Test Drive: The 360 Systems Short/cut Personal Audio Editor

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Playback

Selecting files for playback is another simple task. Just highlight the file name using the scrub wheel or arrow keys, and press PLAY. If the file name is highlighted, it's ready to go. The display shows the file's name and length. If the file is assigned to one of the ten Hot Keys, that is also indicated on the display. There are ten numbered Hot Keys to which any file in the current directory can be assigned. Clipboard audio can also be assigned to a Hot Key. To assign a file, just highlight the file and press COPY and the appropriate Hot Key. Pressing the Hot Key at any time instantly plays the stored audio. The Short/cut does not offer a "programmed play" or playlist mode, but the same result can be obtained by copying files and appending them to a new file. It's a bit tedious, but if you really want to sequence a series of files, it can be done.

File Management

Some digital workstations and recorders take file management for granted and assume users are only working on one or a few projects at a time. The Short/cut understands very well the multi-user/multi-project environment of radio and takes file management beyond the level of most. Press the DIR key to get a listing of directories on the drive. The drive can contain up to ten directories, nine of which can be password protected. Typically, this would provide a separate directory for each user, or jock, or producer, or category of recordings. Once the directory is highlighted in the display, pressing the ENTER key or the FILES key displays the files in that directory. Files can be copied to other directories as long as the directories share the same sampling rate as set in the Setup menu. Each directory can hold up to 200 files, and each directory has its own set of Hot Key assignments. Files and directories are named (up to 30 characters) using the QWERTY keyboard. When in the Files or Directory mode, the ERASE key is used for deleting files or entire directories.

Editing

The ability to edit tracks is easily the biggest difference between the Short/cut and the Instant Replay. You get your basic cut and paste functions in a very user friendly format with some unexpected extras. Highlight a file and press ENTER to enter the Edit mode. The display offers a waveform of modest resolution to work with but it's enough, and a sixty second file loads surprisingly fast. There are horizontal and vertical zoom functions that enable marking edit points very accurately by sight alone. EDIT IN and EDIT OUT keys set the edit points and highlight the selected area in the display. The MARK key sets locate points within a file which can be located using the left and right GOTO keys. The CUT key removes the highlighted area and "splices" the two ends together. The ERASE key inserts silence in the highlighted area, and this Erase function is nondestructive and can always be "undone" even though the UNDO key only provides one level of undo. The COPY key copies the highlighted area to the clipboard for later use. The INSERT key places the clipboard audio at a selected point in a file.

The left and right channel ARM keys select which tracks the editing function will affect. This is useful when recording separate signals to each track as might be the case when recording a phone conversation with the jock on one channel and the caller on the other. You can also use the Short/cut's tracks as two independent tracks. For example, say you wanted to mix sound effects with a voice track. Record the voice track, then record the sound effects to the same file or another file. Use the Copy and Insert functions to paste the sound effects to one track, leaving the voice unaltered on the other track. Bring the two channels up as mono channels on your mixer, and you've got some basic assembly production, workstation style. Of course, the Short/cut isn't trying to be a workstation, but it's nice to know these extra abilities are there if you need them. Two SOLO buttons aid in single track editing.

At the far right of the top panel is a large round BLEEP button. This is used to insert silence or a "bleep" tone at any point in a recording. I imagine this function would be very handy in a talk show situation where the subject is "your favorite lines from the movie Scarface" or "the most vulgar things you've heard in a rap song." In a more conservative format, the BLEEP button might have few uses. Nevertheless, the Short/cut makes bleeping words very easy. Simply highlight the offending word then hit INSERT and BLEEP. Voila! The word is bleeped perfectly. And like the Erase function, the bleep can be undone at any time to recall the original offending audio.

Nothing is more important when it comes to editing than the ability to mark accurate edit in and out points. The Short/cut's weighted scrub wheel feels great, but the scrub has a bit of a delay, especially if you "rock" the wheel quickly. This is typical with most scrub functions that read the disk directly rather than load the audio into RAM first. It's just enough to make scrubbing a bit sluggish, and finding edit points requires an extra "rock" of the "reels" to assure that you're on the mark. However, the ZOOM IN key can zoom up to 10x which displays two seconds of the waveform across the entire display. Left and right arrow keys on the QWERTY keyboard function as "Nudge Arrows" and enable fine tuning an edit point to the hundredth of a second. The result is very accurate edit point marking by sight alone. Together with the audio scrub, perfect edits are made easily, especially on voice tracks.

Another handy key the LOOP key. Pressing this key provides seamless looping of a file. This is ideal for creating looped music beds. Record the music you want to loop to a file. Trim the beginning and end of the file to leave just the area to be looped. Press LOOP and PLAY and you have a continuous loop until you press STOP.

Editing on the Short/cut is so intuitive that anyone with the basic concepts of digital editing can perform simple editing functions without even a glance at the manual. It's perfect for getting people to make a transition from reel-to-reel editing. Once you get up to speed on the unit, you find yourself waiting a second or two here and there for the Short/cut to process the edits, but this is a wait that is typical with disk-based systems, and in some cases the Short/cut was faster than other systems I've tried.

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