According to Fairlight CEO John Lancken, the company offers a full range of products that are mixing, recording and editing based. The key concept behind the DREAM family, Lancken reports, "is the ability to start with small scale mixing and move up into larger format mixing environments for motion pictures and television. We've designed the system to make it very simple for an operator to work in several formats - 4.1, 5.1, stereo - all at the same time."
The DREAM's flexibility was deemed indispensable once the company heard that post engineers were having difficulty working with multiple formats due to the rise of stereo, high definition and surround sound simulcasts. "Programs need to be prepared for multiple types of mixing formats, but the program makers have not allocated any extra time to the task at hand," Lancken explains. "So, we've developed a very comprehensive system called Bus Reduction, which enables an operator to configure a mix in say 5.1, but then very simply switch to stereo." Also, every channel that is an aux send, a channel path or bus can be any format from mono all the way up to 7.1.
Fairlight (www.fairlightau.com) is replacing the DREAM console with the DREAM Constellation, which was introduced at AES 2003. "We're seeing with more and more multiformat work a requirement for more channels, so we increased [the number of channels out of the QDC] to 144 channels and we're going to increase that to over 200 in the next few months," Lancken reports. "Our product has the whole integration between disc recording, editing and mixing. The other neat thing we showed at AES was the ability to move some audio in the editing environment and have the automation move along with the audio. It uses exactly the same user interface as we use in the editor. Now clips can be moved with the automation in place, so it can go down the timeline or whatever and there's no additional key strokes. You just do it as a normal edit."
The Soundtracs DS-00 is a fully-modular desk, which will soon host updated software for film mixing apps and a new hardware film panel.
At AES, Fairlight also introduced the Station Plus, which is an integrated mixer and editor. The Station Plus doubled the capacity of the year-old Station and can be configured with additional busses and live feeds with additional DSP cards in the QDC chassis and some changes to the user interface.
The company is also offering the new SoftMix mixing control application for PCs that makes a Fairlight Merlin and MFX3.48 DAW into a surround-capable mixing system. SoftMix supports Fairlight's Plug-Ins Manager 5 and removes the need for an external mixer. If a mixer is already in place, the software provides plug-in, routing and sub-mixing capabilities.
Dave Hansen, VP of product marketing at Euphonix (www.euphonix.com), says the company is working toward providing a solution for customers when it comes to digital audio workstation integration. "Our control surfaces, which have been used for mixing and things like that, are going to be able to directly control digital audio workstations," he explains. "The first one we've been working on is the Steinberg Nuendo and we've been showing this collaboration at trade shows for the last year. I think you're going to see that kind of product development from us over the year."
Euphonix has also developed the new EuCon control surface for all of their consoles that is a workstation control monitor complete with a jog wheel, buttons and a touch screen that enable plug-in controls and direct interface with the DAW. "Also, when you move the faders on the console, the faders on the screen move," Hansen adds. "So, [there's] control integration between the work surface and the editor or the workstation." In the next year, Hansen reports, Euphonix will offer software upgrades for automation and control surface enhancements.
These new upgrades are responding to trends that Euphonix has identified, the most urgently being the idea that DAWs are taking over for what tape, console automation or routing systems used to do. "People were spending tremendous amounts of money on these big infrastructures," he explains. "Nowadays what you'd do with a storage area network and some GigaEthernet switches and workstations tends to replace a lot of that stuff. So, where you used to have to make a dub of a tape or something, now you're sending a file. Or if somebody needed something to go up to video they'd have to print something on the audio tracks of a Digi Beta and walk it upstairs; now it's done on a workstation, posted on the network and picked up by the Avid room. So, that's where a lot of those heavy hardware infrastructures don't make much sense anymore in post."
Without elaborating on specific products, AMS Neve (www.ams-neve.com) product manager Mike Reddick reports that 2004 is going to be a big for the company. "Many of our development threads, which have been in the pipeline, will come to fruition with some very exciting products."
Over the past year, Reddick says, AMS Neve has been hearing from audio post professionals on a number of fronts. "What's high on people's priorities right now are events-based automation and re-conforming to EDL change lists," he reports. "People want to have the flexibility to mix completely within the virtual domain, which places more and more demand on signal processing. As a manufacturer of both an editor and mixer, we are offering a comprehensive level of integration for all levels of post production."
As for trends, Reddick sees a call for a more integrated edit/mix functionality "with the ability to get at any element of the project at any stage of the process and add, remove, or change even at the final mix stage."
Soundtracs (www.digiconsoles.com) continues to offer a number of consoles that post professionals turn to for ease of use. The DPC-II and D4, says Soundtracs product manager James Gordon, are for facilities looking for a more traditional console with 160 channels and up to 124 busses. The DS-3 and DS-00, he adds, "are for studios that want the console to look different, but still have all the ease of operation and automation."
Clockwise from top left: Sony's DMX-R100, the Digidesign Control24, Mackie's dXb, Euphonix's EuCon, SSL's C200, and Yamaha's DM1000.
The DS-00, which was introduced at NAB, is a fully-modular desk. According to Gordon, "There will be some new software for the console as well as a new hardware film panel coming up," he says. "That new software will expand the monitoring section to make it more suited to film mixing."
The company, Gordon explains, has seen that "people are now looking for a console that can be built around their room. They want and need the console to be part of the suite design, incorporating screens, switching and, of course, the PlayStation," he explains with a laugh. "This was the main thinking behind the DS-00, along with keeping it at a price point that meant the facility could still make a profit."
SOLID STATE LOGIC
SSL's (www.solid-state-logic.com) latest post offering, which was introduced at NAB '03, is the C200 console. LA's Fox Television purchased six of the boards to be used for the net's on-air promotion department. "They have quite an intensive department," says SSL director of product marketing Niall Feldman. "They do something like 400 spots a week that they upload to satellites for announcing what is coming on later in the evening or the next morning for Fox TV." The C200s will get put to the test, considering Fox's time demands. "There's a lot of work and they have to make quite a lot of changes to what they do," he explains. Fox will be using the C200s with Fairlight editors.
"Basically the things that make the C200 great for post production are that it's a very easy to use control surface, it's entirely digital and it works at all sample frequencies up to 96k," Feldman explains, "and it's fully 5.1 capable console as well."
SSL, along with many other console manufacturers, is seeing a demand for desk and DAW integration. "The C200 has the ability to control and call up a [Digidesign] Pro Tools system or any DAW really from the center of the console, so you have one environment for your production work that includes a very capable mixing console and the ability to directly access an editing system from the center of the console," Feldman reports. "That's something that we kind of pioneered quite a while ago, but as we've developed technology and as other digital audio workstations have come along that have more and more powerful facilities, people want you to make it more elegant and efficient so they can get things turned around quicker."
Additional demand for 5.1 work also shaped the features offered in the C200. "You can do surround panning from every channel, so you can have dynamic moves in 5.1 on every single channel going through the console, and in the monitoring section you have the ability to insert encode and decode systems so that you can listen to what it sounds like when it goes through the encode or decode process," Feldman explains. "So, you can do all of those things and make sure that what you are listening to in the studio is what you'd hear when you get back home and monitor it on TV."
Sony's DMX-R100 digital mixer is the result of developments for its high-end OXF-R3 and the manufacturing efficiencies made possible by its plants in Japan. In 2003, the console's software was upgraded, giving it MADI support, a feature usually reserved for higher-end, much more expensive consoles.
Sony offers the SIU-100 I/O system interface unit for the R100 which greatly expands the digital console's analog and digital I/O capability. A single SIU-100 unit used in conjunction with a DMX-R100 can provide up to 72 digital I/Os for the AES/EBU, TDIF, ADAT or MADI formats. A single SIU-100 unit, sharing resources with two DMX-R100 console-equipped control rooms, can access either or both control rooms to the studio. Conversely, two SIU-100s positioned at different locations can provide audio feeds to a single DMX-R100.
Additional components available for the R100 include the DMBK-S101 eight-channel mic pre-amp board and the SIU-RM101 dedicated remote control unit, which provides dedicated knobs and buttons.
Studer (www.studer.ch) introduced the Vista 7 digital mixing console at NAB 2002 and the Vista 6, a digital mixing system used in live production applications, at AES Europe 2003. Several major upgrades were introduced for Vista 7 at IBC 2003 in Amsterdam. According to John L. Andrews, sales and marketing consultant for Studer, clients are looking for better automation. "Vista 7 was launched with a newly developed Studer automation system, Autotouch Plus," he explains.
Fairlight introduced the DREAM Constellation last year for studios doing multiformat work.
Both Advantage Audio in LA and McClear Digital in Toronto have upgraded their existing Studer boards.
While Studer's boards are well known, Andrews believes that Studer's Virtual Surround Panning is still a bit unknown. "This feature is available on all Studer's large-format digital consoles, having been introduced on the D950 M2 several years ago," he says. "Virtual Surround Panning simulates a defined acoustic space and positioning the sound source within this space using the channel pan control results in the generation of early reflections with the appropriate directionality and timing delays. These reflections, which are absent with normal panning, are the key to localizing the mono source within the surround field. VSP also gives better directional imaging by adding phase and frequency spectrum information to the existing amplitude difference between channels which results from standard panning methods. In addition, it can provide secondary reflections to the panned signal."
Yamaha's new DM1000 is an off-shoot of the company's popular DM2000 console. "The DM1000 has a lot of the same capabilities as the DM2000, it's just scaled down for footprint," Yamaha commercial audio systems product manager Marc Lopez explains. "One of the biggest things on it is the surround sound capability in such a small board. It supports LCRS panning, 5.1 and 6.1, plus a built-in surround monitor for all of that. It has surround sound effects built-in and it supports up to 48 channels of mixing. It has eight mixing busses, plus a stereo master bus, eight auxiliary sends and four built-in effects processors that can be patched as inserts or as aux sends. A compressor and a gate on each input channel, plus a four-band parametric EQ. Each of the outputs has a compressor and a four-band parametric as well. And all of this fits into a 19-inch rack space console." A meter bridge, which can be used to monitor input channels and outputs, can be purchased separately. Additionally, the DM1000 supports Yamaha's Mini-YGDAI card slot system.
In 2004, Yamaha (www.yamahaproaudio. com) will be announcing a new version of the DM1000 that will open the console up to a number of add-on effects (plug-ins) and a version two for the DM2000. "We have a bunch of new modeled effects - tube compressors, solid state compressors and some vintage EQs. Specifically for surround sound we have a couple of unique surround sound add-on effects for post production," he says. "One of them is a room panner where we can actually position a person into a room and the direction they are facing. So, for recording ADR, if someone is walking around and turning around and facing the walls, our panner will actually simulate that exact sound of someone walking around in the room and what the voice characteristic sounds like when he's turning around or facing the camera or not facing the camera. We call it the Early Reflection Room Simulator and in the ISSP Effect Package there is an auto Doppler effect and another unique effect, which we call Field Rotation, that allows you to take a 5.1 or 6.1 field and rotate that entire field in a surround field."
Mackie (www.mackie.com) has built a reputation for affordable yet accessory-packed consoles, ranging from the 1202-VLZ Pro to the 1402-VLZ Pro to the 1604-VLZ Pro and the 1642-VLZ Pro. One of the company's newest products is the dXb digital production console, which was introduced at AES '03 and will be available in the second quarter of 2004. The dXb is a 96k/ 192k capable board that features a 72X72 I/O matrix as well as two 15-inch integrated touch screens to view levels, routing, dynamics processing, surround panning and effects. This product also has internal DSP, automation, control surface functionality and FireWire I/O option cards to facilitate computer interfaces. The dXb is being developed with Sanewave, Inc., which assisted with Mackie's Digital 8-bus board.
The Mackie Control Universal offers a control surface for Emagic Logic Audio, Pro Tools, Cubase, Digital Performer, Nuendo and Sonar. The product features 100mm Penny + Giles optical touch faders, a full-sized backlit LCD, V-Pots for adjusting effects and plug-ins and shortcut navigation for all major software. The Control Universal is also expandable with Mackie Control Extenders.
"We haven't announced anything for 04, but Digidesign is dedicated to the control surface concept," says Digidesign senior product manager, post products Scott Wood. "We feel that the approach of having a digital audio workstation that can record, edit, process, mix and deliver in a
total recall situation is the foundation that we're developing our future on. Digidesign plans to continue to expand its offerings based on that same concept."
Not only that, Wood adds that he feels the entire industry, and their customer base, is moving that way. "We feel that our customers are looking for an integrated, completely recallable, completely software-configurable situation, including the control surfaces. So, when we talk about mixing, it's not an isolated thing in our mind. Mixing is a part of the task of delivering the project and where a lot of people consider it a specific function, Digidesign as a company approaches it as an integration with everything else that the audio professional needs to do."
Digidesign's (www.digidesign.com) most popular product continues to be Pro Tools with Pro Control24. "Pro Control is widely adopted by rooms that are client driven, because it has what I call the 'LPD factor' - lights per dollar," Wood explains. "A client is not educated in the business of really what the person is doing. He really walks into a room thinking, 'Is this worth $300 per hour?' On a big film stage if you walk in there and see a [Mackie] 1402 VLZ, no one is going to pay $1,000 an hour. Even though I'd trust a top quality professional with a PortaStudio over a geek with Pro Tools, the client needs a certain amount of LPD. You've got to deliver that; it's just part of the business.
"We are in the entertainment business and a lot of people look at it only as the tape that they are delivering, but in truth we are entertaining our clients," he continues. "The audio guy is entertaining his client in that room and he has to have something that makes his clients feel good. We have to deliver a feature film that makes the guy in the theater feel like he got his 10 bucks worth and we have to make the guy who walked into the sound studio feel like he got his $300 an hour worth. It sounds wacky, but it's true."