Digidesign continues to move forward with Pro Tools 6.4. Although it is not a “major” upgrade, there are enough new features to turn heads. In this release, Digidesign addresses primarily HD users in the mix and post production environments. While there are many useful additions to Pro Tools 6.4, the big news is Automatic Delay Compensation!
After years of requests from dedicated users, Digidesign has addressed the issue of plug-in delay. With version 6.4, Pro Tools compensates for delays on audio tracks, auxiliary inputs, and master faders due to plug-in use and mixer routing. The program also maintains time-alignment between tracks that have plug-ins with differing DSP delays, tracks with different mixing paths, tracks that are split off and recombined within the mixer, and tracks with hardware inserts.
The caveat, however, is that Pro Tools’ Delay Compensation eats DSP. Users may choose either a “short” setting that allocates minimal DSP resources or a “long” setting for maximum resources. Delay information is monitored in the Mix Window with the addition of the Delay Compensation Indicator. Users can view the total plug-in and hardware insert delays on each track. Also available is an offset field that lets you adjust track delays manually. This comes in handy when Pro Tools exceeds the maximum compensation limit (and yes, it does happen). Needless to say, automatic delay compensation is one exciting addition!
Another handy feature is TrackPunch. This nondestructive recording mode instantaneously punches in and out of individual tracks during playback. TrackPunch improves the old QuickPunch function by recording “on the fly.” Users can punch in and out of tracks using individual track record buttons instead of one global command. This is a convenient way to capture inspiration as it strikes during practice sessions, jams and warm-ups.
Working hand-in hand with TrackPunch is TrackInput monitoring. TrackInput toggles individual tracks between the input source and playback from disk. No more scrolling to the Operations menu to make changes. When TrackInput is used with TrackPunch, the process is similar to “rehearse” mode found on analog multitrack recorders. Have we come full circle?
Another nice addition is hierarchical plug-in menus. This feature automatically organizes plug-ins into respective categories. Instead of mousing through a long list of plug-in names, now they are organized into categories like EQ, Dynamics, Modulation, Reverb, etc. Pro Tools will even set up a Favorites list of commonly used plug-ins. These are displayed at the top of the plug-in menu.
More organization is provided with Track Position Numbers. Pro Tools automatically assigns a fixed sequential number to each track. By using the “scroll to track” menu option, it’s easy to go directly to a specific track location. For large sessions, this is a life saver. The only problem is to remember which track has which number.
Post customers have not been forgotten either. Pro Tools 6.4 now supports 23.976 fps for high-definition digital video and audio production. All Pro Tools pull-up and pull-down factors are also available at 23.976 fps. Also new is a Feet+Frame Rate selector in the Session Setup window. Users may select between rates of 25 fps, 24 fps, and 23.976 fps.
Digidesign has also boosted the Pro Tools fader gain from 6 dB over 0 dB to 12 dB. This boost applies to all faders in the session. Mix and mastering engineers will find this improvement useful for recordings made at lower signal levels.
Other nice touches include several enhanced clip meter indicators, a consolidated Machine Control and Remote Control preference page and a mirrored set of transport controls in the Edit window. Finally, Digidesign has added hardware support for their new integrated console, ICON (with its D-Control tactile work surface), along with AVoption|V10 (Windows XP only), and Command|8.
To be honest, I was most fascinated with the Automatic Delay Compensation. I opened a session and quickly looked for some big, fat plug-ins. My choices were the fantastic SoundToys plugs-ins. Each of these babies induced a healthy 1,028 samples of delay (23.32 milliseconds). With my humble HD1 system, I instantiated four of these on a mono bass drum track. The latency was horrendous – exactly what I wanted. With a total sample delay of 4,112, I tried the short DSP setting which allocated a 1,023 sample compensation. Not enough. I changed to the long setting and this provided compensation of 4,095 samples. That did the trick – very cool!
The other enhancements like TrackPunch and TrackInput worked liked a charm. The plug-in menu categories are fantastic and the track numbering system was very helpful.
What’s the verdict? Yes, this is another “must-have” upgrade. There are enough goodies in Pro Tools 6.4 to please most everyone. My only complaint is that there were no additions to the MIDI feature set. The good news, however, is that the next version of Pro Tools is right around the corner!
Applications: Studio, post production
Key Features: Support for Digidesigns ICON, AVoption|V10, and Command|8 Automatic Delay Compensation; Track Position Numbers; TrackPunch; TrackInput monitoring; Feet+Frame Rate selector; support for 23.976 fps
Price: $150 upgrade
Contact: Digidesign at 650-731-6198.