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Topic: Pre-Purchase Questions/Concerns

jpoprock wrote:

Hello all! I'm really really interested in buying the Alphatrack. I've researched it along with all the other choices, and think that for the money and what I need, it will be perfect. I'm a Pro Tools LE 7.4 user.

I saw this post in another forum, that outlined some "problems" with the AT, but the post was written back in Sept '07. These problems sound like somewhat a of a big deal, but maybe not. I'm kind of having a hard time fully understanding what exactly he is saying. I would understand if i could SEE what he's talking about, but for now, I'm not fully "gettin' it". Here are the issues this dude described:

"Scrub bar is set by nudge value:
Their cute little scrubby ribbon strip is set as a percentage of your nudge value. If you are like most serious editors, you like your nudge to be about 10 ms. At that setting the ribbon strip control creeps along and is useless for horizontal scrolling. The jump-to-markers by tapping feature is nice though... but I can use my ".1., .2., .3., etc." key shortcut for that. (Thats decimal + Num + decimal on the numeric pad). The scrub bar also affects window view, controlling both your view and the timeline simultaneously which is related to my next peeve.

Track-Select scrolls your window view:
Let me clarify something. Selecting a track and selecting your window view are two completely separate user controls. But on the Alphatrack they appear to be married. Consequences... let's say for example you're mixing and you have limited window space. You have your mix window open with tracks aligned left to right (kik, snr, HH, Tom 1, Tom 2, ..... bass, gits, vox, etc.). When you select Kik with A.T. it appears in your window far left. Now when you select snare (if your horizontal scroll bar below is active, i.e. you have tracks to the right of your screen), your view shifts and Kik is bumped off screen to left. Now you can't view Kik and Snr together! This effect is 10 x more annoying in the edit window. Your looking at a track, then you click (ctrl + shft + click) up above to go to another track and all of your tracks realign themselves in the window and you have to glance around to find what you were just looking at. Unlivable, IMHO. There should be a separate window scrolling control on A.T. perhaps.

Want to adjust your plugin EQs with the little knobs? Forget it. Knobs are too finely adjusted.
I did a quick test. It took me 6 complete revolutions of the knob to move the gain setting in my Ren Eq from -18db to +18db. On a mouse this is one click and drag or click and swipe. Don't forget, each revolution took 3 separate twists of my wrist... about 18 physical movements to slide the eq point from top to bottom. Like pedaling downhill in 10th gear.

You have to take your hand of the Alpha track to select tracks that aren't adjacent!
How often do you really mix by going from one track to the next? You don't. You select a track here and there and adjust according to need. I thought I would just be able to click on a track and slide. Wrong. You have to ctr + shft + click to activate a track. So your A.T. hand has to move to the keyboard every time. I programmed my mouse for a shortcut combo click to solve the problem, but the A.T. was not responsive in real time and I experienced long delays before pro tools would hear the fader. This was pronounced during playback."

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Then he said someone from AT responded to him about his "problems":

I chatted with a tech guy from Frontier Designs. Below are his replies. As mentioned by earlier, a lot is determined by the digi HUI. None of my preference settings fixed anything however. I'll be keeping the unit, but only for the the fader, panning and a couple of the btns which are actually nice to have around.

Re: Scrub bar is set by nudge value:

F.D. "The reason for its relationship to the nudge value is that this is the only HUI accessible value that lets the user customize scrub resolution."

Okay not F.D. fault. Still makes scrubbing worthless if you are editing a session and want to use small nudge values.

Re: Track-Select scrolls your window view:

F.D. "This is actually determined by your own user settings in Pro Tools Preferences and not AlphaTrack. See Pro Tools Preferences/Display/Edit Window Follows Bank Selection, and, Mix Window Follows Bank Selection."

I tried this, and when these preferences were changed to prevent scrolling, Ctrl + Shift + click no longer worked for selecting tracks. Try it. So you still have live with window scrolling issue. My work around = make your mix window super wide to include all tracks and in edit view, get used to your selected track becoming the top one on screen.

Re: Adjusting plugin settings with knobs:

F.D. "encoder resolution is determined by the HUI protocol"

So. Okay again... not F.D. fault. Still, it happens to be worthless with my set up (Ren EQ, PT and Alphatrack) for reasons originally mentioned.

Re: You have to take your hand of the Alpha track to select tracks that aren't adjacent:

F.D. "The shift + ctr + click function is another HUI setting".

I could not find a work-around. I'm resigned to lifting the left hand every time to select a new track. I don't like using the knob method for this. Arrows are very cool for selecting adjacent tracks.

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Ok.. so now MY questions!

So, is this guy saying that if using Pro Tools, in order to get a value to go from -18db to +18db, I'm going to have to turn the knob like three full revolutions?? That seems extreme. You CAN grab a virtual knob with a mouse and fix it quicker than you can do three revolutions!

And this thing with Track-Select Scrolls Window View... I'd have to see it to know what he's talking about.. and how or if it would apply to me at all. I don't get it, but whatever it is, it seems like a royal pain huh? How can I say that if I don't know what he's even talking about? Well... I dunno. HA!! But FD says it's a PTLE setting, and this guy says that he tried what FD suggested, and it didn't work. So... has this been fixed in an update? Or is this guy a moron?

Same for the issue with taking your hand off the AT to select adjacent tracks... Is it true?

I don't think it's fair to assume that the AT will perform like a Digi Command 8 or a Mackie Control Univ simple due to the feature set. In fact, the MCU is a HUI device no? There are a lot of guys that use it with PT and seem thrilled. If HUI is so bad, as this guy indicates, making the AT somewhat useless, then why are so many others happy with HUI and PT?

I'm not sure if the Faderport is a HUI device. I think anything that isn't made by Digi is pretty much HUI. Unless I have it backwards. But if this is true... then it would seem that all the things that AT offers minus the powered fader issue of the Faderport, are pretty much not all that usable if you're using Pro Tools. If using these extra features like the scroll strip, knobs, etc, are a pain in PT, then why would I want to buy one and spend $50 more for it, when the Faderport pretty much leaves off all the controls that don't work well with PT anyway, and charges $50 less?

To make it clear, I'm NOT complaining about price. I have no issue with anything like that. In fact, I have no issues at all! I'm simply trying to make the right choice as to which product will better serve me. For the record, I typically only deal with 12 tracks max. I do use a fair amount of plugins sometimes, but not excessive. I'm a songwriter using PTLE to record my ideas and songs. Thats it. And using the mouse/keyboard is tiresome and makes me not even want to bother with recording. I'm trying to make my experience more like it used to be in the good old days of Faders and knobs. I know that I can't get RID of the mouse and keyboard with the AT, but I can certainly cut down on the tediousness of it all.

So any advice you can offer would be great.

Thanks!!!

Jason

CS:Phew ..... I need to rest my brain after that. :)

Ok, where to begin?

First, yes, all controllers that are not manufactured by Digidesign must use HUI protocol to control ProTools. Its a shame but that's the Digi-law. HUI protocol is limited, but manufacturers can use it however best suites there hardware design or needs. So just because one product or another supports HUI protocol certainly doesn't mean they necessarily use it in the same way.

Feel free to download and read the complete ProTools Guide for AlphaTrack from our website
here.

Now I'll try to address a few of these issues specifically.

"Scrub bar is set by nudge value:". Yup, the scroll strip resolution at the bottom is linked to the nudge value. That isn't going to be perfect for everyone, maybe particularly film editors, that want to jog by sub-frame and still be able to shuttle quickly around in a coarse fashion as your poster seems to be. But at least the user can choose the 1 best resolution for their needs. Thats what we have on this tool (maybe if we had 2 scroll strips?). Jumping to markers with the strip is very quick. And I dare say its fewer moves than typing ' . , # , . ' every time on the keyboard. But that's just me.

"Track-Select scrolls your window view:". This can be set individually for the Edit and Mixer windows in PT Preferences. But the poster's statement is a bit misleading. Even with scrolling enabled in PT, AlphaTrack does NOT always force the selected track to be on the left side of the screen. It will only scroll if the track you are going to is off the display entirely. If your entire mixer fits on your screen it will never scroll. I'm not sure what is meant by the "track and window select are married" comment but maybe the poster wasn't all together familiar with the options that were available. Maybe just having a bad day.

And the Shift+CTRL+Click to select track function works fine on my machine even with scrolling turned off. So I'm not sure what was happening on the poster's system there either. And a related note!!! - The AlphaTrack also lets your quickly scroll through tracks with an encoder as well. You don't have to click a button many times to get around.

"Knobs are too finely adjusted.".  This depends on the plug-in that you are using. Using EQ mode on AlphaTrack with Digi's EQIII's for example, it takes less than 1 complete revolution to go from one Gain extreme to the other. We added a press+turn feature for fine control. I am not familiar with the Ren EQ mentioned so I can't comment on that specifically, but all plug-ins are not created equal. But many users are making fine adjustments rather then extreme value sweeps, so I think it works well.

"You have to take your hand of the Alpha track to select tracks that aren't adjacent!". Huh? AlphaTrack provides 2 ways of selecting tracks from its surface. There are dedicated track up/down buttons for reaching adjacent tracks. Or, as mentioned above, you can also use an encoder to quickly navigate.

As you mentioned, AlphaTrack isn't meant to compete with a Control24 but it does do a good job of helping out with common tasks. I hope this helps explain some of these issues. Please read the linked document as well, or post again if you have specific questions.

I also encourage any other AlphaTrack/PT users out there to toss in their own 2-cents worth, good or bad.

CS

jpoprock wrote:

Thanks for that clarification! It seems that for me personally, I shouldn't have a big problem since almost always, all my tracks fit on the screen. If I can use the AT to scroll from track 1 to track 6, make an adjustment, then go back to track 1 pretty quickly, then that would be just fine. What tends to wear me out, is if I am listening to a track, and need to solo track 2 and 3, like if I'm doing a doubled vocal, and then toggle one on and off or the other, when comparing them. Then I have to click to unsolo them, use my mouse to set the transport back to wherever so I can punch in, forget to turn the pre/post roll off, use my mouse to enable that (or keyboard command), zoom back in, etc. I get really tired of zooming in and out, keeping track of what is solo'd or muted, etc.

I know there are key commands for almost anything, but it's hard to remember them. I have memorized certain ones though. Perhaps I need to memorize more? But zooming in and out all the time wears me out, esp if my punch in has a "pop", which it almost does. Then I have to fix it, or find a different place to punch in, which requires me to zoom in, find the right spot, make a note of where it's at, zoom out, get my points set in the transport, do the punch in, repeat if it's not right, etc. It's a royal pain!

Plus, I can never think of the right commands to turn on and off. Like, if I'm zoomed way in on a waveform, press play to hear if that's where the pop is, my curser takes off like a rocket, then I lose it, so then I have to scroll back and forth to find it, upon which I have now lost my place of where I thought the pop was, so I have to zoom out to find it, then zoom back in to try and find the right spot, etc.

Now.. is "scrubbing" audio that little thing that has the speaker, so that when you drag it around, you can hear audio? I never use that because I guess I don't know how. It's so SLOW sounding that I can never even make out what I'm hearing.

I think what i would use the most is being able to use your control strip to slide my window around to view diff area's of the song. This is helpful if I want to copy paste the first chorus at the end of the song, etc.

I'll check that documentation soon too. I might explain some things. I'm not sure if the AT can control your zooming or not. That would be great if I did.

I think you've answered my questions good enough now that I feel like the AT is the right choice for me, unless I decide to buy a used Command 8 or Mackie Control. But even still, that's several hundred bucks more, and might be overkill.

Maybe my problem is that I need to learn how to work more efficiently. Perhaps I'm doing everything the hard way?

Thanks!

jason