Radio production is the heart and soul of the on-air side of the station. While programming and live air talent comprise the personality and tempo of the format, the production folks are busy making sure the imaging, promotional items, commercials and voice-over audio files effectively represent the station image. The production room is a busy place, and occasionally a simple mixing console, good mics and a digital audio workstation (DAW) are sufficient for good production in spite of the simplicity. And let's be honest: How many of us have installed a computer and used the “already-installed-from-the-factory” sound card? We can sometimes get by with it.
On the other hand, some radio facilities are involved in very complex multi-tracking projects. I recently heard of an AM station that makes a habit of bringing in bluegrass groups to perform live each week, and then produces a fully mixed and mastered recording of the live show. In that case, a simple mixer plugged into a simple stereo sound card probably won't suffice. What happens when a radio station takes audio recording to the next level? The people at Merging Technologies have the answer: Pyramix Native 5.
VS or Native: the difference?
Pyramix Native is a software-only version of Merging Technologies' Pyramix Virtual Studio, a very powerful and sophisticated DAW designed to run on Windows XP and 2000. Pyramix VS appears to look very much like a familiar non-linear editing platform. It is actually suited better, however, in hefty recording scenarios. Pyramix VS can record up to 128 simultaneous inputs using the proprietary Mykerinos high performance PCI DSP card. The routing, real-time processing, and I/O configurations available in Pyramix VS are nearly endless, especially when using the Mykerinos PCI hardware. Put simply, Mykerinos is Merging's line of sound cards and DSPs that offer powerful I/O flexibility across several formats including ADAT, SDIF, TDIF, AES3 and/or MADI formats within a single half length PCI slot (more about Mykerinos later). The formats can even be configured and used interchangeably.
Performance at a glance
Multitrack DAW with full effects
Supports up to 48kHz sample rate
Supports Direct-X and VST plug-ins
Reads/writes multiple audio file formats
Fortunately, nearly all of the VS capabilities are included in the Pyramix Native package. The Native Media Bundle software however is limited to eight simultaneous recording and playback inputs and outputs with 24 editable audio tracks. Pyramix Native does not require the Mykerinos DSP technology, making it usable on a standard PC or laptop. The Native software is a cost-effective alternative to Pyramix VS and is more suitable to scaled-down recording and multi-tracking projects, much like the multi-tracking needs of most radio production houses. Pyramix Native also co-exists well with the existing sound card configuration already installed on your PC. Merging Technologies plans to continue production of Pyramix Virtual Studio and Native for the PC platform only, but Pyramix can play SD2 directly in the system and can also import OMF files from Pro-tools and many other audio and video systems.
As with any non-linear or PC-based editing, the workspace on a computer monitor can get very crowded. Merging suggests installing dual-head graphics when using the Pyramix software. The timeline onto which audio files are recorded or imported should be dedicated to one screen. The on-screen mixing console and other active plug-ins or windows should be docked on the other screen. I've been experimenting with Native using only a 17" monitor, and it is very hectic. To work efficiently, two screens are a must.
Pyramix Native allows the user to record and edit in several different formats. Editing Project is for typical recording tasks. Digitizing Session is for batch and background recording. DXD Mixing Project is for recording, editing, mixing and mastering DSD/SACD in DXD format (direct stream digital or super audio CD using Digital Extreme Definition. DXD was developed for Pyramix's DSD). With sampling rates (available at 16-, 24- or 32-bit) up to 48kHz, recording sessions are very flexible.
Pyramix is a real-time audio editing and processing software. Utilizing envelope editing, changes can be made as audio is playing and/or recording. If for example a program is being recorded live from satellite, the user can edit the front end of the file while the end of the show is still being recorded. Or if the file is playing to air, the user can insert a fade in or out envelope and the change will be performed live.
Upon starting a new recording project, the user is taken through several steps that allow for customizing the session. Sampling and bit rates are named, along with the project title, plus the type of mixing interface is selected. Several preset or user-defined mixer selections are the backbone of each project. For example, if the user is recording eight simultaneous tracks, the “Record 08 × 02 (stereo)” mixer can be selected. If it's a CD mastering project, select “Mastering CD 01 (st) × 02.” Each mixer selection will dock specific tools needed. In the case of the CD mastering project, Strip Tools, Bus Tools, a phase oscilloscope and the VU meters are displayed. The user can build his own combination of dockable Pyramix tools and save it as a mixer preset, saving much needed editing set-up time.
Pyramix requires media files on the PC be mounted, making them usable in the Pyramix platform. When the on-screen mixing console is docked it lets the user change mix, automation, in/out/effect/bus routing and other global presets. Strips, Strip Tools and Bus Tools (or channels and buses on a mixing board) are docked as well with familiar adjustments such as pan, EQ, mute, volume faders and bus routing. The strips make direct changes to sound card or Mykerinos settings. The purpose of Pyramix is to not only give users a platform for simply recording audio files, but also allow for shaping and controlling everything from reverb effects to final mastering, all on the PC. With enough PC desktop space (with the use of two larger screens of course) an entire studio is a click away.
Plug it in
Pyramix Native uses a virtual mixer surface for its real-time mixing.
While Pyramix offers endless in and out configurations and mixing setup options, third-party effects and mastering plug-ins are plentiful. Flux, Cedar, VB Audio, Algorithmix, Minnetonka, and Direct-X are in the arsenal, along with Merging's own plug-in features. With that many choices, processes such as noise reduction, hard limiting, frequency analyzing and multi-tap delay (to name only a few) are plug-ins that make Pyramix pack a huge punch when it comes to competitive, professional audio.
What does Pyramix Native have that stands out as a premium non-linear editing software package? First, Mykerinos DSP and I/O technology transforms the PC into a virtual real-time editing machine. The daughter card configurations available through Mykerinos can handle most digital and analog formats in conjunction with each other. Also, the vast mixer selections allow for individual customization of each project. The right tools are on screen at the right time making the workspace easy to set up and use. Pyramix Native is priced competitively and the Media Bundle is fine-tuned and ready to roll when radio production is ready to take the next step.
Wygal is the programmer, engineer and Web designer for WRVL in Lynchburg, VA.
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