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The Traveler Goes Remote

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The Traveler is now shipping and regular reports are coming in from delighted Traveler users about their successful remote recording adventures. In our first report, the Traveler has already proven that it's a significant leap forward from conventional field recording with a portable DAT recorder.

Diego Sanchez, a Film Location Recordist, tells us his experience with his newly acquired Traveler.

"During the four years that I ran a film location sound recording business, I became acquainted with, and hooked on, MOTU hardware and Digital Performer. (I tried other workstation products, but they just weren't as good.) After great success with the MOTU 2408 and 828mkII in the studio, I wasn't satisfied with the quality and limitations of the portable DAT field recorder I used on location. I decided it was time to look into replacing it with an all-MOTU laptop-based system.

"I started doing tests with my 828mkII, as soon as I discovered that it could sync directly to SMPTE time code, with no separate synchronizer required. After a smooth run in the lab, I tested the new system on a TVC. The system consisted of a PowerBook (G4/1GHz), running a MOTU 828mkII and DP4. It worked wonderfully, synced up sweetly to time code, and also ran the time code slate with no problem. The job was a success, but with one major drawback: the need for a power cord to run the system.

"Just as I was about to self-certify myself as an electronics engineer capable of modifying the 828mkII's power circuitry, MOTU answered my prayers with the release of the Traveler. This little beauty has similar features to the 828mkII, even better specs, and the major advantage of being powered by either the Firewire bus or a 12V battery. Now I could have a fully battery operated system, with 8 inputs and 8 outputs and a digital out to back up on DAT. So I pre-ordered a Traveler and had it delivered fresh from the oven, right on time to start my latest project.

How the Traveler travels

The entire production recording for Heavy Metal: The Meltdown was recorded on a Powerbook G4, running Digital Performer 4.12 with the Traveler audio interface.

An Evolution UC-33e control surface and four of the Traveler's analog inputs provided track control, with a Sound Devices 4-in/4-out mixer to set levels.

The Traveler powered two phantom-powered mics and four radio mics on the other inputs for about 70 minutes, using only the battery from the Powerbook.

"But I recommend getting a 12V sealed lead-acid 14amp battery," says Sanchez. "It will run the Traveler for a whole day!"

"On February 4, 2005 I finished production on a new feature film from Chris Burnham called Heavy Metal: The Meltdown, a mockumentary that follows—behind the scenes—the good, the bad and the ugly of making a blockbuster. This project presented various challenges. First, the documentary style involved a lot of improvised performance and camera work. Additionally, there were many quick changes of location and a plethora of actors coming in and out of the shoot. As a result, the possibility of having a system with eight separate channels and multiple mixes was vital.

"The whole project was recorded directly to hard-drive, through the Traveler and straight into Digital Performer 4.12. A backup DAT was recorded but never used. For dailies we did a two-track mix on the fly and the files were burned to a CD with no need for conversion. The Traveler, together with the SMPTE Console, runs a time code slate nicely and also syncs DP perfectly to an external time code generator or the time code on an HD camera. Another huge plus was the capacity to edit and visually compare takes on location.

"We recorded around 2,200 audio files (over 25GB of disc space), sometimes utilizing all the inputs (5 radios, 2 booms and a room mic) and most of the outputs (boom split, director's split and video split), and we never had a crash or even a system overload. And because the post-production will be done in Digital Performer 4.5, it's simply a matter of opening the sessions, without any need for conversions or Digi-translations.

"This may be the first feature film ever recorded on location with Digital Performer and the Traveler. The verdict? A five-star, two-thumbs-up standing ovation from me. Keep an eye out for MOTU to take a big slice of the film sound pie."