Pat Thrall, producer, mixer and engineer who initially gained recognition as a guitarist with the Pat Travers Band, Hughes/Thrall and Asia, among others, has been busy mixing and engineering several projects these days at
The Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas. A recent upgrade from a Mac G5 to Mac Pro with Intel’s multi-core processors has had quite an impact on his mixing abilities, he reveals - significantly improving the speed and processing capabilities of his preferred digital audio workstation, Digidesign’s Pro Tools.
“Mixing within Pro Tools really taxes the computer because I use a lot of effects and a lot of RTAS plug-ins, which are dependent on the CPU of the computer,” shares Thrall. “That’s where the Intel-based Mac Intel is a champ, because I have so much more computing power now. I can use these plug-ins and not worry about the computer choking.”
He elaborates, “I used to hit a wall with the pre-Intel version of the Mac. The computer would start stuttering, then stop and tell me that I would have to eliminate some of the RTAS plug-ins from the session. I would then have to bounce my effects over to their own tracks so I could then open up more plug-ins to get more effects, eq or compressors, etc.”
That’s a time-consuming process that slows the work flow. Mixing is about getting in a groove and staying there - such as on two of his recent releases - remixes of classic Miles Davis tracks (Evolution Of The Groove-Sony Legacy) or Sly and the Family Stone (Different Strokes for Different Folks-Sony Legacy). Thrall who has also worked with John Mayer, Backstreet Boys, Steven Tyler, Bono, Dave Stewart, Beyoncé, Elton John, Meat Loaf, Stevie Wonder and many others in a variety of engineering, programming, editing or performing capacities, is grateful for the benefits that Intel imparts.
Having Intel power at his fingertips, he says, “has allowed me to use many more reverb and delay plugin's within Pro Tools, which can be very demanding on computing power. Now, I can run things in real time and I don't have to compensate for any 'weakness' of the computer."
That has been good news for Thrall’s mix projects, which have included the new “Strength & Loyalty” album from Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, “America's Got Talent” winner, Bianca Ryan, and several tracks on Clay Aiken’s most recent album. The increased processing power has also been noticeable on one specific RTAS plug-in.
“I’ve been developing a drum library with Toontracks. The latest product is called EZ Drummer and I also use their Superior series libraries which can be very demanding on RAM and the CPU. We are releasing Superior 2.0 early next year that will have some amazing multitrack drum kits recorded at the best studios in New York. When the Superior series software was first released the computer would have a hard time dealing with complex drum patterns. They streamlined the software and now using the Mac Intel it’s a breeze. I can have the most complex drum performances running in real time through the plug-in and the computer cruises right along.”
The first benefit Thrall noticed when he upgraded to the Mac Intel was that the computer boots a lot quicker. Secondly, he says, “It’s so incredibly fast for doing any kind of off-line processing. When you’re doing offline processing or bringing audio files into a session, you really notice the speed difference. Before, when I’d import high sample rate audio files into a Pro Tools session, it felt like it was taking forever when I had a room full of clients. Now, everything happens so much quicker.”
“When I did the Bone Thugs mix, it came from three different producers from three different studios. There were technical issues as far as different sample rates and even some timing issues (one producer thought the song should be a bit slower). Bringing all of these tracks together into one master session in the pre Intel days could take quite a while.” But with the new Mac Intel computer, he reports, the disparate tracks loaded inside a single session in about one minute: “It was stunning!”
"Having that additional processing power makes my job easier because I don’t have to think about the limitations of the computer like I used to. In Pro Tools they have what they call gas gauges, so you can see how hard the computer is working. I’d really have to keep an eye on that back in the day and alter certain plug-ins or use plug-ins that weren’t as high quality. Now I can use the high quality plug-ins and use a lot more of them. It’s accelerated my whole process.”
That in turn has freed him up to do his job more efficiently and be more creative: “I don’t have to think as much about what is going on technically in a session. Before, if I ran out of computing power, I’d have to create new tracks, aux things out to those tracks and record them and record them in real time, then reset levels, adjust the new plug-ins, and then sometimes have to reboot the session to refresh the computer.
He continues, “That definitely affects creative flow, because you’re thinking technically and not artistically. That is now all in the past. The Intel Mac has enhanced the creative aspect of my work. What else could you ask for?”