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Microphone Month 5

Synchronizing separate audio and MIDI computers to each other and ADATs

“I would like to run my sequencer from my old Mac 7500, while doing audio on my Mac G4 and two ADAT’s. Is there a way to synchronize the two Macs along with my BRC? If so, how would you suggest going about doing it? Which would be the most logical master device?”

We actually run into lots of folks who use separate computers for sequencing and audio. It’s less common today, but historically it has been a nice way to optimize each function and not bog down one system. The BRC probably still makes the best overall controller for the ADAT machines, but how it must interface with the computers depends on the software and hardware you are using with them. For example, one way to do it would be to have the BRC generate SMPTE time code and have the two computers just follow that. The BRC is the master, which can be convenient, but getting computers to chase SMPTE requires hardware with that capability. This then raises the question of how precise they need to be synced to one another. Do you need to transfer tracks back and forth between the ADAT system and the audio computer? If so, you have to play by a very specific set of rules, and even these will depend on whether you will do analog or digital transfers. Their clocks must stay locked together, which SMPTE alone will not accomplish. You can use MMC to start the BRC from either computer (depending upon your software) and then everything can chase the BRC as it outputs SMPTE or MTC. The reliability and accuracy of this for your audio computer depends on your hardware and software. Some programs do not reliably sync audio tracks to MTC. In those cases you need a way to sync the audio to some clock that is resolved with the time code or MTC. Again, if you need to transfer tracks you must lock the clocks of the two audio systems to one another (there are a several ways to do this in most systems). The MIDI system will be able to follow anything that can generate MTC or (if you have the hardware) LTC. This is one of those issues that’s best solved through a conversation with a consultant or our technical support department. There’s not one ‘right’ way to do it, and the solutions will depend on what the rest of your equipment is and exactly what you are trying to accomplish.

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