Avid AudioVision Sound to Picture Editor (part 1)
Let me tell you something - even after seeing, playing with and reviewing almost every serious hard disk editing system that has come onto the market in this country over the last few years, I still get excited about going to see another one. Its like visiting frontier country, where the outer limits of the civilised world meet unknown territory. With hardly any announcement, the way we handle audio has changed completely as a result of digital and computer technology. In the old analogue and electro-mechanical days, the equipment was the way it was because the operator turned a knob which moved a wiper which changed the resistance of a potentiometer - direct control of the audio in other words. Now that we can tell a computer what to do to control the audio, the knob doesnt have to be a knob any more. It can be a knob, or it can be a graphic on a computer screen, or it could - if you wanted - be the position of the tip of your index finger in space, the degree of dilation of the pupil of your left eye, or the quantity of low frequency vibrational energy produced by the rumbling of your stomach since its half an hour past lunchtime! The point is, we still dont really know how we want to interact with audio even though we have a virtually unlimited choice of ways in which to interact. Finding the optimum solution will take years of product development and experience in the field. It was pretty exciting stuff when DAR unveiled their touch screen equipped SoundStation II, or SSL released ScreenSound with a pen and graphics tablet interface. But the controlling device - apart from these two examples and a very small number of others it is usually a mouse - is only one aspect out of possibly hundreds or even thousands of elements that make up a user interface. The appearance of the graphics, the file handling system, the organisation of the components of the audio production - all have a vital part to play in making the equipment easy or difficult to learn and to use, and seemingly subtle differences can have a major effect on usability and efficiency.
Why try to reinvent the wheel?. Its an old saying but no-one has come up with anything better than a circular disc with an axle in the centre (yet!). Another way of putting it could be, Why try to reinvent a large part of the user interface when major companies have spent massive amounts on R&D to produce theirs and are prepared to make it available to you for next to nothing?. Not quite as snappy maybe, but I think it is an important consideration. Apple and Microsoft are computer orientated companies that have spent probably millions developing their Finder and Windows interfaces and their research is now paying off in two ways. The first way is that both are good usable interfaces that handle the elements that different software applications have in common. The second is that once you have learnt one piece of software, another piece of software running on the same operating system will appear very similar and will be much easier to learn. As the computer becomes more of an integral part of our daily lives we will find that the functions of the interface that Finder and Windows eventually evolve into will become second nature to us, like switching on a light, drawing curtains or driving a car. We dont need to thing about these things because they have penetrated our consciousness to such a degree that they are intuitive - and you never find a car with the clutch pedal on the right!