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Audio Production from the Field
Of course you cannot go anywhere nowadays without your laptop, and it's especially valuable for remote recording and production. There are many options for digital audio workstation software. What you decide to use is going to depend upon your requirements, your budget, and to a large extent your own personal preferences.
The first option is freeware - Audacity. On March 13 of this year, the latest version (2.0) was released. By using Audacity on a laptop, you can record using the microphone or line inputs, USB, or Firewire devices. You can use sample rates to 192kHz (and higher) with 16-, 24-, or 32-bit (floating point) word length. The toolbar allows you to manage the various input and output devices. Level meters can monitor volume levels before, during and after recording. Clipping can be displayed in the waveform or in a label track. With the correct hardware you can record multiple channels. You can edit and mix large numbers of tracks and multiple clips are allowed per track. The editing tools are cut, copy, paste and delete, with an unlimited sequential undo and redo) to go back any number of steps.
Another option would be buying Adobe Audition (CS6 was just released). Audition provides native Mac OS support, running on Mac OS X v10.5 and v10.6, as well as Windows. You can record, mix, edit, and master your audio, with 24-bit or 32-bit files with sample rates up to 192kHz, with (according to Adobe) an unlimited number of tracks. You can resize track heights individually in the U.I. to focus on the tracks you need. You have the ability to add effects to the master channel and hear the results prior to mixing down to a single file; and there is real-time input monitoring that allows you to listen to the audio inputs as you record, including effects applied to the input track. You can go back and modify those effect parameters after the recording should you so desire. Some of the effects that are native to Audition are the DeClicker, the DeHummer, the DeEsser, the speech volume leveler, and an analog-modeled multiband compressor.
The user interface consists of workspace panels that dock and group for optimal organization. You can customize input and output metering to suit your workspace and the tasks at hand. Monitor peaks and valleys, using LED segments or continuous output, and stereo and multichannel tracks and sessions.
Another well-known option for DAW software is Avid's Pro Tools MP. This would be an appropriate version of Pro Tools to use in the field for recording, editing and mixing, with the capability of up to 48 stereo tracks at 24-bit word-length/96kHz sample rate. (Note: this would be limited to 24-bit/48kHz sample rate when pairing MP with the MobilePre audio interface.) With MP you can use up to 32 internal mix buses and 10 sends/inserts per track - so that you can make use of the 70 included plug-in effects. MP also has something called Automatic Delay Compensation that time-aligns the tracks that don't run through effects with those that do. MP will import MIDI, REX, ACID, WAV, SDII, AIFF, AAC, and MP3 audio files.
MP is compatible with all versions of Pro Tools, so if you take the session back to your HQ, you can use the more sophisticated versions of Pro Tools later on.
Other options for audio editors include Steinberg Cubase and Sony Creative Software Sound Forge.
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