Follow-Up: J-School OS X Lab Migration

by Scot Hacker

It's been more than a year since I posted How Our OS X Rollout Was Hamstrung, on how the absence of a free version of Pro Tools for OS X was preventing the Berkeley J-School's multimedia lab program from making the jump from OS 9 to X. The issue was that Pro Tools Free wouldn't run in Classic mode, and we didn't want our students dual-booting.

A native version of Pro Tools finally was released, but Digidesign has still not released a free native version. This is the rub: We have no right whatsoever to expect a free version of anything from anyone. It so happens that we've built our curriculum and budget around the free version, but that's not Digi's fault. I feel for them - it's very hard to start charging for something that the public has learned to expect to get for free.

But unless you've been living under a rock, you know how bad California's budget crisis is these days, and how profoundly it's affecting the UC system. I'm lucky to still have my job. Paying $500/seat for the M-Boxes we would need to run Pro Tools natively is simply out of the question (not to mention a hassle - we don't need more hardware cluttering up the lab). Since we simply could not wait any longer for the OS X jump, we got drastic.

One of our dilemmas in developing curricula for a multimedia skills class for journalists is whether we have to A) teach what's being used in the field to best prepare students for the real world, even if that means using software that's way more complex than it needs to be for the tasks at hand, or B) Focus on the goals of immediate projects; teach multimedia principles and use software that's easier or cheaper. In the end, and in this particular instance, we decided that even though Pro Tools is an industry standard, we can teach what we want students to know about multitrack mixing elsewhere.

Meanwhile, we discovered that we had a bunch of old licenses for Adobe Premiere, which we weren't using. And we discovered that Apple had a program to subsidize users migrating from Premiere to Final Cut. Long story short, we were able to upgrade our Final Cut Pro 3 seats to Final Cut Pro 4 very affordably. And Final Cut 4 includes the new Soundtrack software, which can be used both for creating sample-based loops and soundtracks and for basic multitrack mixing. And it's integrated with the video projects they're already working on.

Long story short, we're dumping Pro Tools and going with Soundtrack, at least for this semester. If it doesn't work out for some reason, we'll look elsewhere, but we have high hopes. And our students will finally be on OS X.