Vista & OS X: My Love/Hate List – 2. Pro Tools

Back when I first started working as an IT professional, the Mac and PC worlds appeared to be as separate as church and state.

Businesses used DOS & Windows PC’s for typical office functions–word processing, spreadsheets, accounting, etc. Home computing added personal finance and gaming to the mix (anyone remember Quicken for DOS or Castle Wolfeinstein?).

Macs were used in the “creative services” departments for desktop publishing and graphic design.  My use of the Macintosh tended to revolve around most things musical, mainly MIDI and music composition.

At this time, to the general public, the Internet was either unknown or a novelty, not widely available outside of government or educational institutions, and some businesses.  The iPod… was science fiction.

Present Day

The desktop computing demesne of church and state have blended.  The Internet is ubiquitious. A world without the iPod (and possibly the iPhone) is nigh inconceivable.

Many business and creative applications are now cross-platform–arguably more so with Apple’s embrace of Intel inside.  Microsoft publishes the most commonly used MS Office application for both Mac and PC,  almost all of Adobe’s stable of creative applications are cross-platform, and Apple finally seems to be taking the future of gaming on the Macintosh seriously.

Truly a world of choice.  Or is it?

2. Pro Tools

Digidesign Pro Tools is a digital audio workstation (DAW) application commonly, and almost singularly, used professionally for recording and editing in the world of audio & music production, TV & film scoring, and post production.

Hans Zimmer scores a film, chances are the score is recorded and edited in Pro Tools. Star Wars’ light saber hums and sparks, blaster whines and R2D2’s cute but cool little electronic gurgles and beeps–Pro Tools. When the late, great Don Lafontaine lent his “voice of God” to any number of movie trailers over the last decade… Yup, Pro Tools.

And the point…? And why use Pro Tools to get to it?

One of the many hats I wear includes that of the professional voice-over artist.  Pro Tools is the industry standard for commercial and home studios. In my home studio I record voice-overs for television and radio.

Pro-Tools is an example of when cross-platform isn’t really cross-platform.

My expectations of a true cross-platform application are thus:

Install the “cross-platform” application on any of the supported platforms…
XP, Vista or OS X

On comparable hardware…
2.4 GHz Quad Core, 4GB RAM, Vista/OS X Hackintosh, or
2.4 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, Bootcamp enabled Vista/OS X MacBook Pro…

And start using it.

Not unreasonable, right?
Well… meh.

On OS X, not a problem. Truly plug and play.

On Windows, XP or Vista, the words “plug and play” are not even in the same time continuum.

My needs are simple: one track, minimal software compression, a record time of 30 seconds or less.

Most DAW applications are very CPU intensive. Pro Tools is no exception.

On the Mac, I periodically get playback and/or recording errors blaming CPU over-utilization. They are infrequent, but do happen. On Vista, I can barely get through my first 30 second take before the session aborts from CPU choke.

To be fair, Vista may not be completely at fault. Partial blame can be laid at Digidesign’s door step–perhaps more can be done to optimize Pro Tools for a Microsoft OS. But there is much evidence demonstrating that OS X is less a resource hog than any recent incarnation of Windows. For those poor blokes stoically determined to use Pro Tools on Windows, Digidesign’s Pro Tools support does offer Vista optimization tips

But… I. Don’t. Care.

It should just work without having to create a dedicated Windows hardware profile, disabling start-up applications, shutting-down network connections and security software.

And this is why you will almost never see a Windows machine running Pro Tools in a professional recording studio.  Separation of church and state, indeed.

In this case, the Apple marketing mantra of “It just works,” is spot on.

I LOVE OS X for my Pro Tools.
I HATE Vista for my Pro Tools.

More to come…

Vista & OS X: My LOVE/HATE List

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