Pro Tools

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Pro Tools

Pro Tools LE 7.3 screenshot on Mac OS X
Developed by Digidesign
Latest release Pro Tools HD/LE 8.0cs2 / 2009-02-26; 44 days ago
Operating system Mac OS X
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Type Digital audio workstation
License Proprietary

Pro Tools is a Digital Audio Workstation platform for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems, developed and manufactured by Digidesign, a division of Avid Technology. It is widely used by professionals throughout the audio industries[citation needed] for recording and editing in music production, film scoring, film and television post production. Pro Tools has three types of systems; HD, LE, and M-powered. HD is the high-end package and is an integration of hardware and software. The hardware includes an external A/D converter and internal PCI or PCIe audio cards with onboard DSP.


[edit] Overview

Fundamentally, Pro Tools is similar to a multitrack tape recorder and mixer, with additional features that can only be performed in the digital medium. The high-end version supports sample rates of up to 192 kHz and bit depths of 16 and 24 bit, opens WAV, AIFF, mp3, SDII audio files and QuickTime video files. It features time code, tempo maps, automation and surround sound capabilities.

[edit] Interface

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 to the level of individual samples. 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.

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 TDM plug-ins, or the host computer as RTAS (Real Time AudioSuite) plug-ins.

[edit] Pro Tools systems

[edit] Pro Tools HD systems

When run from a host Apple Mac or Windows PC, HD systems perform most audio processing on DSP cards, and use external, rack mountable interfaces to handle incoming and outgoing audio. TDM, a proprietary interconnect based on time-division multiplexing, is used for communication between the devices.

Pro Tools systems have long relied on dedicated DSP cards to handle most audio processing, due to the fact that at the time Pro Tools was first developed, consumer-level computers were not powerful enough to process high-end digital audio. [1] A HD Core PCI card or an Accel Core PCIe card is required in a HD 1 system; the inclusion of one or two additional Accel cards upgrades the system to HD 2 or 3 respectively, and increases the system's overall processing power, allowing for higher track counts and more plug-ins. An 'Expansion HD' product increases capability up to a total of 7 cards using Digidesign's PCI-X expansion chassis product, which is available with both PCI-X and PCIe host cards for the computer.

When Pro Tools HD was launched, HD Process cards were available, but owing to supply problems from DSP manufacturers Motorola[citation needed], the line was redesigned and rebranded HD Accel, which offers faster DSP chips and additional RAM. All cards contain 9 DSP chips. When Apple changed the expansion slot architecture of the G5 to PCI Express, Digidesign launched a line of PCIe HD Accel cards. The PCIe HD Core is now an 'Accel Core', whereas the original PCI-X Core remains 'non-Accel'. There are TDM plugins that require the presence of Accel chips to run and therefore cannot run on the earlier non-Accel HD systems.

[edit] Pro Tools LE systems

Consumer-level Pro Tools LE systems perform all data processing on the host CPU. However, a Digidesign audio card (bundled with the software) is used for all audio I/O (recording and playback); Pro Tools LE will not run atop a normal consumer-grade sound card. The hardware thus doubles as a copy-protection mechanism for the software, as the software will not function without the specialized Digidesign sound card.

There are two families of external interfaces for Pro Tools LE systems. The original MBox (2002) and current MBox 2 family connects to, and is powered by, a host computer through USB (except the FireWire connected MBox 2 Pro). All have a stereo audio output, and all but the MBox 2 Micro have two line inputs and at least one microphone pre amp. The Digi002, and currently, Digi003 family is a series of FireWire connected interfaces, with larger I/O capabilities, additional methods of inputting audio and four microphone pre amps.

The Pro Tools LE software is essentially a limited version of the HD counterpart, with a smaller track count, no Automatic Delay Compensation (ADC), and lower maximum sampling rate. As no additional DSP cards are required or supported, only RTAS plug-ins can be used. There is a VST to RTAS converter software utility made by FXpansion[1] that will convert VST plugins to RTAS format.

Time code based grid and import of OMF and AAF files is not available in Pro Tools LE without purchase of the DV Toolkit or Complete Toolkit software addons.

[edit] Pro Tools M Powered systems

M-Audio, formerly Midiman, was acquired by Avid Technology in 2004-2005, and in April 2005, Digidesign released Pro Tools M-Powered which brought almost all Pro Tools LE functionality to a subset of M-Audio USB, Firewire and PCI interfaces. M Powered requires a separate dongle for copy protection.

[edit] Control surfaces

Digidesign control surfaces attempt to bridge the gap between old style analogue desks and modern DAWs by providing physical controls for the Pro Tools software. The latest control surface is the C|24, successor to the Control|24, a 24 fader control surface with 16 built in Focusrite "A" Class Mic Preamps. A fairly new addition to the range is 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. These large control surfaces use an Ethernet connection to the host computer, but for Pro Tools users with smaller needs, the Command|8 is a small eight fader control surface which connects via USB.

[edit] Related products and services

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

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 numerous additional plug-ins. The LE only DV Toolkit adds feet and frames and timecode timelines and functionality.

[edit] AIR (Advanced Instrument Research)

In August 2005 Avid acquired the German company Wizoo, developers of software based virtual instruments. They further announced the creation of AIR (Advanced Instrument Research) a strategic development which meant Avid would be developing virtual instruments and plug-ins for use in Pro Tools.

[edit] Pro Tools timeline of releases

  • 1989
Sound Tools stereo recording & editing system
  • 1991
Original Pro Tools system is released featuring 4 voices, ProDECK and ProEDIT software, MIDI, and automation
  • 1994
Pro Tools III system, provides 16-48 voices
  • 1997
Pro Tools | 24 (24-bit audio)
  • 1998
Pro Tools | MIX (expanded DSP capabilities for mixing audio)
  • 1999
Digi 001 with Pro Tools LE (light edition of Pro Tools)
  • 2002
Pro Tools | HD system (supports 96 kHz and 192 kHz HD audio); Mbox and Digi 002 (March and Sept.)
  • 2003
Pro Tools | HD Accel system (additional DSP capabilities); Pro Tools Users group founded in Los Angeles.
  • 2005
VENUE (Pro Tools for live sound); Mbox 2; Pro Tools M-Powered (Aug); Pro Tools 7.0 (Nov), 7.1 (supports Apple's PCIe G5) (Dec.) Avid acquire Wizoo and announce the creation of AIR (Advanced Instrument Group) as a strategic development arm of Avid, creating Virtual instruments and Plug-Ins for use in Pro Tools.
  • 2006
Pro Tools 7.2 (Aug.) and 7.3 (Dec.); Pro Tools LE and HD support Intel-based Mac (May and Sept. respectively); Mbox 2 Pro; Mbox 2 Mini
  • 2007
003 and 003 Rack (Feb.); Mbox 2 Micro (Oct.); Pro Tools 7.4 (Nov.) (Elastic Audio)
  • 2008
Pro Tools 8 (Elastic Pitch, Score Editor, MIDI Tools); 003 Rack +

[edit] References

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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