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Networking the DAR SoundStation (part 4)

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...



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.


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?

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By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004

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