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A number of hard disk editors use the Mac as the user interface, and I personally find this very helpful since I am by now familiar with the Mac and can get the hang of new software pretty quickly. But to get the Mac to process audio you need additional hardware, it doesnt have the capability built in (at least not to a level that would suit an audio professional). At the very least this will be a card that slots into the Mac itself offering inputs and outputs next to the printer and modem sockets on the back. Further up the scale, the hardware will be in a separate box with a cable to attach to the Mac, which for some deeply psychological reason I find more reassuring than mixing up my audio data with all the other kinds of data whizzing around inside the computer itself. Avid have taken the bold step of deciding not to manufacture any of this additional hardware and they describe themselves as a software only company (or at least a minimal hardware company). They buy in other manufacturers hardware, write the software to drive it, put their badge on and sell it as a package. This makes a lot of sense because, as I commented earlier, they are not reinventing the wheel when there are perfectly adequate wheels made already by people who specialise in doing just that, and because you are buying a package from Avid you can rely on Avids reputation as a company (which I presume they will take pains to establish and uphold) that the system will work as specified and that any problems will be sorted out. I think that users who have tried putting together their own packages of computer, software and peripheral devices to use in digital audio will have realised that you can waste a lot of time and energy, and even money, getting things to work correctly, and I think any audio professional intent on doing this would have to ask himself whether his time and trouble might not be better spent running the studio.
So what do you get when you buy an Avid AudioVision system? The set up I looked at used a Macintosh Quadra 950 with a 2 gigabyte hard disk, two nineteen inch monitors (yes two), two Digidesign Pro Tools interfaces, Digidesign Video Slavedriver and the necessary video cards. Options would include a Panasonic optical disk drive, Exabyte archiving system and a TimeLine Lynx II or MicroLynx for, if you really want to talk SMPTE to the outside world, as a spokesperson commented. Of course, the Video Slavedriver will allow AudioVision to chase incoming timecode quite happily.
At this point there is bound to be someone who is saying, Well its just a glorified Pro Tools isnt it, and I can get that for less money from Digidesign. This statement would emphatically not be true because Avid are only using Digidesign hardware, the software part of the system is all their own, and while it cant make the Pro Tools interface do anything it is not inherently capable of, the applications and the look and feel of the two softwares are completely different. This is something we are going to have to get used to much more in the future I would think. If the Avid product succeeds, I would imagine that the different types of expertise required for hardware and software development will diverge and be less often found under the same roof.