One ever-present worry about networks is when several people have access to
the same data. There is bound to be the possibility that one person may alter
an audio file that someone else would rather stayed as it was. DAR have a basic
level of protection at the moment which says that you can't alter anyone else's
file on another machine, although you can alter a file on the server. DAR will
be expanding this into a full protection mechanism with access privileges as
you would find on a conventional computer network.
I would expect it to become quite common for two people to link their SoundStations
or Sabres together and work on a common project, one on dialogue and another
on effects, for example. The whole project could be kept on a server or on one
of the machines, and the individual editors could access the parts of the project
that they needed. An EDL, or reel, can be split in time or in tracks to make
two separate reels on which each editor would work, and unless they needed to
audition more than two channels at the same time, then no audio need be copied
across. Rather than conforming audio to each individual machine, the whole of
the audio could be contained in one location, then if an editor needed something
that hadn't been conformed originally, he or she could still access it directly
without having to go back to the original tape.
Although limited to two channels, replay should seem exactly as though the
audio is coming from the local hard disk, so syncing to video is not a problem.
When audio is sourced directly from a local hard disk, the disk can't supply
the data immediately so it has to be buffered ahead of time. The same applies
to the network – it's slower, but as long as the data is retrieved in advance
of when it is needed then synchronisation is perfectly possible.
DAR and WAV
In the old days of hard disk recording, disks were terribly slow and DAR had
to invent their own way of storing audio on the disks so that it could be retrieved
with a fast enough data rate. We are accustomed to thinking of files being stored
on disk under file names where the information on the whereabouts of the actual
data on the disk is stored on the disk itself. DAR had to bypass all of this
so that the SoundStation itself knew where on the disk each piece of data existed.
When hard disks got quicker, DAR decided to move to the PC .WAV audio file format
so that they could import other people's audio data easily. (WAV is one of formats
allowable under OMF). DAR now record audio as WAV files on the hard or optical
disk and each file is given a randomly generated name. Another file keeps track
of the names of the files, and on which files are the left and right hand parts
of a stereo pair. So you could in theory take out a DAR optical disk and put
it into an optical drive connected to a PC and play the audio files through
a Sound Blaster card, the only problem being that you would have some difficulty
dealing with the random names of the files. DAR recognise – of course – that
at the heart of every sound engineer is a computer enthusiast who is desperate
to find something useful to do with the sound card that was bundled with his
office PC, and when you examine it closely it's an opportunity not to be missed.
Therefore DAR are also developing PC software that will be able to make complete
sense of SoundStation and Sabre files and allow simple editing and network connection,
so you don't have to give expensive Sabres to journalists who will only use
a fraction of their capability – you give them standard PCs where they can apply
their skills without having to learn how to be sound editors. In principal,
this could be extended to hard disk editors from other manufacturers who could
also connect to the Ethernet network and create a kind of digital audio MIDI
where the system connection was completely independent of hardware manufacturer.
Whether a digital audio form of MIDI is your idea of heaven or hell is not for
me to speculate, but it's an interesting idea isn't it?