Blind Sound Engineers
and Accessible Digital Audio Production!

The Guide To Careers and Technology
The technology itself!

What equipment is needed?
Naturally, there is much excitement involved in discovering that it is possible for a blind person to produce professional audio products. It is important to remember to focus on the most important questions first such as:

  • What kind of audio work will I do?
  • How will I find customers?
  • How much can I earn producing audio?

When it is finally time to ask where can I obtain a system, the important fact is that the average local music technology retailer will not normally know what to sell to a blind customer nor how to provide technical support to blind customers. It is important to consult with any of the blind audio producers who are currently working in the field before purchasing a system. Sound Adventures can direct blind audio producers to sources for music technology and support services that take into consideration accessibility issues. One retailer who has extensive experience selling professional audio recording systems to blind clients is Mr. Reid Mason at Key Code Media in Studio City, CA. (818) 303-3900.

There are many different system configurations and options available for blind producers. Understanding which system is right for you can mean the difference between success and failure in this industry.

Though the technical information in this document is not up to date in terms of the latest and greatest hard drive, computer-based recording systems, it is still relevant, since newer systems tend to have major accessibility issues, and many blind producers may wish to start out by acquiring an older style system.
All systems include certain basic components:
SCSI--Fast SCSI connections between the computer and the hard drives used to be absolutely required for professional digital audio work.
Secondary Hard Drives--Digital audio must not be recorded to the same hard disc that stores the operating system and common applications. A secondary, high-speed, (usually external) hard drive which is free from all software is used to receive audio files as they are recorded/written.
External Controller--an external controller (like a wired remote) which communicates to the computer via MIDI or EtherNet connections is necessary for blind engineers to adjust volume fader levels and other parameters.
I/O--all systems require some physical method of getting sound into and out of the computer. Many different styles of I/O's (analog to digital converters) exist. The I/O is the connecting point between the computer and the sound sources such as a mixer or guitars, keyboards, and microphones.

Commonly overlooked components:
CDR--a recordable CD drive is normally used to make final audio CD products to be delivered to clients.
Monitors--a stereo amplifier and a pair of quality studio monitor speakers are needed to listen to work as it is being recorded and mixed.
Mixer--a standard multi-channel audio mixer may be required if multiple sound sources will be recorded simultaneously, as in the case of recording a group performance.
Mic' Pre-amp--pre-amplifiers for microphones are normally required, since the input level from the I/O will not be sufficient to receive the signal from a mic'. Also, phantom power (48 volts DC) may be required for some microphones to work.
Plug-ins--eq plug-ins such as "Audio Tracker" from Waves are required for blind engineers to be able to read input levels. Standard ProTools and Logic Audio level meters are not readable by screen reader software.

We will discuss three common system configurations here:

The Host-Based System
The term "host" refers to the computer that is being used to do the work. "Host-Based" implies that all computer processing power needed to do the work will be performed by the computer's own processor chip. How much work can be performed by the system (recording, effects, automated mixing, etc.) will be determined by how fast the computer processor is. There are many brands and models of host-based systems on the market. We generally discuss audio production systems that include DigiDesign ProTools software, since it is the most commonly used software in the professional audio recording industry.

The Basic TDM System
The term "TDM" is a specific term from DigiDesign meaning Time Division Multiplexing. TDM implies that additional PCI expansion cards which carry their own computer processor chips must be installed for the software to work. In a TDM system the computer's processor is free to perform usual functions while the processors on the TDM cards take up the work of automated mixing, effects plug-ins, etc. The amount of work the system can do in this case will be proportional to the number and type of TDM cards installed in the computer. The "Basic TDM System" includes two PCI expansion cards of the "d24" variety. (the least powerful type)

The Super TDM System
This system employs the same principles as the basic TDM system, except in this configuration two PCI cards of the most powerful type are installed. This system provides the necessary processing power to perform additional work including the latest high quality effects plug-ins.

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Important Disability Issues

Blind Producers Home Start of Guide | The Accessible Planet Home Page
VIDEO DESCRIPTION | Accessible Classroom Videos Project | Audio Description International
DigiDesign | J. L. Cooper | Apple Computers Accessibility

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