Pro Tools, What are you doing?

By January 28, 2012Lee, Music, Uncategorized

Recently we’ve been in a rut finding the perfect software workflow for recording our album. I’ve always questioned why there wasn’t one piece of audio recording software that did literally everything I needed. And today at 4:30 I found it, the audio recording software that only revealed itself in my dreams.

I started out recording in Sony Vegas Video way back in the day because I was into film before I discovered my love for playing music. I knew the program well so it was easy and fast for me to use for both video and audio. In the process of learning to play the drums I discovered what was my first saving grace, FL studio. I used it mainly for practicing while also composing what today are incredibly embarrassing tracks due to my musical adolescence. Recently we’ve been using FL to compose full songs with recording up to 8 inputs at once for drums, but it  just doesn’t seem to be built to record multiple large chunks of audio at once. However, to this day it is one of the greatest pieces of software I’ve ever used and I wouldn’t trade it for any other drum sequencing/synth creation software. Image-Line is a fantastic company with solid results and support.

In preparing to record this album we ran into a few minor ticks with FL studio that hindered us from working as efficiently as we could. Things that bugged me was being unable to cross-fade overlapping tracks or record to a specific track in the playlist window. When recording to the playlist in FL, it seems to put the track wherever it pleases, which usually isn’t where I’d like it.

I am ashamed to say that we purchased Pro Tools 10. We figured, “Hey, it’s the ‘industry standard’, so it’s got to be good. Right?” WRONG! I spend two days getting a feel for the software, but at the end of each day I felt like Avid was way far behind. Simple navigation seemed to be missing. I edit on a PC (I’m not a Mac hater) so if there’s an blank area anywhere, my feeling is that I should be able to right click and navigate quickly to options regarding that section of the software. This was not the case in Pro Tools 10. Features like scrolling over the fader to adjust it wasn’t there, or being able to double click on the volume value in the mixer window to change it. Instead, i had to click a little icon that brought up a duplicate window of the same fader that would allow me to change the volume/pan values. Things like this just did not make sense to me and made the recording experience incredibly dreary. I know what you may be thinking, “these all seem like very petty reasons to hate their company.” You’re right, it does seem that way, but when you’re the acclaimed top recording software in the world/”the industry standard”, you need to have simple features like this, or at the very least give me the option to change it. Oh, and the plugins that were boxed with Pro Tools were so incredibly sub-par I was forced to hide my face in my palms.

The the straw that broke camels back was not being equipped to use VST plugins. I figured the one thing I could do to make this work was use FL Studio’s plugins.  I understand that there is RTAS (Pro Tools specific plugins so they can make even more money, greedy bastards) adapter software that allows you to add VST plugins to the Pro Tools library, but these are far from perfect.

Amongst many of the things I despise about Pro Tools, there were a couple things I liked. For instance, their mixer routing system, and grouping options were easy to use. Another option I was pleased to see was being able to route the metronome to a track easily which was one thing I’ve been searching years for.

Alas, I have finally found my second saving grace. The software I’ve just discovered that has been blowing my mind for the past two hours at 4am is called “Reaper“, and it truly has everything. The features this beast of a program has, honest to God, made me scream when I realized what all it could do. After the first hour of tinkering with it I ran upstairs and grabbed my wallet. Reaper is completely customizable. I can right click anywhere and get where I want fast. The preferences window is incredibly thorough and let’s you adjust more than I would’ve ever considered. Everything is where it should be, and if it’s not, you can put it there. As I was exploring the program, whenever something popped into my head that I wish it had, I found it. Their equipped plugins blew me away as well. Some features that made me jump from my chair and yell, “No way! Are you serious?” were…

64bit float allowing for more than plenty of headroom. Pro Tools capped at 32bit and wouldn’t allow me to change the sample rate after I started a project. Not with Reaper.

Send/Return plugin that’s incredibly simple without leaving the track FX. This may not seem that special but it’s an example of how well thought out Reaper is.

The level of customization.

Free item placement, Genius! This is a feature I would never have thought of but I know I will be using it often. This is all on one track mind you and it’s an option you can toggle. This is simply to show you what it can do. I’m usually more organized, but it displays how much I was flipping out about this feature.

Brilliant insert options!

In our music we have a lot of tempo/time signature changes and Reaper makes it so easy to assign the tempo to a track and visually see the metronome tick marks change. The tempo automation (blue line shown below) is perfect as well with options to ramp or jump the tempo. Right click, “Insert Time Signature Marker”, it’s everything I wanted.

More amazing FREE plugins can be found here. These guys truly know what they are doing.

I’m still discovering more with each minute I spend in Reaper and I’m sure there will be plenty more screaming over other brilliant features. I am so thrilled to see something so mind blowing created by the honest, dependable “little guy”. Thank you.

To see more phenomenal innovations, visit the developers (Cockos) site.

Products

Ninjam is open source (GPL) software to allow people to make real music together via the Internet.

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