Hardware And Software Reviews
Eddie Supports Direct-X:
Read G. Burgan
It seems only yesterday that I reviewed Minnetonka Audio Softwareís Fast Eddie version 3.36 in the November 29, 1995 issue of RW. At that time I found FE an attractive, inexpensive, entry-level digital audio software. The only weakness I noted was its Spartan tools.
Now itís 2000, Y2K hasnít brought the civilized world to an end, and Fast Eddie is now Fast Edit, version 4.0.12. Whatís new? How does it run?
Fire up your computer and letís go for a test drive.
First, the Fast Edit main window still uses the same, familiar two separate display windows -- the bottom for play only, and the top for modifying the sound file.
But sandwiched in between the two display windows is something new: a transport bar that includes a clipboard window, transport/time display, list of active plug-ins and an information window.
This is a nice addition, and itís particularly helpful to have the transport controls (play, stop, pause, fastforward, rewind and record) right in the middle of the screen at all times.
Speed of editing and ease of use have been FEís forte from the very beginning. And the current version continues that tradition. Even on a fifteen-minute sound file or longer, FE still makes a cut faster than you can blink an eye.
FEís layout and controls are still intuitive and easy to learn. Numerous keyboard shortcuts add to the softwareís ease of use.
Like most two-track editors, a production using multiple segments (voice over, music, sound effects, etc.) is accomplished by layering one sound file on another. Since FE has four clipboards, and each is accessible right from the main screen, cutting, pasting, mixing and fading are all fast and easy operations, making FE the a good choice for basic digital audio editing.
Also new this year is support for Direct-X plug-ins. Thatís a real plus. It means that the software is no longer a ďdead end.Ē Usually with entry level software, youíre limited to whatever tools come with it, and if you want more, you have to buy new digital audio software and then go through the requisite learning curve.
FE uses the Direct-X plug-inís a bit differently than other digital audio software Iíve used. It does not include a preview mode. When you select a Direct-X plug-in, it immediately becomes functional and when you play the sound file, you hear the effect of the plug-in as itís being played.
Each time you add a plug-in, its effect is also heard as you play the file, added to whatever other plug-ins you have already selected. All of the plug-inís selected are listed in plug-in window of the FE main screen.
You can change order in which the plug-inís are applied, and you can also change the properties of a plug-in by double clicking on it. As the plug-inís parameters are adjusted, the change can be heard in real time while the sound file is playing.
It took me a little while to get used to this procedure, but once I did, I liked it a lot. In effect FE ďchainsĒ the selected plug-inís together, applies them to the sound file in real time in the order you selected them, and what you hear is the final result.
Itís an efficient way of evaluating the total effect of all plug-inís on the file. Each plug-in can be individually adjusted while the sound file is playing. When youíre satisfied with the final result, simply select ďApply All Plug-Inís To FileĒ, and the file is than processed with each of the plug-inís applied in order.
How many plug-inís you can actually chain together and listen to in real time will depend on how much power you have under the hood of your particular computer.
I did have some problems with the FEís Direct-X Plug-In interface. For one thing, I am not able to display all 40-plus of my Direct-X Plug-Inís. According to Jim Weber of Minnetonka Audio Software, this is a scrolling problem with Windows 95, and the next version will provide for a second list of Direct-X plug-inís to accommodate those that canít be scrolled in the first list.
Some plug-inís displayed their own individual quirks. I was not able to save any presets for Sonic Foundryís Click/Crackle Removal plug-in, and I couldnít access the ďSave Noise PrintĒ function of the SF Noise Reduction plug-in, essentially rendering it useless.
Again, Weber tells me that this is a problem of SFís, and that Minnetonka has informed them of it. Nonetheless, the Direct-X plug-in feature is an important addition to FE and insures that the software can accommodate most usersí needs far into the future.
FE now also supports long file names and 32 bit audio up to a 96 kHz sampling rate. If your sound card supports these sampling rates, this will make the software a real plus.
ďScrubĒ is a new feature in FE. In the scrub mode, FE zooms in around the area where the cursor is currently placed. Then by pressing the right mouse button and dragging the cursor, you can hear the sound file and locate a particular spot. The sound file plays at whatever speed you drag the mouse.
FE has essentially retained its original Spartan tools, including Mix, Fade, Manual Crossfade, Reverse, Gearshift, Eq, Gain and Normalize. Gearshift lets you shift the pitch of the sound file up or down by as much as ten percent. Eq provides for single application of bass and/or treble shelving.
Three of FEís tools (Eq, Gain, and Gearshift) also appear as Direct-X plug-inís, and because of this you can chain together more than one copy of these plug-ins. This allows you increase the effect that these plug-inís have on the sound file. In the case of Eq, for example, you can have different shelving frequencies and slopes for each of the Eq copies.
Similarly, by chaining together the Gearshift tool, you can increase the maximum pitch variation by the number of times that the Gearshift tool is added to the plug-in menu.
The online help manual is now in HTML format so when you click on help, your web browser activates. Itís an efficient and easy way to scroll through the manual, but it lacks provision for a help index.
Like the original version, FE contains two bonus programs: Sound Catalog and Playlist Editor. Each of these stand-alone programs has the same version number and date as the original versions.
Sound Catalog lets you list a series of sound effects onscreen and select any particular one by clicking on it. An on-air DJ could have fun with this.
Playlist Editor allows you to string together a series of sound files and select the order and time frame in which they will play in relation to each other. By combining music, spots and weather, you could use this to create a simple digital automation system.
In the end, Minnetonka Audio Software has managed to successfully expand the versatility of their original software by incorporating Direct-X capability, while maintaining the original ease of use and speed of editing that characterized the original version.
Fast Edit continues to be a good entry level software, and those who need more digital firepower will be able to add it without having to buy a whole new editing suite. Fast Edit has a retail price of $199; owners of earlier versions may upgrade for $99. FE can be purchased and downloaded from the Minnetonka Audio Software web site.
Minnetonka Audio Software, 17113 Minnetonka Boulevard, Suite 300, Minnetonka, MN 55345. (612) 449-6481 www.minnetonkaaudio.com
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Read Burgan is a free lance writer and a former public radio station manager who can be reached at (906) 296-0652 or through e-mail at email@example.com.
Easy to use
Support for Direct-X Plug-Inís
Support for 32 bit/96 kHz Sampling Rate
Two Bonus Programs
Not all Direct-X Plug-Inís Work Correctly