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The Xdubber is the direct result of Harrison setting out to solve an intractable problem of large projects.  After many years of studying the workflow in the post-production environment, it became clear that there is not a cohesive set of tools to handle hundreds of playback and recording tracks in a consistent, project-friendly format.  The Xdubber solves this problem elegantly.

Like the rest of the Xrange, the Xdubber is connected to the Xrouter by a CAT5 ethernet connection. Sidestepping the limitations of standard digital audio interfaces, Harrison has developed an ulta-low latency, 32-bit audio pipeline from the router to the recorders and/or DSP engines over this single cable. An Xrouter can support up to 4 recorders simultaneously (256 tracks). This allows you to run multiple redundant or "safety" tracks at the same time.  Multiple Xrouters, Xengines, and Xdubbers make up an entire playback->mix->monitor->record package that is fully floating-point and totally integrated.

The Xdubber's audio file format is the ubiquitous "broadcast wave" file. Files can be either 24 or 32 bit. This allows seamless "drag and drop" audio transfer into any major workstation. Third party developers have provided various session conversion utilities. Files and all metadata are stored in a single folder, which can be accessed via the built-in FTP server, WHILE THE UNIT IS IN USE. These time-saving steps are designed to match your existing workflow.   The session format is a non-proprietary XML format.  This means your projects may be safely archived indefinitely, with no chance of them being unrecoverable due to changing technology.

Hardware

The heart of the Xdubber system is a dual Opteron PC running a highly optimized version of Linux. Linux is the 'X' factor, allowing the PC to utilize a Gigabit Ethernet port as a low-latency, high-throughput audio pipeline.  Because the Xdubber is based on a standard computer platform running Linux, you get all the benefits of a desktop system - removable drive arrays, network connections, DVD backup, VGA display(s), and continuous support.  But you don't have all the headaches of a traditional DAW system.  The Xdubber is built out of proven, reliable components of the highest quality.

Image

A standalone Xdubber consists of the Xdubber and the Xrouter .  If you are installing the Xdubber with an existing Harrison Xrange console then you only need an Xdubber computer.  (shown on the bottom of the image at left).  The Xdubber has 2 removeable SATA drives, a DVD drive for backups, and an internal system hard drive.  In addition you can attach eSATA, firewire or USB external drives.

The Xdubber has a gigabit ethernet port which can be used for FTP file transfers, as well as directly recording to networked drives such as NFS or iSCSI SAN storage.  A 9pin (RS422) connection is used for serial timecode and track arming.  Audio is sent to and from the Xrouter via CAT5e cable.  Audio I/O, wordclock, and video sync connections are located on the Xrouter. 

An Xrouter can connect 4 Xdubbers, and allow them to share 8 MADI input and output ports.  In a small post facility this can represent a large space and financial savings.  Alternatively, one of the Gigabit ports can be connected to another Xrouter, providing near-infinite scalability.  All gigabit connections are floating-point format, and channels may be summed in the Xrouter if needed.

Xrouter back panel

Software

For the recorder itself, Harrison uses a real-time Linux operating system and off-the-shelf computer components to guarantee long-term viability. The recording software behind the Xdubber is an open-source,highly scalable program called Ardour.  By focusing on the specific needs of the post-production community, Harrison has packaged the Ardour workstation into a robust, streamlined re-recording product that meets the needs of our world-class customers.  Sustainable open source software, open file formats, readily available "off the shelf" parts, and Harrison's world-famous customer support make this the LAST FILM DUBBER YOU'LL EVER NEED!

  • Standalone destructive recorder
  • Arbitrary track counts limited only by disk throughput ( 64 tracks  at 48kHz onto redundant drives is standard )
  • Native time stamped "broadcast wave" file format
  • Floating point playback, mixing and recording when used in conjunction  with Harrison "Wide Pipe" DSP
  • Sony 9-Pin transport and track arming
  • Lightning-fast "punch-ins" and "locates"
  • Ultra-stable Linux Operating System
  • Drag'n'Drop files into Pro Tools
  • Plays in any direction, up to 8x speed ( depending on track count )
  • Gigabit LAN and FTP server
  • Waveforms and punch in/out points are drawn on-screen while you record
  • Non-destructive recording modes also available
Image The main screen of the Xdubber has been refined by post production beta testers to provide all critical information at a glance.  Furthermore, the creation of a session has been streamlined to require only a few clicks.  The ability to set up a 64-track recording session in only seconds makes for faster workflow.
 
The Xdubber was designed to support tape-style destructive recording.  All 64 tracks may be "punched in" simultaneously or in any combination.  There is no lengthy "initialization" procedure to create destructive tracks.  You don't even have to designate a length for the session.  Just create a session, set the start time, and start recording.  This attention to the needs of post-production users is what sets the Xdubber apart from other products.

The Xdubber uses Sony 9-pin transport and track-arming controls.  Video-sync input allows sample-accurate transport lock among multiple machines.  This means that audio quality is maintained even with multiple punchins on the same point in the timeline.  32-bit recording from the Xrange allows an unlimited dynamic range; audio values over 0dBFS are preserved for later processing, not clipped.
 
Because the Xdubber is based on the Ardour workstation, a full complement of non-destructive editing, processing, mixing and routing is supported.   While normally disabled on the Xdubber to prevent user error during dubbing, editing can be enabled to allow conforming or quick fixes to the recorded tracks.  Xdubber session files can be opened and edited on any Ardour workstation, including the Mac OSX version.  No file conversion is necessary.

An example of these editing facilities is shown on the left.  Region-based timeline editing is supported just like other popular DAWs.  In addition, the Xdubber supports the editing modes of high-end hardware editing stations.  The Xdubber allows users to work in the realm they are most comfortable.  New users will require little or no training to become proficient on the Xdubber.
 

FAQ

Q: I've tried to use a workstation as a dubber before, and had all kinds of problems. What's different about the Xdubber?
A: The post-production market is a relatively small market segment compared to the "bedroom guitarist" market.  Most workstations cannot afford to optimize their features for a small market.  Harrison has been a leader in the post production market for decades.  It's what we do best.  So we have scrutinized every aspect of the Xdubber to make sure it is applicable in the post-production workflow.

Q: What kind of remote control (machine control) is supported?
A: The Xdubber accepts the Sony 9-pin (P2) standard.  It has been tested with Soundmaster and Colin Broad machine control systems, among others.  There is an LTC and MMC/MTC (MIDI) option as well.

Q: What kind of file compatibility can I expect?
A: The native audio file format is time stamped "broadcast wave" files.  This standard file type can be loaded into any modern workstation for playback or editing.  Each project's metadata (such as track names, option settings, etc)is stored in an open-source file format which will be readable many years into the future.  Additionally, Third party developers have provided various session conversion utilities.

Q: What is the process for starting a new multi track session (i.e. a reel change)?
A: This is a simple 2-click procedure.  Choose File->New, type a name for the project, choose a template, and click "OK".  The template defines the numberof tracks, and the start time for the reel.  Harrison has provided templates for all the most common post-production film setups, and users may make their own templates at any time.  Initializing the project takes about 5 seconds.  There is no need to "format" the files beforehand.  Any unused space on a track will contain silence.  There is no need to set an "end point" for the tracks, you can always record beyond the end (until the disk runs out of space, anyway)

Q: How do I get data into and out of the Xdubber?
A: The Xdubber uses a pair of SATA drives.  These drives may be configured for RAID, or one drive can automatically back up to the second drive.  An internal FTP server is used to get files out of the recorder.  The file transfer may be done at any time, even while recording.  The most common method is to do a file transfer directly from the recorder onto a networked storage device.  And because the Xdubber is based on Linux, the server OS, there is a rich set of management tools which may be called upon to simplify the project management process.

Q: Can I play and record directly to a SAN?
A: Yes, if the SAN fully supports Linux (many do), and the underlying file system is supported.  Please contact Harrison if you have questions about this.

Q: How was Harrison, a console manufacturer with no recorder or workstation experience, able to create this product?
A: Rather than develop our own proprietary product, or team up with a developer who is not highly focused on the post-production market, we decided to partner with the Ardour open-source workstation project.  This allowed us to have a thoroughly tested, feature filled workstation, while guaranteeing that our customers will be free of the frustrations inherent with workstations that are designed for the "2nd bedroom studio".  Like other open source vendors IBM, SGI, and Apple, Harrison understands the kind of scalability and reliability that is needed in an "enterprise class" facility.

Q: My facility does not use MADI for I/O.  Is there a version that uses AES?
A: Harrison has a complete line of high-density, high-quality analog and AESdigital converters.  Please contact Harrison for details.

 

 
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