The DCR 10 takes on a look much different than that of the DCR 1000, which looked a lot like a cart machine. The DCR 10 is roughly 13 inches deep, 8 inches wide, and 3 1/2 inches high. Rack mount kits are optional and enable installing two DCR 10s side by side taking up two rack spaces.
How the rear panel looks depends upon what the unit’s configuration is. The unit shipped for this review included the digital upgrade option and offers AES/EBU and S/PDIF digital I/O on XLR connectors. The analog I/O is also balanced XLR. There are level controls for the left and right channels of both the analog inputs and outputs. An RS232 port facilitates data output for logging purposes and can output all the information about the cut that’s playing. The Parallel Remote port permits remote control operation. The External SCSI port and the MIDI/TC port are reserved for future applications.
The front panel was obviously designed to preserve the simple operation of traditional cart machines. There are two large transport buttons (Pause/Play and Stop/Cue), two smaller buttons (Time Mode and Function), a data wheel, a display screen, and the disk drive slot. Two LED level meters with overload indicators show playback and record levels. There’s also a connector for a standard PC keyboard on the front panel.
Unlike conventional cart machines, there are not two versions of the DCR 10, a record deck and a playback only deck. The DCR 10 is a playback only unit until the keyboard is plugged into it, then the record functions become available. This is smart. It makes machines interchangeable throughout the station, and if you need to do some fast recording on one of the units in the control room, the keyboard port on the front panel is convenient for quickly turning a playback-only deck into a record unit. The majority of the DCR 10’s functions are accessed from the keyboard. A template that better indicates which keys do what is available for $10. Otherwise, a few minutes with the manual are necessary to familiarize yourself with the layout. Fortunately, the industry is developing some keyboard standards, such as “R” for record, “S” for stop, and “P” for play.
Pressing “R” puts the unit in Record Ready mode, pressing “P” or the Pause/Play button on the front panel starts recording. Press “S” or the Stop/Cue button to end recording. When “R” is pressed, the display shows the time remaining on the disk, the cut number, and the recording mode—mono/stereo and sampling frequency. The recording mode can be quickly set with the F9 and F10 keys which toggle the available rates and mono/stereo modes. When recording is done, press F2 to title the cut. To re-record the cut, just press “R” again and the old one will be erased. To keep the cut, set the Safe flag by pressing Ctrl-S. The DCR 10 also starts recording as soon as it senses audio at the inputs if the Start On Audio mode is engaged, and the threshold is adjustable.
The DCR 10 can record secondary and tertiary cues to any cut, and the cue points can be edited if necessary. Digital recordings can be made if the digital I/O option is installed. Both AES/EBU and S/PDIF formats are supported, and recordings can be made at 32, 44.1, and 48kHz sampling rates.
One thing to keep in mind about recording on the DCR 10 is the fact that cuts are recorded to the disk in a linear fashion, physically speaking. In other words, cut 1 starts at the inside track of the disk. Cut 2 follows cut 1. Cut 3 follows cut 2 and so on, each cut allocating only the amount of disk space needed to record that cut. Now, if you go back and re-record cut 1, you are limited in recording time to the exact length of the previous cut 1. The DCR 10 does not fragment the files by skipping around the disk looking for extra space. This is good in that problems resulting from file fragmentation are non-existent with the DCR 10. On the other hand, you have to give a little thought to recording and re-recording cuts. You can’t put a :30 spot on cut 1, then go back later and assign a :60 to cut 1. For this reason, it makes sense to decide what your maximum spot length is, let’s say :63, and always record those extra seconds of blank space at the end of commercials. That way, if you need to re-dub a spot, and the new one is a second or two longer than the first, you won’t have to change cut numbers and waste disk space.