Test Drive: The Digidesign Session 8

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In the Internal Mix mode, you have almost unlimited options. In the Internal Mix mode, the Session 8 opens up to the Route window. From this window you route in your mics, effects boxes and processors to one or more of the available eight tracks. If it's a digital source, like a CD or DAT (and you wish to stay in the digital domain), it must be routed to channels 1 and 2 by assigning them to the digital I/O. This screen looks like a grid map. Just click with your mouse, in the corresponding box, and the source you are recording from is routed to the desired track. In this window you also drop in your inserts like compressors and effects to the source you are recording from. Once you have assigned all your sources to the proper tracks, click with your mouse on the Mix icon or press "M" on your keyboard, and Session 8 jumps to the Mix window without hesitation.

This window looks just like an 8-track mixing board and makes tracking and mixing simple. Because Session 8 is disk based, it has features not possible on tape based systems such as unlimited track bouncing (without generation loss) and the ability to load and unload tracks to try dozens of alternate takes, to name only two. There are eight faders, four assignable fader groups, four pre or post fader effect sends per track, and eight returns, each with four effect sends. There are six parametric EQs (you can assign up to four per track) and a separate cue mix. At the top of the screen are the play, record, fast forward and rewind buttons. It should be noted that these controls remain accessible to you in all three windows -- Route, Mix and Edit -- and allow you to play or record at any time. Once you have turned on the tracks to be recorded, simply click on the record button; when it flashes, push the space bar or click on the play button and the Session 8 is now recording. A simple press of the space bar stops it. If it's the take you want, save it. If not, simply click on the record button again; Session 8 automatically deletes the unsaved take. Now, here is where it gets fun. Once you have everything you need for your spot recorded on the disk, move to the Edit window. Click on the Edit icon, or hit E. Session 8 now jumps to the Edit window.

Think of Session 8's Random Access Editing window as a sequencer for digital audio. It's here that you do most of your work. Cut, paste, move, and rearrange your sound files with speed and precision. Edit music beds, rearrange the VO, place the phone ring SFX in just the right place, make pauses or remove pauses, all with the click of the mouse and, voila, the perfect spot. By double clicking on the sound file in the Edit window, you can create the waveform or overview data. When doing this, you can choose a different color for each sound file -- black for the music bed, blue for voice #1, green for voice #2, and so on. Once you have the overview data, you can edit out any dead space in the front of the sound file. Remember, this is non-linear and non-destructive editing. Nothing you do in this window is permanent, so have fun. Move it from track to track effortlessly and place your sound effects exactly where you want them. This window uses three basic tools and three views. The tools are zoom in and out, waveform select for looping and creating fades, and the pointer, used to move and edit sound files. You can also separate or capture a smaller portion of a recorded sound file, without destroying the original, and move it to another track, or use the captured section instead of the original. The Edit window also offers other options. You can record in this window the same way you record in the Mix window, with the exception that you do not see your input level, only the time line.

Using the punch-in and out feature you can re-record over bad portions of a track such as an incorrect price, address, etc., or use this feature to make donuts that are always 30 or 60 seconds -- no more guess work. Just put your marker where you want it, click on punch in/out, and lay it down. Also in this window you can change the time grid. With the grid off, you see seconds at the top of your edit screen. For music edits, click on the grid bar and choose Bars/Beats, quarter-notes, eighth-notes or sixteenth-notes. Now, when you move a sound file, find the downbeat and drag it (in the quarter-note mode) four beats up or down your time line, and you have a perfect seamless edit. Or use the automatic fader. Simply highlight the sound file or files you want to fade in, out, or cross-fade and choose the type of fade you want. Session 8 automatically does a perfect cross fade that stays in time, a perfect fade out of a sixty second bed you're using for a thirty second spot, or a waterfall sound effect that fades in AND out at exactly the rate and time YOU want it to. Once you've placed all of your sound effects, music beds, and VOs where you want them, return to the Mix window.

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