Review: Pro Tools 2020.3

Pro Tools 2020.3 Rundown
5 / 5 Reviewer
Pros
- Folder Tracks make organization a breeze with drag and drop along with nested options for subfolders.
- Routing Folders transform your ordinary Folder Track into a full-blown buss with plugin processing and routing.
- Support for all 3 of you who can afford a Mac Pro right now
Cons
- I would like to see Recording Arm feature in Folder Tracks to enable all sub-tracks for recording from the folder controls.
Summary
Avid has added the top feature users have asked for years, further solidifying its place as the choice for those who track, edit, and mix. I'm happy to see Avid making these changes and look forward to what's next.
Rating

Let’s all be honest here; 2020 has been a tough year. With all the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding us, everyone needs a small escape. I have been staring at the Apple TV screensavers to feel like I have some semblance of contact with the outside world! It almost feels like I’m flying over San Fran right now! Some of us are losing it, and just in the nick of time, Avid swoops in to the rescue with Pro Tools 2020. So let’s all take a look at what’s available in your Avid account today if you have a subscription (if not, grab one at least for a month to check out what’s new). Get ready to read the words “tracks” and “folders” a LOT.

 

Intro

We don’t need an intro for a DAW that is essentially the closest thing to a “Modern-Day Two-Inch Tape” (coined by our very own B. Church), meaning almost every brick and mortar studio runs it. With additional advances like the free entry-level Pro Tools First, anyone can use it and share sessions. Definitely a feather in Avid’s cap to offer a DAW that is scaled from the beginning(est) of beginners, all the way to the Abbey(est) of roads.

 

If You’ve Been Out of the Pro Tools World for a Bit

What would a new version be without a few new tricks? For those who may have been out of the loop for a while, Avid developers have done away with the “one big release per year” approach and now release more often, delivering new features when ready. Because of this approach, new features appear sporadically through the year, squashing bugs along the way. Also, if you’ve been under a rock, Pro Tools has gone subscription-based while still offering perpetual licenses with the option to receive upgrades each year for a nominal fee. If your coverage lapses, you keep the version you last purchased as your perpetual license.

 

What Avid Has Added Since Our Last Review

We last reviewed Pro Tools 2019.5, but Avid added more features in Pro Tools 2019.10 and 2019.12. Let’s do a quick overview of what else Pro Tools added.

 

Single File Multi-Stem Bounce (Pro Tools | Ultimate Only)

In continuing to improve export workflow for stems, bouncing gets an upgrade. Pro Tools Ultimate now bounces multiple stems into a single file. Once in the “Bounce to Disk” menu, use the “+” button on the “Bounce Source” to add more busses. Under “Delivery Format,” “Single File” can be selected to send all outputs to one file. This feature can work with differing file types as well.

 

4K and 120 fps Support

4K / UHD video, H.264 media, and higher frame rates are now available. Better formats get you straight to editing without having to worry about transcoding or conversion. Also, better quality formats mean more accurate editing, making your audio more accurate within your video.

Dolby Atmos Bridge Support

With the latest Dolby Atmos Production Suite and enhanced Core Audio support for Dolby Audio Bridge, you can now send 130 channels from Pro Tools (up from 32) to the Dolby Atmos Renderer. Streamline your mixing and monitoring workflow with a solution that enables you to pre-mix Dolby Atmos projects in any room.

Netflix Post Technology Alliance

Pro Tools | Ultimate now is part of the Netflix Post Technology Alliance. Avid has worked closely with Netflix to ensure Pro Tools supports Netflix’s workflow and technical requirements and will continue to do so.

Scan Audio Files

In previous versions of Pro Tools, one prompt would show up at the opening of a session. This issue made finding errors a little painful. Now from the workspace browser, any volume can be right-clicked and scanned for problems using “Scan Audio File(s) for Irregularities.” Once scanned, Pro Tools presents a report.

 

Key Commands and Analytics

A “Cut All Automation” key command has been added, and the name explains itself. Pressing “Option+Shift+X (Mac)” or “Alt+Shift+X (Windows)” will perform the cut. For analytics purposes, Pro Tools added the option to send analytics to Avid automatically. This feature, like any other piece of software, sends anonymous user data to improve workflow and development planning. While I usually decline this on most operating systems, I did enable this because many times, a weird crash will happen repeatedly, and I’m too lazy to send off a bug report. Also, it’s completely anonymous.

 

New in 2020.3

Now that we’ve recapped the recent changes for those who may be entertaining the possibility of switching over or back to Pro Tools; let’s get to the new stuff.

 

Mac Pro Support

Because the latest “cheese grater” inspired Mac Pro comes with a staggering number of cores, Avid has enhanced Pro Tools 2020 for Mac Pro. This opens up Pro Tools to take advantage of all 28 cores of that luxury-car-priced monstrosity. Just do us a favor and send in the screengrabs of your session’s System Usage window with IRLs on all 248 tracks. We get a kick out of that sort of thing.

One Cheese Grater to Rule Them All

Improvements to Video Engine

As of Pro Tools 2019.12, Pro Tools has Catalina support for all audio-based workflows. Aside from audio, Catalina’s transitioning to 64-bit architecture was affecting causing issues with how Pro Tools interacts with certain video types. While 2019.12 upgraded the Avid Video Engine, full support for video workflows is an ongoing development.

In Pro Tools 2020.3, Avid releases an improvement to video support on Catalina. Now users can import and playback QuickTime video (video only, not audio) in the following formats:

 

  • DNxHR (MOV)
  • DNxHD (MOV)
  • Apple ProRes (MOV)
  • 264 (CFR Media Only)
    • MOV
    • MP4
    • M4V

 

The result is a smoother operation with those high-resolution drone videos of you shaming those neighbors who aren’t practicing proper social distance.

 

Folder Tracks

Yes, I’ve seen the memes on Reddit, GearSlutz, and just about any other form of visual-based media. Pro Tools’ most requested feature for the past several years is here ,and we get it, whatever DAW you use probably already has track folders. What you may not realize is although Pro Tools may be one of the last to the party, it’s showed up fashionably late.

 

Tracks on Tracks on Tracks

Pro Tools definitely does what everyone else does. Tracks can be dragged and dropped into folders. Up to nine layers can be organized into a folder. In true “Pimp my Ride” style, Folder Tracks can be nested in Folder Tracks. Tracks can be color-coded and arranged by a simple click and drag. In order to celebrate, we kicked off our very own “Folder Fest” with about 100 different tracks and arranged, dragged, and color-coded for hours (exaggeration, but not too far from the truth). The workflow was very seamless and easy. The actual track folder has a few features as well. To make editing and auditioning easier, soloing and muting on the folder track will affect all tracks housed in the folder.

Yo Dawg, I heard you like Folder Tracks, so we put Folder Tracks INSIDE of Folder Tracks

Folder Workflow Upgraded

Since workflow improvement is key, Avid has added a view similar to the “Universe” view at the top of the Edit window. Small channels are representative of the tracks housed inside of the folder. Want to fly that perfect chorus around the song without opening the track folder? You can by selecting the section of audio in your folder and copy-pasting within the folder.

 

I’ve Got the Power

To make you a true power user, shortcut keys have been added for Folder tracks. If desired tracks are selected, pressing “Shift+Option+Command+N” will open the dialogue for the “Move to Folder Track” option. Folder tracks are also created from the “New Track” box. Don’t know the key command? Shame on you, but we’ve got your back. Press “Shift+Command+N”, then once in the New Tracks window, press “Shift+Down Arrow” to quickly toggle to the Folder Track option. P.S. this also lets you toggle different track types and widths using the up and down arrow. You learn something new every day. Once the folder is created, you are given modifier keys to open and close multiple folder combinations.

 

Routing Folders

This is where things get interesting. Routing Folders work like an aux bus and folder track by housing subsequent tracks and automatically rout the tracks to one bus. From this folder, you can organize all tracks, process, and automate. For even more flexibility, Pro Tools gives tracks inside routing folders the ability to either be routed or not, thus preserving organization without hard-lined rules on routing.

Avid wasn’t finished with Track and Routing Folders. Because they’ve integrated their Track Presets with both features, you can save and recall custom combinations with the click of the mouse. Routing folders presets can even save plugin chains and bus routing. You can create templates even faster than before.

 

Thoughts

From the last version we’ve reviewed, I’m happy with the improvements made. I know Folder Tracks have been a feature for other DAWs for a long time, but I, for one, am excited to see it in the DAW I use in my day to day operation. On top of that, Avid didn’t just haphazardly give you the option to organize folders. They added enhanced features that take the concept of organization and add even more workflow.

 

While I’m not a huge user of the Avid Video Engine, Everything Recording is looking to expand beyond print and move into video. Having more options is always better. On top of that, when I finally do hit the lottery, I like knowing that Pro Tools will be able to efficiently use all the power my $40,000 computer will dole out.

 

Even though it may not mean much to users of other DAWs, but Folder Tracks check a box in a list of features I felt were missing in my workflow. Although I’m not sure what took as long as it did, I’m glad they took their time to get it right. Pro Tools 2020 brings a no-nonsense set of features that get the job done.

 

There’s not really anything to scoff at in this update. Avid have listened and delivered. The only update I’d like to see to Folder Tracks is the option to record arm all tracks from the folder. In the future, I’d also like to see a “Solo / Mute Safe” feature where Pro Tools solos or mutes the entire signal flow automatically (i.e., effects busses). Lastly, an in-app MIDI Keyboard and Sequencing would be a game-changer. I really would like to lean less on other software for sequencing and stay in Pro Tools. I like it here!

Conclusion

Well, there you have it. Pro Tools continues to round out its set of features that keep it perched at the top spot in the DAW food chain. OK, that wasn’t so bad, we made it through the review and only said “tracks” 39 times. Being ever the OCD person, I have to round this review out with an even 40.

TRACKS!!!

Pricing:

Yes, we took the time to break down every possible price and link to the appropriate page. Also, some links are affiliate so please, if you found this review helpful, please support us by buying from the link

Pro Tools | Standard

Perpetual License with 1-year upgrade support: $599
Yearly Perpetual Update (1-year upgrades & support): $199.00 (if not expired)
Yearly Perpetual Update (1-year upgrades & support): $299.00 (if expired)

Subscription (1-year subscription paid monthly): $29.99
Subscription (1-year paid all at once gets 2 months free):$299.99
Subscription (paid month to month): $34.99

Pro Tools | Ultimate

Perpetual License (w/ 1-year upgrades & support): $2599.00 (new user)
Perpetual License (w/ 1-year upgrades & support): $1899.00 (trade up)
Yearly Perpetual Update (if not expired): $399.00
Yearly Perpetual Update (if expired): $999.00
Digilink License (I/O License to use 3rd Party Interfaces): $299.00

Subscription (full 1-year subscription paid in monthly payments): $79.99
Subscription (1-year paid all at once gets 2 months free): $799.00
Subscription (paid month to month): $89.99