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DAR Sabre Plus Hard Disk Workstation (part 2)


Console and Operation

Sabre Plus's console has a number of buttons, probably just the right number,
and two rotary controls known as the Vernier and the Locator. The function of
the Locator is to provide a tape machine style scrub facility. Many hard disk
recorders rely on a waveform display for location, but anyone who has used old
fashioned analogue tape will tell you that there is a better and faster way
of doing it. DAR's scrub facility is second to none – it's even better and more
positive than tape. DAR's Locator is solidly linked to the audio where others
vary from simply slack to virtually unusable. Waveform displays may be superior
for getting rid of clicks, but Sabre Plus gives you that option too. In some
ways, it's a pleasure to get away from the waveform so that the operator is
able to concentrate on what the sound sounds like, not what it looks like, if
you see what I mean! The other rotary is the rather smaller Vernier, which is
operated by the left hand. (Will DAR ever make a left handed version so that
the favoured hand is given the task demanding most precision, or don't left
handed users mind? I've never seen a left handed mouse come to think of it!)
The Vernier is used for setting values such as times and levels. The large fader
defaults to a simple level control for channels enabled for playback.

When SoundStation II first came onto the market, most of us had only experienced
personal computers through the pre-Windows MSDOS operating system. DAR's system
of organising and cataloguing sounds was certainly a great improvement on anything
MSDOS could offer. These days, many of us use Macintosh computers where the
file structure, although still not entirely suitable for sound, is very easily
understood, and I am told that Windows users feel pretty much the same way.
Now, DAR's system looks like the odd one out, but that doesn't necessarily mean
that it is anything less than good. It's just different. The lowest level of
the structure is the Segment which is a snippet of audio waiting to be organised
one way or another. Segments can be collected into Groups. A Group is a sequence
of Segments which has been given a collective name. A group is identified by
a scissors icon. A Reel is an entire sequence of audio (a Playback Sequence
in DAR terms) which has been named and saved for later use. The Directory is
the entire collection of Segments, Groups and Reels generated by the user. The
top of Sabre's main screen shows three views of the material stored on the disk
or disks. Any or all of the views may show the Directory, from which you can
'Pull' open a Reel or a Group onto a new line and see what that contains. 'Pull',
by the way, means 'Open' (!). There are two special Groups called the Table
and the Bin. The Table is a convenient place to put a segment you don't want
to work on or finish with right now, but you will want to in a moment. The Bin
is like its real life equivalent: you can retrieve material from the Bin until
it is emptied and its contents disposed of.

To record into Sabre, first of all you need to assign the inputs. There may
of course be fewer inputs installed than channels. Conveniently there is an
auto routing feature where inputs are assigned to tracks that are in record
ready, which saves the operator a job. Recording is done in the Record Page
(unless you a dropping in) in which you can select the channels you wish to
record onto, and the destination disk if you have more than one. Recording takes
place as you would expect, with one exception: Sabre offers a Gated Record feature
where recording only takes place when audio is present at the input. Obviously
this saves on disk space but it also provides a first level of editing at no
extra effort to the operator. Four tracks could be recorded in from a VTR and
the audio would automatically be checkerboarded, ready for fine trimming. Don't
worry about the gate not opening fast enough, audio is kept in a buffer so that
there is always a handle (adjustable) before and after each segment. Also, segments
can have a minimum length so that clicks or breaths are not interpreted as significant
audio. When recording is complete, the new segment or segments will appear in
the listings at the top of the screen.

David Mellor

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David Mellor