Adventures In Audio
Digidesign Session Multitrack Recording Software (part 3)

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Thursday January 1, 2004
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What can it do?

You know how many tracks it can record and play back, so what else makes Session more than just another multitracker? Quite simply, hard disk recording gives you absolute freedom of editing. On tape, from the first track you lay down, you are locked into the pattern of verses, choruses and whatever else that goes to make up your song. As soon as you start recording, many of your options are closed off and if a wonderful new idea comes to you halfway through the session, hard luck. Scrap the idea or scrap the recording, there is no alternative. If the same idea came to you during a hard disk recording session, all you would need to do would be to chop up a few segments on the screen, open up a gap, copy a bit, re-record a bit, come up with a few more ideas and… And you could end up with a totally new song! It’s a bit like sequencing but you are doing it with real audio. You could be using any of the thousands of instruments the world has to offer rather than just a sequencer and sampler. You can restructure vocals, edit out breaths, clicks and other noises, select from a variety of takes, edit out a bad note - even as short as a semiquaver. With a sharp razor blade and an editing block you may be able to do a fraction of this at a tenth of the speed on reel to reel tape. On cassette - forget it.

As well as a recorder with infinite editing capability, Session also has a mixer. Not such a rudimentary mixer as you sometimes find on the screen of a computer. This one has level, pan, mix automation, and a two band EQ on each channel. This last point is significant. You can even get this on an Audiomedia card that doesn’t have as much number crunching capability as a Power Macintosh processor. The only thing you don’t get that you would really wish for is reverb, but you can always record some reverb into the system if you have enough tracks. When you have enjoyed playing with all of this (If you got it for Christmas, it should take you well into March) you can start on the real fun - recording audio to picture. Session can also play a QuickTime movie in a window to which you can accurately spot sound effects or music, or even a voice over. Synchronising dialogue might be a bit ambitious at this stage since QuickTime is still rather jerky, but effectively you have an audio post production studio on your desktop. Seasoned pros may scoff, but multimedia is a growing market and I don’t doubt that people with the foresight and energy will equip themselves with a basic setup incorporating a Power Macintosh and Digidesign Session and just start doing it. Some of the pros may get left behind in the rush.

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