Pro Tools TDM full review

Pro Tools (PT) 5.1 is here at last. The big news is that you get built-in multi-channel mixing, panning, and processing features. You can use these features to create surround-sound mixes for films and DVD discs. Not only can you mix in every popular surround-sound format – including Left Centre Right Surround (LCRS) 5.1, 6.1 and 7.1 – you can also work in several formats at the same time, by assigning multiple outputs and send destinations for each audio channel. Once your surround mix is complete, you can deliver several versions simultaneously by assigning tracks to multiple output paths at the same time. For example, if you’re working on a LCRS 7.1 mix, you can set up Pro Tools to also give you outputs for, say, a 5.1 and a stereo mix. However, these multi-channel formats are available only if you have a TDM system using MIX cards – not for older PT24 or PTIII systems, or for the LE software that works on the Digi 001 or Audiomedia III cards. What you do get with all 5.1 systems is stereo tracks – which most users have been crying out for. Tracking change
Another extremely useful development allows you to open and work with offline media. PT 5.1 can now open and modify a session, even if all the audio or video files for that session are not currently available. And, any edits that you make to tracks containing offline media are reflected in the session when the files are available again. Sessions must have been created with version 5.1 or greater for this feature to work – but this enhances the possibilities for moving your session around onto different systems. Also, to conserve DSP resources in a session, tracks, I/O assignments and plug-ins can now be set to inactive. Inactive items retain their various settings, routings and assignments, but are taken out of operation – freeing the DSP they were using for other uses. The original settings will remain saved, so you can always see what you’ve deactivated and return to these at any time. Even better, when you move a Pro Tools session to a system that has different plug-ins and I/O configurations, PT 5.1 will automatically deactivate tracks, plug-ins, sends, or I/O channels as necessary. At the same time, it will let you preserve your original session settings, so you can return to them when you move back to the original system. Multi-processing
PT 5.0 now allows you to open multiple plug-in windows – previous versions allowed you to open only one at a time. Also, TDM systems can now run both TDM and RTAS plug-ins simultaneously. This allows you to use the computer’s CPU to process your audio, as well as the DSP, on Pro Tools’ cards. The MIDI features have also been improved, through the addition of a List edit window. Here, you can view a list of the MIDI events recorded into any MIDI track, and edit these numerically – which can often be a lot quicker than editing graphically. Unfortunately, although you can record SysEx data, you cannot edit this. Also, the Split Notes command, which lets you take selected notes out of a track and paste them into another track, would not work properly for me. With the Grabber tool selected, it would cut the notes from a track, but wouldn’t let me paste them into a new track until I changed to the Selector tool. Still, I expect that Digidesign will sort out issues such as these, and add further improvements to the MIDI function in a later version. The user-interface has been given some thought in version 5.1. Two great new keyboard shortcuts really speed up your work. Track Toggle lets Audio tracks toggle between the Waveform and Volume view, while MIDI tracks toggle between Notes and Regions views. Just click in the track you want to toggle, shift-clicking to select multiple tracks if required, then press control-minus (-) simultaneously. Similarly, you can toggle between two views of a selection in the Edit window – adjusting the zoom level and track height automatically. Select one or more tracks then press control-E, and the selection will zoom to fill the Edit window. At the same time, the tracks containing the selection will be set to a track height of Large – with MIDI tracks automatically set to Notes view. Version 5.1 includes many other useful editing operations, including multiple undos, Tab to Transient for creating easy loops, and a Universe Window overview that allows you to quickly move to any point in your session. It also has Auto Save capabilities that save your session at user-defined intervals. Finally, Web programmers will be pleased to note that Pro Tools now supports Real Audio G2 export, MP3 and QuickTime audio import and export. If you’re working with surround sound, this upgrade is essential. For many users working with MIDI, the new List editor will be a strong attraction. And, everyone is going to like the Beat Detective – this one feature is worth the cost of the entire upgrade.
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