Pro Tools 11 Video Engine Problems - A Possible Work Round - Part 1

04-25-2014 09:35 AM

In The Continuing Saga Of Pro Tools 11 & Avid Video Engine Performance Issues we looked at some anecdotal evidence for problems, potential issues and possible work rounds for the problems we are experiencing with video playback in Pro Tools 11.
One of the possible work rounds is to use video hardware from AJA rather than Blackmagic as we were aware that there were some reports suggesting this might be the case. We asked Mike Aiton to investigate this for us and asked AJA if they would arrange the appropriate equipment to be sent to Mike so he could undertake some more controlled tests and this is what Mike has found…..
To recap: The Avid Video Engine (AVE) in Pro Tools 11.1.2 has been experiencing a plethora of problems, especially when used in combination with Blackmagic cards using OSX. Desktop video users appear to be more immune, as do PC users.
Some Of The Avid Video Engine Problems

  1. Scrubbing with video hardware enabled in the preferences causes a crash of the AVE
  2. Looping sections with video causes the AVE to loose contact with Pro-Tools - forcing a cold reboot to clear the Video reference error message.
  3. Scrubbing audio with video hardware is very jerky and appears to update the video about every 3 frames or so, whereas the desktop video scrub is smooth
  4. AVE slow and cantankerous especially with QuickTime media
  5. Delays on updating the screen when moving the cursor up and down the timeline
  6. Poor response to pressing play – long delays (with some users).

Mikerophonics Studio Rig:

My set up is an Avid HDX 1 in a Pro-Tools-PC, running OSX 10.8.5 with a Slate Raven MTi for mixing and editing duties and an Avid Sync HD/ESE DV319 Tri Level Sync generator combo to look after syncs.
I have an Avid recommended Blackmagic Decklink Studio PCIe card, which is genlockable and has on-board hardware down-conversion to analogue video.
I use analogue composite video as I still have a vanilla Avid Mojo for frame accurate MXF media playback if I have to switch back to Pro Tools 10. The video outputs go to a video switcher to select Mojo or BM video. The switcher output goes to the SYNC HD for BITC insertion (some editors still can’t manage to add a TC burn plug-in!). The SYNC HD video output goes to a distribution amplifier: one feed goes to an analogue tube Sony 14” TV (the ultimate sync checker), the other feeds go to my voice booth and also to my studio plasma screen via a Chromatec in-vision ppm comfort blanket (I was weaned at the BBC).
I have an additional Mac Pro running Media Composer 4.05 for any required conversion to MXF media.
Benchmark Tests With My Blackmagic Decklink Studio PCIe card With Pro Tools 11

To set a benchmark I undertook two tests with projects that had caused me problems in the past…
The first test involved a long form programme, which was sent to me as a ProRes 422 Proxy Quicktime. I also converted it to a DNxHD Quicktime to see if my Blackmagic card was any better behaved using an Avid codec rather than an Apple one. Once I had established that I was getting the same amount of problems in either flavour of Quicktime, I converted it to DNxHD MXF Avid media in my Media Composer. The MXF media gave a very slightly better result in that it was more responsive and crashed very slightly less, but I still couldn’t use video hardware when scrubbing audio (that would guarantee a crash), or loop audio for long periods either.
For the second test which had crashed several times in front of the client, I had a short form promo to mix and version with Disney. The video was an H264 QuickTime, which is usually a poor choice with Pro-Tools as it is an inter frame codec and requires lots of CPU calculations to work out its next frame. With this session my Blackmagic card with PT11 crashed four times in 20 minutes – humph! That was with “scrubbing with video hardware” option turned off too!
Would The AJA Hardware Be Better in Pro Tools 11?

We had heard rumours that AJA cards performed much better than the Blackmagic ones with Pro Tools 11.1.2. Mike Thornton asked AJA to help and they arranged for their UK distributor Digi-Box.Co.Uk, to loan us an AJA IO XT Thunderbolt and an AJA Kona 3G PCIe card for testing.
Before any testing took place, I took the precaution of uninstalling the Blackmagic software and removed the BM PCIe card to avoid any possible driver or PCIe conflicts.
In part 2 find out how Mike got on with the AJA IO XT thunderbolt and an AJA Kona 3G PCIe card