Adventures In Audio
Doremi Laboratories DAWN II Digital Audio Workstation Nucleus (part 4)

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

File Handling

The best sound file librarian system I have come across is on the SSL ScreenSound
system. On that, you simply give your sound files sensible hierarchical names,
such as ‘SFX CAR DOOR SLAM’ and then you can see the alternative options
simply by typing part of the name such as SFX CAR when you will be presented
with a list of all the car noises in the library. The file handling system on
DAWN II is the standard operating system that comes with the Macintosh computer.
Is this entirely appropriate for recording and editing sound?

The Mac operation system uses a series of folders which can be given names
of up to 31 characters including upper and lower case letters, numbers and spaces.
(Compare this to IBM compatibles which are still limited to just eight capital
letters or numbers with a three character extension - which the software often
chooses for you - and no spaces). The topmost level of the hierarchy will be
the name you give to the hard disk drive, or to the disk you place in a removable
optical drive. Below that you can as many level of nested folders as you could
possibly require - it’s up to you to organise them sensibly.

Folders are great, until you know that there is a file in there somewhere,
but you don’t know where. You could spend ages opening the folders until
you find the right one. But if you know the name of the file you want then the
Mac has a Find File routine which will search for any string of characters and
prompt you where to look for the file. When you open the correct folder you
will be presented with a list of file names including information on the size
of the file and the last modification date and time. This is useful, but it
would be better for audio purposes to be able to see the duration of the file
in minutes and seconds and whether it is mono or stereo. All in all, I would
say that the Mac’s file handling system is great if you are organised.
It’s not as good as it could be for looking after sound files, but using
an everyday Mac rather than some kind proprietary interface is a hell of a lot
cheaper. Just think of the money you’re saving!

Mouseing Around

There is no doubt that the mouse is one of the greatest inventions of computing.
I have no doubt that eventually it will become a curiosity in the Science Museum,
but for now it is a wonderfully useful and versatile computer input device.

Although the mouse is great for lots of computer applications, one may be
inclined to wonder whether it is ideal for manipulating audio information. The
problem with the mouse is that it isn’t all that easy to position and move
it with a great deal of accuracy. It’s amazing the difference a pen and
tablet makes, since anyone who can write can control the computer screen with
great precision over small movements. The big advantage the DAR SoundStation
II has is the dedicated scrub wheel which gives the operator a really firm ‘grip’
on the sound. A mouse never feels quite so good.

A hardware interface with buttons in appropriate places can be easy and quick
to operate. Working with a computer is slower if you have to move the cursor
up and down the screen and pop in and out of menus and dialogue boxes. All modern
software offers keyboard equivalents for menu commands, which are a lot faster.
The problem is that the keyboard is unhelpfully labelled with symbols like (Apple
Logo)-G instead of Grab Time and if you use more than one software package then
it is possible to get confused by the different meanings of many of the keyboard
shortcuts. Perhaps keyboard substitutes like the ADX Dedicated System Controller
will become the norm and the computer keyboard can be left to its proper function
of typing in sound file and segment names.

ADX Dedicated System Controller

Not content with a computer keyboard and mouse interface, Doremi Laboratories
have commissioned a hardware controller which should offer better speed of operation.
The ADX controller has eight sets of Record Enable, Monitor Input, Solo and
Mute buttons which can control a DAWN system with up to thirty-two tracks. Other
real-life buttons include transport controls, cue points, looping, nudge and
crossfade. There are programmable soft keys too and - wonderfully - a scrub

Is it a Winner?

It doesn’t have to be said (does it?) that technology as new as hard disk
recording and editing is potentially full of problems. It’s definitely
not the kind the thing you buy mail order, and you need to check any system
out very thoroughly to see if it will perform the way you want. I do recommend
that, however you are manipulating your audio at present, you check out the
price of a DAWN II system. If you have previously inquired of other manufacturers
and decided that multitrack disk recording and editing was out of your reach
then you might be in a position to think again.

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