Avid users of the future? From the Vancouver Film School Sound Design for Visual Media program (CC-BY). A big motivation behind the push to unify its brands, says Avid, is that a new generation of independent producers is blurring the lines between video and audio work.

Get used to saying “Avid Pro Tools.”

Avid is retiring the “Digidesign” moniker this month as it works to unify its product lines in music production, music notation, and video production. I spoke on the phone yesterday with Mark Williams and Adam Castillo of Avid’s Communications team to talk about their plans. Today, they released an open letter intended to sooth the nerves of customers. It seems that, judging by forum chatter, some Pro Tools users were concerned that the new branding meant the pro audio segment was being de-emphasized at Avid.

The branding change itself is not all that earth-shaking. Pinnacle, Sibelius, and M-Audio will all remain, because they’re names of product lines as much as brands in themselves. Digidesign will not, because “Pro Tools” is the brand everyone knows anyway. (I’d say the Pro Tools name has higher recognizability in the general public than anything else in the industry – video or audio.)

What I took away from the conversation, though, was that Avid really is endeavoring to pull together their different products and make some changes. Key points:

Agility” was a word that came up a lot. Translation: Avid wants to be more responsive to change, and release, literally “more products.”

The unification of the brands is an attempt to get out of Avid’s silos. Avid today is a confluence of different acquired companies, all of them supposed to work together. But with the acquisition of Sibelius, of M-Audio, and of Pinnacle, we haven’t always seen those components function as a whole. Branding is the public face, but behind the scenes, there is an effort to change that by getting teams working with one another and developing products that complement and interoperate.

Going after the Preditor is another goal. The … wha? “Producer plus editor” — audio plus video. To that, I asked, what makes that important now? Hasn’t Avid been in the business for some time, and haven’t the enabling technologies been available for ages? Yes, responds Avid, but there is an uptick in customer demand, as old barriers break down. People are now doing audio post and music instead of just one or the other. Video people are doing more audio. Audio people are doing more video. And it’s clear that economic pressures and the rise of independent production are accelerating the trend.

“Open” was another word that came up. Now, obviously, Avid wants its own products to interoperate more effectively – but what about competitors products, I asked? Would Avid really deliver on this “open” promise? Avid says yes, and points to, for instance, recent media asset management that works with video rival Final Cut Pro. “It’s a cultural thing that we’re an open company,” says Castillo. “We recognize that, to win, you can’t just build bigger walls.”

Most importantly, says Avid, they want to start thinking about the future, ten years down the road instead of only the immediate future.

That means, rather than turning their back on audio or pro audio, they’re going to need more out of it than ever. It seems to me Avid will also need to make both its consumer and “pro” sides work, too, in order to survive and flourish. So I’m not surprised they want to be running on all cylinders.

Of course, branding is one thing: most of you, I suspect, who compose in Sibelius or edit in Pro Tools, care most about the actual material proof. I know one particular concern has been support options going forward. Avid did confirm that the support tiers they introduced in 2009, with different levels of support tailored to different interests and products, and more dedicated options for an additional fee, are the plan going forward. If you have specific questions, I can pass them along.

But don’t think I’m just taking Avid at their word – I know you won’t. We’ll keep the communication lines open and continue to keep you posted with what they’re doing.

In the meantime, here’s their letter:

The future of Digidesign: An open letter to customers

As you might know, one year ago we decided to combine all the Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—into a new, unified Avid. Since then, we’ve taken steps toward transitioning Digidesign to the Avid name. We understand that you might have questions about the future of Digidesign and the product lines you’ve invested in. With that in mind, we’d like to share some information, answer some questions, and explain how these changes will affect you.

New website launching April 12th

Many of you told us that we needed to improve the navigation, organization, and the overall user experience of digidesign.com. In order to make these improvements, a major overhaul was necessary. On April 12th, we’re going to launch a brand new avid.com website that will include all of the digidesign.com pages—plus a number of enhancements to make navigation faster and easier. At first, the website will be US-only, but over the next few months, we’ll work on moving the international Digidesign websites as well. To help you get acclimated, we’ll be posting an interim page at digidesign.com offering links straight to the pages that are most important to you.

Why move the website to Avid.com?

Not surprisingly, many of you own products from multiple Avid companies—including Digidesign, M-Audio, and Sibelius—so we thought it would be more convenient to offer one centralized, unified website for all Avid products. We’re working toward providing you benefits like a simplified product registration process, single login ID, and a one-stop source for all product information, support, downloads, and news.

What will the new site be like?

The people behind the look and feel of Digidesign and M-Audio are now creating a new look and feel for all Avid—so don’t expect the new site to look like we sell IT products! It will feature completely new navigation and organization, making it easier and faster to find what you want. Overall, it’s a big improvement over the current Digidesign website. Our web team incorporated feedback from customers into the new site—we think you’re really going to like it.

Is the Digidesign name going away?

Yes, we are in the process of retiring the Digidesign name—but the products will live on. After talking with many of you, we discovered that most people identify more with the product names—such as Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON—instead of the company name (actually, there are some people who thought the name of the company was Pro Tools, so go figure…).

What is happening to the Digidesign team?

Rest assured, the same core Digidesign team of audio fanatics is still here, with offices in Daly City, CA. We just have a different logo on our letterhead. And since the transition, we’ve been playing key roles in creating the new Avid. Over the coming months, you’ll start to see our influence on packaging, videos, customer communications (like this one), and the overall look and feel of Avid.
Why is the Digidesign name being retired?

In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it no longer makes sense to maintain many separate brands. It’s also impractical to have multiple marketing teams, websites, newsletters, and separate methods for communicating with customers. Our new brand strategy is to combine everything under the Avid name. This will help us streamline operations and become a healthier company—which frees up more resources for product development. We figured that you’d rather see us put more money towards designing innovative new gear than maintaining five separate brands.

What does this mean for the Digidesign product lines?

You’ve seen a taste of what can be accomplished when we work together—products like Pro Tools M-Powered, Video Satellite between Media Composer and Pro Tools, the DSM monitors, and Sibelius integration into Pro Tools. Moving forward, audio and video are going to be equally important for Avid. We’re totally committed to Pro Tools, VENUE, ICON, and all the other product lines that used to be branded under Digidesign. Combining forces with the other Avid companies means more resources for our R&D department to work with, enabling us to release more great products than ever. We’re also committed to expanding our product lines further—in fact, we have some incredible new audio products in store for 2010 and beyond…
What about the M-Audio brand name?

We’ve begun the process of transitioning the M-Audio name to a product brand instead of a company name. You’ll continue seeing product names like the M-Audio Oxygen 25, and the M-Audio BX5a Deluxe.

What does this mean for the M-Audio and Sibelius websites?

Eventually, the M-Audio and Sibelius websites will be moved to the new Avid.com as well. But for now, those sites will continue to operate independently just as usual.

We truly appreciate your loyalty and continued support, and hope you take some time to explore the new website on April 12th. If you have any questions or comments, please join the conversation here.

Sincerely,

The Digidesign (aka Avid) team

It’ll be interesting to see what they’re cooking up in the audio department, and I intend to hold them to this “open” idea, as well. Stay tuned.

I expect readers have passionate feelings both ways, so let it out – and have a great weekend.

  • Hank

    One word: Apple.

  • http://www.musicofsound.co.nz/blog tim

    I would suggest watching a documentry called The Corporation to appreciate what this open letter means….

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0379225/

    "the filmmakers discover that if the corporation were indeed a person, the person would be considered a psychopath"

  • http://xfader.com regend

    Anyone have a copy of Pro tools Free for Win98?

  • Future Primitive

    Pro Tools is going down, and fast.

    In ten years, maybe 5 it will no longer be the industry standard.

    With DAWs like REAPER continuing at break neck pace, implementing the best code and features it will destroy and consume ProTools as the best DAW for audio recording, production and editing.Becoming the standard.

    Eventually people will realise that the hardware theyre tied to is ancient and needs to be completely re done from the ground up if its going to continue to compete. And thats not at all likely.

  • Future Primitive

    oh, and M-Audio is complete shite!

    what did i read the other day?>>>"The M in M-Audio stands for Behringher". :)

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  • http://www.youtube.com/user/dsbuchalter David Buchalter

    Thanks for this post. Good to know what's going on.

    Can't figure out how to make the mp3 option work once I've updated to the newest Pro-Tools m-audio. Is it me, or is their online help not helpful?

    Their phone support in the past was not very supportive. Any changes there?

  • aaron

    Avid has consistently proven one thing: they are good at dismantling once great companies by ruining their credibility with lack of support, build quality and stability.

    Pity. Digidesign and M-Audio were both once great competitive marketplace product manufacturers than managed to keep prices down and quality high. Those standards have been lost.

  • aaron

    The ironic part is they are so ignorant of the above facts that they're more concerned with Brand-cohesion rather than the real issues their customers face. Visit their support forums sometime, its like a warzone full of landmines.

  • s ford

    My near enough 10 year old M-Audiophile is still going strong! Which cannot be said about my newer M-Audio soundcard….

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  • michel

    the thing that made me sell protools and illustrates for me where avid/digidesign falls short: the only way to import omf files into pt 7 le was buying the dv-toolkit2. that's $1295… bear in mind that this is standard on logic express.

  • lematt

    Reaper with some Apogee converters kills easily Protools.

    I spent a year working on PT and i never want to do it again.

  • mny

    well I always liked digidesign. I just couldn`t afford it, but when you can, it`s a great piece of soft-/hardware

  • fv

    protools. yuck. just because it's the "standard" does not mean it's any good.

    Internet Explorer was also once "standard"

    I hope we can bury that too soon.

    go Apple go.

  • Casey James Basichis

    I have 7 m-audio products… All of them are broken. The support is terrible, the products are terrible, the bs machine is terrible.

    I hope they go under.

    For the uninitiated… Reaper is the most amazing thing going. There is a new build of the software up every few days with extensive fixes and new features.

  • salamanderanagram

    "Would Avid really deliver on this “open” promise? "

    lol at even the prospect of an "open" pro tools. oh, is that the same program that i can only run on hardware that's been made by avid? this one idiotic design choice has essentially removed pro tools from my setup entirely.

  • pillowtalk

    m-audio support is terrible now.

  • Lord Toranaga

    Pro tools made their money by killing off brick & mortar studios.

    now it is their turn for demolition.

  • flip

    Wow, quite a bit of ProTools haters in here! I've certainly used it in the past (when required to) but I'm very happy to be using Logic (for 10 years now) and Apogee. If there's anything I've noticed over the years, it's the shift towards better quality and more affordability with pro audio. From what I've heard/read, Avid isn't exactly leading the way in this dept.

  • XLII

    Bought Pro Tools LE with Digi 003 cos many clients wanted their mixed tracks back in Pro Tools format & was terrified to find that there's no Plug In Delay compensation! I understand that they need to sell their HD line, but removing PDC so that people upgrade… that's just sadist.

    So my 003 went down ebay & I'm happily back with Cubase 5. Been a Cubase user for 12 years. It's wonderful. Hope Avid goes down.

  • salamanderanagram

    pretty sure you CAN get plug-in delay compensation (pro tools 8, anyway), you just need to do it manually, which is crap of course…

  • http://www.soundcloud.com/automaticthoughts AutomaticThoughts

    This thread has me vary interested in Reaper. I tried it out a few months back and was disapointed because of audio latancey issues,bugs, etc, but never tried out any of the forums or asked for any help.

    Maybe I'll give it another go. I seems like a lot of people are going this route…

    Or there are a lot of Cockos employees on this forum :)

  • Nik km

    The only reason Avid buys these companies is so that it can asset strip them by reducing quality of product and service. They are attractive to Avid, not because of their market image, but because their operating costs are considered 'above industry norm' – what this means is spending too much on R&D, innovation, product quality and customer service. So expect all of these to reduce while the company uses slick advertising and marketing bull to convince you that nothing has changed.

  • pawel

    hmm isn't it a bit like saying: ok, we are ford and we just bought volvo, so now volvo will be called ford… (i know my example is outdated).

    for me it's completely sensless to change a name of a company, product etc.

  • lematt

    well… that post is a cold shower for protools…

  • quantize

    Um, sorry but anyone imagining the midi editing in Reaper is even comparable to Tools is definitely HIGH. It's a promising app but the design is quite horrible still.

  • salamanderanagram

    yep, pro tools is ridiculously powerful, no argument. even more powerful than ableton in some regards IMO. i still have no desire to use it.

  • Jonathan

    Pro Tools is SOOOoo 2004.

    I'm over it.

    M-Audio has awful customer service and their hardware reminds me of Fischer Price. The only difference is, you can rely on Fischer Price.

  • http://www.noisemakers.info Michael Chenetz

    I actually like Protools. Especially, with Transfuser. I find the combo to be very powerful. Additionally, The audio manipulation is still one of the easiest I have used. I would just like to see them make the system open. Let the DAW have a single version that can work across all hardware and support extra DSP for offloading as an option. I don't hate Protools just because it's a big industry giant. In actuality, i like it for a lot of features it has. Although, the one thing i can say is I wish Digidesign (Avid) would have a closer relationship with it's customers.

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

    Yeah, good grief – I know there's some hostility around Avid and some of their products, but I also know some of their stuff is getting huge amounts of use. (I still love Sibelius for notation, for one. I've never been a huge Pro Tools user, personally, but I also respect that there are other people out there getting music made with it.)

    So, I'd expect *someone* to defend the company.

    Now, I don't view my role as being a cheerleader for the industry. But it's tough to take criticism this vague and do anything with it. I think if you have a beef with Avid's products and it's specific – or if there's something you'd like to see them do differently, for people who are active users of their products, we really can get some answers.

    And if you have a specific criticism, let's hear it. ("I'm using another product and it's cheaper and more regularly updated" is a reasonable argument, of course. But if there's anything to add.)

    If you don't use their products and prefer something else, of course, that's your choice – but then, this announcement isn't really for you, anyway.

  • Tom

    OK I'll be specific.

    'Open' is a great buzzword. Here it would mean not tying the software to the hardware. Certainly not doing what they just did and disabling a perfectly good interface (the MBox 1) by an arbitrary kill code. At the university where I work we now have boxes full of M Boxes junked because the latest PT won't use them and is the only version that is 'approved' for OSX10.6. We had to buy many new interfaces. We resent it.

    It would mean not rewriting the underlying system so tightly that only 'compatible' computers can run PT. Other software cooperates with the OS. The first time I tried to run Tools, it would fail again and again. I had to buy a new computer. I resent that.

    It would mean disconnecting file output from the hardware such that a hour long mixdown could be saved in 5 minutes, or 2 hours depending on the quality you want. When I tell my students that PT can only output in real time it doesn't take them long to figure it out – LE has to be knobbled to match HD. And they resent that.

    It means VST plug ins alongside RTAS.

    It means not selling nagware like ProTools 'Essential'. Nagware should not be sold.

    People use PT because they are afraid of not being 'industry spec'. That fear is wearing off.

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

    I need to revisit the state of file interchange formats, but that'd be a great place to start. In fact, it seems to me that we're increasingly living in a world in which one person using Cubase and another using Ableton and another using Pro Tools ought to be able to exchange files with an editor using Avid or Final Cut. I don't think we're quite there yet.

  • http://www.noisemakers.info Michael Chenetz

    Open file interchange is an interesting issue. I have struggled with it when trying to use OMF between Logic and Cakewalk. I found that stems were the best way to exchange files.

    But, getting back to the Digidesign/Avid issue… I think that a DAW should have a good set of base functionality that is comparable to it's competitors. In Avid's case i would like to see them provide a single DAW for every level as I stated above and then charge an extra cost for things like DSPs. This would be more in line with the UAD/TC Electronics model. Of course neither of the aforementioned companies are bundling DAWs, but they add on a certain functionality to your DAW. This allows Avid to provide real functionality in their DAW that does not create limitations based on marketing and still satisfies the, 'pro' market's need for things like DSPs and zero latency monitoring.

    I always look at solutions for their pros and cons and Protools is inherently a good solution with some marketing and placement that is getting in the way. And, let me clarify that I am not saying they do not have good marketing because the product is in almost every pro studio. What I am saying is that the placement of the products M/LE/HD has done more to hurt them instead of making a unified platform as stated previously.

    I can understand a companies desire to separate home, semi-pro, and pro products. It makes sense in what they were trying to accomplish. I just think that they were going about it the wrong way.

    Hopefully, the new Avid is more than just a name and they will make some interesting changes that will benefit them and their customers.

    One final thought… I am not sure of the benefit of getting rid of a lot of these companies names that are highly recognizable and putting them under one umbrella gives them, unless they have a grand scheme to change their image and they want people to associate the change with a name.

    Mike

  • Future Primitive

    @quantize> youre right. Notice i didnt mention the midi of REAPER in my plug/rant. MIDI in REAPER is lacking and is their achillies heel, but its getting better with each release. As a major release is on the horizon, V4, chances are that this is when we will see a major overhaul and mass implementation of powerful MIDI features. (insert FL as VST works a charm!!!!)But as far as everything else goes, its hands down the most powerful, stable, routeable, flexible, CPU friendly DAW on the market. ANd at 60bucks US its practically free. And NO, i dont work for COckos, theres only 3 that do, just a happy convert from 10years on Cubase. (I still use Ableton,Mulch,Plogue,FL)spreading the good word.

  • http://xfader.com regend

    I just saw that REAPER for OS X is no longer BETA but the 64bit version is

    I may need to start mixing down everything in REAPER instead of LIVE 7.0 on my iMac.

    I'd still like a copy of PRO TOOLS FREE for win98 if anyone has a copy. I have a really nice Lexicon Reverb unit that only works in win98 and I like running vocals through that machine. Right now I just use Sound Forge and a Copy of Logic 5.5 on the win98 box.

    http://soundcloud.com/regend

  • mediawest

    as a digi user since sound designer, and have used all versions of PT since the original beta, i have found in pro settings that pt is the most stable and functional of all DAWs…. that being said, avid has a long way to go to make pt open, i hate having to use avid hardware when i have vintage stuff and apogee stuff that sounds better, no vst, no rendering, hate waiting on a one hour programs one hour, when every other daw is able to render quickly. hate having to use even a mini fob to use pt on my pc, reaper has many features that i love, but still has a way to go to simplify the GUI. midi implimentaion is fair, why do i still need to use midi to control HUI? latency is a big issue, on LE.

    and i hate the skin on PT, i love how reaper lets me skin the GUI.

    but when u have to go from studio to studio, and your artists are all doing OD's in their bathroom, it makes for a quick workflow when they bring in tracks that go right into the mothership.

    i think avid is getting to big for themselves….

  • http://www.myspace.com/jamesyanisko James Y

    There are so many reasons I chose to not use ProTools in my project studio set up. But let me start with why I'm happy to have it at my day job.

    I have yet to find any DAW that allows me to edit audio with as much ease. I'm not talking writing new music. But editing audio. simple tasks and difficult tasks. Its time stretching might not sound the best. It may not have fancy tools like melodyne like pitch correction. But for editing audio…I have yet to find anything that works as simply, and as well.

    I have in my project studio Logic (8) and Digital Performer (6), and have tried cubase (much older versions) as well as reaper. (anyone with any ideas – please let me know….)

    But when it came time to upgrade my studio to be able to do production work for bands? My decision was simple. The best audio interface for ProTools I could afford was the 002. No way I was spending 20K on an HD system for my studio. But, for the same money as the 002 would have cost me, I decided to buy an RME interface with Logic. This gave me, in my opinion, much nicer sounding mic pres and a/d conversion – as well as the ability to interface with all software (except protools) in case my clients came in with their own projects started.

    And now here's the little things they left out of protools LE that make me angry every day at my day job. (we have on HD system, and one LE system – both version 7).

    #1 on my list: snapshot automation. LE simply has no real way of doing it.

    This leaves me, in a :30 second commercial with user testimony (which can some times be upwards of 20 people) with no way to keep a handle on my project, and sometimes with not enough tracks to be able to do easy eq changes. Yes, this comes up a LOT.

    smaller things that annoy me:

    lack of tap tempo

    lack of plug in delay compensation (though, HDs is not that much better. It only has so much compensation it can do. so running an intensive plugin that requires moooore involves me figuring out the details of how much it requires – and manually shifting all of my tracks and retelling all of the plug ins what compensation they need to use.)

    the need to purchase a plug in for over a grand to use two important things for any studio that wants to do more than music production: OMF interchange and a TIME CODE ruler. (and my similar priced studio i purchased instead of the 002 came with those out of the box). For my friends who have a project studio and need this feature, it really comes down to me importing the OMFs for them, and giving them their protools files.

    the lack of support for the most widely used frame rate for HD video (59.97) (this is a problem with both HD and LE)

    I think that's my list.

    And I'll modify my top statement a little. I have found a DAW that makes editing audio just as easy (in fact, I think way easier) than protools, but it is also a hugely expensive proprietary system: Fairlight. (def thinking of saving up for their basic system .. but writing music in it would not really be something you can do, sadly).

  • Martin Wheeler

    Unfortunately, the way AVID still sees the world (despite what they sometimes claim) is that work should be done within a closed, controlled AVID system.

    You should start by buying a semi-crippled PT LE and then you should give them more money for every little thing that you want to do.

    You want to use the software ? You have to buy their hardware.

    You want basic TC scale (included on most DAWs) or to import OMFs (included on many) ? you have to give them $1000 for an add on.

    You want to run a second version on your laptop (included in most DAWs) ? You have to buy an expensive "micro" dongle.

    You want to save to mp3 ? That is (or was last time I looked) a paid upgrade !

    You want basic modern DAW functionality ? (plug-in delay compensation etc) Just pgrade to a multi-thousand dollar HD system.

    You want to use industry standard VST plugs ? Tough sh!t. Go use a clunky third party wrapper.

    For AVID, you aren't on a Mac or a PC, you are "IN" an AVID system.

    PT won't even let you dismount a hard drive any more without its authorisation !!!

    Pro Tools is actually a very good program for some things, ( especially intensive linear audio editing ) but everything about AVID's way of doing business strikes me as being both outmoded (at least for musicians/project studios – at big facilities the issues are a little different) and, to be frank, just plain unpleasant.

  • Nik km

    If you think this is just a name change you need to think again. This is all the product companies becoming an integral part of Avid, and its regime of cost control, low investment, proprietary lock-in and milking the user base for as long as it lasts. It is about attempting to maintain a 'professional' market ring fenced from the likes of Logic, Live, Final Cut, etc.

  • Hater

    "Rest assured, the same core Digidesign team of audio fanatics is still here…"

    This is a load of crap. I live in the Bay. I know at least three "audio fanatics" who work/worked in Daly City that were given notice of imminent layoffs or left.

    Good luck with future development of Avid Audio. I really do hope they make it through.

  • Neal Johnson

    Rumor has it that: loads of Digi engineers have quit and or been laid-off and development is being outsourced to the the Ukraine… Yeah, good luck to any future with Avid…

  • Gregg Johnon

    Harmony Central says that Avid agreed to buy up Euphonix. Sometimes people (corps) with big dollars don't make sense.

    Doo doo doo doo doo, Avid just bought 'em out!Doo doo doo doo doo, Avid just bought 'em out!And another one gone, and another one gone. Cos Avid just bought 'em out!. Hey they wanna ruin you too. Avid just bought 'em out!Get out!