After attending this year’s AES show, you are likely to have seen more products than you could possibly remember. You’ll sort through your notes, look at the information sheets that you picked up at the show, read through your Surround Professional magazine again, and try to decide which of these products deserve looking into in greater detail. Still, there will probably be one or two products that will make such an impression on you that they stick out in your mind without having to look at your materials. One of these products is likely to be the Fairlight DREAM console, and not just because of its catchy acronym-based name (DREAM actually stands for Digital Recording, Editing, And Mixing), but also for its unique, all-in-one design and reasonable price.
The DREAM console is a full-featured digital audio mix console with high-end automation and processing, as well as a 48-track disk recorder and editor. It offers up to 192 channels returned to the mix busses with full 6-band EQ and filtering, plus two-stage dynamics processing on 96 of these inputs, 48 returns with 2-band EQ, and 48 short fader paths that can share EQ and dynamics with their associated full channels. This transforms into a multi-format bussing system that allows for the simultaneous generation of multiple surround formats, plus bus-to-bus mixing for multi-stem work. The heart of the DREAM console consists of a variety of control surface elements that drive Fairlight’s QDC engine. The QDC Technology platform, which was unveiled at last year’s AES show, uses a dual-processor control system with embedded Fast Wide SCSI and Sync System, coupled with an array of independent DSP processor cards, each of which contains four pairs of Analog Devices SHARC DSPs. The DREAM console can accommodate up to four QDC cards, which allows it, according to the company, to generate enormous power. It comes ready for any mainstream, current cinema playback format, up to 7.1 channels. The bus system is completely configurable, and the Direct Select feature allows for the monitoring of any source – at any time – from 16 CD sources and eight studio source sets. The console’s comprehensive automation system, which is controlled from the Console Master Section, automates every parameter of every on-board function, including processing, routing, and third-party plug-ins. Another central feature of the console is the ability to access channel control and configuration facilities either locally from a channel perspective or globally from the central controller. The console also features a unique grouping and panning system that allows smooth and simple manipulation of the mix matrix.
The work surface, which Fairlight dubs Binnacle, named after the housing of a ship’s compass, centralizes all editing and transport functions around the jog wheel, and enables operators to edit easily and speedily in one-handed or two-handed mode using dedicated keys for Transport & Range, Play/Jog, Jump, From/To, Copy, Cut, Erase, Trim/Slip, and Fade. There is also a Blue key that changes the functions of the From, To, and Jump keys, and a dedicated macro keypad that features 27 macros arranged in three banks. A “To Panel” function displays all macros on the main screen. The DREAM console is available in a variety of chassis sizes, each of which can be configured with a choice of fader numbers, Central Assignment Panels, and meter bridges. The architecture of the system allows configuration options for most functions’ fader assignment, panel orientation, bus configurations, dynamics operation, panning, auxiliaries, and most other major features. Further contributing to the DREAM’s ease of use, the surface features custom manufactured key switches and motorized, touch-sensitive rotary encoders. Both employ tri-color LEDs to indicate each control’s selected operating mode clearly. These switches were designed from the ground up for smooth, precise, and reliable operation in the professional studio environment.
The console is designed to operate either as a stand-alone digital audio system, or to act as an integral component of the DREAM system, which also includes the DREAM Satellite workstation and the DREAM Station. When used with the rest of the DREAM family, the console acts as the routing and processing hub for complex postproduction projects. With all of these features you might expect a hefty price-tag, but Fairlight designed the entire DREAM family to fit within the budget of most facilities. The DREAM Console is priced between $150,000 and $200,000.