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The Final Cut

Entry-Level Sequencing For The ST

Paul Ireson takes a look at The Final Cut, a budget sequencing program for the Atari ST that offers the beginner more than the average entry-level program.

Paul Ireson takes a look at The Final Cut, a budget sequencing program for the Atari ST that offers the beginner more than the average entry-level program.

The current crop of Atari sequencing programs can all, generally speaking, be placed into one of three categories: those that try to be tape recorders; those that try to be drum machines; and the remainder. The Final Cut, a new 16-track entry-level sequencer program for the Atari ST most definitely falls into the first category - even to the extent of providing on-screen animated tape reels.


The Final Cut program disk is not copy-protected, but a dongle is required to run the program - whilst hardware keys like this are a pain, this form of software protection is at least preferable to any system which depends on you keeping one disk intact and undamaged.

On loading, the program presents you with its main screen - the only screen, in fact - which gives a good indication of how the program works. A large representation of a tape recorder sits in the top left-hand corner of the screen, and below it are mouse-activated transport controls (Rewind, Forward, Play, Record Stop, and Record), which operate exactly as you would expect. Between the controls and the tape recorder graphic are indicators for the current Tempo (variable between 20 and 420 bpm), current Measure, and amount of memory used (as a percentage). Down the right-hand side of the screen are horizontal boxes containing descriptions for each of the 16 tracks, and next to these are Play/Off/Record selectors which determine how MIDI data is to be recorded on and played back from each track.

The program's tape recorder emulation makes recording a very intuitive process. When you click on the Record button, whichever track is set to REC will record incoming MIDI data (which can be echoed to the ST's MIDI Out socket if necessary), and all tracks set to PLAY will replay whatever data they contain. Recording starts from whatever point you are currently at, following a count-in of user definable length. At this point the tape reels start to roll, just to let you know that something is actually happening. A metronome will play on every beat to keep you in time, and the beat length can be set to between a whole and 1/16th note. The Measure length can also be changed at any time, to between 1 and 16 beats - changing the length does not affect your music in any way, it just changes where the bar lines fall.


Each track transmits all its data on a single MIDI channel only (selected with the track's MIDI Channel box): this means that it is easy to keep tabs on which track MIDI data is coming from, but it also makes it impossible to record two channels of data simultaneously and retain their separate identities. Recording new data on a track always replaces what was previously on that track, so overdubbing can only be achieved by recording parts on two or more tracks and merging those tracks together later. Recording continues on the selected track until you click on Stop (or press Escape on the Atari keyboard). An End Of Track marker is then inserted, for the program's internal reference, at the precise point at which recording is stopped, or at the last MIDI event, or on the first beat or bar following the last MIDI event. Which of these positions is chosen must be specified before recording begins, and although for simple recording and playback of data the exact end of the track is of no importance, it does matter when you carry out any editing procedures that copy blocks of one track onto the end of another.

My first and major complaint concerning The Final Cut is simply that there are no equivalent keystrokes on the Atari for the all-important transport controls, apart from Stop - though there are equivalents for all the menu options. Another unusual, and not entirely welcome feature of the program is that it starts counting measures from 0 rather than 1, which I found very disconcerting.


Editing facilities within The Final Cut are fairly comprehensive, given its low cost. The following procedures operate on whole tracks: Copy/Merge; Note Pitch (which transposes all occurrences of a specified note); Split; Append and Repeat (which copy an entire track, either onto the end of another or onto itself); Quantise; Unhang; Filter (removes unwanted MIDI data); Transpose; Compress, Expand and Limit (which transform the range of velocity data in a track); Shift (which moves all of the events in a track forwards or backwards by between a whole measure and 1/64th note).

There are further editing facilities that operate only on a specified range of measures within a track: Cut, Paste and Erase (which in fact offers both erase and delete functions). The necessity to always deal with entire measures might prove a little restricting were it not for the fact that the measure length can be redefined: so if you want to perform some very precise editing, you could redefine all measures to be one beat long, and each beat to be 1/32nd note. The most detailed editing is carried out with Event Editing, which lets you step through a track by events, measures, beats or clock pulses and delete, create or alter any and all MIDI data. The only thing that I would like to see added to this editing mode would be the facility to move events - as it stands, you have to delete the event and then create an identical one at the new position to achieve the same effect.


Whilst The Final Cut lacks the power and refinement of more expensive sequencers, it has all of the features and editing facilities that I would consider necessary for a basic program, and a few which are definite bonuses. For example, it is surprisingly flexible (for its price) in terms of how recorded data can be moved and copied, simply because you are never restricted to working with the same 4/4 bars that you recorded. It does have some annoying limitations - like the lack of keyboard equivalents for the transport controls and the non-standard measure counting system - but apart from that the program has everything and more that you would expect from an entry-level sequencer, and would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for their first ST sequencer.


£74.95 inc VAT. Demo disk available, price £5, refundable on purchase of full program.

Protobase Ltd, (Contact Details).

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Yamaha C1

Sound On Sound - Copyright: SOS Publications Ltd.
The contents of this magazine are re-published here with the kind permission of SOS Publications Ltd.


Sound On Sound - Jul 1989

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman

Review by Paul Ireson

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