Interview: Page (1) of 5 - 12/31/03 Email this story to a friend. email article Print this page (Article printing at page facebook

Digidesign GM Dave Lebolt

On pro audio trends and the Pro Tools product family By Frank Moldstad
Dave Lebolt
With his background as a musician and producer, Dave Lebolt clearly brings a user's perspective to his job running Digidesign, developer of the pro audio industrys dominant DAW system. He began his career as a session keyboard player, performing or recording with artists including Billy Joel, Laurie Anderson, David Bowie, Richie Havens, Steve Hackett and Flo and Eddie. Highlights of that phase include being a member of David Bowie's band for the 1983 Serious Moonlight world tour.

His next gig was as a principal partner in a New York music production house, producing, composing and arranging music for advertising and other media, receiving Clio and Emmy awards for various productions. During that time he began using Digidesigns Sound Tools editing software, which later evolved into Pro Tools. He became actively involved as a beta tester for Digidesign products, leading him to join the company 10 years ago, and he's risen through the ranks, becoming Vice President of Avid Technology, Inc. and General Manager of Digidesign in August 2002.

In the following interview with Digital Media Nets Frank Moldstad, Lebolt covers a wide range of subjects, including Pro Tools role in the industry, Digidesign's product line, new technologies such as MP3 and DVD-A, and the future of recording studios. (There were still more topics that could have been covered, but the participants were exhausted.)

DMN: You had a very interesting background before coming to Digidesign, as a producer and musician.

Lebolt: Yeah, I have a strong background in music production and started off as a touring musician, then a studio musician, then a composer/arranger/producer in New York. Won Clio and Emmy awards doing that kind of stuff. I did really love that work, but I decided to take a giant detour and change, and I came out here to work at Digidesign. So my life changed a bit.

DMN: It must have been time to get a real job.

Lebolt: You know, I have to tell you, the work that I did later in the music business so prepared me to handle any kind of pressure. It was a worse pressure cooker than I could ever have gotten here.

DMN: I can imagine, especially working in the advertising business.

Lebolt: Doing advertising music, or production or film music is a tremendously demanding thing. They want immediate changes done on the spot its heart attack central.

DMN: How has your background as a producer, keyboard player, and composer aided you in helping shape the evolution of Pro Tools?

Pro Tools 6.1 screen shot (click image for larger view)
Lebolt: Its a real team effort, but one thing that did change as a result of my coming here about 10 years ago was that I was one of the first people who came to the company that actually did the work, if you want to call it that. So, it profoundly changed things. As I moved up through the ranks of the company, we brought in other people who had a real post background or a real music mixing background. As the company grew from something where we just making an editing workstation to something that had to do with processing and mixing and so forth, it was really important to have some real world input that was living right here so that the customers interests could be balanced as were trying to build a better product.

Now, any good company listens a lot to what their customers want, but I think the key difference is that software is such a labor-intensive process. Once youre down the road doing something, its hard to switch directions in the middle of a product release cycle. Having that input in-house and also getting the customer input allowed us to finely tune the product in a good way.

DMN: At least youll have a pretty good idea that if you like something, other users will agree.

Lebolt: Yeah, its more of a kind of gut-check. You know that if you felt something was good, it would likely be right for users. Something else about that, too, is that I was sort of the prototypical customer, at least a couple of years ago. When I was coming up, you just couldnt afford to go into a recording studio very often. You couldnt buy the stuff for yourself. And what Digidesign and a few other companies did was really democratize access to high-quality recording. That is a sea change.

And then the other part of things was the dream that I particularly had -- to have an overall integrated tool for creativity, instead of having all these different pieces of the puzzle. And Id love to have that tool be open to small entrepreneurial companies and third parties. That wasnt solely my idea -- some of the founders, Peter Gotcher and Evan Brooks, had that feeling also, as did other key contributors to the company. But that kind of sensibility allowed us to say this is what we want to do. Leverage all the stuff thats happening in the computer industry for lower costs, but bring in all the goodness from cool little small companies that want to do stuff and build an integrated tool that does everything, if possible. And thats what were trying to do.

DMN: With Pro Tools HD, youve taken a major step toward that vision. I dont know if anybody could have envisioned what it would become several years ago.

Lebolt: Yeah, I guess there are always technology early adapters who might have seen where its going, but its amazing that its gone so far. Im certainly happy about it.

DMN: Why do you think Pro Tools is so popular? There are other choices out there. What is it about Pro Tools that really made it catch on?

Lebolt: I think a lot of credit goes to one of the original designers of Pro Tools, Mark Jeffrey, and other contributors who were focused on simplicity and power. I think one of the problems when you add more and more features is that its very hard to balance the gamut of features without putting too much in the users face, or making it so difficult to do the work that it becomes a zoo.

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Related Keywords:Digidesign, Dave Lebolt, interview, Avid, audio post production

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