In the year 2000 Rocket Networks introduced the idea of online collaboration and MIDI/audio data exchange between studio DAW systems. Using Cubase or Logic and then later Pro Tools you could share and collaborate on online projects with other users, producers and musicians around the world. It was awesome, it worked over a 56k modem and in 2003 Digidesign (now called Avid) bought it and closed it. 13 years later Avid reinvent the concept with “Cloud Collaboration” in Pro Tools 12.5 and it’s just as great an idea now as it was then.
Cloud Collaboration allows you to invite other Pro Tools users to access and contribute to your session. You need a bass line and your bass player happens to be in another country? No problem – simply turn your session into a cloud project and he or she can access the same project and record directly into it. But it doesn’t have to be an international collaboration, it can be some guy down the road, the studio next door, recording in the field, or a really easy way to work on your sessions outside the studio on your laptop, or at home. It really does release you from all having to do everything in the one place, the one studio and it’s that for me that makes this really interesting – although there are plenty of other reasons to like it.
Of course, there’s a cost involved. Being the owner of Pro Tools 12.5 entitles you to 3 cloud projects and 500MB of storage for free. Once you need to exceed that then for $9.99 a month you can step up to 5 projects and 20GB of storage and then for $24.99 a month you can have 10 projects and 60GB of storage. As a collaborator there’s no charge to connect to and work on someone else’s project and you can work with up to 2 collaborators at a time and cycle through as many as you like.
One common question is about plug-ins – how can you be sure that your collaborators have the same plug-ins as you so that the project sounds like it’s supposed to? Well, you don’t. One of the key features to emerge in version 12 of Pro Tools was the track freeze. This enables you to freeze a track with all the plug-ins intact and render it to an audio file and so any tracks that have plug-ins not owned by the collaborator can be heard correctly by all contributors.
I used Rocket Networks a lot back in the day but really for fun more than anything else. I’d log into the public servers and put whimsical guitar tracks onto all the techno/dance projects. That sense of fun, open and accidental collaboration has perhaps been lost because this is purely a Pro Tools technology designed for serious and professional use. Rocket Networks could also work in different DAWs and could, if it had been allowed to continue to develop, perhaps have become a standard across all DAWs by now. Instead each DAW is likely to develop their own proprietary technology like Steinberg already have with VST Connect. It is all about the cloud these days and Avid have timed this perfectly to tap into a growing desire to collaborate creatively online as we do in so many other forms of work and it will be interesting to see how enthusiastically it will be adopted.
Version 12.5 of Pro Tools is available now – check your Avid account for details.
More information: https://www.avid.com/en/avid-cloud-collaboration-for-pro-tools