[FINAL REVIEW] Accent Demonstrates The Magic of Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration

STUDIO TEST: Accent Harnesses the Power of Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration to Record an A Cappella Record With Six Vocalists in Five Different Countries

My group Accent began in 2011 as a one-time Internet collaboration of six a cappella vocalists from five different countries. We had stumbled upon each other on YouTube through a common love for close harmony vocal groups of the 20th Century. Eventually, we decided to produce a collaborative video from our respective homes. Following that first project, we continued to work together, communicating solely through Facebook and e-mail. In 2014, we were invited to meet and perform live for the very first time in Sweden. After a rousing success, we’ve continued to perform live—increasingly nowadays—but we maintain a very busy music production schedule for albums and one-off releases. As you can imagine, our workflow really consists of six different remote workflows somehow merging into one.

We have tended to just “make this work” over the years—all the guys essentially have used recording software and file sharing services of their choice to create, share and mix audio files. Fortunately, we aren’t trying to manage 100-track sessions. But there has always been something inefficient about it. Every little change or fix would have to be rebounced, reshared, realigned to the master session. It is usually straightforward, but when you stop to think about it, it’s a real waste of time.

When Performer Magazine posted that they were running a promotion to win Quartet audio interfaces and Pro Tools cloud collaboration software from Avid, we leaped at the chance to enter. The cloud collaboration tools jumped out at us for obvious reasons. And the interfaces would be the cherry on top, because even though all the Accent guys own capable interfaces, a couple of us were on the pretty outdated side, myself included (though I do love my trusty Digi002!).

Testing these powerful tools couldn’t have come at a better time. We are in final stages of producing our new EP In This Together, which we actually recorded together for a change (so tracking was no hassle!), but now we are in mix mode. It made perfect sense for us to use the cloud tools to share mix feedback and ideas, all on the same version of the same session. We can literally share a session and make suggested changes for each other, which helps Andrew Kesler on the other end (in Los Angeles) who is ultimately responsible for the mix. Otherwise, we would have just been sharing bounces, awaiting comments and trying to reconcile those with the session.

It was very intuitive to get started and make progress. We documented some of our shared sessions (which we led together over Skype)—with the videos you see in this article. Using the cloud tools basically removed any need for file sharing services like Dropbox, since the audio files themselves are all right there in the cloud and don’t require us to worry about organizing them or managing updates and fixes. Our current changes can be viewed and accessed in another member’s session, halfway around the globe, as soon as we save our work and sync our file. We even used this new workflow to capitalize on each other’s plug-ins by printing effects for each other and adding those stems to the cloud session. Magic.

A quick word about the interfaces: They are awesome! They’re the perfect balance between robust and portable…so much is packed in to a small footprint. I’ve been a full control surface user for quite some time, but I’ve also used various Mbox models including the first couple generations and the later Mbox Pro. The Quartet just seems sleeker and to my ears even sounds a bit better than other Avid/Digidesign interfaces from the past. My mate James Rose over in London is using the other one we were given to test out and is similarly excited about his upgrade. I also found I don’t miss the control surface from my old Digi002 too much because I’m now able to use the Pro Tools Control iPad app via EuControl.

Stay tuned for a track preview from the forthcoming album.

It feels good to finally be in the 21st century. Thanks, Performer and Avid!

-Evan Sanders (Bass vocalist, Accent)

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