Online Collaboration Update: The Role of Pro Tools’ New MediaCentral Platform

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The dictionary definition of “collaboration” is “the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” But that’s clear just from looking at the word: “Co” + “labor” is right there, assembled in the finest Latin tradition.

Today, the whole point of music production teamwork is to take the “labor” out of the equation and replace it with something more fun and creative. Since the introduction of online capabilities into the picture, expectations have been high for songwriting, recording, mixing and mastering to magically match up on the Web, bringing musicians and audio pros together for a world without limits or borders.

There have have been plenty of attempts since the 1990’s to solve the music space’s online collaboration puzzle. Although many have tried valiantly and come up short, arguably all of them made valuable contributions towards evolving the craft. Today, the industry is seeing a resurgence of problemsolving energy and venture capital interest in online music co-working, with the progress of sites like, which was acquired by ROLI in 2015, and Splice, which was founded by Steve Martocci, a co-creator of the GroupMe group messaging service which was acquired by Skype in a multi-multi-million dollar deal in 2011.

Along the way, one of the main driving forces that has emerged in online music production collaboration has been Avid’s Pro Tools. With the leverage it wields as the industry’s primary DAW, as well as the resources it commands as a publicly traded company, Avid’s interest in and ability to move online collaboration forward is apparent: With more audio professionals on its platform than any other, along with cloud computing advances and increasing access to high bandwidth worldwide, the possibilities of engineers and artists converging successfully within Pro Tools builds on itself with every license.

Ed Gray, Director Partnering Programs for Avid, has been part of Pro Tools since 1995.

One of the keys to growing Pro Tools’ capabilities in this respect is the partnerships Avid establishes along the way. While it’s easy to think of Avid as a unilateral actor with its #1 position, the reality is that initiatives like the MediaCentral Platform depend on outside partners to make it work, and grow a loyal user base.

Ed Gray is Avid’s Director of Partnering Programs, a DAW-development veteran who first signed on with Pro Tools’ original brand parent Digidesign in 1995. In recent years he’s been part of a team that’s not only empowering Pro Tools and its users, but also hoping to strengthen the ecosystem of it all.

How do they take steps to evolve online collaboration possibilities? How do Gray and his team decide who makes the cut as an Avid Alliance Partner? The criteria are clear, and they have the measreument tools to size their choices up. If you’ve got a product or service that may be a match, read this Q&A with Gray — the roadmap for getting involved and doing business with thousands of PT users is right here.

 Ed, how long have you been Director, Partnering Programs for Avid? Why is this a position you were attracted to?

Last November marked my 21st anniversary at Avid, every year of which has seen me focused on partner relations.

I joined Digidesign in 1995 when the audio developer program was brand new. Our intention was to improve the program and grow a community of enthusiastic and productive developers who worked to multiply Avid’s engineering efforts.  Over time, the program has changed in countless ways as we work with our Alliance Partners to help them benefit from Avid Everywhere, our company’s strategic vision.

In the press release from January 19th, it says that Avid’s MediaCentral Platform is “addressing the industry’s most pressing collaborative challenges.” Exactly what are those challenges today – what are the current barriers to collaboration, and what advantages are available to those who can transcend them?

The MediaCentral Platform was designed to overcome collaboration obstacles.

Media professionals who are collaborating want to pursue the work they love with the peace of mind that comes from tools that are proven to work, and expected to stay working reliably together.  Successful collaboration requires that executives and buyers choose solutions that are expandable and future-proof and are known to work together on a common foundation.

With intense competition and shrinking deadlines, organizations benefit from aligning with the smallest possible number of professional suppliers and integrators, thereby taking the guesswork out of purchasing and ensuring a short route to support when it’s needed.

Avid is providing essential leadership in the design and improvement of a platform that is purpose-built for collaboration.  In 2014, Avid launched the MediaCentral Platform to unify workflows and respond to urgent needs expressed by Avid customers to achieve much needed gains in efficiency and productivity. It’s the foundation that makes it possible to streamline all operations related to media production and to enable access to the platform on any device.  It supports the entire media value chain from creation to monetization with greater flexibility, security and choice.

MediaCentral integrates with technology from Avid and our Alliance Partners, the latter working with us via the Avid Alliance Partner program.

Louis Hernandez, Jr. speaks of Avid’s “vision for a collaborative media network.” Is there a way to characterize that ultimate vision? If all partnership/collaborative goals were achieved, what might that look like?

The vision imagined by Louis Hernandez, Jr.  and the Avid leadership team is expressed in our corporate mission, which is to address critical workflow challenges and to deliver powerful tools and workflow solutions to create, distribute and optimize media, allowing our customers to focus on the work they love.

MediaCentral and the Avid Alliance Partner program deliver a large and fast growing range of powerful, scalable and highly accessible products. Together, with a large range of certified solutions that address key media production workflow needs, they simplify the procurement and maintenance process, and offer the peace of mind that large, complex solutions are proven to work on MediaCentral. This powerful, flexible media production network, engineered for growth and accessibility from any device, is at the heart of Louis’ vision.

What is it about today’s music production environment that not only makes collaboration more possible, but more essential? How has the definition of “collaboration” changed since prior eras in music production, such as before the creation of DAW’s or online connectivity?

Collaboration has always been about combining creative energy, expressive performance and excellent production technique to create music that inspires and entertains. As bandwidth becomes more available and cloud-based solutions more powerful, it’s about virtually achieving the above with artists and engineers many miles away, expanding the range of choices and providing a market for collaboration.

Modern digital collaboration can sweep away creativity killers like file swapping, import, and other media headaches. With Avid Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools, collaborators can access their projects from anywhere and work with others securely in the cloud. Users can easily share audio and MIDI tracks, make edits and mix changes on screen, and communicate ideas and creative direction in real time.

All of this leads to a faster journey – from instruments and microphones to digital and broadcast outlets – of our creative work.

How would you characterize the overall evolution of Pro Tools’ collaborative capabilities? How have they been progressing up until the advent of PT 12.7?

Pro Tools Cloud Collaboration is relatively new, entering the scene only recently with Pro Tools 12.5 in early 2016.  Since then, there have been tangential improvements, including higher-value cloud storage offerings from Avid and the intelligent audio browser, SoundBase, which gives users instant access to tons of inspiring loops.

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