I've been a fan of the UK band Senser ever since their first full-length (Stacked Up) was released in the US, around the time the band began to lose members. Now that the original lineup are back, I was excited to hear that Neil Mclellan would be heading to the UK to record their fourth album. Upon returning, Neil pulled out his laptop and played back some rough mixes for me. The mixes sounded amazing. Me being the Gear Geek, I asked him what gear and software were critical for his sessions with the band, and he proceeded to tell me about his experiences with Pro Tools LE 7.4.
"I think it's the best upgrade-period-that Digidesign have ever released. I rocked LE 7.4 with a full band. There are bugs in it. For example, if you copy a one-bar section over and over, it doesn't duplicate correctly over a whole song. But in general, it's rock solid.
"Elastic Time is all the reason you need to upgrade. It stretches audio in real-time for tempo changes, loop creation, alignment with video, constraining to a beat, and so on. You analyze your tracks first by opening the task window; choose one of four algorithms, and hit go. If you've got a bunch of drum tracks, have a cup of tea. But then when you sit down, Elastic is so well-integrated in the workflow, everything seems instant. And it's very easy to grasp. Thirty seconds is all I needed on my first go with it, and I was pulling back bass notes to make them hit better with the drums.
"Normally, when you record a full band, you have to Beat Detective the tracks if you want things to really lock up. But I always felt that the raw recordings had those attacks coming through, and unless you spent an impractical amount of time fixing things after Beat Detective, you'd lose some of those transients. No more. All the transients are there with Elastic. And there's no crossfading to screw with.
"On drums, Elastic Time is a 'Come to Jesus' moment. You can make quick fixes; you can quantize to a grid or to a groove template; or you can even use Warp Markers, which are created for you when you quantize, but you can drop in your own by control-clicking. When you drag around the Warp Markers, you change where the notes land. Dead simple. There's even a Decay control so that tracks with sounds that have a tail to them, like drum hits for example, won't seem obviously stretched when you downtempo them, unless of course you want them to. Elastic sounds utterly fantastic. And not just on drums. The different analysis algorithms are just brilliant, and everything sounds good in Elastic.
"The other beautiful thing about this-Elastic Time isn't dumbed down for LE. I had an LE rig with an eight-core Mac Pro. For mixing, that and the Universal Audio were all I needed-a cheap, workable situation, but uber-professional in results. At long last, LE is a real, usable version of Pro Tools-not just the bog-standard basics with the juicy bits from HD pulled out."
If Neil's comments aren't enough to convince you to download the upgrade now, check out the informative videos under the Media tab of the PT LE 7.4 Software Upgrade webpage on Digidesign's site. A PDF with a full list of new features is under the same webpage's Download tab. ($49 download for upgrade from 7.3, $79 download for full install; www.digidesign.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.