The Quadra line of Lacie external hard drives are built like tanks. The aluminum case and heat sink makes for virtually silent operation. These drives are ready with both PC and Mac friendly interfaces including USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and 800, as well as eSATA.

The variety of interfaces makes it a good choice for video production where you may encounter, say, Firewire 800 on a Mac in the field but go back to the studio and edit on a PC with everything but Firewire 800. We’re looking forward to testing USB 3.0 but it’s still in the rollout stage.

The Quadra can be daisy-chained via FireWire and is bootable using Firewire and eSATA. Lacie has a “shortcut button” which can be used to trigger specific apps. We have no use for this as we already have a preferred backup solution but some users might like this.

Lacie makes good looking drives. In this case the good looks also help to keep the drive cool with the aluminum case and heat sink. It also doesn't hurt to have something attractive in the studio but our first priority is always performance and reliability.

We have a call into Lacie to confirm the OEM drives inside the Quadra lineup. We haven’t taken it apart, yet. Our guess is Samsung. But we’ll confirm. If that's the case we would expect it to last as we've had excellent results with Samsung drives the last few years.

If you’re in the market for an external drive that can perform like an internal drive when it needs to, check out the Quadra line. You will pay a premium for the all aluminum design and myriad interfaces but in a pro environment it’s certainly worth it.
Sony Vegas Pro 10 keeps the Vegas party going with more powerful features, plug-in support, and 3D capabilities. We’ve used every kind video editing platform here at funkyfresh and Vegas Pro has become one of our favorites.

To start, Vegas pro 10 can handle just about any kind of file format. We recently finished a 22 year tribute video for Eli Harari, the founder and former CEO of SanDisk. We digitized in VHS tapes from the early 90s (that’s when we found this old Fry’s ad that made us laugh, check out the hard drive), and a batch of beta tapes as well. We scanned in old photos and grabbed high quality TIFs and PDFs from more recent press kits. We shot a bunch of new interviews in HD with the Sony EX-3 and Panasonic HVX200. We grabbed VOB files from DVDs of television appearances and press events. Lastly, we had employees from different regions of the world submit videos in a variety of formats shot on handhelds and smart phones and throw them up on the FTP site.

When all was said and done we had nearly 400GB worth of source files in nearly every possible format. Vegas never blinked. We trimmed and dragged and dropped until our heart’s content. The only files we had to “trick” Vegas into using were the VOB files from the various DVDs. By right clicking the containing folder we were able to “see” the files and drag and drop them to the timeline.

Our P2 footage which requires the Raylight Ultra codec needed the very latest version to work in Vegas 10 even thought it was already working fine in Vegas 8 and 9. No biggie and Raylight updated the codec just a few days after the release of Vegas 10. XDCAM files from the Sony EX3, as expected, were easy to play with in real time. By the way, the EX3 is easily one of the best bang for buck options for shooting in HD today however we still like the ergonomics of the Panasonic cameras better.

For this project we created both DVD and Blu-ray masters as well as a variety of streaming formats. We added a new Quadro 2000 to an aging HP xw8400 workstation in hopes of taking advantage of the CUDA cores. Sony says with certain codecs, such as AVC, the NVIDIA GPU may speed rendering times. While we didn’t get out the stopwatch, we didn’t notice any practical improvements. Rendering our 15 minute video still meant walking away and doing other things, sometimes for hours. We have a new z800 workstation we’ll be setting up for testing and hope we can get these wait times down to a more reasonable pot of coffee.

Sony has beefed up the rendering presets to make it easier to find a good starting point when outputting video. The Sony AVC codec yields outstanding results and allows you to create a master file that can be uploaded to YouTube in HD and used for Blu-ray or archiving. We also re-rendered this master in FLV using the On2 codec and were happy with the results. So it seems like Sony chose the correct codec for GPU acceleration. Hopefully we'll see the use of CUDA cores expand throughout the applicaton over time.

There’s lots to discover in Vegas Pro 10 but a couple of things that make us happy are the third party effects support and the ability to apply effects to an individual event versus the entire timeline. NewBlue Inc. has a variety of plug-ins that are very useful and fun to play with. This has created an “app” marketplace within Vegas which makes it incredibly easy and affordable to jumpstart your creative flow. The Vegas Production Assistant 2.0 developed by VASST has some useful features such as batch processing and automatic photo montage tools but the Grafpak (lower third samples) timed out which caused a series of irritating popups everytime Vegas Pro 10 was started. We had to completely uninstall Production Assistant 2 to lose the popups demanding we purchase these marginal pre-made lower thirds. Sony, please figure out a way to decouple this from Production Assistant 2. VASST says installing the latest version, 2.07, should solve this problem.  However, it's a poor user experience to be bombarded with these messages in the first place.

We really enjoy working in Vegas Pro 10. Our favorite feature of Vegas is really the flexibility. You can work in a very structured way or very organic and free form way. The format support is outstanding and there’s no right or wrong way to add stuff to the timeline. You can create new sub clips or simply copy and paste the same source files all over the timeline. The use of the right mouse click in Vegas 10 is brilliant. Right mouse click anywhere in your project, media, timeline, viewer…etc and you’ll have a plethora of options to help you keep moving forward.

Vegas Pro 10 was generally stable but we were able to get it to crash when rapidly scanning video or moving around assets while the timeline was playing. Once we figured out the behavior that caused the crashes we stopped it and behaved in a more reasonable fashion. But still, we'd like to see the QA team uncover these various quirks so the product team can make it more bullet proof. You shouldn’t have to be “careful” when you’re being creative.

Sony Vegas Pro 10 has outstanding audio capabilities but we did enounter buffer errors when using Universal Audio plug-ins on multiple tracks running on the UAD-1 and UAD-2 cards. Running plug-ins only on the master output did not yield errors. So in the end we did our audio mastering in Saw Studio. The Universal Audio plug-ins are very popular and we don't have these issues in Sony ACID Pro 7. We asked Universal Audio about this and they acknowledged this is a known software bug with no fix at this time.

There's lots more to cover and we didn’t even touch on the 3D capabilities, DSLR editing, and other capabilities of Vegas 10. Perhaps we’ll dive in deeper with the new workstation and share our findings here.

So apart from a few hiccups here and there we still find Vegas Pro 10 one of the most intutitive, powerful and downright fun audio video packages for professional use.

Visit Sony Creative Software for more information.
IK Multimedia realeased a full featured and free version of its popular sampler software. SampleTank FREE 2.5 comes with a 500MB sound library. The SampleTank universe of sounds can easily be expanded with nearly 60GB worth of sounds.

Features include: 16 part polyphony, 3 synth engines, 33 built in DSP effectsinclude effects and is compatible withWAV, AIFF, SDII, AKAI S-1000/3000 and SAMPLECELL instruments directly from the plug-in.

SampleTank runs standalone or as a plug-in on Mac and Windows systems.
If you’re new to SampleTank now you have no excuse. Awesomeness that rocks and is free? You’re welcome.

Download it now here.
Sonic Reality just unleashed “Neil Peart Drums Vol. 1: The Kit”, a music software recreation of the legendary sound of Neil Peart. Nick Raskulinecz, producer/engineer for Rush, Foo Fighters, and other bands with massive drums sounds worked with Sonic Reality to create the authentic sounds of Mr. Peart and make it available as a sound library for sample playing software such as BFD2 and Kontakt.

It’s pretty epic. The samples can be tweaked with features such as deep level dynamics, humanized random alternating hits, discrete multiple mic mixing and more. Sonic says this deluxe sampled kit is an ultra-realistic recreation of Neil’s actual acoustic set as used live on tour and in the studio.

We can’t wait to play. Neil is a rock god and drum legend. His technique and the sound of his kit on “Moving Pictures” is still a benchmark in dynamics, clarity and overall kickass playing style. To think you can pick up a legendary sample set like this for under $150 is insane. Insanely awesome! We’re expecting greatness from this product and we’ll tell you more after we rock out a bit with it.

Visit Sonic Reality for more information.
The Sony HDR-CX150 combined with the Sony SPK-CXA underwater sport pack makes a great little package for capturing underwater footage. We recently shot an underwater video for a Silicon Valley company demonstrating a technology product in a pool.

The camera and underwater pack worked great. The hardest part of capturing the footage was getting oxygen to our camera team.

Sony says the SPK-CXA underwater sport pack is good for depths up to 17 feet. We would have expected a round number such as 20 or 50 but 17 is plenty. Besides, just beyond a few feet under water and you have to start thinking about lighting anyway.

The HDR-CX150 works with SD cards and Sony’s memory stick though we imagine they will soon phase out the proprietary format. You can pick up the Camera, underwater housing and video ready SD card as a package for under $1k. It’s a nice setup for all you Jacques Cousteau wannabees.

Visit Sony for more information.
AmpliTube 3 from IK Multimedia is the latest version of the popular AmpliTube series that’s packed with new amp models, stomp boxes, mics and cabinets. More is the operative word when it comes to AmpltiTube 3.

We’ve been looking forward to this release since our first impression with the Jimi Hendrix series. We figured we’d hear a few more amp models, a few more effects and maybe another speaker cabinet or mic model. Suffice to say, we grossly underestimated the folks at IK Multimedia

Playing with AmpliTube is addictive. With previous versions it became a default plug-in for everything from guitars to analog synth parts and vocals and drums just to add some character. We fell in love with the SLIGHTLY overdriven clean sounds and the effect of a well placed wah pedal in a static setting for dramatic filter effects. It’s been impressive since day one and it’s easy to forget it’s sound emulation and not a real mic’d cab.

AmpliTube 3 is built on the same basic flow as previous versions: a single tuner feeding two complete Stomp Box / Amp / Cabinets / Rack effect signal flows. As before, AmpliTube 3 provides multiple series / parallel setups for these modules, so it’s easy to run two complete rigs at the same time, or have two pedal boards simultaneously feeding a single amp with two different cabinet options. Eight routing options are on offer here, so you’re bound to find a configuration that suits your needs. You’ll also see a preset browser and a Speed Trainer and both of these have undergone a major face lift.

New in AmpliTube 3 are a number of options. A full 31 amp models are included, and some of these are very welcome surprises. In addition to the expected (yet still great) Marshall and Fender options, you’ll find both a blue face and a copper face Vox model, “classic” and triple rectifier Mesa / Boogie simulations and even an Orange OR120™ that will launch you into power chord heaven. And for our four stringed friends, they have included four thumping bass head models to get the low end moving. Add to this 51 stomp boxes, 15 microphone choices, 46 cabinet options and 17 pieces of rackmounted outboard gear and you should expect to spend a bit of time checking out the sounds on tap.

We can’t cover everything here but there are a few truly incredible additions to AmpliTube 3 that make it stand apart from earlier incarnations.

Let’s start with the stomp boxes. Expect to enjoy the fuzz boxes, flangers, phasers and wah pedals as much as ever, but be prepared to be amazed by the step filter and the swell pedals. By rhythmically adjusting filter resonance (Low pass, Band Pass or High Pass) the Step Filter turns gently strummed chords on a Ric 12 string turn into a percolating pseudo-techno background texture. And if blooming, backwards sounding volume swells are your bag, try the...wait for it...Swell pedal. Essentially an auto wah – but for volume control instead of filtering. For a truly WOW experience, try these two effects in series and strap across the bus for your background vocal submix. Add a bit of amp drive, sit back and enjoy.

Next comes the Cabinets and Microphones: Similar to previous versions but now you get two! Yep. In version 3, each of the cabinets in the signal chain can be mic’d by two mics – both user selectable from a stunning array of options. What’s more, each mic can be freely moved from center to outer part of the speaker cone and set near, far or anywhere in between. Add variable room reflections, relative volume and individual mic panning and you can get some very serious spatial effects. This addition in particular makes it easier than every get a great guitar tone to sit around a lead vocal.

The Speed Trainer is no longer a simple MP3 player with speed control, this is a full bore 4 track digital recorder with tempo and pitch controls. This particular feature is rapidly becoming a favorite as I no longer have to fire up my DAW for getting ideas down before they go away. Now everything is on one easy–to–use screen.

The Preset browser is very logical addition. As there are now so many sonic options crammed into AmpliTube 3, they have kindly included a database driven Preset Browser that allows you to quickly find a great starting point for your next sound by sorting on any of a number of options such as instrument type and sound character. Prepare to spend some time playing here as you will explore for hours.

If it seems as if we’ve glossed over the amp models…well…it’s just because they’ve always been so good. If you liked the previous blackface Fender tones, or Plexi Marshalls, then you’ll dig the mid 80’s Boogies and 70’s Oranges. But what really makes this the “Go To” option for a variety of instruments and vocals is the effects, cabinets, mic'ing options and the overall usability tweaks.

Our test instruments included a 1976 Les Paul Deluxe – Mini Humbuckers, a 1969 Gibson SG – Humbuckers, Rickenbacker model 1997 Reissue – Vintage Toaster Top Single Coils, Gretsch G5120 Korean series (transparent orange...what else?) – Filter-‘tron”ish” pickups, 2005 Jay Turser Beatle Bass Copy – Mini Soapbars,1975 Arp Axxe. We found something tasteful in AmpliTube 3 we could use for all of the above.

AmpliTube 3 is more than a simple facelift. They have re-imagined the concept to extend far beyond being a guitar amp simulator and have created a comprehensive audio processor that can be used on any audio source that needs to be tweaked, brightened, fuzzed, fizzed or generally whacked out. If you finish a project and have only used AmpliTube 3 on the guitar tracks…well…you missed out on a lot of fun and a lot of great sounds.

Of course, a serious piece of software such as AmpliTube 3 requires additional processing power compared to previous versions to truly be useful. Our system didn’t lock up as long as we kept multiple instances of the software in check. If we went beyond 3 or 4 instances of AmpliTube in a project a bit of halting and crackle was noticed when launching the interface for tweaking and knob twiddling. Once the settings are made, however, the audio artifacts go away. So while it may slow the workflow a bit it’s still workable. Our test machine was an Intel Dual Core system with 3.16 GHz CPUs and 2.5GB of memory.

During our review we received notification of a patch for AmpliTube 3. We didn’t experience any unusual behavior prior to installing the patch but it’s nice to know IK is actively providing updates and staying ahead of any issues. Apparently this update addresses quite a few compatibility issues with different DAWs.  The ability to view actual parameter values during the knob twisting sessions is a nice addition as well.

If you’ve tried AmpliTube before, then you have no doubt already downloaded the trial version and been rocking out. If you’re new to AmpliTube than make sure you have a long weekend in front of you before you install this software. You’ll need some serious time to play.

Visit IK Multimedia for more information.
The Bravo Xi2 CD/DVD duplicator features improved robotics for faster disc handling and the same excellent burn and print quality we’ve come to expect from Primera products. The unit we tested featured two Pioneer drives for burning both DVDs and CDs. A Blu-ray version is also available.

The improved robotics makes the Bravo Xi2 notably faster, up to 300% according to Primera, and quieter. We set up a dedicated PC for DVD and CD jobs in our editing room and the rumbling of the Bravo Xi2 really didn’t bother us. Previous generation Primera products make considerably more noise due to the use of a lead screw instead of the improved belt drive in the Bravo Xi2. We didn’t get out the decibel meter or stopwatch but it’s clear this unit is quieter and also quicker at picking and placing discs.

We installed the PTPublisher software package on an aging Dell Optiplex system running Windows 7, so nothing special about the PC hardware. PTPublisher along with an OEM version of SureThing label software provides everything you need to rip images of CDs and DVDs and make professional looking labels. You can also author a variety of other data and AV discs inside the software package. The software literally walks you through each step of the process. We were reluctant to use PTPublisher at first having gotten used to the spartan Primo package bundled with the Bravo XR but have come to appreciate the prettier if not slightly bloated PTPublisher package. Newbies will love it.

We made several 100 disc runs of CDs and DVDs. The burns worked great and the labels looked stunning on Taiyo Yuden Watershield glossy white media. We did have to spend a little time calibrating the printer so it would print exactly centered on the disc and we’d like to see improvements on the utility used to calibrate the printer. It’s the least friendly procedure and seems like it could be integrated into PTPublisher in a more effortless way.

The CD Ripping utility in PTPublisher, previously known as PTRip, was a bit frustrating to use. First, the BravoXi2 had trouble picking and placing stamped music CDs. It kept grabbing two CDs instead of one and placing them in the drive which of course caused a problem. When it successfully loaded a disc and retrieved the metadata from the Net it kept insisting every subsequent CD had already been loaded. We’ve used PTRip with a Bravo XR and never encountered this issued. Since this is not our primary use of a product like the Bravo Xi2 it’s not that big a deal but frustrating nonetheless.

Our only other gripe is the form factor. The Bravo Xi2 is quite chubby and needs significant real estate to operate. In Kiosk mode it must be slightly elevated as well. We much prefer the basic box design of the Bravo XR series to the flip top design of the Bravo Xi2. A lid that slides into the metal casing like a motorcycle helmet would be a major improvement.

Now that Primera has spoiled us with a faster and quieter design we're ready for the next wave of improvements to the form factor. The Bravo Xi2 is still a fine choice for your duplication needs if desk real estate is not an issue.

Visit Primera Technology for more information.
The MSP3 from Yamaha is a powered monitor that delivers very good sound in a desktop friendly design. Yamaha has been making this family of monitors for quite some time and for good reason. They look and sound great and have a small footprint. The MSP3s cost about $165 a piece. That’s a bit more than some other small monitors for the desktop, such as the popular JBL Control 2Ps we recently reviewed. However, we think it’s money well spent.

The MSP3 is the baby of this Yamaha family of monitors but don’t let the small size fool you. The 20-watt amplifier is clean and packs plenty of punch. The 4” woofer and 7/8” tweeter are accurate enough that mixes done on our studio JBL 4408As actually translate very well to these little wonders. Ironically, they seem to have more in common with our big JBLs than some of the smaller desktop JBLs we’ve tested.

The MSP3 have XLR, ¼” and RCA jack inputs and two inputs can be used at once effectively giving you the ability to monitor four sources in mono if necessary. There are volume controls for two inputs and EQ controls applied to all inputs. We used the MSP3s in a desktop video setting connected to a Mackie Mixer and also direct with a variety of sound cards.

Once thing we’d like to change would be to make the power cord modular and not hard wired to the unit. We’d also like one master volume control in addition to the two input controls. JBL did a nice job with its Control 2P monitors putting the volume knob on the side of the unit. It’s a better ergonomic approach. Even placing the volume controls in the top right and left corners of the MSP3s would work better although it would look a bit funny and I’m sure the design folks chose the solution that “looked” better.

Visit Yamaha for more information.

The JBL Control 2P compact powered reference monitors are a very good desktop companion for video and audio editing. The transducers are housed in a rugged package that includes some great ergonomic touches, such as a volume control and headphone jack on the right side of the master speaker.

The master speaker also includes balanced and unbalanced inputs, a high pass filter control, dedicated on/off switch and provides 35 watts of power to each monitor. Only one power connection is required as the second monitor is completely driven and controlled by the master. This makes it convenient for connecting unbalanced RCA cords to one speaker, common in computer editing environments where the built in sound on the computer is used versus a professional card with balanced ins and outs.

The sound of the Control 2P is crisp and clean but a tad underwhelming, particularly in the low end. They sound a bit muddy and boxy.  This is not surprising given the small size of the transducers.  We were able to use these monitors for long periods of time without any air fatigue which is great when editing video for long periods of time.  In a pinch, these will work for down and dirty audio work too but we weren’t overly impressed with the sound. Don’t get us wrong, the Control 2Ps sound fine but it’s really about the small footprint and price tag.

When it comes to JBL you usually get what you pay for. A pair of Control 2Ps is a very good value at $200. We love the design and ergonomics and just wished they sounded a bit better.  We’d recommend them for any situation where size and ruggedness are important and critical listening is not. And once your ears get to the know them it’s easy to make mixes that translate well to more familiar gear.  In short, fine for the desktop but keep them out of the studio.

Visit JBL for more information.
Cycling 74’s Hipno audio plug-in package is reasonably priced, fun to use and can yield very interesting effects. If you love to experiment and create unique and wacked out effects for your audio projects the hours will fly with Hipno.

The Cycling 74 GUI approach reminds us of an early pioneer in creative GUI design, Kai Krause. We interviewed Kai several years ago about his philosophy for his then ground breaking GUI work in Bryce. He said it was simple. As soon as the application is running the user should be able to click around and make things happen without any kind of menu structure whatsoever. His software essentially took over the desktop with almost not windows conventions in play.  Great stuff.

The Hipno plug-ins are very much like this. The user can associate colors and relative location of controls to change what the effect does. It’s that simple. It does require quite a bit of experimentation to figure out what is happening with each plug-in but soon you’re able to radically change the palette of a particular effect with minimal clicks.

We happen to enjoy simply playing with software synths and effects such as Hipno just to see what happens if we “press this and turn that.” It’s fun. We created some loops from phrases of a mix we were working on and fed it through Hipno. By the time we were done the tonality was completely different and interesting in a way we never would have created out of thin air. Hipno is very helpful in this scenario. When you just need something different and you’re not ever sure what that is. Fire it up, play with it and see what happens.

Our biggest complaint is speed. Hipno takes a while to launch. We tested it in a variety of DAW programs and would like faster load times. Also, better use of the right mouse click with tips and tricks would help the user understand how to experiment in a more efficient manner with this unconventional set of plug-ins.

If you’re used to more traditional effects with traditional names the Hipno approach may be exhausting for you. However, if you like to play and just want a set of tools that may surprise with sonic goodness Hipno is certainly worth considering. A demo is available from the website but is very irritating to use because of the gross violator noise it introduces to all playback. However, you will be able to get the gist of the product.

Visit Cycling 74 for more information about Hipno and other software plug-ins.

Panasonic has finally started shipping its 64GB P2 cards. This is an incredible milestone for both the P2 lineup of cameras and flash memory in general in terms of performance and durability. Flash has many advantages over hard drive products such as the Firestore drives from Focus Enhancements. However, price per GB of storage is not one of them. After using the new 64GB card with an HVX200 on a couple of shoots we think it’s worth every penny.

A 64GB P2 card is much more practical for field shoots, giving you more overhead when you need it which means you no longer have to be extra stingy with takes. We often shoot in 720/24p native mode. A 64GB P2 card will hold nearly 3 hours of video in this popular HD mode.

Now the first thing everyone says when they see the retail price of a Panasonic P2 card is, “why do they cost so much?” Well a P2 card is not just a bunch of memory in a PCMCIA form factor. It’s a very sophisticated card that writes and verifies data and provides ultra reliable and fast performance in a variety of harsh conditions. You can visit Panasonic for the official pitch on P2. Our tests confirm the cards work as advertised. We can’t comment on the reliability of the 64GB version. However, we literally tossed around quite a few 16GB and 32GB versions over the last couple of years and expect the same long term performance from the latest version.

Sony ACID Pro 7 is a very powerful creative tool for doing all sorts of audio work. It’s a blast to use and a good example of a product that helps the creativity flow versus getting in the way. ACID Pro 7 builds on an already powerful loop based production tool and improves the quality of the beatmapping, time stretching and pitch shifting. ACID Pro 7 also includes support for FLAC, AAC, AC-3 Studio and MPEG 2 files which allows more elements to be added to a mix fast.

New ACID users will benefit from a live tutorial technology that demonstrates common tasks in real time inside an open session in ACID. It’s some of the best tutorial technology we’ve seen. It’s very similar to screen capture tutorials that are captured using a tool like Camtasia. However, the Sony technology follows the user with prompts to open and close menus, select /de-select, and various key strokes and prompts. It’s so much better than static help menus or video tutorials because you really learn as you go. We wouldn’t be surprised to see this technology showing up in more products in the coming year.

We used ACID Pro 7 to do some radio bumpers. It’s very easy to lay down voice over tracks and slice them up while adding music and sound effects cut up in a variety of ways to the same timeline. This allows you to reuse the same assets in the same session in one project file. It’s a fun and fast way to work. We’ll post some examples shortly.

Adobe Lightroom 2 is a photo work flow tool aimed at professional photographers and prosumers alike. Lightroom 2 gives you the ability to collect, sort, organize, manage and ultimately print your collection of photos. Think of it as more of a database of photos with all of the included metadata and links to the actual photos. The ability to search, view, select and compare photos is the real power behind Lightroom.

The heart of Lightroom 2 is its photo catalog. When you import photos, Lightroom 2 creates a catalog of the imported photos along with thumbnails, preview images and metadata. The catalog does not contain the original image but a link to the file on disk.

Included in the catalog is a history of changes made to the photo. Lightroom 2 keeps the changes in the catalog because it does not modify the original file. You can review the change history to see the effect of different edits. At any time if you don’t like the changes you have made you can throw away all of the changes and revert back to the original file. This feature keeps you from saving a Frankenstein version of your original master piece if your editing session has gone horribly wrong.

The catalog of thumbnails and preview images allows you to view photos that may be offline. This can be extremely useful if you keep a lot of your photos on external hard drives or DVDs. In the folder view there are visual indicators to show online or offline status of a disk or folder.

Workspace Layout:

The user interface for Lightroom is very intuitive. The primary workspace is comprised of a folder navigator on the left, editing tools on the right, filmstrip across the bottom and a center work area. Any of the components can be hidden to give you more work area. An auto hid feature allows you to maximize the center work area and still have access to the tools you need.

Adobe has created single key short cuts for the most often used functions in Lightroom. The most often used short cuts are single key commands, eliminating multiple finger control combinations. For example: in the grid mode photos can be flagged or rejected using either “p” or “x”. Less frequently used short cuts still use the multiple control, shift or alt key combinations. The single key approach makes zipping through large numbers of photos easy and fast.

Frontier Design Group’s AlphaTrack combines a high-resolution fader, multiple knobs, buttons and a ribbon controller for hands on operation of your digital audio workstations (DAW).

These days music can be recorded, mixed and mastered completely in the box, meaning the entire process no longer requires a large mixing console and racks of outboard gear. Instead everything can be done using a DAW to capture, manipulate and master the audio. Whether it’s Pro Tools, SAWStudio, Sonar, Nuendo or some other flavor of your favorite DAW the user experience can always be improved with actual physical controls versus a mouse and keyboard.

The AlphaTrack is an entry level control surface, basically a 1 channel unit that can be toggled between a multitrack project. Perhaps the most important task is simply riding the fader while working on the mix one track at a time. Any decent DAW package will allow complete automation of the most important features. Using a keyboard or mouse for these subtle changes is tedious and impractical to do in real time.

The AlphaTrack does not require an external power supply and gets all its juice from the USB port. The Fader, knobs and other controls (22 buttons and 21 LEDs combined) have a quality consistent with what you would expect to find in a $200 piece of gear. However, we would like to see a more ergonomic feel to the buttons. It’s not a deal breaker but there’s certainly room for improvement here.

We tested the AlphaTrack with one of our favorite DAW packages, SAWStudio. The Alphatrack was easy to setup, literally less than a minute and we were live with a fader in SAWStudio. The SAWStudio template for the Alphatrack provides direct access to the most common tasks. This makes it more convenient to listen to a mix from a remote location or start and stop the recording process from behind the drums…etc., but we primarily used it as a fader. If Frontier Designs improved the feel of the buttons and knobs on the Alphatrack we would be more inclined to use other features and probably the maximum experience out of the device but as it stands the other knobs and buttons are a bit fatiguing to use because of the poor ergonomic feel.

The fader portion of the AlphaTrack combined with a few knobs does make for a handy accessory we just hope that have Rev 2 in the works that improves the feel. Still worth considering if you’re looking for a basic control surface in the $200 price range.

Visit Frontier Design Group for more information on the AlphaTrack and to see if it’s compatible with your software.
Over the years we've built quite a few systems at funyfresh for testing products, video editing and other high performance tasks. A few years ago our fastest systems were based on ultra 320 Cheetah drives from Seagate. More recently we've been working with SATA systems with various RAID configurations for either pure performance or redundancy.

We often get readers asking us questions like, 'what kind of drive should I buy for my video editing system'' 'Which hard drive is the fastest'' 'What type of RAID setup should I have'' 'Should I buy a Seagate or Western Digital Drive'' It goes on and on. There's no easy answer but we do have a couple of suggestions.
Ulead DVD MovieFactory 6 Plus is packed with functionality and easy to use. The menu structure is very similar to version 5 and offers much of the same swiss army knife capability to burn video, audio and data to CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray discs. Ulead has done a good job of putting together a product that anyone can use without referring to a manual. This product does much more than the MovieFactory title suggests. In fact, we think Ulead should consider giving it a name that more accurately reflects the power of this suite.
On2 Technologies has been gaining significant traction with its Flash encoding technology featured in Adobe Flash 8 and 9.

At AVT Pro we started encoding all of our client videos for the web using the latest Flash codecs because we found it to be the most universal for playback across PC and Mac platforms and the quality is superior to both Windows Media and QuickTime when comparing equivalent size, frame rate and bit rate.

Flix Pro offers variable bit rate two-pass encoding and more control over myriad settings compared to the engine running in applications like Adobe Flash. It also includes batch processing which is a must in situations where updating a library of digital assets all at once is a frequent task.
Adobe Audition 3 is a full featured audio production package for creating, mixing and editing sound. Previously known as Cool Edit Pro by Syntrillium, Audition has matured over the years with more features and an aesthetic that more closely resembles the rest of the Adobe product family.

My first experience with Audition was back in the Cool Edit Pro days about 10 years ago. I used it to record and mix bands and edit radio spots. The software was reasonably priced, feature rich and radio stations were gobbling it up. It didn't require any special hardware and ran pretty well on basic clone PCs.
Fab Four is the latest offering from EASTWEST and is intended to add a very groovy edge to a standard desktop music production system. The production team has left no stone unturned in seeking out authentic period instruments ' from just the right Ludwig drum kit and Rickenbacker guitar to an ultra-rare Lowrey organ as heard on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. These instruments were played by folks with authentic Beatle pedigrees and recorded through the same model mics, preamps, boards and compressors. All in all this sounds like a recipe for success and to my ears they've succeeded. (Check out the samples below and decide for yourself)

I'm a Beatles fan. No big shocker here ' you can't swing a Hofner bass without hitting a Beatles fan. I started playing guitar because of the Beatles. Again ' not a unique story by ANY measure. They remain the most influential pop / rock group in history. For those of us with an interest in the black art of recording, we remain convinced that the magic lies not only in incredible songwriting, but also in the incredible sounds that were used to bring the Beatle catalog to life. For many of us, the songs and sounds are forever linked and if you're anything like me, you have spent many an hour trying to figure out how one of these gems was originally created and, at your peril, attempting to recreate it.

Advances in desktop recording have opened up the world of song writing to just about anyone yielding both incredible and let's just say not so great results. Hey if Daft Punk can lay down all that funky stuff on a simple PC why can't I' Actually I'm a guitar nut but you get what I'm saying.

Anyway, now I find myself creeping into middle age with a PC, a few good mics and some nice guitars. I'm also able to grab a few hours during the week to write and record my latest pop masterpieces. What I don't have are easy access to a great room, racks of vintage processing gear and a collection of 'Beatle-approved' instruments. What I DO have is the Fab Four. And Fab it is.
When Corel acquired InterVideo, which owns Ulead, in late August we thought it was a nice fit in terms of product portfolio. With a full suite of prosumer digital media products the Ulead lineup nicely complemented the Corel stable and gives both additonal access to distribution.

Corel's lineup has always been powerful, intuitive to use and attractive to both consumers and professionals. Ulead's PhotoImpact 12 has been cruising along with the likes of Paint Shop Pro and Adobe Photoshop Elements for quite some time now. On systems running all three products we often opt for Ulead's offering because of its simplicity and, dare we say, fun approach to image editing and creation.