As a voiceover artist, I don’t need a multichannel console with a full feature set. I usually work with a single mono channel and, even when I’m doing full audio production for a commercial or advertisement, rarely need more than 8 tracks, all of which can be managed easily in my digital audio workstation’s (DAW) on-screen user interface.
What I do miss from high-end, DAW-integrated consoles are the transport features that allow me to scrub and jog in a project’s timeline while using single key presses to execute complex, multi-step command sequences.
The Avid Artist Transport
Luckily, the Avid Artist-series Transport control surface does exactly that. I find that having the ability to navigate an audio project with one hand and execute complex tasks with single button presses on the Transport surface reduces my editing time by nearly 25%. On a large project like a recent 12 hour audiobook, that’s a huge savings in time, plus a faster delivery to a happy client. Even on smaller projects, I save time when running through common tasks like renaming and joining regions, bouncing to a file, or cleaning up and saving a project.
The Transport is a well built, weighty box that measures 9 inches wide by 9.5 inches deep by 2 inches tall, a footprint that takes up a fair amount of desk space. That large foot print also gives the unit a very solid feel when in use and the unit never scoots around on the desk or wobbles under my hand. As a guy with pretty big paws, I also love the large 2.5 inch jog wheel and 4 inch scrub ring, as well as the large soft keys located around the periphery of the wheels. All buttons and controls sit comfortably under my hand, feeling purposeful and comfortable in use.
Everything about the tactile user interactions with the Transport are high end and professional. It feels like quality and all of the buttons and wheels are placed in an ergonomic, efficient layout. The potential is enormous and offers hundreds of possible efficiencies in the editing and post production workflow, all without having to lift your hand from the surface.
The Transport connects to your computer and DAW through an ethernet cable. While the implementation may seem a bit more daunting than just plugging a USB cable into a computer port, the network connectivity allows you to connect to multiple computers with a single control surface, yet not have to move or adjust a single cable when switching from one machine to another. You can plug the Transport’s ethernet cable directly into a router or, like me, you can place a network switch at your workstation and connect the switch to your router, your computer, your Transport, and any other devices that need a hardwired connection, including other units in the Avid Artist line.
While it’s not officially mentioned (nor, I believe, supported) in the Transport documentation, I’m also able to connect regularly and seamlessly to a computer that is only on our wireless network and doesn’t have a hardwired ethernet cable connected to it.
Should you run into any questions about network connectivity, assigning IP addresses, or establishing a reliable link between your computer and the Transport, the Avid website has an excellent support section, the Transport documentation covers all of the important details for typical installations, and the unit comes with a subscription to Avid’s support assistance.
The Reality of Using the Transport
So what’s it really like to use the Transport? Well . . . that’s a hard question to answer because it really will depend on how you configure the surface.
The EuControl software configures the Transport’s functions, which automatically change based on the application that’s “in focus” on your computer desktop. Phenomenally, that means that you can set up separate profiles for different programs. In addition to using it for audio production in Logic Pro X and Pro Tools, I’m also using the jog wheel for simple tasks in other programs, like scrolling in PDFs, Word documents, and web browsers.
The real benefit, though, is in looking at your regular workflow and configuring the surface to condense multiple keyboard commands into a single button press.
For instance, on the simple side of the example, I often highlight multiple regions with my mouse (in my right hand), then join them to create a single region. Rather than reaching for my keyboard to press Command-J, I’ve programmed a button on the Transport to send the Command-J key presses to my software. Without having to lift my hands from the Transport or the mouse, the selected regions are joined quickly and easily.
On the more complex side, when I’m closing a project I like to clean it up to reduce the file size, then open a new project from a template. Here are the key commands that I’ve programed into a single button press on the Transport:
- Option-Command-B: Open the File Browser.
- Shift-U: Select all unused files and regions.
- Delete: Delete the selected, unused files and regions.
- Option-Command-B: Close the File Browser.
- Control-Option-Command-C: Run the “Project Clean Up” function to remove old backups and autosaved versions.
- Return: Approves the Project Clean Up function in the pop-up confirmation window.
- Command-S: Saves the project.
- Command-N: Opens a new project from the Template library.
Rather than executing 8, separate keyboard commands to clean up, save, close, and open a new project, I now press one button and all of those commands are executed in under a second. PHENOMENAL!
After carefully evaluating and documenting my audio editing and production workflow, I’ve reached a point where all of my notable and regular processes are addressed by the Transports buttons and I rarely interact with the keyboard during editing. How little do I interact with it? Check this out:
When I’m working on big eLearning voiceovers, I need to deliver each slide’s audio as a separate, distinctly named file. The first time I save the file, I manually type the full file name into the Save window (for example, “Client_Project_2015_12_31_Slide_01”). I know that every time I bounce a new file out of the project, Logic Pro X remembers and auto populates that file name, so here’s what I’ve set up in my “Save” process on the Transport:
- I select the regions that belong to the slide I want to export and press the “Save” button on the Transport.
- Command-J: The selected regions are joined into a single region.
- Command-B: The selected, newly joined region is bounced.
- Enter: The bounce action is approved in the Bounce File popup using the current bounce settings.
- Delete-Delete: Here’s the really fun part. The save popup window appears with the file name auto populated and the cursor at the end of the file name string. This command deletes the previous slide number, so I end up with, “Client_Project_2015_12_31_Slide_”.
- Now, all I have to do is move my hand from the mouse to the numeric keypad on my keyboard, type in the 2 digit slide number, and press the Enter button.
Thanks to the transport, the entire region consolidation and bounce process is reduced to three simple interactions on my part: Select the regions with the mouse, press a button on the Transport, and type in a slide number on the keypad. I’m a process-dork and documented the time savings at about 4 seconds per file bounce. In any given month, I bounce around 1000 eLearning audio files, which means the Transport saves 1 hour and 6 minutes of time just in the bouncing process!
Add up all of the similar, apparently tiny savings in time that I gain with the Transport and I save at least a full, 8 hour workday per month in time spent editing and producing my audio files.
Please note that this still gets me so excited that I’m currently jumping up and down in celebration!
The Final Word
Does it seem a little gimmicky at first? Yes. Is it expensive? At a retail price of $499, yes. But you can get it for $299 at Amazon.com right now through this link. (You’re welcome!) Does it pay for itself and is it a worthwhile business tool? Absolutely.
In fact, I think it might be the single, best investment I’ve made in my productivity as a voiceover artist.
It certainly requires front-end effort and thought as you define your processes and figure out how to most efficiently use it on your own studio workflow, but once you have it dialed in, it’s a wildly powerful tool. If you have the business volume to justify getting one, the hardest part of using it just might be what to do with the extra day you’ll suddenly have each month!
If you want to purchase an Avid Artist Transport, please use this Amazon.com Affiliate link. It won’t cost you anything more and I’ll get a small percentage of the sale from Amazon.com for the referral. Thank you!