Pro Tools

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For other uses, see Pro Tools (disambiguation).
Pro Tools
Pro-Tools-9.jpg
Developer(s) Avid, formerly Digidesign
Initial release 1991; 23 years ago (1991)
Stable release Pro Tools 11 / June 21, 2013; 16 months ago (2013-06-21)
Operating system Mac OS X
Microsoft Windows
Type Digital Audio Workstation
License Proprietary
Website http://www.avid.com/products/family/Pro-Tools

Pro Tools is a digital audio workstation for Microsoft Windows and OS X, is developed and manufactured by Avid Technology. It is widely used by professionals throughout the audio industries for recording and editing in music production, film scoring, film and television post production, musical notation and MIDI sequencing. Pro Tools can run as standalone software, or operate using a range of external A/D converters and internal PCI or PCIe audio cards with onboard DSP.

Overview[edit]

Fundamentally, Pro Tools, like all digital audio workstation software, is similar to a multi-track tape recorder and mixer, with additional features that can only be performed in the digital domain. It supports 16-bit, 24-bit, 32-bit, and 64-bit float audio at sample rates up to 192 kHz, and can handle WAV, AIFF, AIFC, mp3, WMA, and SDII audio files and QuickTime video files. It features time code, tempo maps, elastic audio, automation and surround sound capabilities.

The Pro Tools mix engine has traditionally employed 48-bit fixed point arithmetic, but floating point is also used in some cases, such as with Pro Tools HD Native. The new HDX hardware uses 64 bit floating point summing.

History[edit]

Pro Tools was developed by UC Berkeley graduates Evan Brooks, who majored in electrical engineering and computer science, and Peter Gotcher. The first incarnation of Pro Tools started life in 1984 as Sound Designer, while the pair were creating and selling drum sound chips under their Digidrums label. Sound Designer was originally designed to edit sounds for the E-mu Emulator sampling keyboard, but was rapidly ported to many other sampling keyboards, such as the Akai S900 and the Prophet 2000, and thanks to universal file specification developed by Brooks, Sound designer files could be transferred to and from one sampling keyboard to another by a different manufacturer. This file specification, along with the printed source code to a 68000 assembly language interrupt driven MIDI driver, were distributed through Macintosh MIDI interface manufacturer Assimilation, which manufactured the first MIDI interface for the Mac in 1985. Macintosh Editor/librarian software development pioneers and visionaries, Beaverton Digital Systems, provided a dial-up service called MacMusic starting in 1985 which used 2400-baud modems and 100MB of disk, and used Red Ryder Host on a 1MB Macintosh Plus, allowing users of Sound Designer to download and install the entire Emulator II sound library to other less expensive samplers. MacMusic would now allow users worldwide to share sample libraries across different manufacturers platforms without copyright infringement. Beaverton Digital Systems president John Connolly already had several conversations with Evan Brooks in 1985, as he was listed as a contact for technical support for the Assimilation MIDI toolkit, and the current Apple operating system in 1985 did not have native MIDI communications drivers. One evening in 1986 at John Connolly's Beaverton, Oregon home, an alert was fired online from MacMusic requesting the system operator, and to Connolly's surprise it was none other than Peter Gotcher, thanking him for providing such a revolutionary service and making Sound Designer a much more attractive program to buy, by leveraging both the universal file format and by developing the first online sample file download site in the world, many years before the World Wide Web use soared.

[1] In 1987, Gotcher and Brooks discussed with E-mu Systems the possibility of integrating their renamed 'Sound Tools' software into the Emulator III. E-mu rejected this offer and the pair started Digidesign, with Gotcher as president and Brooks as lead engineer.[2]

Sound Tools[3] debuted on January 20, 1989 at NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers). At this stage Sound Tools was a simple computer-based stereo audio editor. Although the software had the possibility to do far more, it was limited by the hard drive technology, which was used to stream audio and allow for the non-destructive editing that Sound Tools offered.[4]

The first version of Pro Tools was launched in 1991, offering 4 tracks and selling for $6,000 USD. The core engine technology and much of the user interface was designed by and licensed from a small San Francisco company called OSC, known at the time for creating the first software-based digital multi-track recorder, called DECK, in 1990.[5] That software, manufactured by OSC but distributed by Digidesign, formed the platform upon which Pro Tools version 1 was built. The OSC designers and engineers responsible for that technology, Josh Rosen, Mats Myrberg and John Dalton, split from Digidesign in 1993 in order to focus on releasing lower-cost ($399)[6] multi-track software that would run on computers with no additional hardware. The software was known circa mid-1990s as Session (for stereo-only audio cards) and Session 8 (for multi-channel audio interfaces). Although the original design remained largely the same, Digidesign continued to improve Pro Tools software and hardware, adding a visual MIDI sequencer and more tracks, with the system offering 16 bit, 44.1 kHz audio recording. In 1997 Pro Tools reached 24 bit, 48 tracks. It was at this point that the migration from more conventional studio technology to the Pro Tools platform took place within the industry.[7]

Ricky Martin’s "Livin la Vida Loca" (1999) was the first No. 1 single to be recorded, edited, and mixed completely within the Pro Tools environment, achieved by Charles Dye and Desmond Child.[8]

More recently, Pro Tools was used for creating the audio for the games DJ Hero and Guitar Hero, using the modeling plug-in Eleven for the guitar sounds.[9]

Interface[edit]

Pro Tools 9 running on Windows

Most of Pro Tools' basic functions can be controlled within Edit or Mix windows. The Edit window displays audio and MIDI tracks, and provides graphical representation of the information recorded or imported. Here, audio can be edited in a non-linear, non-destructive fashion. MIDI information can also be manipulated. The Mix window displays each track's fader channel and allows for the adjustment of a channel's volume and pan, as well as being the usual place to insert plug-in effects and route audio to and from different outputs and inputs.

The creation of Pro Tools 8 added a MIDI edit window, which enables the user to manipulate MIDI data in either piano-roll or score windows. It also includes MIDI edit lanes so that the user can see note, velocity and other CC data in the same window. These additions took Pro Tools from the long standard 2 edit window approach to having 3 edit windows.

Real-time effects processing and virtual instruments in Pro Tools are achieved through the use of plug-ins, which are either processed by the DSP chips as DSP plug-ins, or the host computer as Native plug-ins. Additionally, out-of-time processing is available in the form of AudioSuite plug-ins, which also enables time-domain processing.

Systems[edit]

Pro Tools|HDX systems[edit]

In October 2011 Avid introduced the HDX line of DSP accelerated cards along with Pro Tools 10 software. The cards feature dedicated DSP processors by Texas Instruments, operating with better precision – 32 bit floating point VS 24 bit fixed (in the older generation 56k chips made by Motorola). The HDX line offers superior performance in terms of dynamic range, latency, and computational power, when compared to the older HD line. It is aimed at customers who require consistent peak performance and near-zero latency to handle extremely large and complex productions.

The "HD" line has been split to include "HD|Native" (without DSP) and HDX.

HD|Native systems use the host system's CPU for all audio processing while retaining the advanced workflows and sound quality of Pro Tools HD. HDX's primary advantage over HD remains the considerably lower latency with all DSP operations. However, HDX products have a fixed maximum number of "voices" (audio tracks). Up to three HDX cards can be used on a single system, for a maximum of 768 total "voices" (audio channels).

HDX systems accelerate digital signal processing for AAX plugins only. TDM technology is no longer supported with HDX products. (TDM stood for Time Division Multiplexing; though it was sometimes known as Time Domain Multiplexing.[10])

Avid stated that Pro Tools 10 will be the final release for Pro Tools|HD Process and Accel systems, and that TDM technology will be discontinued.

Pro Tools | HD systems[edit]

Pro Tools HD and HDX systems represent the company's professional product line. They rely on dedicated chips that aid audio processing, in conjunction with rack-mounted interfaces, which handle outgoing and incoming audio, MIDI, and sync connections. With the introduction of Avid's HDX line, HD ("native") interfaces no longer feature DSP, and this feature has been reserved for HDX only. HD and HDX systems utilise proprietary cables to interconnect with external units.

Older Pro Tools HD cards featured DSP chips from the Motorola 56k family. Newer HDX interfaces rely on DSP chips from Texas Instruments and have split facilities for managing track playback and signal processing operations. At launch Pro Tools HD cards were called HD Process cards. Approximately 2 years later, the HD Process cards were replaced by the HD Accel card, which was designed around a faster variant of the Motorola DSP chip and provided approximately twice the signal processing power per card. When Apple changed the expansion slot architecture of the G5 to PCI Express, Digidesign launched a line of PCIe HD Accel cards that both adopted the new card slot format and also slightly changed the combination of chips. There are TDM plug-ins that require the presence of Accel chips to run and therefore cannot run on the earlier non-Accel HD systems.

On October 6, 2010, Avid released Pro Tools HD Native, a lower cost PCIe card system designed for host-processing with fully functional HD software.[11] The Native PCIe card has a FPGA chip to facilitate an upgradable option to the card over time.

On November 4, 2010, Avid released Pro Tools 9, a lower-cost application that decoupled hardware from software. Among several new features, Pro Tools 9 has a new track feature named HEAT (Harmonically Enhanced Algorithm Technology), which is used for creating what many in the industry are calling HEDA (Harmonically Enhanced Digital Audio).[12]

When first available, Pro Tools systems relied exclusively on integral hard disks for storage and were thus limited to the storage options available on the Apple hardware platform. In 2002, AVID rebranded a proprietary SAN product called MediaNet and promoted it to Pro Tools users who were becoming aware of the benefits of network-based collaboration and workflows.[13] MediaNet was based on WindowsNT and could only be administered using Windows-based tools.

To date, neither Pro Tools HD Native nor Pro Tools 9 support commodity network attached storage, and MediaNet remains Avid's only supported option for accessing storage over the network.

There's however some positive experience of using remote storage with Pro Tools via iSCSI technology. A company from Netherlands, Ardis Technologies, produces a SAN solution based on iSCSI protocol, which is aimed primarily to the audio/video postproduction market. It is called DDP (Dynamic Drive Pool). It can use existing Gigabit Ethernet network and does not require additional hardware on the DAW side except Gigabit Ethernet adapter.

Pro Tools LE systems[edit]

The Pro Tools LE (Limited Edition) line is discontinued as of the release of Pro Tools 9.

Pro Tools LE systems performed data processing on the host CPU. Purchasers were required to choose from a range of proprietary audio interfaces, one of which was required for all audio I/O (recording and playback). The hardware thus doubled as a copy-protection mechanism for the software, as the software did not function without the specialized Digidesign interface.

The entry-level MBox range of interfaces connect via USB or Firewire 400. All have a stereo audio output, and include a small number of line and microphone inputs. The more powerful 003 (formerly 002) interfaces use FireWire and have significantly larger I/O capabilities. The Eleven Rack, in addition to its many input options, includes in-box DSP processing via a FPGA chip offloads the Eleven guitar amp/speaker emulation and guitar effects plug-in processing to the interface, allowing those plug-ins to run without taxing the host system.

Pro Tools LE had a similar look and feel to Pro Tools HD, but had a smaller track count and a lower maximum sampling rate. Pro Tools LE also lacked many features such as the ability to export to MP3, SMPTE time code, Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC), ability to import OMF and AAF files, DigiBase Pro, and multi-track Beat Detective. These features, along with higher track counts, could be accessed via the purchase of the "DV Toolkit" and "Music Production Toolkit" or "Complete Production Toolkit" upgrade packages. Under Pro Tools 9, these upgrades have changed and been combined to the "Complete Production Toolkit 2".

Pro Tools 9 system changes[edit]

In 2010–11, Pro Tools upgraded Pro Tools LE with some of the features of HD and effectively merged into a singular, hardware-independent software package known as Pro Tools Standard.

Pro Tools 9 has no proprietary hardware requirement, allowing use of the software with any interface. It can operate using the internal sound card of a PC via the ASIO driver and a Mac using Core Audio. Mac Core Audio also allows, for the first time, the use of aggregate devices, allowing the use of more than one interface at the same time. This can also be achieved on a PC by using the third party application ASIO4ALL. Pro Tools 9 also included a new keyboard shortcut for "New Playlist".[14]

When operating on a machine containing one or more HD Core, Accel or Native cards, the software will run as Pro Tools HD 9, with the full Pro Tools HD feature set. In all other cases it will run as Pro Tools 9, with a smaller track count and a number of advanced features turned off. However, non-HD Pro Tools 9 users can also gain access to the full feature set with the Complete Production Toolkit 2.

Pro Tools 9 also included as standard many features which on Pro Tools LE were only accessible via additional "Toolkit" upgrades.

Pro Tools 9 uses iLok for copy-protection. Pro Tools 9 is the first version to have one 'unified' installer for the software, with the iLok licence determining, which elements of the software are unlocked.

Pro Tools M-Powered systems[edit]

M-Audio, formerly Midiman, was acquired by Avid Technology in 2004–2005, and Digidesign soon released Pro Tools M-Powered, which brought Pro Tools LE functionality to a subset of M-Audio USB, FireWire and PCI interfaces. Pro Tools M-Powered uses an iLok license as copy protection and was formerly the only way to run Pro Tools without using Digidesign/Avid hardware.

Pro Tools M-Powered Essential[edit]

This is a scaled down version of the M-Powered system. It was aimed at the starter consumer market, and offers very limited scope, with only 16 tracks, no 3rd party plug-ins & limited USB device support.

Pro Tools SE[edit]

Pro Tools SE is a stripped down version of what used to be Pro Tools LE, also targeted at beginners. The software is sold in one of three bundles with a hardware unit for guitarists, keyboard players and vocalists. It also comes with the M-Audio Fast Track and MobilePre USB audio interfaces except for the "Ultra" sub-series. There is no option to upgrade to the full version of Pro Tools from Pro Tools SE.

Control surfaces[edit]

Digidesign/Avid control surfaces attempt to bridge the gap between old style analog desks and modern DAWs by providing physical controls for the Pro Tools software. These include the C|24, a 24-fader surface with 16 built-in pre-amps, and the ICON: Integrated Console Environment, combining a tactile control surface and a Pro Tools|HD Accel system in one unit. VENUE, a similar system, was released for live-sound applications. The Command|8 is a smaller eight-fader control surface.

Pro Tools compatible control surfaces have also been developed by other companies. For example, the Audient ASP2802 has integrated DAW control, and is compatible with Pro Tools as well as Logic Pro and Cubase.[15] It therefore provides an external analog mixing interface for the computer.

In April 2010, Avid acquired Euphonix, a manufacturer of high quality control surfaces.

Related products and services[edit]

An official Pro Tools training curriculum and certification program, which includes courses in music and post production, was introduced by Digidesign in 2002. The curriculum is delivered by a number of schools and universities.

The Music Production and DV toolkits increase the capabilities of non-HD Pro Tools systems. Both increase the maximum number of tracks and highest possible sample rate to 96 kHz and include additional plug-ins. The LE-only DV tool kit adds feet and frames and timecode timelines and functionality.

AIR (Advanced Instrument Research)[edit]

See also: AIR Users Blog

In August 2005, Avid acquired the German company Wizoo, formerly working mainly for Steinberg (Cubase, Nuendo) and developers of virtual instruments. They further announced the creation of AIR (Advanced Instrument Research), which meant Avid would be developing virtual instruments and plug-ins for use in Pro Tools.[16]

This also resulted in the landmark redevelopment of Pro Tools, versions 8 through 10. This relied heavily on the inclusion of AIR Virtual Instrument plug-ins to bring it closer to its competitor Logic Pro. Those included with Pro Tools Standard (called the Creative Collection) include:

  • Structure FREE, a sample playback instrument.
  • Boom, a beat box
  • Xpand2, a multi-timbral sample-playback/synthesis plug-in
  • DB33, a Hammond Organ emulator
  • Vacuum, a monophonic vintage synth.
  • Mini Grand, Piano.

AIR also contributes reverbs, dynamics, modulation and other effects as part of the Pro Tools, all of these work in native format only.

Some of the additional virtual instruments for Pro Tools that AIR has created include:

  • Hybrid, a high definition Synthesizer
  • Velvet, vintage electric piano
  • Transfuser, real-time loop, phrase and groove creator

In July 2012, inMusic, parent company of brands such as Akai Professional and Alesis, announced its acquisition of AIR from Avid,[17] as part of a larger acquisition that included Avid's consumer audio products and the M-Audio brand.[18][19]

Timeline[edit]

  • 1989 – Sound Tools – stereo recording & editing system
  • 1991 – Pro Tools 1.0 – 4 voices, ProDECK and ProEDIT software, MIDI, and automation
  • 1992 – Pro Tools 1.1 – support added for up to 4 cards/interfaces for 4–16 voices
  • 1993 – Pro Tools 2.0 – combined ProDECK and ProEDIT into one application
  • 1994 – Pro Tools III – 16–48 voices
  • 1997 – Pro Tools | 24 – 24-bit audio, 32–64 voices
  • 1997 – Pro Tools 4.0 – destructive editing, AudioSuite
  • 1998 – Pro Tools | 24 MIX and MIXplus – 64 voices, expanded DSP capabilities
  • 1998 – ProControl – first dedicated control surface for Pro Tools
  • 1999 – Pro Tools 5.0 – integrated MIDI sequencing
  • 1999 – Digi 001 with Pro Tools LE (Limited Edition) – RTAS host-based processing
  • 2000 – Pro Tools Free – 8 audio tracks, 48 midi tracks, RTAS support
  • 2001 – Pro Tools 5.1 – TDM version adds surround mixing, Beat Detective,
  • 2001 – Control 24 – control surface/interface with Focusrite preamps
  • 2002 – Pro Tools | HD – 96 kHz and 192 kHz audio
  • 2003 – Mbox and Digi 002
  • 2003 – Pro Tools | HD Accel system – additional DSP capabilities.
  • 2003 – Pro Tools 6.0 – support for Mac OS X
  • 2004 – ICON D-Control – control surface with Pro Tools | HD Accel
  • 2005 – VENUE – Pro Tools for live sound
  • 2005 – Mbox 2, Pro Tools M-Powered
  • 2005 – Pro Tools 7.0, 7.1 – supports Apple's PCIe G5,
  • 2005 – Avid acquires Wizoo and announce the creation of Advanced Instrument Research (AIR) as a development arm of Avid to create virtual instruments and plug-ins for Pro Tools.
  • 2006 – Pro Tools 7.2, 7.3 – support for Intel-based Mac
  • 2006 – Mbox 2 Pro; Mbox 2 Mini
  • 2007 – 003 and 003 Rack
  • 2007 – Mbox 2 Micro
  • 2007 – Pro Tools 7.4 – Elastic Audio
  • 2008 – Pro Tools 8 – Elastic Pitch, Score Editor, MIDI Editor, AIR plug-ins
  • 2008 – 003 Rack +
  • 2009 – Pro Tools Essential – limited track count for starter market
  • 2009 – "Eleven Rack" – guitar effects processor with Pro Tools LE DSP
  • 2010 – Pro Tools Mbox, Mini, Pro – third generation, first full release by Avid
  • 2010 – Pro Tools HD 8.1, Instrument Expansion Pack, Pro Tools HD Series Interfaces – I/O, OMNI, MADI, SYNC HD and PRE
  • 2010 – Pro Tools HD Native
  • 2010 – Pro Tools 9 – hardware independent, LE discontinued
  • 2010 – Avid acquires Euphonix and integrate EuCon protocols to Pro Tools, adding the Artist Series and System 5 Family to its arsenal of control surfaces.
  • 2011 – Pro Tools 10 / HD – Extended Disk Caching (loads sessions completely into RAM), Clip Gain.
  • 2011 – Pro Tools HDX – interface card; successor to "Accel" also unveiled at AES convention.
  • 2012 – Avid sells AIR to inMusic.
  • 2013 – Avid announces Pro Tools 11 which shipped in Q2, 2013. First 64-bit Pro Tools application. RTAS and TDM-plug-in support dropped in favor of AAX format.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]