Technology problems. I have a passion for them. I look for them. I try to put myself in front of technology problems every single day.

I had spent most of Saturday evening and Sunday evening editing a 7 minute and 20 second song. The producer wanted a percussion loop in the song and, as it turned out, the 50 or so instrumental tracks had not played well to the click track. The percussion loop overlapped the instrumental tracks for about a minute and a half. That little overlap took almost ten hours of editing to align the instrumental tracks to the loop.

Why go to all that trouble? The human ear is very sensitive to distortion, pitch and timing issues when listening to recorded music. And when a loop is created, it is very dependent on strong timing. If the instrumental tracks are pushing or pulling the beat a little bit then fine. It is art. When it lags or gets too far ahead of the beat, then it is a flaw. Loops magnify the flaws to an objectionable level.

Anyway, I spent all that time getting the tracks cleaned up and I went to produce a dub. A dub is a rough mix of the song. Not to be confused with the final mix of the song although, for some reason, the artists I work with get confused all the time.

In Pro Tools, we have a feature called Bounce To Disk which is used to create a stereo dub. Keep in mind that the song in question here is over 7 minutes long. And keep in mind that the session contains well over 90 tracks for this song. It takes Pro Tools several minutes to load the song. Once Pro Tools has produced the dub, I have to exit the program, load a different program to bring up the audio file and burn it to disk. All in, about 15 to 20 minutes to produce one dub.

I spent 3 hours trying to produce a dub. It was awful. Every time I produced a dub I would only get a mix of a limited set of tracks. The lead and background vocals were missing. As were the new keyboard parts we tracked over the week-end. As were a number of other parts.

What on earth was wrong? Was the session too large? Was I running out of memory? Was there a problem with the disk?

I searched the web. I went to the Digidesign support forum. I almost thought that I would have to do the unthinkable.

Call the Help Desk.

And, as a technology guy, I just can’t do that. Calling the Help Desk is almost as bad as having to ask for directions when you are lost. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t do it.

The sad thing is, that despite all the technology problems I thought I was having, too many tracks, too many edits, not enough memory allocated to the playback buffer, not enough CPU, I had no technology problems whatsoever.

I had inadvertently tagged the output stream of the session to take a dub of the musician’s cue mix. In other words, the dub was working exactly as intended. It was just making a dub of the headphone mix which, to make the musician’s life easier, had a limited number of tracks.

I went in and tagged the output stream to make a dub of the master mix instead of the cue mix and everything worked fine.

I must be getting old. If I had called the Help Desk the ticket would have been marked ID-10-T.


5 replies
  1. Josh
    Josh says:

    Just in case you’re wondering there is a spelling mistake in the third paragraph where you said “When it lags or gets to far ahead of the beat, then it is a flaw.”

    Of course you must have meant that …it lags or gets too** far ahead of the beat…

    Perhaps you were sorting through your 9-12 disks that you wasted when attempting to make your dub. (“All in, about 15 to 20 minutes to produce one dub. I spent 3 hours trying to produce a dub.” 15/180 = 12 20/180 = 9)


  2. richard cleaver
    richard cleaver says:

    Josh: thanks for catching the typo. I went back in and corrected it. And, fortunately for me, I caught the dub issues before burning discs.

  3. richard cleaver
    richard cleaver says:

    Vista? Has it shipped yet?


    Dubs are produced in real time so platforms do not matter. Roughly 90% of the Pro Tools TDM installs are on Macs largely because of preference for Macs in the artistic community.

    The dual proc G5 under OS X is very high performance. Much higher than my 3.2GHz Wintel box. Perhaps Vista will improve the performance. And it will be interesting to see how Mactels will perform. As you have said many times before, competition is a good thing for the market. It keeps everyone at their best!


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