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Sound Advice

Understanding the Concept of Non-Linear by Dave Beckford

The key to knowing what goes on in a digital suite comes down to the understanding of one concept – non-linear. What this means is that when music is loaded onto the computer, any point of the program can be accessed instantaneously. Skipping tracks on a CD compared to winding tape would be the example here. (I know, this is real basis for most of you folks, but the applications of this principle get pretty funky).

ProTools manages this non-linear access capability with a system called regions. A region is a software defined range that tells the computer where to start accessing the drive and where to stop. Regions can be defined manyally during playback and tightened up visually by zooming in on the sound waveforms (up to 1/44,000 accuracy).

In editing sound, there are two really great advantages to this way of working. The first is that you see exactly what the sound is doing. Being able to zoom in on the kick drum transient to see exactly where it starts at 1/1000th second accuracy is a far cry from this grease pencil and reel crap. Second of all, since you are working with software regions as opposed to sound itself, everything is non-destructive. Want a four bar intro instead of eight? No problem. Change your mind? No problem. Can’t decide and want it both ways? No problem! Since the region information is separate from the sound data, it is possible to have multiple edit versions of your song without effecting any of the original program. Try that, you nanowebering, phase aligning, tone striping reel boy? Watch those hands while you’re rewinding – you might cut your fingers off!

Dave Beckford, Digital Editor, Munition Factory

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