In post production work, speed is everything. Unlike the music recording world, where sessions can easily run up to 12 hours and projects routinely run into months (and, if you are Steely Dan, years!) post production sessions are typically only an hour or two. Speed is clearly the order of the day.
Product PointsApplications: Film and television post production; music recording and mixing
Key Features: 160 digital channels; 96 kHz mix operation; simultaneous stereo, LCRS, 5.1 and 7.1 surround mixing; 16 to 96 fader configurations; interactive touchscreen control; full automation
Price: from $150,000
Contact: Fairlight USA at 800-432-4754 Web Site
Another requirement for post is the ability to choose from a wide range of inputs, which may be supplied in different formats. Total recall of projects is essential, and with several new music and video formats either here or on the horizon, flexible monitoring is also a must.
I recently had a chance to check out the DPC-II at Superdupe Recording in New York City. Like other digital consoles currently on the market, the control surface of the Soundtracs DPC-II does not dictate the maximum number of inputs that may be accessed. It is possible to have a 16-fader control surface, for example, controlling up to 160 channels. For those who are looking for a compact „ yet powerful „ console, this may be the one. The DPC-II (starts at $150,000) adheres to the traditional mode of console construction; the signal processing electronics are located onboard the console itself.
All DPC-IIs come stock with a full DSP complement; input expansion is simply a matter of adding more interfaces. The smallest of DPC-II systems ships with one rack unit to hold conversion interfaces, the largest utilizes four rack units.
Each rack unit has a capacity of 56 inputs and outputs, which, dependent on card selection, can be any combination of the following: AES (with sample rate conversion), TDIF (with local clock output), ADAT optical I/O, analog (mic and line input with insert point and 24-bit A/D), and analog line outputs. Additionally, any device fitted with MADI I/Os can be connected directly to the console. The console currently supports up to a 96 kHz sampling rate.
The DPC-II offers extensive patching capabilities that take advantage of this environment. A well-integrated automation package allows total recall of all setups.
As this is a console aggressively marketed toward the post production segment of the audio industry, it is only fitting that it is well equipped to provide surround sound monitoring and mixing capabilities.
Available options include mono, stereo, LCRS, 5.1 and 7.1 stems. Each input bucket of eight upper and lower faders has a joystick that can be used for surround panning. Each input bucket also has a touch-sensitive flat screen that displays a variety of information, including dynamics and EQ curves, channel name and number and automation status, as well as presets for dynamics and equalization. All of these functions can be automated by snapshot and dynamically.
Motorized touch-sensitive faders are standard on both the upper and lower fader banks. The layout of the DPC-II follows the ubiquitous inline console paradigm, but this is a bit misleading. Traditional inline consoles have a main signal path, as well as a monitor path „ almost without fail the monitor path has a greatly reduced feature set.
Not so with the DPC-II. All inputs to the console are identical. In fact, the only difference between the upper and lower sections is in the coloring of the fader caps. Metering for selected input channels, as well as subgroups, is displayed by 40-segment LED arrays that include a peak holding feature.
Standard 9-pin and MIDI machine control are supported with a full complement of transport controls available from the master module. The DPC-II really shines when it comes to the implementation of the automation system. Both online and offline editing are available.
Detailed timeline-based graphics show visual information corresponding to any knob or fader movements. These can be edited in a variety of ways in both real time and by timecode region. The console can be split into left and right halves for two-person mixing duties.
An onboard modem is standard to allow remote diagnosis, as well as the deployment of system software upgrades. Soundtracs maintains a database of all DPC-IIs in the field with respect to their operating software level, firmware revisions and internal hardware.
On a recent trip to New York City, I met with Engineer/Mixer Gary Arnold of Superdupe Recording, located in midtown Manhattan. The project being worked on at the time was a high-energy college basketball promo (which was locked to video).
This project received a fairly complex mix and precisely timed cues. The DPC-IIs automation facilities enabled very rapid changes to be executed, written and edited if need be.
I was interested to see how the DPC-II performed on a more music-related audio program. I got the opportunity to put the console through its paces on a project that had been tracked to two-inch analog and then transferred to digital. The equalization was precise, and a nice compromise between the traditional warmth of analog and the clarity of digital.
I did, however, find having to touch the touch screen display to first enable a function, combined with performing the adjustment utilizing conventional rotary knobs a little unintuitive at first. I would have preferred having dedicated knobs for each function. I also found the potentiometers felt a little lightweight in construction. Minor quibbles aside, the flexibility and the functionality of the EQ section are excellent.
The compressor and gates were similarly well implemented, I especially liked the multicolored display which gave a really good visual reinforcement as to what I could hear the compressor doing. The overall sound of the console was very good, with a solid bass region, especially through the Spendor monitors that were in use.
One thing that the Soundtracs DPC-II certainly has going for it is its large installed base of consoles around the world. Prospective purchasers will have the ability to speak with current users of the product and get a true perspective on its strengths for their particular application.
All in all, the DPC-II is a good sounding product and well worth considering „ especially for those looking to get up and running quickly. Both from a systems integration and user interface perspective, the DPC-II is simpler to install and use than some of its competition „ and the integration of its automation leaves nothing to be desired.