Test Drive: The Digidesign Session 8

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Now you can add up to four EQs to each channel, adjust your levels, and send it to reel or cart with the press of the space bar. After you've made all the dubs you need, you can archive it to DAT in stereo through the digital I/O and keep your playable master in the digital domain. If it's a complicated spot or promo, you can save the whole session to DAT. Everything! This includes information such as when it was recorded, who the voices are, what CD the music came from, and so on. When you recall a saved session back to the Session 8, it puts everything back where it was -- the VO on its track, the bed and effects on their tracks. If a spec spot sells but needs a quick change in the copy before it goes on the air, you can edit the track without having to recreate the whole session. Simply recall the session from DAT, set your punch-in/out points, and record. You're happy you didn't have to start from scratch, the client gets the same spot he heard on the spec cassette, and the salesperson and the station make money.

As you can see, the Session 8 offers a lot of what the high-end boys are offering with the exception of the price tag. And I've been pleased with the service from Digidesign, the service you're going to need with your first digital experience. When I first received my Session 8, it didn't have pre and post effects sends. They were all post. This didn't work too well when doing a pitch transposition through my effects box, so I called Digidesign and explained this to them. They told me they had designed the Session 8 for the musician, but because a lot of small production houses were using it, they changed the software. Now it has a pre or post option. I'm also told that sometime in the near future, Session 8 will receive a new update to include sound file compression and expansion. As it is now, if you have the perfect read, but it's :31, you have to re-read it or go back and edit out dead spots. Editing out dead spots doesn't take long, and you can usually take two to three seconds off without it sounding bad.

Overall, how does the Session 8 work? Like a stallion. As you know, station IDs get old quickly. Using my Session 8, I can, in a matter of minutes, take two station IDs and make one new one from them. ID #1 says, "Serving over 35,000 square miles, we are Power 93 KTMT." ID #2 says, "The station for winners, Power 93 KTMT." The new one says, "Serving over 35,000 square miles of winners, Power 93 KTMT." Now, instead of two IDs, you have three. If your liner guy sends you twenty-five dry voice tracks, imagine the possibilities. You can make dozens of IDs, keeping the station sounding fresh and keeping your PD happy. Using the punch in/out feature, those dreaded updates -- "starts Friday," "starts tomorrow," "starts today" -- become a breeze to perform, without re-reading the entire voice track.

I also do a lot of agency field audio for television commercials. I record to a portable DAT then dump the audio digitally to the Session 8 back at the studio. When the director is editing the spot at the local TV station, he calls and tells me what takes they need. I dump them digitally back to DAT, and it's first generation audio on the air! Due to the quality of the digital format, this service has really taken off. We also use the Session 8 for basic video looping. The agency brings in the talent and a 3/4-inch dub of the video. Then I run the video to a monitor in the sound booth for the talent to see while recording the VO to disk. This way the agency can change one price or point in a produced spot without having to start all over. Don't get me wrong; it's not the same way they do it in Hollywood, but it works, and works well, and it brings in extra cash that the station didn't have before. And remember, the more the station makes with your toys, the more toys the GM will be willing to buy you.

Here's another selling point you might try with your GM. When I first moved from overnights on the air to the analog 8-track production studio, it was about a year old. We were getting from $300 to $500 a month in outside agency work. Since we have installed Session 8, my production billing has doubled. This year, I expect it to do so again with the help of the field audio. That's dollars in the pocket! Add it up; in less than two years, it has paid for itself, and the station gets to use it FREE!

We still have a one-man production department, me, for four different radio stations. I do all the in house spots, spec spots, and outside agency work, and I do all the billing. Because the Session 8 works in Microsoft Windows, it can multi-task. While I'm dubbing from the Session 8, I switch to Microsoft Works and print out the bill and tape labels. This does not affect the quality or speed of the Session 8 and means I can get my clients in and out in the least amount of time. They're happy it didn't take a lot of time which saves them money, and I can turn out high volume which makes us a lot of money.

If you're tired of staring glassy eyed at all those color glossy photos of everybody else's workstation, consider the powerful and affordable Session 8. 

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