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MOTU Debuts Digital Performer 3.1 Update at AES

Free update to all Version 3.0 users ships in first quarter By DMN Staff Writer
MOTU (Mark of the Unicorn, Inc.) unveiled at AES the first major update of DP3 (Digital Performer 3) since its release in June, 2001.

Digital Performer is MOTU's audio workstation software with full surround recording, editing, arranging, mixing, processing, mastering, and integrated MIDI sequencing. New features shown in Version 3.1 at AES include unlimited multiple undo, a unique Timeline Undo, built-in waveform editing of surround audio files, and many other new features. In addition to these general enhancements, Digital Performer 3.1 includes new features geared specifically for "Acid-style" loop-based music production, post-production work and MIDI music production.

"DP3 was a huge release for us in June, in both the magnitude of the software upgrade and the overwhelmingly positive response we've received from our user base," said Jim Cooper, MOTU Marketing Director. "And we're pleased to offer further significant enhancements so quickly after the 3.0 release. DP3 is truly a powerhouse audio workstation package with the very latest features, such as unlimited multiple undo, branching undo histories, and our new 'TimeLine' Undo, which lets you go backwards in a session by say, half an hour, with just one click."

DP3's unlimited Multiple Undo feature lets users undo just about anything during the course of a session, from trimming an audio region to deleting an entire sequence. The Undo History window shows a complete list of actions since a project was first opened. Each action is given a time stamp (a record of when it was done) and a name, such as 'move region'. If a user then undoes his way backwards through the history (by clicking anywhere in the list or by pressing command-Z), and then he takes a series of different actions, he now has two branches: the original branch, and the new set of actions as a second branch. Users can jump freely between branches; if they have many branches, they can jump anywhere in the Undo History tree.

Digital Performer's new Timeline Undo feature provides a time-based representation of a session. By clicking anywhere on the timeline, a user can instantly jump to the state the project was in at that point in their session. "We based DP's unlimited undo history features on the conventional design found in programs like Adobe Photoshop, and then we added further sophistication, such as the timeline and branching features, which especially accommodate today's demanding audio professional," Cooper added.

Building on DP3's extensive surround production features, MOTU has implemented surround support in Version 3.1's built-in Waveform Editor, allowing users to perform 'destructive' waveform editing tasks on surround audio files. For example, users can destructively cut, copy and paste multi-channel audio or use the pencil tool to edit out clicks and pops in an individual surround channel. DP3s Waveform Editor now displays surround audio as separated waveforms viewed side by side. All channels remain phase coherent down to the sample during multi-channel edits.

Several features have been added in Version 3.1 to accommodate users who are familiar with Digidesign Pro Tools. The multitrack Sequence Editor, which displays independently resizable audio and MIDI tracks together in one window, now offers the ability to trim multiple audio regions at one time. For example, a user can grab the edges of several regions across several tracks and trim (move the edge of) the audio regions together in one operation. The Sequence Editor can now also hide/show the edit grid as vertical lines extending downwards from the time ruler. A new I-beam tool has been added to the Tool Palette to make time-range selection more intuitive (it used to required a modifier key while dragging). In addition, over two dozen selection shortcuts have been added, such as the ability to start looped playback of a selected audio region with one keystroke, and the ability to extend the current selection boundaries in many various ways. A new Search command has been added to the Commands window to help users find these new commands and customize their shortcuts. A new Mute Region tool in the tool bar allows users to mute audio regions with one click.

Digital Performer 3.1 provides numerous loop-based production enhancements, including the ability to audition and import REX 2.0 files generated by Propellerheads Recycle 2.0 loop editing software. Once imported, the loops easily expand and contract to conform to tempo changes. Numerous "Acid-Style" loop-based enhancements allows users to drag and drop audio loops into Digital Performer and the loops automatically conform to the sequence tempo. In addition, several auto-format conversion features facilitate importing by automatically converting sample format and sample rate (if necessary) and placing the audio in a predesignated folder chosen by the user. The net result is that loops can be dragged and dropped into Digital Performer with no alerts or dialogs popping up. The previously mentioned Mute Region tool also facilitates loop-based production by allowing remixers to quickly mute and unmute loops across a multi-track mix.

Digital Performer 3.1 introduces several new film and video post production features. DP3 users can now choose one of DPs four time formats (measures, SMPTE, real-time, or samples) as the global time format, which is then displayed throughout the program in dialog windows, time rulers, cursor coordinate readouts, and any place where a time location is shown or edited. For example, a sound effects editor can work exclusively with SMPTE time code frames without ever seeing measures and beats. A musician can use mensural time (measures and beats) without ever seeing SMPTE frames. Users can instantly switch the global time format at any time with one mouse click. They can also choose to display any combination of time formats they wish.

Another significant post production breakthrough in Digital Performer 3.1 is the ability to play back digital video via FireWire. Any standard FireWire-equipped video device, such as a DV camera, can be used to monitor the picture via its LCD or, if the device can output NTSC or composite video, on a standard video monitor. Users simply convert any digital video source to ".dv" format using any software capable of this conversion, such as Apples Final Cut Pro or Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro. Because .dv is the standard format for sending video over FireWire, playback is responsive and smooth, even at full frame rates, without the need for an additional 3rd-party video card. "This new feature gives DP3 users smooth, affordable digital video playback with the FireWire video camera they already have, saving them the extra expense of a video card," added Cooper.

Digital Performer 3.1 includes many enhancements for music/MIDI production. Solo Exemption allows users to specify tracks, such as aux returns and master faders, that won't be muted during solo mode, so that they can always hear soloed virtual instrument tracks for example. The global edit grid now provides triplets in the note value menu for the edit grid, making it much more musically intuitive to work with triplets with the edit grid turned on. The new Tap Tempo Entry feature provides users with a more musical way of specifying the tempo they want by allowing them to tap on their computer keyboard, rather than by typing in a number of beats per minute. "More often than not, musicians know the feel of the tempo they want more than they know the exact bpm value," Cooper explained. "This feature gives users the opportunity to interact on a much more intuitive, musical level with DP." Tap Tempo Entry can be employed wherever tempos are specified.

MOTU has also enhanced DP3's MIDI quantize feature, which now quantizes just about every type of data possible, including markers, patch changes, and controllers (including sustain pedal controllers). In earlier versions, only notes and soundbites (audio regions) could be quantized. The new Paste Repeat feature allows users to select a region of one or more tracks and then fill that region from beginning to end with material placed end-to-end. "In previous versions of DP, users could use the Repeat feature to fill a region, but they would first have to figure out how many times to repeat the material," Cooper explained. "Now they can just select the region and fill it in one easy operation and with no additional thought required."

Other new music and MIDI features include the ability to non-destructively reassign continuous controller data in real-time, the ability to apply both compression and expansion to MIDI note velocities, and the ability to transpose poly-aftertouch controllers.

Digital Performer 3.1 will ship Q1 2002 and it will be a free update to all Version 3.0 users.

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