson and Russ long have DVDs available on the AudioInstruction website that take you through recording and mixing sessions. Knowing what these guys have done, I can only guess that these DVDs are packed with great info.
  4. Limitations are your friend. During the event, panelists stressed over and over the importance of knowing your limitations and using them to your advantage. For instance, Dave Brainard, producer of Jerrod Neimann‘s chart-topping record Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury, cut the entire record in a small office/recording space in Nashville with no budget. Neimann had been dropped by his record label and Brainard took the project on spec. He played a lot of the parts himself with the help of musician friends and Neimann sang all his own harmonies. Vance Powell also rang the “less is more” bell in his panel by stating that “just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.” So whether your limitations are based on circumstance or self-imposed. Embrace them.
  5. Like Candy Red Rocks. The band who closed our event consists of a three-piece rhythm section and three singing sisters that rocked the parking lot at Soundstage. Panelist and Nashville engineer Terry Christian introduced me to the drummer and told me that he and producer Michael Omartian often use the core of the band for production because they are solid as a section, know when NOT to play and are all great players. All true. Add the sisters who offer great vocals and eye bling and you’ve got an entertaining evening. Check the vid just below.

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Coming Soon! Pro Tools EuCon

I just got off the phone with Avid’s Mark Williams, Bobby Lombardi and Christi Dean, who read my Top 5 Questions about The New Avid Pro Tools HD Gear and wanted a chance to respond. They did hold their cards pretty close in response to some of the questions but it was a very positive and revealing call that put the products in a new light.

One of the best revelations discussed is the fact that “within months,” Pro Tools will be Eucon compatible. This is not too surprising since they bought Euphonix in the spring, but it seemed to happen pretty quickly. If you’re not up to speed on Eucon, it is a high-speed Ethernet protocol developed by Euphonix to allow a hardware control surface to directly communicate with a range of software applications. Having Pro Tools onboard with Eucon opens up a world of possibilities for all types of audio production including sound for picture, live and studio. This doesn’t mean that Pro Tools is an open platform as Nuendo and others, but it is certainly a big step in making their software work with a broader range of hardware.

Here’s the upshot of the conversation in regards to the original Top 5 Questions:

Q: Why not change the cards too?

 A: This is the question where Avid held their cards closest to their chest saying they were “not prepared to reveal any specific products or release dates for upgrades.” What they did say was that they are on the fast track with beta testers and dedicated to moving forward with product development. I would guess that these are Euphonix related, with Pro Tools Eucon compatibility being the first salvo.

Q: What about Sync HD?

A: The question in the original post was not necessarily an expectation, but an answer to those HD owners who may wonder about Sync HD. Avid verified what I said in the post, which is that Sync HD is getting a cosmetic upgrade only and there is no specific tech changes coming to this interface.

Q: Why doesn’t HEAT offer individual channel controls? 

A: The answer here provided by Bobby Lombardi was the back story that should have been told in the original release. The code was written from the ground up: This is not a rehash of Dave Hill’s Phoenix Plug-in. The intention was not to offer individual control but mimic a subtle console feel system wide, that can be toggled on or off per channel. Lombardi said it was more like Crane Song’s HEDD processor, which mimics the distortion characteristics of analog tape and triode and pentode tubes. I’ll get to play with it extensively very soon in the Esquire House studio I’ve been working on and let you know if Heat is Hot.

Q: Does Pro Tools 8.1 fix promised bugs? 

A: The bugs promised to be fixed by Pro Tools 8.0.5 (which is still coming and specific to legacy hardware)  are still being worked on. I know it sounds confusing that 8.0.5 and 8.1 can both be new, but 8.1 is specific to the HD IO/OMNI/Heat release. While we were talking, Lombardi tracked the specific problems I spoke about in my Top 3 Most Annoying Pro Tools 8 Bugs post and while he couldn’t promise they’d be fixed in 8.0.5, he said they were on the list and would be addressed soon.

Q: What about Euphonix?

A: Avid was once again tight-lipped about this most recent acquisition, but Lombardi’s enthusiasm about the future was palpable. I’ve got a feeling they “get it” in regards to the potential here and I’m honestly excited about what they’ve got up their sleeve.

I commend Avid for responding to my questions as it shows they are watching and care what their high-end users are thinking. My intention is not to be the gadfly, but to represent the average user who may feel they don’t have a voice and is often too busy making a living recording, editing and mixing great audio to comment. Speaking of which, if you’ve got a  minute, please write your comments below and let your voice be heard. You can also take part in our related poll at Mixonline which as of now is leaning positively in relation to the new gear.

Current Mix Poll Results:

Now that Avid and Apogee have released new products for Pro Tools HD, budget aside, how would you upgrade your system?

I’m an Apogee fan all the way and would consider the Symphony IO my first choice: 22%

The new Avid Pro Tools HD IO looks great and I would put my money on that product: 46%

My system is rock solid now so I’d take the money I’d spend and put it into other gear: 30%

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