Digidesign is fond of incremental upgrades with smaller improvements, and today’s release of Pro Tools 7.3 should bring some nice work enhancements to Pro Tools users.

The most intriguing new feature is called “Send to Sibelius”, a single button that allows you to transfer music from the MIDI tracks in a Pro Tools project to Sibelius for notation. Before you get too excited, though, there’s nothing really unique here other than the button. According to a thread on Sibelius’ help forum (registration required), this feature only exports MIDI data and imports in Sibelius. That’s possible in every competing DAW. Frankly, I’m glad to hear this, because I’d rather see more interoperability between notation software and all music tools — we should get to choose our favorite tools, not have them chosen for us by large corporate owners (hello, Avid/Digidesign acquisition of Sibelius).

Other improvements actually turn out to be more significant — but this upgrade does cost:

  1. Dynamic Transport: Run playback independent from the current selection.
  2. Loop trim: Turns MIDI and audio regions into loops, and draw loops into tracks Acid-style. (Not new to users of some other programs, but nice nonetheless.)
  3. Bar-locked MIDI regions: Yes, hello Ableton — and, well, quite a lot of other programs.
  4. Create Click Track: This is a pretty good idea; I’m surprised others haven’t done it, as well, as it’s so easy to implement.
  5. Interface customization: Store and recall window layouts, zoom toggle preferences, and track height, plus drag-and-drop plug-in settings.
  6. Post production: More QuickTime video editing/export features, multi-channel field audio matching. Those of you using Pro Tools for post can tell me whether this matters to you or not.

Here’s what I really don’t understand: how much the upgrade costs. If you’re using HD 7.2, LE 7.x, or M-Powered, you’ll pay US$49 – $79, which seems like a lot for what are fairly small feature enhancements. True, competing products often charge more like $150 upgrades, but recent updates like SONAR 6, Cubase SX 4, Live 6, and DP 5 offered significantly bigger enhancements. And an HD 7.3 upgrade costs a whopping US$199. Weirdly, the best deal seems to be if you’re still stuck on LE 6.x, in which this only costs US$75. The phrase “Hold on to your hats” in the Pro Tools announcement seems just silly.

In fact, most of the upgrade seems centered around quantizing edit tools and regions to bars and beats, something that’s already been done quite nicely in other programs — with other significant features (integrated iZotope warping in SONAR, live performance looping in Ableton,etc.) that Pro Tools lacks. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t intend to review features on paper, partly because I’ve spent a lot of time using Pro Tools, and am now much happier using other software.

I know I haven’t exactly been earning points with Digidesign as it is, but I’m still baffled by the value proposition in a lot of cases. Those of you feeling the Pro Tools love, carry on.

Digidesign 7.3 Feature Details [Flash videos, specs on HD, LE, M-Powered versions]

  • http://www.milezero.org Thomas

    I'm not doing anything very complicated in post, and I usually open the OMF without the video, so that's kind of useless to me.

    The ability to add tracks and change routing during playback is a big improvement, I think, and I'm always in favor of new time-stretch plugins. I don't think it's a bad deal for the price, which is pretty minimal (we're using LE 7.2 right now). I probably can't persuade my employers to spring for it now, but it'll go on the budget list for later, and I'm glad I didn't pick up my copy of M-powered yet.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Good points, sure, and I do see lots of smaller improvements. In that case, though, why charge extra for TDM? (I guess because they can afford it!)

    I certainly see M-Powered as the better deal than LE at the moment, in terms of cost and flexibility.

    Like I said, I'm not questioning whether it keeps PT users happy. But it doesn't provide any big incentive to switch from the native platforms, and I have seen some PT users coming the opposite direction.

  • Adrian Anders

    Instead of small incremental improvements that cost 50-200 bucks a pop, digi should just hold all improvements for the next .0 version.

    These sorts of upgrades that cost money on the digi side are almost alway free with other companys.

    Not to mention with FLStudio, all upgrades are free for life :-)

    ATA

  • subbasshead

    The multiple Quicktimes in PTS is def important for post, seeing as picture never seems to get locked nowadays unti lthe very last minute, having an easy means to compare versions of the cut is very very handy…

    Ditto with multichannel audio simply because 99% of location sound is now being recorded on multichannel hard disk recorders & the workflow of dealing with 50+ Gig of multitrack sync audio is a serious business… workarounds shouldnt be necessary…

    BUT the key thing with these two features is that they have added them to LE, ProTools HD has had them since 7.2 and the longer I can put off buying an HD system the better (pref infinitely)…

    So still no 5.1 in LE?

    yawn….

    for all the new features its really naked greed that prevents this feature being added to LE…

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, so here's the question: why not go to SONAR, Logic, DP, or Nuendo for post (all of which support 5.1 … and other things … at LE prices)? I know there are things that aren't perfect about at least couple of those, but out of that whole list of options, is there really anything at this point stopping people from using these systems as alternatives other than file format compatibility with Digidesign and Avid?

    That's not a criticism of Pro Tools or people who choose to use it, either. But it seems to me that any market that is that locked into a single vendor is not a healthy market.

    On the video side, of course, Apple has touted a number of features, and even the new Superman movie got edited on Premiere of all things. In music production in general there's still a lot of diversity, but in post I haven't heard of anyone doing any serious work without Pro Tools. There are dozens of Adobe- and Apple-based video houses here in New York. I don't know of a single post facility — not ONE — that doesn't use Pro Tools. They might have a single machine devoted to Logic or DP in the back room or something like that, but rarely get to use it for actual post work; it usually gets used on other jobs. At least that's the impression from the people I've talked to. That's pretty hard-core vendor lock.

  • http://www.jeromeleroy.com Hellgi

    In my opinion, for audio editing, nothing comes even close to the tools, stability and power of Pro Tools. I find it to be the most convenient way to work with audio.

    Too bad Digidesign's commercial policies are what they are…

  • mediawest

    i work in Los Angeles, and PT is everywhere. i rarely see nuendo or other. i use acid with rewire all the time. also if you do alot of pre-pro with LE, its very easy to go into a major post with the mothership and go right to work…. also the ICON is the best surface ever.

    other than that PT needs alot of feature i find in much less money type software….

    wheres the open source workstation?

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Thanks, mediawest. Open source workstation:

    Ardour

    Currently on both Linux and Mac; Windows possible, too. I don't know how Ardour would stack up currently for post, however.

  • artur

    LE does not support enough tracks to do any real post work in 5.1 anyways. Still it would be nice to be able to pull in some stems. As far as Nuendo goes, they do not support their audio system. They don't seem to want to go up against PT so you can forget about anyone in the editing business moving over to them. People have tried but Stienberg just dosn't seem to have the interest to support a movement. LE is fine until you get to feature films. And even there you can make use of an M-box fairly well with a dual processor system.