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Author Topic: digidesign pro tools 4.0 upgrade (March 1997)  (Read 1834 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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digidesign pro tools 4.0 upgrade (March 1997)
« on: August 01, 2019, 12:46:55 PM »

Digidesign Pro Tools 4.0
Digital Audio Software Upgrade

There are now more options on the market than ever before for anyone wishing to indulge in hard disk recording and editing. PAUL D LEHRMAN previews the latest update for the popular Pro Tools system, designed to keep Digidesign on top amidst increasing competition.

Digidesign's latest and greatest version of the software for their signature hard-disk recording and editing system, Pro Tools 4.0, is scheduled to be released by the time you read this. It's not the revolutionary jump that the last Pro Tools upgrade was -- Pro Tools III, you may remember, not only revamped the software but essentially required that you turn in your old hardware for new -- but it's a significant step forward for the system, with lots of clever and well-designed new features. While Pro Tools has always been particularly well regarded for its editing capabilities, the new version improves the system's recording and mixing functions substantially, bringing them closer to the level of its editing, both in sophistication and usability.

I was able to see a late Alpha version of the system, a few weeks before the Los Angeles AES convention, and just before it went into the Beta-testing stage. There were some instabilities in this version, but all of the new features were up and running, and many are impressive indeed.

First things first: what do you need to run this software? Well, there are quite a few hardware choices available. Pro Tools 4.0 can run on a Power Mac with no extra hardware at all, using the internal 16-bit sound. The output will be stereo, but the number of tracks can be 4, 8, or even more, depending on the speed of the CPU and the hard disk. On this platform, the program is fully functional, except that real-time DSP is not available. The next step up is Digidesign's Audiomedia III card for PCI Macs, which offers better and faster performance but still only two outputs. Then there's the 'Project' card, which used to be known as Session 8, and has eight analogue ins and outs. Finally, to take advantage of everything the program has to offer, you need a full-blown Pro Tools III system, which starts at eight tracks and goes upwards, and comes equipped with one or more DSP-farm cards. Both PCI and NuBus versions of Pro Tools III are supported, the latter, says the company, "for some time to come," in case you were worried (which I am). Older Pro Tools systems, however, are not officially supported, although they may still work.

The program code for Pro Tools 4.0 has been optimised for Power Macs, so that it runs a lot faster. This is especially apparent in screen redraws of tracks, which seem almost instantaneous, and with on-screen metering, which now has ballistics remarkably close to a real plasma display (and in three colours!) The improvement is also evident, if not quite as obviously, in other areas, such as DSP crunching and crossfade calculation. On pre-Power PC Macs, there is also some performance improvement, but it's not nearly as great.

The severe restrictions on file formats in previous versions are gone: Pro Tools 4.0 can read and write audio in Sound Designer II, AIFF, .WAV, SND, and QuickTime Movie formats, using a wide range of sampling rates and word lengths -- a welcome development for multimedia producers. Format conversion is automatic when you import a file, and when you perform a conversion, either coming in or going out, you can specify the quality and speed, (which are inversely proportional) of the result.

Probably the most important improvement in the software is the way in which it handles automation. Faders can now be grouped, and groups nested within each other. Up to 26 groups can be set up, and they can be enabled or disabled, individually or globally, without changing their configuration. Moving any fader in a group moves all of them, and they all move proportionately to each other. There are four modes for automation: play only; write; an update mode called Touch, in which the fader reverts (or 'glides') back to the previous level when you let go of it (the glide time is programmable); and Touch Latch, an update mode in which the fader stays put after you've moved it.

Automation can now be applied not just to level and pan, but to any parameter on the screen, whether it's a built-in function such as EQ, or a third-party plug-in. Parameter controls are record-enabled in just the same way as fader or pan controls. Once you've recorded a parameter change, the track can be displayed as a horizontal line on the edit screen, just like level changes, and can be adjusted in that screen using the 'hand' cursor. In fact, this can be done while the program is playing -- it no longer comes to a sudden halt whenever you move anything on the edit screen -- and while you're adjusting the parameter, its current value (EQ centre frequency, decay time, delay feedback gain, or whatever) is displayed right next to it. Unfortunately, you can only view one parameter at a time on this screen -- maybe that will change in Pro Tools 5.


"'s a significant step forward for the system..."

When automation is being recorded in real time, the program creates a new event every 5ms -- which Digidesign say is even faster than an SSL desk. This much data can load down the computer, however, so a 'Thin Automation' function, similar to the 'Thin controllers' function in many MIDI sequencers, is provided. This can be applied automatically after each pass, or used manually. Solos and mutes (which now work instantaneously and intelligently, so that soloing a reverb, for example, doesn't shut off all of the inputs to the reverb!) also have their own automation track.

There's a new 'narrow mix' display mode, in which the faders slim down so that 27 of them will fit onto a 17-inch screen. This will be helpful to anyone who uses a lot of tracks and wants to see them all. For further slimming of the screen, a 'Show/Hide' window lets you remove tracks that you don't need to see from the screen, while continuing to play them. The Show/Hide window is itself hideable!

In addition to being able to set up automation groups, you can define editing groups, so that slicing and dicing one track can affect all of the others in a group. Groups can overlap each other, and any group can be designated as an edit group, an automation group, or both.

The other major change in Pro Tools 4.0 is that destructive editing of files has now been brought inside the Pro Tools environment. Previously, the program was strictly non-destructive: if you wanted to change an actual sound file, it had to be exported into another program, like Sound Designer II, modified, and then brought back into Pro Tools. Most of Sound Designer's functions are now in Pro Tools, and when you modify a file destructively, it stays right where it was, so you don't have to re-import anything. (One reason for including these functions is that making Sound Designer compatible with the new PCI machines would have meant rewriting it from scratch -- it's a 10-year-old program -- and Digidesign, understandably, were not too eager to do that!)

There are now five levels of screen height available for each track, the largest one being about the size of a typical Sound Designer window. A new icon has joined the Pro Tools Toolbar: Sound Designer's pencil. When you zoom in on a soundfile far enough, you can redraw the waveform with the pencil.

The destructive audio functions are found in the Process menu; the usual operations, such as normalise, reverse, change level, and so on, are available, and a new function removes any DC offset from a file. When a region is edited, the program gives you the choice of creating a new soundfile or overwriting the old one, but regardless of which you choose there is always an Undo facility available. The Process menu will gain additional functions as third-party developers modify their Sound Designer and TDM plug-ins for the new software. This new plug-in architecture is known as AudioSuite, and it can be used with even the lowliest Power Mac-only Pro Tools system. A welcome corollary to this feature is that multiple regions, when shift-selected in the Regions window, can be batch-processed by any operation in the AudioSuite, in a single stroke.

The playlist feature of Sound Designer has also been brought into Pro Tools 4.0, and up to 99 playlists -- that is, different arrangements of audio material -- can co-exist on a single track. This can help when you have several alternative takes of an instrument or vocal in a recording: you can use different playlists with a single set of processing parameters, instead of multiple virtual tracks, each of which needs its own automation, EQ, reverb, etc, and so on.

There's a lot more to Pro Tools 4.0. Regions can be sorted by name, date created, SMPTE time, or other criteria. A true destructive-record function, which permanently wipes out unwanted takes, has been implemented. You can now draw your own crossfade curves, and a representation of how the resulting waveform looks is displayed as you draw. As I said, lots of clever new stuff. The rest of the features list will have to wait until after the software is released, and we have a chance to dig into it at length. I'll let you know what I come up with!

£ Pro Tools 4 Core System (PCI) £7131; NuBus £6238. Prices inc VAT. Version 4.0 software upgrade for Pro Tools III owners, free; a reduced-cost exchange system is in place for owners of pre-Pro Tools III systems.

A Digidesign UK, Avid Technology Ltd, Westside Complex, Pinewood Studios, Iver Heath, Pinewood, Bucks SL0 0NH.

T 01753 654999.

F 01753 653322.

Digidesign Pro Tools® 4.0 Software
Pro Tools performance will be enhanced by both dramatic feature improvements and Power Macintosh native code. In addition to faster graphics re-draws, improvements will be noticeable in every major area - including recording, editing, and mixing.

Recent enhancements to Pro Tools have focused on its mixing capabilities. With this release, the mixing feature-set has advanced significantly, with instantaneous mute/solo response, a true independent solo bus (soloed tracks can be muted), and solo and record safe modes.

Automation features have been vastly improved in version 4.0. Most parameters can now be automated, including dynamic (or snapshot, if preferred) automation of Plug-Ins. Additional flexibility is provided by separate Touch and Write automation modes. And, there are separate, visually editable mute tracks for faders and sends.

True relative fader grouping allows faders to maintain their relative levels. For additional flexibility, there are separate, identifiable Mix Groups and Edit Groups.

Groups can be nested, so that you can change your mixing or editing focus - from just a couple of tracks to a large group - access is only a mouse click away. And with the new, sophisticated Hide/Show tracks list, you can quickly change the Edit or Mix Windows to view only the tracks you're working on. With PPC native code, screen re-draws take place at high speed. Also, version 4.0 now has shortcuts to globally assign track I/O and Plug-Ins to all tracks or groups of tracks, dramatically speeding up your work.

"Finder-style" searching and sorting in the Region List will show only the results of a specific search. Sort parameters include size, date, last modified, etc. Left and Right pairs sort together.

Pro Tools now supports the "best of both worlds" with the addition of AudioSuite, a new Plug-In architecture that adds Sound Designer II™ -like file-based processing, including time compression/expansion and normalize. AudioSuite Plug-Ins take advantage of the speed of your host CPU processor (or your Digidesign audio card) for maximum processing speed.

Your on-screen selections can be processed and automatically "plugged back in" to their original locations in one easy step. Power-users will appreciate the fact that Regions can be batch-processed directly from the Region List. In addition, other Sound Designer favorites such as the Pencil Tool, and large-size waveform editing have been added.

A pop-up menu allows access to multiple edit playlists per track. These playlists can be copied and pasted allowing maximum edit flexibility. Edit playlists also allow multiple versions of performances to be easily accommodated. Combined with the automation of Plug-Ins, the availability of multiple edit playlists per track can dramatically reduce the need for virtual tracks.

Pro Tools 4.0 also supports all major file formats and bit depths, including SDII, AIFF, .WAV, QuickTime Movie audio, and Sound Resource (SND) files. A wide range of sample rates, along with high quality sample rate conversion, will prove highly beneficial in multimedia production. Additionally, batch file conversion processing is available using the Region List.

The feature-set does not stop there, however. There are new, flexible crossfade capabilities, including variable custom shapes and new S-shapes. Fades include high-quality noise-shaped dither for maximum audio quality on fade ins and outs.

Plug-In MIDI "personality" files add support for popular MIDI controllers, allowing access to faders, pan, Plug-Ins, transport controls, sends, and so on. Also new are loop recording, edit during playback, and keyboard shortcuts for all tools and edit modes, enhancing your productivity.

Also new are keyboard shortcuts for all tools and edit modes, enhancing your productivity. Even with all these new capabilities, the Pro Tools software interface remains intuitive and easy to use.

Pro Tools 4.0 also adds built-in QuickTime playback capability with powerful post audio editing features such as Auto Spot and nudge-to-picture. And, you can add the MachineControl™ option for external control of tape or video transports using industry-standard Sony 9-pin or V-LAN protocols. MachineControl features include support of non-linear video recorder/players and scrub-to-picture.

Pro Tools 4.0 continues Digidesign's commitment to innovative on-going product development. Pro Tools software combines extraordinary ease-of-use and award-winning performance with an ever-expanding, powerful feature-set. You can grow with an entire family of products: from Pro Tools with PowerMix™, Pro Tools with Audiomedia™, and Pro Tools Project™, up to the flexibility and power of Pro Tools® III.

Pro Tools is part of Digidesign's flexible upgrade strategy, so that if you choose to upgrade your system to include more powerful hardware, Pro Tools 4.0's increased functionality will expand with you.
Product News
This section provides public news releases relating to Digidesign products and Development Partnerships.

June 18th,1997 - Synchro Arts Ltd. and Digidesign® Deliver Three Powerful Editing Packages
June 12th,1997 - Digidesign® Ships D-Fi Plug-Ins
June 12th,1997 - Digidesign® Announces the Universal Slave Driver
June 9, 1997 - MAGMA Announces Pro Tools® 4.0 Compatibility
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign® Pro Tools® 4.0 Now Shipping
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign® Pro Tools® 4.0 Software On Schedule For Winter Release
January 28, 1997 - Pro Tools 4.0 Sets New Standards For Music Production Software
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign Announces Free Pro Tools Demonstration Video
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign® Introduces AudioSuite Technology for Pro Tools 4.0
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign® Announces Availability of PCI-to-PCI Expansion Chassis
January 28, 1997 - Digidesign® Announces LoFi/SciFi Family of TDM Plug-Ins
November 8, 1996 - Digidesign Announces Windows NT Wave Driver
November 8, 1996 - Digidesign Announces SampleCell II PCI
June 30, 1996 - Digidesign Announces MasterList CD v1.3
June 26, 1996 - Digidesign Announces PCI-Compatible Sound Designer II
May 11, 1996 - Digidesign Announces Pro Tools PCI
May 11, 1996 - AudioVision 3.6 Debuts at AES
May 11, 1996 - Digidesign Announces Audiomedia III
May 11, 1996 - Digidesign and Mackie Designs Announce Working Agreement
May 11, 1996 - Digidesign Announces Release of TC Tools
Digidesign® Pro Tools® 4.0 Software Now Shipping
Major New Editing and Mixing Features Abound
Palo Alto, California (March 23, 1997) Digidesign® today announced that the new Pro Tools® 4.0 software has begun shipping. Pro Tools 4.0 represents the single most important evolutionary step in Pro Tools development since the introduction of TDM. Supporting Digidesign's new PCI and NuBus-based Pro Tools III, Pro Tools Project™ and Audiomedia™ hardware and utilizing native PowerPC programming language, Pro Tools 4.0 achieves new standards of performance in operational speed and new creative tools.

Pro Tools digital mixing capabilities have increased dramatically with the addition of several exciting new features. In addition to a new and improved visual appearance, new automation features include send and mute automation, and dynamic automation of virtually all TDM Plug-In parameters. Pro Tools 4.0 mixing features also include Touch, Write and Latch automation modes and a new Narrow Mix View increasing the number of accessible mixer tracks on screen.

New fader grouping features provide for Mix Groups and Edit Groups, with faders that can be grouped while maintaining true relative levels. Fader groups can also be nested to allow fast changes between mix groups.

Many powerful new editing tools have also been added to Pro Tools 4.0; all designed to enhance creativity and maximize efficiency. Drawing on years of experience in software design, Digidesign engineers have expanded the creative options in Pro Tools to include multiple edit playlists per track, the integration of AudioSuite™, a new plug-in architecture which provides many of the favorite Sound Designer II file-based processing features, and a new intuitive graphic interface for crossfades with variable custom fade contours including new S-shaped fades. Edit during playback is another powerful new feature allowing edit points to be auditioned and adjusted in real time without having to stop playback.

Pro Tools 4.0 also offers features designed to enhance operational performance. By utilizing the inherent advantages of native PPC software design, Pro Tools 4.0 enjoys many significant benefits over previous versions including faster redraw of screen graphics, faster and more sophisticated searching and sorting parameters in the Region List, batch processing of regions and advanced noise-shaped dithering of fades to maintain maximum audio quality during fade-ins and fade-outs. Additionally, users can store their favorite TDM Plug-In parameter settings in the new Plug-In Settings Librarian allowing them to be instantly recalled in any Pro Tools session.

The new power of Pro Tools 4.0 and its TDM architecture are unparalleled in performance and value. Combine Pro Tools 4.0 with the Avid AudioVision 4.0 upgrade option, scheduled to be available in May 1997, and its specialized sound for picture functionality, and you have a system that is ideally suited for any audio post production task.

Current NuBus Pro Tools owners can either upgrade to Pro Tools 4.0 software direct from Digidesign or contact the local Digidesign dealer for details on the Pro Tools III NuBus to PCI Exchange Program.

Digidesign, a division of Avid Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVID), is the leading digital audio production software and systems manufacturer for the professional music, film, video, multimedia, and broadcast radio industries. Digidesign's products integrate the tools required for CD-quality digital recording, random access editing, advanced signal processing, and digital audio mixing applications. Digidesign products are marketed in over thirty countries worldwide, through a distribution network of value-added dealers, distributors, and OEM relationships.