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stand alone recorders vs. the computers (just a starter --- new topics welcome)


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It is obvious now that personal computers can be used as the main recording device, even in the professional setting of location field recording for picture. This is the place where we can discuss all the ramifications, exchange ideas and real world experiences, and share speculation about what the future will bring to our workplace.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

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As a post guy who used to do location sound - albeit a few years back in the far less tech heavy days doing documentary  sound - I can only say that there is great comfort in a device designed, along with the now ubiquitous software to go with it, for a single purpose. Years in Avid and Final Cut Pro have taught there is no such thing a bug-proof computer. And when you are in the middle of an edit with a fast approaching deadline or air time, thats one thing & bad enough. But on a shoot with someone calling action this gets elevated to an entirely different level of freak out. As I return to doing sound I love the ease of interface between the two worlds, and love the many new ways to record high quality audio now available. But at the risk of sounding luddite, a single purpose dedicated machine gives great comfort in a job where there are often so many fish to fry. And when the recorder isn't a concern.

Just my two bits -

Peter Tooke

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I tend to agree with what Peter is saying here, that a stand alone purpose built recorder does provide a certain kind of security over any system that uses essentially an off the shelf computer and a general purpose consumer operating system. I agree as well that what is turning out to be a good thing now that we are all working with sound FILES, is the relative ease of interchange between these things. I spent a great deal of time in the early days of the Deva trying to convince quite a few skeptics who were unwilling to trust their work to be done on ANY sort of a computer, even a device like the Deva which is at its very core a "computer." Over the many years of using the Deva, it did seem to me that it was quite bit more trustworthy to rely on this proprietary non-personal computer computer to do the professional sound recording we need to do.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

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I guess my 2 bits here would be that ALL of today's recorders are essentially computers in one form or another in that they are ALL software/firmware based/dependent so they ALL have an operating system of one type or another.  So... please allow me to go into Devil's Advocate mode for a couple of paragraphs.

In my opinion, which is based on my experiences so far, the Mac/Metacorder combination has been as reliable as one could ever ask for, as in 100%.  Granted I haven't had the system for much over a year, but I'd be willing to bet that it has been at least as reliable as any other system out there over the same time period.  I have used this system in cold, rain, fog, dust, bouncing around while driving down a pot holed road in an insert car, and in the incredible high humidity of an indoor wave tank, etc, etc, etc.  At this point, again in my opinion, the whole reliability argument is moot.  At any rate, an entire spare laptop can be kept on hand for not much money.

I have been closely following many of the alternative non-linear recorders out there and I have watched them go through many firmware and some hardware revisions.  All of these machines continue to get better and better.  However, if I really look at this whole issue from as neutral of a perspective as possible, it is my belief that at this point the only difference between my computer and someone else's is that my hardware AND firmware were engineered by Apple and my Software was written by Gallery, while other people's may have been written by Sound Devices, Zaxcom, or what have you.  The real differences between recorders at this point may not be much more than the engineers and (especially) the coders that designed them, the feature set, and the packaging.  Simply putting it all in one box does not guarantee that a product will be more or less reliable.  Of course it does make it somewhat more portable.

I feel that ALL of the newer recorders that I am aware of have some compromises in some part of their design.  I don't feel that I have seen the perfect recorder yet.  For example, Metacorder is a non-starter for over the shoulder work (so far).  It's all about finding the best system that you, as the one that is paid to come up with goods on the jobsite, are the most comfortable with.

End Devil's Advocat mode.

I am pretty new to MAC so I cannot speak for the past record of these computers but thus far Tiger has essentially been bullet proof for me.

Best,

Darren Brisker

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I guess my 2 bits here would be that ALL of today's recorders are essentially computers in one form or another in that they are ALL software/firmware based/dependent so they ALL have an operating system of one type or another.

I am pretty new to MAC so I cannot speak for the past record of these computers but thus far Tiger has essentially been bullet proof for me.

Best,

Darren Brisker

So, I agree with much of what you say as well. I will add that when I was trying to defend the Deva as yes, being a computer, but NOT a computer like the one you probably used today, and specifcially not the one running the dominate and all pervasive Windows. I have been attacked in several other circles for pointing out that I would not mind relying on my computer and software to make master recordings, but then I have always used Macs and I think they have been more reliable than the computers friends of mine use running Windows OS.

I agree with you as well that just because a company has put everything in one box, it still is a computer and can be subject to all the problems people voice here about how dangerous it would be to use a computer for our work. One of my first run ins with Fostex over the miserable PD-2 was having to listen to their explanaton of why the recorder refused to go into record when I hit the big red button. I was told it was due to "stack errors" which I learned later have to do with the sequenced of software commands the machine issues to itself after I push the button. Welcome to the world of computers! I sort of thought at the very least the machine should be able to ALWAYS go into record when I push the record button...  I guess it just got confused at times...  try explaining "stack error" to Clint Eastwood when he is directing and wants to finish up by 4 in the afternoon.

I asked Mark Gilbert at Gallery Software when they were developing Metacorder whether he thought it would be a hard sell to production sound mixers who were vwary of using a computer and software to record. He said that the mixers who were using Macs probably would not be worried but the Windows users would be...  and when asked if Gallery would do a Windows version of Metacorder, they declined of course, but not for reasons which most Windows users are willing to accept. The Mac OS ios a more stable operating system, the hardware from Apple is generally better than lots of the PC stuff, and most importantly, Metacorder (and now BoomRecorder) would not be as good software as it is if it had to run under Windows.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

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Guest repete86

I've recorded on both.  My first shoot was on a low budget DTV film on which I was a sound assistant.  The sound recordist flew into Illinois from LA with the intentions of doing everything herself when she found out that I had recording experience, and recruited me to help her with sound.  Since then I have experimented with analog, and have repeatedly used a standalone recorder.  I haven't had any reliability issues with any of them, and I have found that most computer issues are due to what I like to call "user interface errors."  I have never had any problem with any equipment that it run correctly, so I just go with whatever sounds the best, which at the moment for me is my standalone unit.  I unfortunately don't have anything like the Digidesign Digi002 or Motu Traveller at the moment, but I wouldn't hesitate to use one if I could afford one and a laptop.

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I frankly don't think that ProTools LE on any interface and Metacorder are at all in the same category for film/video location recording.  Metacorder was designed from the ground up to be as bulletproof a RECORDER as possible.  It has no editing, fancy GUI, nested menus, plug ins, multi-page config setups etc.  It is for recording, period, and Mark Gilbert designed it so that it would go into record no matter what else the computer was doing (within reason) and STAY there until you stopped it.  To make a program that is primarily for editing and mixing (PT, DP) do this requires a VERY strict and wrung out setup and  quite deep knowledge of the program and the computer.  The guys I know that use those programs for music recording also run backups on a 2nd system or on DA78s as well.  There have been a lot of films etc recorded w/ Metacorder now, and it works pretty damn consistently I have to say.

Philip Perkins

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That there is no avoiding software and computer code is a given. The MacOSX is very solid. But is does crash on occasion and I figure it out. There is time, I am not in the back of a van or squatting in the rain. I have lost cuts, I have lost media, I have had drives go down. Who hasn't?

I think the difference with a laptop is the temptation to multi-purpose the device, as it is by design built to do many, many more complex things than just record audio. If it & its internal SATA drive can do real time 8 bit NTSC video, well audio is easy. Its just that there is a mess of other software thrown into the mix and so if you can resist using your recorder to edit home movies, you are ahead of the game.

One last thing - there have been posts about how much more is expected of the location mixer these days. This may be a slippery slope, be careful or soon you will be asked to lay out your ISOs in edit rough cuts, perhaps with titles & effects...

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Is there any advantage, apart from cost, to using a personal computer with Boom Recorder or Metacorder instead of a dedicated recorder?

I've been using my laptop, an interface and recording/editing software.  I'm at a point where I need something more portable, so I got a 702T.  It put a pretty good hole in my wallet, but having now used it for a couple of days, I think that it is well worth the cost and I certainly won't be going back to the clunkiness and larger footprint of the laptop.  Besides, every personal computer that I have ever owned has been inhabited by gremlins, and you never know when they are going to strike.

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I frankly don't think that ProTools LE on any interface and Metacorder are at all in the same category for film/video location recording.  Metacorder was designed from the ground up to be as bulletproof a RECORDER as possible.

Philip Perkins

I agree competely with this and I would add that BoomRecorder, like Metacorder, is the only other piece of software that I know of that is designed specifcially to be a RECORDER, not an editor, midi composer, designer, beat detector or plug-in host. I think what people are saying here is that we are probably okay now with personal computers running consumer OS as long as it is not asked to do a whole lot more than the primary task, and the software program that is used should be as single purpose built as possible. I think both Metacorder and BoomRecorder have achieved this and since both run only on Mac OS X on Apple hardware, I think the personal computer side of things is pretty well covered. I would like to hear from those using Windows computers (laptops) what their experiences are and what software programs have been developed primarily for production recording.

Regards,  Jeff Wexler

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Besides, every personal computer that I have ever owned has been inhabited by gremlins, and you never know when they are going to strike.

Forgive me, but I need to ask what personal computers you have been using? I have never had a "gremlin" problem so I don't really know what I have been missing.

-  JW

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Forgive me, but I need to ask what personal computers you have been using? I have never had a "gremlin" problem so I don't really know what I have been missing.

I use the other computer.  I'd use a Mac, but they are so boring and predictable.

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Is there any advantage, apart from cost, to using a personal computer with Boom Recorder or Metacorder instead of a dedicated recorder?

Absolutely!

Every recorder out there right now has some advantages/disadvantages relative to one another.  A Powerbook/interface/Metacorder combination is actually more expensive than a Sound Devices recorder and, at least at the time that I made my purchase, approx. the same cost as a DV-824, so I don't believe that price is the main reason to use this set up.

Personally, before I made my purchase decision, I looked at all of the recorders with regards to feature set, ergonomics, specs, user interface, my impression of what its reliability would be, my impression of the companies themselves and what they are like to deal with, etc, etc.

Much like you have stated that you could not go back to a laptop, I would not want to go back to a dedicated box with a small screen and menu system.  It's all about personal choice.  Isn't it wonderful that for the 1st time that there is something available for everyone.  It's not that long ago that you basically had a choice between 2 products.

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Is there any advantage, apart from cost, to using a personal computer with Boom Recorder or Metacorder instead of a dedicated recorder?

It really depends on what sort of work you do and how much you want to spend.  I find I have to have both types, since I'm not consistently on long jobs where I can work off a cart.  A 702-style recorder can work very well in a bag rig, but sacrifices something vs. the computer-based rig's ability to easily enter lots of information per take, manage metadata, record onto multiple media and burn a DVD directly, incrementally, as the day progresses.  The higher-priced stand alone machines like Deva can do both kinds of work, in their fashion, are more compact, require fewer cables and are simpler to power.

Philip Perkins

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A couple of things caught my eye in this thread.

First, as someone said below, if you do go the computer route for recording, I think it is best (whether it is a Mac or Win box) to use it as a dedicated device.  If someone started publishing games that could run on a Deva V touch screen, do you think anyone would consider installing it?  (well, maybe a few...but generally no).  I think both Windows and Macs are good stable platforms as long as you don't load them up with all the various and sundry software packages that most people do. 

As to why go computer based versus a Deva or other multi-track with a large number of tracks:  Cost.  I can put together a Mac-based Metacorder/Boom Recorder package with 8 tracks of recording for about 25% of what a Deva IV would cost (or a Cantar or HHB).  In the low(er) budget world I mix in, I can't rationalize a Deva purchase, but can certainly pay for (and recoup) the investment for a computer based system, and give my customers the same type of results.

Will they get the same quality as if I had a Deva V, Cooper 208, etc.?  I truthfully do not know, but they will a quality level that far exceeds anything they have ever had before, and is still very very good.

I have seen several of the projects I've mixed shown in theaters locally, and they all sounded great, so my combination of equipment certainly is doing something right.

Anyway, just my $.02.

Phil

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hey everyone,

I own a Dell Windows laptop. but to be honest, I would never consider this for active professional use in the same way as I may consider a Mac or SD/HHB/Deva system.

I should say, I am a fan of pc systems, and I really enjoy teasing mac users (we all know how it is), but I do NOT think PC's are suitable for a demanding environment like location sound.

The thread has mentioned purpose built machines, but Macs in many ways ARE that way inclined. Well, more so than PCs at least, they have always proved themselves to the audio and visual community.

So, as a pc user, I would never consider using my laptop for production sound. Its either mac or box of tricks for me.

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Hey everyone,

I own a Dell Windows laptop. but to be honest, I would never consider this for active professional use in the same way as I may consider a Mac or SD/HHB/Deva system.

I should say, I am a fan of pc systems, and I really enjoy teasing mac users (we all know how it is), but I do NOT think PC's are suitable for a demanding environment like location sound.

The thread has mentioned purpose built machines, but Macs in many ways ARE that way inclined. Well, more so than PCs at least, they have always proved themselves to the audio and visual community.

So, as a pc user, I would never consider using my laptop for production sound. Its either mac or box of tricks for me.

There is plenty of recording and other field usage of PC laptops everyday.  Before I got my Powerbook setup I did lots of 2 track recording and playback on an IBM laptop--it worked fine.  The same rules apply--don't try to use a computer that has another life as a general-purpose (and especially web-browsing) machine, have it lean and mean, don't have anything that runs in the background, keep your disks celan and defragged etc.  In Europe there are plenty of people using PC-based apps like Sadie or Pyramix for very high end work--high track count/sample rate etc..

Philip Perkins

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Very interesting thread. Thanks Jeff.

I am at the point where I need to upgrade my kit or hang it up.  I was an early admirer of the Deva but could not afford it.  My Stella was great in the day and so was my Stone modified 4.2TC.  Ditto for my Sela and Stellavox AMI48 mixers (in which I have had new faders installed).  My old FP33 is solid as is my PD-4.  Never had any wireless that wasn't borrowed or rented.  Finally I have a few bucks to spend, but wanted a good mixer to go with Deva.  The long promised Mix 12 is promised soon, but so is the SX-ST with a built in 8 trk HD.   Either combination is a contender but then the budget left for wireless is almost nil - 4K or so.  So, is there an alternative to get quality at an afordable price?  A quick check turned up  1GB Macbook Pro 2350.00 (MacMall), Yamaha 01V96 V2 - 2200.00 (zZounds.com), MOTU Traveler 900.00 (zZounds.com), Metacorder 1800.00 (Gallery) or Boom Recorder  175.00 (VosGames).  Misc stuff I left out 500.00.  So, $8,000 or less.  Which leaves about 22K top of line wireless - Zax, Audio, Lectro????? with lavs.  Now I really have more questions flooding my mind - best strategy for choosing gear, best way to shop, what else is essential (vid monitor?- power system, newer TC slate and more) but I will start another thread(s) for that.  First question for here - does anyone know if Gallery & Boom Recorder will run on the Intel Core Macbook?  I looked on the Gallery web site and did not find a contact email address so I was unable to ask.  Rob Braxton     

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Very interesting thread. Thanks Jeff.

I am at the point where I need to upgrade my kit or hang it up.  I was an early admirer of the Deva but could not afford it.  My Stella was great in the day and so was my Stone modified 4.2TC.  Ditto for my Sela and Stellavox AMI48 mixers (in which I have had new faders installed).  My old FP33 is solid as is my PD-4.  Never had any wireless that wasn't borrowed or rented.  Finally I have a few bucks to spend, but wanted a good mixer to go with Deva.  The long promised Mix 12 is promised soon, but so is the SX-ST with a built in 8 trk HD.  Either combination is a contender but then the budget left for wireless is almost nil - 4K or so.  So, is there an alternative to get quality at an afordable price?  A quick check turned up  1GB Macbook Pro 2350.00 (MacMall), Yamaha 01V96 V2 - 2200.00 (zZounds.com), MOTU Traveler 900.00 (zZounds.com), Metacorder 1800.00 (Gallery) or Boom Recorder  175.00 (VosGames).  Misc stuff I left out 500.00.  So, $8,000 or less.  Which leaves about 22K top of line wireless - Zax, Audio, Lectro????? with lavs.  Now I really have more questions flooding my mind - best strategy for choosing gear, best way to shop, what else is essential (vid monitor?- power system, newer TC slate and more) but I will start another thread(s) for that.  First question for here - does anyone know if Gallery & Boom Recorder will run on the Intel Core Macbook?  I looked on the Gallery web site and did not find a contact email address so I was unable to ask.  Rob Braxton     

Go join the Metacorder group on Yahoo.  Mark Gilbert- the Gallery capo, reads the forum and answers questions there.

Tak Vos from Boom Recorder reads this forum and RAMPS too, so he might see questions you have about that software.  Metacorder does work on Macintels, from what I've read on the Yahoo group. 

Re the recorder question--I still don't think that an integrated recorder+mixer is as versitile as separate units, but I do a wide variety of jobs and need that flexibility.  How many tracks do you need regularly?  2? 4? More?  Are you working off a cart mostly, in a bag, both?  There are a lot of good possibilites now all up and down the price range for both mixers and recorders, many of them quite cheap.  Wireless gear is still in a state where the good stuff is quite expensive, although the Lectro Venue is great bang for buck if you can stay on a cart.  I'd say balance your budget so that you get the wireless and mics you want, and then see what you can do about a mixer and recorder, since there are so many more good possibilites in those areas.

Philip Perkins

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I have not browsed Yahoo groups before.  Tried several time to search there for "metacorder" and result was negative.  Tried to sort through computer software category - again no luck.  Must be doing something wrong.  Want to ask if current version of Metacorder can run on the new Intel MacBook Pro.

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Hey philip, thanks for the feedback. I guess it is an option, but it just scares me.

My main question would be what you Mac/PC based folk do in the event of a shot that needs high mobility? Run wireless to the boom op?  Put the machine in a car as someone mentioned? Or keep a spare recorder on hand to deal with the odd moving shot? If so, what recorder?

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I use a spare recorder -- usually a Fostex FR2 -- for car insert work. When there's been no trailer, and nowhere for me to sit, I've even thrown the FR2 in between the actors and just run it as "one take" while they drive around and around (and actually gotten usable sound, with the only caveat that I'm unable to monitor in case something goes wrong.)

One advantage is that with the Metacorder is that even after recording on a separate machine one can run the audio and timecode back into Metacorder and have exact takes -- with timecode -- in Metacorder's sound reports and data structure. That helps editorial as they don't have to go and find all those takes which were done only with the other (backup) machine.

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One advantage is that with the Metacorder is that even after recording on a separate machine one can run the audio and timecode back into Metacorder and have exact takes -- with timecode -- in Metacorder's sound reports and data structure. That helps editorial as they don't have to go and find all those takes which were done only with the other (backup) machine.

This is true if you trasfer the takes back into Metacorder via playing them back at real time.

This is also true if you just drag and drop the files you recorded on your other recorder into your current Metacorder soundroll folder, providing that those files were recorded on an iXML compliant recorder.

If you drag and drop files into metacorder that were not made on an iXML capable recorder, the files will be on your sound roll, and will contain all their original metadata including the timecode stamp.  However, without iXML, those files will not appear on your Metacorder sound report.

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The main drawback to the Metacorder rig is that it's a little messy for a car-rig unless you have plenty of time (when is that?). Since MC is so cheap compared to other standalone recorders that can record more than 4 tracks, I figure that you just have to count on having a cheap 2 track machine as well to do those more run/gun kind of shots.  There are at least 3 good choices available for this now.  The upside to working this way is that you haven't torn apart your main cart to do the rig, and can be ready to roll on the main rig just as fast as the camera dept. will be (ie off the car).

Philip Perkins

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The main drawback to the Metacorder rig is that it's a little messy for a car-rig unless you have plenty of time (when is that?).

I can't say that I really understand what is meant by this.

When it's time to pull the metacorder/traveler combo from the cart, I have to disconnect 2 optical cables, 1 f/w cable, and 2 timecode TRS cables.  When I get to the insert car, I have to connect it to 2 XLR cables, 1 f/w cable, and one timecode cable.

I'm not certain what is "messy" about this, or how having to disconnect and re-connect 4 or 5 cables is much different or more or less time consuming than what is needed for many other multi track recorders.  I would say that this rig has a slightly larger "footprint" than other recorders, but I have not found that to be a problem in any of the insert cars that I have been in so far.

Best,

Darren

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