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Pro Tools: Cloud Collaboration FAQ

Pro Tools Tips & Techniques
By Mike Thornton

If you run out of cloud storage space, or simply want to work on your Projects offline, use the ‘Save Session Copy’ command to save them as Sessions locally.If you run out of cloud storage space, or simply want to work on your Projects offline, use the ‘Save Session Copy’ command to save them as Sessions locally.

We clear up some of the issues surrounding cloud collaboration in Pro Tools 12.5.

In this final instalment of our three-part series on cloud collaboration in Pro Tools, we answer some of the most common questions, and look at the wider issues these features open up.

What Is A Project?

The project format we have been used to in Pro Tools for years is the Session, and this is no different in Pro Tools 12.5. A Session is stored locally on your system, and cannot be used as a basis for collaboration. A Project is an alternative project format Avid introduced in Pro Tools First, which is now included in Pro Tools 12.5. A Project is, in essence, very similar to a Session, but the key difference is that a Project lives in the cloud rather than on your hard drive.

How Many People Can I Collaborate With?

Currently, the Project owner can only invite two simultaneous collaborators to a project. If you need to work with other people on a Project, Avid recommend that you remove a collaborator from your Project once he or she has finished contributing to it. You will then be able to add another collaborator. You can always bring someone back in if you need them again.

When I Collaborate, Does This Count Towards My Storage Allocation?

No, only the Projects you create and share yourself count towards your limit.

Can I Use Pro Tools First To Collaborate With Other Pro Tools users?

Pro Tools First users aren’t able to collaborate with other Pro Tools users for the time being, but Avid say this is planned for a future release.

How Secure Are My Projects In The Cloud?

Avid Cloud Collaboration services are hosted on Avid’s MediaCentral Platform, which resides on Amazon Web Services. MediaCentral is already being used in video editing and Avid tell us that the same service hosts medical, financial and other highly protected, sensitive information. Their systems apparently undergo regular security scans, as well as internal and external security audits, to ensure their infrastructure is secure and up to date according to the latest MPAA best security practices. Avid also say that Pro Tools 12.5 Cloud Collaboration Projects and data are not bound by the same licence agreement as used in the Artist Community.

What Happens To My Cloud Collaboration Projects If My Annual Upgrade Plan Expires?

If you allow your upgrade plan to expire, you retain a perpetual licence to use the latest version of Pro Tools you had at the point your upgrade plan expired. Avid assure us that as long as you have a licence for Pro Tools or Pro Tools HD 12.5 or later, you will have access to the cloud collaboration workflows. However, as you will no longer be able to update your Pro Tools software to the latest version, it may eventually become incompatible with the server technology running in the cloud and so become unsupported.

What Happens To My Projects If My Collaboration Project Subscription Lapses?

If you purchased additional cloud storage space/Projects for $9.99/month or $24.99/month and then allowed your subscription to lapse, your cloud space will be downgraded to the free 500MB/three-Project plan. Any Projects and files stored in your cloud space beyond these limits will not be available to access or download. However, Avid have built a safety net into their system so that if you renew your plan within 30 days of it expiring, you’ll be able to access all of your original Projects and files again. But if you don’t renew your plan, they reserve the right to remove all of your user-inaccessible media 30 days after your plan has expired.

What Happens If I Run Out Of Cloud Storage Space?

You have two options...

  • Purchase more space. You can purchase a Project subscription through your Avid Account. If you already have a Project subscription you can extend it to the top tier.
  • Convert some Projects back to Sessions and delete the Projects. In Pro Tools, choose ‘Save Copy In’ and save a copy of your Project as a Session. You can then delete your cloud-based Project to free up the space.

How Much Internet Bandwidth Do I Need For Pro Tools 12.5 Cloud Collaboration?

Avid’s advice is that the faster your connection, the more seamless your experience will be. In general, if your Internet connection supports 1020 Mbps up and down speeds, you should be fine.

Does Pro Tools 12.5 Force Me To Store Everything In The Cloud?

Absolutely not. You choose what is stored locally as Sessions or what is stored in the cloud as Projects. Only Project files created for collaboration are stored in the cloud (with a local cache for playback and recording). For everything else, you can create a standard Pro Tools Session, which stores everything locally as before.

When I Close A Session, Do I Lose The Artist Chat Threads?

The simple answer is no. All chat data is stored on your cloud space in context of a Project, so you can always see the history. The log shows the message history, as well as info about which tracks have been updated.

As A Mac User Can I Collaborate With A Windows User?

Absolutely, just as a Pro Tools Mac user can open a Session created on a Windows system and vice versa so as long as both users have Pro Tools 12.5 or above. Avid Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools is completely cross-platform.

What Happens If Everyone Collaborating Doesn’t Have The Same Plug-ins?

The user who does have the plug-ins needs to consider using Track Commit (introduced in Pro Tools 12.3) or Track Freeze (introduced in Pro Tools 12.4) to render the plug-ins or virtual instruments. Alternatively, the other collaborators could choose to buy or rent the plug-in from the Avid Marketplace within Pro Tools. If you are just tracking on someone’s project then you may not need to worry — just bypass the appropriate plug-in and carry on tracking.

How Can I Review The Changes Made By A Collaborator?

Avid recommend you revert the appropriate track to the latest version from the cloud by using the Abandon Changes command, which is undoable. This enables you to quickly go back and forth between your version and the version saved on the cloud. Alternatively you can A/B changes by duplicating the track before sharing it with your collaborators, and make sure to keep the duplicate as a private, or un-shared track.

Does Cloud Collaboration Support Multiple Playlists On A Track?

Yes, all track playlists are shared in collaboration.

Is There Anything In Pro Tools That Cannot Be Shared?

Avid tell us that for the initial release, everything in Pro Tools is sharable except for groups, VCA Groups, video tracks and HEAT settings.

Where is The Local Cache Where My Projects Are Stored?

Mac: user / Documents / Pro Tools

Windows: user / My Documents / Pro Tools

What Happens If I Move The Cache Manually?

Avid make it very clear that you must not move these files manually. If you would prefer to have the local cache on your media storage drives rather than on your boot drive, change the default Project location in Pro Tools Preferences. All of your existing Projects will be moved to your new location, and new Projects will be created in this location.

Cloud Controversies

The new cloud collaboration features that Avid have delivered in Pro Tool 12.5 definitely make collaboration easier. They don’t render talent and creativity unnecessary, but what they will do is open up access to other people’s talent and creativity, helping to make your production even better.

When collaborating you need to consider how you brief someone you want to collaborate with. Do you give detailed notes outlining exactly what you want them to do? Or do you give them free rein, hoping your creativity will spark their creativity? I have seen projects take on a new direction when the collaborator took a completely different direction to the one the songwriter had in mind. Now, this can be brilliant or it can be a disaster, but if you give your collaborators the opportunity to spread their wings, you need to be prepared for how to respond when you don’t like the results — especially if you’ve chosen to collaborate with musicians you don’t know. If you are concerned about the possibility of things going wrong, I would suggest your first stop should be to ask for recommendations from people you already know and trust, rather than blindly searching for players.Pro Tools: Cloud Collaboration FAQ

The other issue is payment. Payment terms are even more important in this collaboration environment. I was recently made aware of a web site called The Longest Invoice (www.worldslongestinvoice.com) created by Freelancers Union, a New York-based alliance of independent workers, designed to spotlight how common the problem of non-payment is. Anyone can put in his or her name, the service performed, and the amount unpaid. When I visited the site there was an outstanding invoice for $2400 for web site design, $1100 for make-up service and $2135 for 3D animations amongst the listed invoices.

What this site emphasised to me is that people are doing work and delivering it without having sensible payment terms in place. I recommend that, to start with, you ask for payment in full before you start the job. Failing that, ask for at least 50 percent up front and then payment in full before you deliver the final goods. No money, no mix file (or animations or web site, whatever it is). If necessary, send a low-grade MP3 with blips on it that make it unusable, but never, ever release the final files until you have been paid in full.

Also, why is it that so often it is big businesses that are the worst at paying their bills on time? Here in the UK we even have legislation which is designed to help small businesses: the Late Payment Act (www.gov.uk/late-commercial-payments-interest-debt-recovery/when-a-payment-becomes-late) entitles you to charge interest on outstanding invoices, but I had a large UK company whose invoice payment policy made it impossible to pay within the time period set out in the Late Payment Act. How crazy is that?

Published August 2016