DAR Sabre Plus Hard Disk Workstation (part 2)
Console and Operation
Sabre Plus's console has a number of buttons, probably just the right number, and two rotary controls known as the Vernier and the Locator. The function of the Locator is to provide a tape machine style scrub facility. Many hard disk recorders rely on a waveform display for location, but anyone who has used old fashioned analogue tape will tell you that there is a better and faster way of doing it. DAR's scrub facility is second to none - it's even better and more positive than tape. DAR's Locator is solidly linked to the audio where others vary from simply slack to virtually unusable. Waveform displays may be superior for getting rid of clicks, but Sabre Plus gives you that option too. In some ways, it's a pleasure to get away from the waveform so that the operator is able to concentrate on what the sound sounds like, not what it looks like, if you see what I mean! The other rotary is the rather smaller Vernier, which is operated by the left hand. (Will DAR ever make a left handed version so that the favoured hand is given the task demanding most precision, or don't left handed users mind? I've never seen a left handed mouse come to think of it!) The Vernier is used for setting values such as times and levels. The large fader defaults to a simple level control for channels enabled for playback.
When SoundStation II first came onto the market, most of us had only experienced personal computers through the pre-Windows MSDOS operating system. DAR's system of organising and cataloguing sounds was certainly a great improvement on anything MSDOS could offer. These days, many of us use Macintosh computers where the file structure, although still not entirely suitable for sound, is very easily understood, and I am told that Windows users feel pretty much the same way. Now, DAR's system looks like the odd one out, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is anything less than good. It's just different. The lowest level of the structure is the Segment which is a snippet of audio waiting to be organised one way or another. Segments can be collected into Groups. A Group is a sequence of Segments which has been given a collective name. A group is identified by a scissors icon. A Reel is an entire sequence of audio (a Playback Sequence in DAR terms) which has been named and saved for later use. The Directory is the entire collection of Segments, Groups and Reels generated by the user. The top of Sabre's main screen shows three views of the material stored on the disk or disks. Any or all of the views may show the Directory, from which you can 'Pull' open a Reel or a Group onto a new line and see what that contains. 'Pull', by the way, means 'Open' (!). There are two special Groups called the Table and the Bin. The Table is a convenient place to put a segment you don't want to work on or finish with right now, but you will want to in a moment. The Bin is like its real life equivalent: you can retrieve material from the Bin until it is emptied and its contents disposed of.
To record into Sabre, first of all you need to assign the inputs. There may of course be fewer inputs installed than channels. Conveniently there is an auto routing feature where inputs are assigned to tracks that are in record ready, which saves the operator a job. Recording is done in the Record Page (unless you a dropping in) in which you can select the channels you wish to record onto, and the destination disk if you have more than one. Recording takes place as you would expect, with one exception: Sabre offers a Gated Record feature where recording only takes place when audio is present at the input. Obviously this saves on disk space but it also provides a first level of editing at no extra effort to the operator. Four tracks could be recorded in from a VTR and the audio would automatically be checkerboarded, ready for fine trimming. Don't worry about the gate not opening fast enough, audio is kept in a buffer so that there is always a handle (adjustable) before and after each segment. Also, segments can have a minimum length so that clicks or breaths are not interpreted as significant audio. When recording is complete, the new segment or segments will appear in the listings at the top of the screen.