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The DAW of Choice

by Chris Joye

Whether composing soundtracks, recording bands, editing audio, or mixing fifty tracks of audio together, the audio professional has a wide range of digital tools at their disposal.  Yet, with the amount of DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) available, one needs to choose the proper fit to be the most efficient and creative as possible.   While each DAW consists of fairly similar features and functions, there are many varying opinions on which DAW is the “best”, yet ultimately, it tends to be a fairly subjective choice.

I interviewed 11 very busy Colorado-based composers and audio specialists to find out what local Coloradans are using and why.

 

Dedric Terry – Composer/Sound Designer – Colorado Springs, CO

My main DAW for scoring and sound design is Nuendo 6 (I also use ProTools 10 as needed).

- I prefer Nuendo for its advanced MIDI, audio post features, and a design approach that fits well with my workflow. 

- With Nuendo, I can easily manage a rather large 5.1 scoring template and several networked satellite systems hosting my sample libraries.  

- Other DAWs I have used are perfectly capable, but Nuendo’s customizable key commands and macros, multiple marker and video tracks, and generally broader feature set, let me work more quickly and creatively.


Dedric Terry is a Colorado Springs-based composer and sound designer for film, TV, advertising, and game markets, and a partner in Hollywood Film Sound, a high end film audio post and scoring service.  His website is www.dedricterry.com

 

Nick Sullivan – Producer/Engineer/Musician – Denver, CO

Though I have enjoyed other DAWs, like Cubase and Logic, I still find Pro Tools to be the most efficient DAW for my style of tracking and mixing.  When doing basic tracking in the studio, I utilize such features as the multiple playlist/takes feature and session data import functions to facilitate very time efficient recording sessions.  

On the mixing side, I have found the Pro Tools 10/HDX combination to be rock solid with high track count mixes.  I use multiple parallel compression techniques and can finally trust Pro Tools 10's delay compensation to be accurate when employing parallel compression techniques in the box.

 

Nick Sullivan is a Denver Producer/Engineer/Musician who has recently cofounded Consonance Productions (http://consonanceproductions.com), a music production company that will focus on artists’ development and licensing.   Notable credits include:  The Swayback, Dispatch, Los Lobos, and The Photo Atlas.

 

Alex Bullen – Composer – Lafayette, CO

My main DAW is Ableton Live.

- On the fly:  Ableton excels at editing audio on the fly, meaning that I can easily chop up and alter sound during playback. This is great when trying new ideas or showing off for friends or clients.

- Session View: In addition to laying out music linearly (as in most DAWs), Ableton has a mode I like to call the "Sketchpad" (Session View). In this mode, you can mix-and-match musical ideas without having to lay them out linearly. Being able to audition, say, three or four different drum parts for a particular part of a song encourages creativity and spontaneity.

- Video editing: I just discovered this - you can chop up and edit video clips in Ableton, the same way you chop audio! There aren't any video filters or transitional effects, but it works great for throwing together simple videos, and it saves me the hassle of learning another program simply to add a video component to my work. https://soundcloud.com/alexiansounds

 

Alex Bullen is an electro-orchestral composer, based in Lafayette, CO, who specializes in beats, loops, and soundscapes. His main instruments are guitar, piano, and saxophone.

 

Chris Rippey – Composer – Lafayette, CO

The main DAW I use is Cubase Essential. The first reason I use it is that it is easy to use and never feels cluttered, so I can keep track of everything, even on huge tracks.  I am able to pull the features I use up front and hide almost everything else. I primarily record acoustic music so I have a preset stored that opens directly to a workspace that I have set up for that purpose.

Cubase Essential was also very affordable when I purchased it as a student.  It strips down some of the fancier features and leaves you with just the most important functions of recording and mixing.  I find that to suit my purposes perfectly, as I record music that I want to sound as true to life as possible.

The plugins provided with the software do an excellent job at processing audio.  Compression and reverb are the main things that I need, and I have found that they can be made quite natural sounding, which is a must for me.  There is a collection of other processing options that are mostly just fun, and I do sometimes use the amp modeling for guitars and specialization for greater depth of field.  

 

Chris Rippey is a composer of acoustic music living in Lafayette CO.  He has a special interest in global musical traditions.  His new album, Eyes Get Used to Darkness, will be released soon.  More info at http://www.ChrisRippey.com

 

Kelly Bryarly – Composer – Colorado Springs, CO

I work with Motu Digital Performer. 

- Probably the most mature midi sequencing program on the market (preceded Pro-tools TDM which I have also owned and used).

- DP's ability to tempo-map to picture is the best I am aware of.

- Very customizable controller integration and is Eucon enabled (I use Avid's MC Control).

 

Kelly Bryarly currently lives in Colorado Springs, CO. He has written and produced successful soundtrack music for many types of projects, from feature film to spots. He is a two-time recipient of the "Joey Award" for 'Best Original Music Score'.  In addition to a steady stream of music production for cable TV, recent projects include scores for "Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions"; "The Life Penalty"; "The Firefly and the Stars"; "Gibsonburg".  http://www.kbmusic.com/

 

Ken Dravis – Producer/Engineer - Aspen Leaf Recording – Grand Junction, CO

In 1992, I was first exposed to "Performer" and its MIDI capabilities. For audio editing, I was working with Pro Tools, but when MOTU made the massive leap of combining Audio AND MIDI into one application, "Digital Performer" became my DAW platform.

A huge reason to remain with DP is personal familiarity - I am able to work quickly and very efficiently, from tracking, ADR to mastering.  As a loyal customer, I have a very good relationship with Sweetwater Sound and MOTU. They go above and beyond with assistance when necessary.

 

Aspen Leaf Recording and Production Studio is a full-featured, 1800 sq ft. facility located in Grand Junction, CO. I work with many clients as an Engineer, Producer, Musician, & Vocalist. Aspen Leaf was built from the ground-up as a studio with floating floors and walls, acoustically correct rooms while keeping a comfortable, creative atmosphere with very reasonable rates.   www.AspenLeafRecording.com

 

Nate Madsen – Composer/Sound Designer – Thornton, CO

The main DAW I'm using is Logic Pro. I've used it for the past seven years and know the ins and outs of the program well.

- I know a good portion of the hot key commands and can quickly set up sessions, set up various kinds of automation during production and can quickly bounce items out in a variety of formats.  It suits my workflow fairly well, regardless if that is sound design, music composition or producing voice overs, and I like many of the bundled tools it features.

- The bundled EQ plugin and Ringshifter are two of my "go to" plug-ins.  Also, setting up 3rd party AU plugs or Rewire couldn't be easier. 

- I first learned Logic when taking an in-house job at FUNimation Entertainment and was coming from working with Cakewalk's Sonar and Propellerhead's Reason on PC. It was a bit of a change!

 

Nate Madsen is a Thornton-based composer/sound designer active in the indie films and video games markets. He's worked on over 140 projects since starting the company back in 2005. To check out some of his work and learn more about Nate go to www.madsenstudios.com

 

Jared Collett – CEO/Lead Engineer – The One Room Studio – Denver, CO

Having used most DAWs on the market, my pick is Cubase. I use Cubase for its speed of editing, customizability, and flexibility. Coming from a mostly hip-hop and music production background, engineering speed is in high demand. It's been a rock solid DAW for years, and allows me to edit with a swift and flexible style.

 

With over a decade of award winning, nation-wide production and engineering under his belt, Jared "Improv" Collett's goal of "being a part of great music" has been accomplished. Mentoring young, hungry producers on the same journey, Jared's Denver studio (The One Room - http://www.theoneroomstudio.com/) operates rich in his influence.

 

 

James Rosenberg – Producer/Engineer – Great Divide Studios – Aspen, CO

We use Avid Pro Tools as our main DAW at Great Divide Studios because of its ubiquitous nature. We often get projects that began at another studio and sometimes need to pass it on to yet another facility when we are done. One example is the John Oates CD, "1000 Miles of Life", where John did some basic sketches at his house in PT and then we tweaked them and added a few things here at GDS. We then recorded A-list players in Nashville and brought those tracks back to Aspen where I did all of the editing, as well as all of John's vocals and guitars and overdubbed various other musicians.

I hate to sound like an Avid ad, but Pro Tools is the common language we all speak, so it's really a no brainer that one must have Pro Tools. I also like the fact that Avid makes a complete system with AD/DA conversion and the Icon controller that we have. All the gear speaks really well together and sounds great.

Our first DAW was Digital Performer and we have Logic here as well, but there is rarely a reason to use them. We see a lot of film scoring sessions in the summer and Logic is popular with many of those composers, but it always end up in PT for the mix. Ultimately, one can get the job done with any DAW, so it really just comes down to what you are comfortable with.

 

I've been a musician for 30+ years and started Great Divide Studios (www.greatdividestudios.com) in 1992 with a stack of 4 ADATs. Twenty-one years and four studio builds later, I'm still here in Aspen making records with the famous and the not-so-famous. Great talent seems to always find its way here and that's the way I like it!

 

Steve Sirockin – Producer/Engineer – Altitude Recording Studio – Boulder

Our studio generally uses Pro Tools HD Accel, as that is often a professional standard in many larger studios. It also is compatible with other formats such as Logic. Another reason is that we have used Pro Tools here since the early versions and are most familiar with this over other formats.   There are other good DAWs, but Pro Tools seems to have many advantages for our production needs.

 

Altitude Recording Studio (http://www.altitude-recording.com/) provides high-end professional results without the high price tag. Steve has been active in the Boulder, CO studio scene, as a session player, producer, and audio engineer.

 

Keegan Farone – Engineer/Percussionist – Aurora, CO

Since I use my DAWs primarily for tracking audio (live and in-studio) and post-production editing and mixing endeavors, I prefer to utilize AVID Pro-Tools to fulfill my needs.

-Waveform Tracking and Manipulation: When having to record take-after-take, and then edit, Pro-Tools is your savior. To prevent qualms with organizing multiple regions or tracks of audio, utilizing the Playlist feature while tracking allows for all takes associated with that particular segment to be grouped and viewed simultaneously. And to edit, Warp Mode is the tool which allows for precise movement and modification of individual transients in your waveform.

-Ease of Layout: With a precise, yet docile color-scheme and overall lay-out, Pro-Tools allows for sessions to move at a quicker pace, as well as allow the user to operate sessions for a longer period of time. Particularly helpful, the separation of the Mix Window and Edit Window provides a crystal-clear working channel for which to maximize your session potential and organization.

-User Friendly: No matter what stage of production you find yourself in, Pro-Tools aids you with a vast number of gadgets to make your task that much easier! Key Command Short-Cuts save crucial seconds during your workflow in a session; The Multi-Tool (select, trim, drag, draw, edit) turns the Engineer's cursor into a virtual hand, allowing for any practical action to be performed with ease.

 

Keegan Farone (keeganfarone@gmail.com) of Aurora, CO, is an Audio Engineer and Percussionist, with an avid interest in Jazz-Fusion and Roots music. He is a Percussion Educator, a Contracting Engineer, as well as a member of the Denver Theatrical Stagehand Union, with live music clients including Buddy Guy, Furthur, War, Tower of Power, Warren Haynes, Al di Meola, and more.