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The Crossroads of Capability and Flexibility

Only published comments... Jan 24 2011, 10:00 AM by Tony Cariddi



Winter can be really glum on the East Coast. On the bright side, it can often be a great time to hunker down in the studio and write some music. I had an interesting experience doing just this over the holiday break and I wanted to share. Before I could get much accomplished, both my Mac Pro and my writing/playing were in need of some servicing. With all the exciting activity here at Avid, I hadn’t been keeping my software updates or my creative chops up to speed. Snow Leopard needed updating, as did a number of my Pro Tools plug-ins. Plus, my iTunes library had completely outgrown my internal hard drive, so I transferred it temporarily to my “audio” drive.


Anyway, I quickly got my rig up and running and I was really excited about spending some quality time writing with my new Pro Tools|HD Native rig—without having to run work-related tests on latency, maximum plug-in counts, or just tweaking a mix for demo purposes. However, I knew the next part was going to be more challenging—getting the creative juices flowing.You never know what to expect when you’re sitting down trying to be creative, but after all of the tests I’d run, I was confident that at least the system would work well. And the gear did what it was supposed to do—it got out of the way and let me quickly capture some ideas and lay down some tracks. I played around with a ton of ideas, comp’ing, layering guitars and vocals, and experimenting with plug-ins. At one point I even forgot I was using HD Native and not my Pro Tools|HD Accel rig that was previously installed in my computer—it was that powerful and the latency totally unnoticeable, even when tracking vocals. It only occurred to me when I checked the system usage window, expecting to see a list of accelerated DSPs. Instead, I saw the minimal resources my 8-core machine was using to process a sick amount of EQs, compressors, reverbs, delays and VIs. The amount of native processing I was getting out of a quad core running at a 32-sample buffer was just astonishing! And the quality of the I/O—well, you just need to hear that for yourself because they sound amazing. However, I wasn’t really feeling very inspired with the music. And even though I know that this kind of “writer’s block” happens to way better, more dedicated writers than myself, it was still frustrating.


Later in the holiday week, I took my wife and kids to visit my folks in Jersey. I had some work to do, so I packed my laptop and figured we could probably entertain the kids and ourselves if we had some music and iTunes TV episodes with us. Then I remembered that my iTunes library was no longer on my drive. Complications. I’d need to pack my external drive. And then I started feeling rebellious—why should I be working so hard over break anyway? That’s it, I decided, I’m bringing my guitar too. After everyone went to sleep that night at my family’s house, I chipped away at some work-related things. Then my mind started wandering to thoughts like, “Even though NJ might have been more agrarian in the 1800s, is the ‘Garden State’ the best moniker they could think of?” And, “Where would I be now if I decided not to pursue music and audio production?” Then I remembered my acoustic guitar was downstairs. I snuck down past the other bedrooms and settled on the couch with my old Guild G-37. Immediately, I was thankful to have brought it—something about sneaking around the house with a guitar after everyone is sleeping is really inspiring. Everything was so quiet and dark that the guitar sounded bigger than normal. I came back to some ideas I’d been playing with in the studio and suddenly, I got it. It was a twist on the approach for the track, more of a different feel than anything else, but it brought the “song” somewhere else completely, and I was loving it! I needed to get it down fast, so I wouldn’t forget it—you know, like I do with all of my greatest ideas. Typically in this situation, I’d grab some paper and jot down the chord progression and sometimes try to scratch out the notation for the melody. Just as I was walking into the kitchen to grab a pen and paper, it hit me—no, not an epiphany of Jersey’s misnomer as the “Garden State”—but that the FireWire drive I had packed for the trip that included my iTunes library also had the Pro Tools session I’d been working on in the studio. I fired up the same session started on my HD Native system on my laptop and continued where I left off—without any hardware.Friggin’ awesome!


Now, most of you are probably thinking, welcome to 2011, we’ve all been able to do that for years using apps like Logic, Cubase, and Live. While it’s true that Pro Tools did not give you that flexibility until recently, it was the only solution that scaled up to meet the requirements of our most demanding customers, or even mine at times, in terms of power and performance. Adding the flexibility to scale downward to a bare-bones software-only setup opened up new ways of working whenever—and wherever—inspiration striked. You could use a tricked out Pro Tools|HD DSP-accelerated system or Pro Tools|HD Native to get the greatest performance and sound quality while in the studio. And get the complete freedom and flexibility to capture ideas anywhere—without any hardware—while maintaining session compatibility throughout. We no longer have to choose between complete capability and complete flexibility in order to keep session files on the same platform, but get ultimate scalability for the requirements at hand. And it‘s not as if I didn’t know this—but to experience it was something completely different. It made me proud to be an employee—and really happy to be a customer.


What else could you ask for? Well… maybe larger internal laptop drives, of course.




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About Tony Cariddi

As an audio engineer and artist, I’ve recorded, mixed, prepped and cued for live broadcast, infomercials, radio, books on tape, and have done audio postproduction and scores. Since starting with Digidesign in 1996 I’ve had various roles in sales and marketing and today I serve as the marketing director for audio at Avid. I love playing guitar and the art of making magic in the studio and while I currently don’t work in the field, I still make time for making music.

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