Pro 5-Scoring Edition
Pro 5-Scoring Edition
Review by Steve
been a regular user of the SmartSound music application since
its earliest inception, I have been able to witness its' evolution
from an easy to use music program, supplemented by a small collection
of music discs and audio FX, to its' current 5.0 version. Sonicfire
is now highlighted by an almost massive library of diverse music
and the ability to truly customize any audio selection. Its'
'Mood Mapping' feature which I showcased in my review of Sonicfire
4.5 remains and continues to be essential in order to assure
that your version of any piece of music is dissimilar to anyone
else who might be using the same selection. Sonicfire Pro's ease
of use was is what initially attracted so many editors, yet as
more features spring up with every version, Sonicfire Pro 5 remains
as intuitive as ever.
Any individual already having purchased
Sonicfire 4 or 4.5 will be entitled to a free upgrade to the
Sonicfire Pro 5 Scoring Edition, so if you have made a recent
purchase, not to fret, as you didn't throw out your hard earned
money on an old version. New customers wishing to get Sonicfire
Pro 5 can get the Express Track Edition for Free with any music
album purchase. For an extra $99.95 you can upgrade to the Scoring
Edition which adds the timeline-based interface that gives you
access to Mood Mapping and some newer features like Timing Control
and Spotting. The Scoring Edition also includes SmartSound Hit
Pack 1 - 46 music & sound effects hit files. The extra features
and hit files make it well worth the $99.95 price tag.
The big difference between the
Express Track Edition and the Scoring Edition is that the Express
Edition enables you to quickly choose your music first, precisely
select the duration, mood and arrangement almost automatically
and export it as a .WAV or. AIFF file to your NLE so that you
can then edit to the music. The Scoring Edition, while including
the Express Edition, allows you to score your music to the finished
video which you can import from your NLE into the video window
found in the Sonicfire Pro 5 interface. I believe you will find
yourself spending just a bit more time getting things spot on
and just right within the Scoring Edition.
Here you see the full
Sonicfire Pro 5 interface. Note the different 'moods' listed
under the 'Prepare' track in the timeline from the SmartSound
'Open Spaces' disc. Look over to the right and you can see the
controls where you can add or diminish any instrumentation that
makes up the track. Also in the timeline, I have opened the track,
'Just Pickin' from the "All About the Blues" Strata
series discs, where I can then move around any of the loops,
keyframe the volume of any of the instruments, or take them out
altogether. My video has been imported into the lower left window
so that I can score the project with exact timing as it progresses.
Now that we have that out of the way lets explore some of the
new features that can be found in Sonicfire Pro 5. If you are
like me, trying to locate the best music for a project is absolutely
an imperative part of my editing workflow. As my music library
increases, it can become even more difficult to find just the
piece I am looking for. Sonicfire 5 helps you find what you need
in several ways. As you open up Sonicfire, an Express Track window
comes up with a number of easy to navigate choices. For those
who have been using previous versions of SmartSound or Sonicfire
Pro, the Maestro window is no more. Actually, it is the same
but under a different name, 'Express Track'. In the upper left
you can select from music pieces among the library you already
own, whether you want the piece to be single or multilayered,
whether it is a sound effect you are looking for, or even have
it search the on-line SmartSound Store for a music selection
that you may not already have. Another way to find the piece
your project needs is to select a cut by the Style of music and
whether you want it to be classical, funny, bluesy, or any number
of musical genres. Yet another method of locating a piece is
by its' intensity and using the drop down menu in the express
track and setting it on 'Intensity'. Sonicfire will search through
your library and bring up the cuts by the intensity setting of
your choice, either one + or 5+ being the most intense. Heck,
there are so many ways to enable Sonicfire 5 to search for just
the correct cut, I could spend the entire review explaining it.
Suffice to say you can search via instruments, favorite cuts,
album titles and more.
Here we have the Express
Track window, formerly known as the Maestro. It is here where
you can search and select the music pieces you are looking for.
It opens by default which I prefer, but you can change that in
the Sonicfire Pro 5 preferences. Once you have chosen a preferred
music selection, type in the duration you want it to be, the
variation and/or mood and click 'insert'. That's all you need
As my Sonicfire music library increases, I will generally add
a particular cut I like to my favorites tab. This is easily done
by clicking on the little heart underneath the info/license window
on the right of the Express Track interface. This is also a good
place to add notes about a specific cut. These notes are also
saved. I do wish they had not moved the favorites classification
to its new location, however it is still easy to access.
Brand new to Sonicfire Pro 5 is the ability
to create new tempos to any piece of music you select. Thus,
if a piece is 130 BPM and you want it to slow down to 90 BPM,
you just need to go to the Tempo box at the bottom of the Express
Track window and adjust the tempo. Sonicfire 5 will then create
new Sound Files for your modified tempo and store them. These
files are stored on your hard drive/ Library/App. Support/SmartSound/Sound
Files Modified folder. However, if you wish to delete either
the modified tempo of a selected cut or the modified tempos of
all your altered pieces, just click on the delete menu item in
the same Tempo window and it is done. I tested this several times
and it worked like a charm. By the way, in the same modify tempo
window, you can also change the pitch semitones of any cut up
to + or -6.
The Tempo Window opens when you want to either change the pitch or tempo of your selection.
As it points out, changing the tempo too much may degrade the sound quality. Have good speakers in your editing bay for critical listening.
Once you have chosen the music that is right for you, you then
select the precise duration of the piece and click on 'insert'
which will then insert the music to the timeline. However, lets
say the duration you set is off by a few measures, perhaps too
long or too short, you can simply grab the end of the piece and
drag it to the exact length you want in the Sonicfire timeline.
Sonicfire Pro 5 will automatically recalculate the piece and
adjust the beginning, middle and end so that it becomes a perfect
fit. It really is that simple.
But that's not all that is new with Sonicfire
Pro 5. Incorporated is an additional feature they call 'Spotting'
which benefits you as you set markers for music modifications
as they fit different clips, transitions, effects, or mood, however
you prefer. Once markers are set, you can go to the 'Spotting'
bin which then shows you the preferred tempos of music dependent
upon where you set the markers. You can choose one of these tempos,
double click and it will bring up the Express Track window with
suggested tracks. Once inserted into the Sonicfire interface,
you can hear how the tempo of the music beats will correspond
with the markers/beats of the video. I liked that I can set ins
and outs of the music clip with these markers so as to easily
switch between cuts and still have them fit perfectly to my video.
Even more impressive is Sonicfire's exciting
new 'Timing Control', which enables your audio track to reflect
the segment changes within your video. Timing control does so
much of the work for you it's amazing, and I am surprised that
it was a new feature I didn't even notice at first. As the focus
of your video changes perspective, lets say an establishing shot
of a shark cage being lowered into the water and then cutting
to the wide eyes of a diver in the cage staring at a hungry looking
Great White, you might find it necessary to alter the feel of
the music selection you are using. Sonicfire's music has always
been made up of blocks of music. Thus, the timing controls alter
the arrangement of these blocks to fit the markers you are setting
in the music so that each video segment is matched perfectly
with the music. Used in conjunction with the Mood Mapping feature
you will find that you now possess one very powerful and handy
With the Timing Control in the Properties window checked, the individual blocks that make up your music selection are shown. These block keyframes can then be moved to your markers so as to custom fit the music to changes in your video. Checking the 'Protect' box, also in the properties window, prevents any timing changes you have made from being accidently moved. When using the time control feature, it is best to make your changes from the beginning of your video sequence as opposed to moving from right to left.
For me, what is most important is that the choice of music tracks,
whether bought individually via the SmartSound website or by
the disc, increases in quality with almost every new collection.
I was able to audition several new music discs which are titled
by theme. 'Open Road', 'Nature Trails', 'Narrative Impulse',
'Serene Dream', and 'Indie Band 02' pleased me tremendously with
their very real instrumentation and diversity of cuts within
each disc's theme. Another disc, 'All About the Blues', brought
thoughts of Muddy Waters, B.B.King, and Robert Johnson to my
head, really excellent cuts that would make any owner happy to
have them. Any of these, and other SmartSound discs, can be previewed
on line before purchase which ensures that you won't feel as
if you bought a whole disc and could only use one cut.
So, what's my bottom line for Sonicfire
Pro 5? By now, you can probably tell that no one can accuse me
of not being enthusiastic enough. While it may take you some
time to build up a library to suit all your musical needs, it
will take you very little time to learn how to use Sonicfire
Pro 5. The learning curve is almost nil, however, to help you
along, the folk at SmartSound have put up several excellent video
tutorials on their website. I watched a few of them, by Larry
Jordan, and all were very well scripted and produced. I just
don't think you can go wrong with Sonicfire Pro 5, and truly
wonder what features they will come up with next.
Steve Douglas is a certified Apple Pro
for Final Cut Pro 6 and underwater videographer. A winner of
the 1999 Pacific Coast Underwater Film Competition, 2003 IVIE
competition, 2004 Los Angeles Underwater Photographic competition,
and the prestigious 2005 International Beneath the Sea Film Competition,
where he also won the Stan Waterman Award for Excellence in Underwater
Videography and 'Diver of the Year', Steve was a safety diver
on the feature film "The Deep Blue Sea", contributed
footage to the Seaworld Park's Atlantis production, the History
channel's MegaDisaster show and is a feature writer for Asian
Diver Magazine. His first National Geographic special will air
in late 2008. Steve is one of the founding organizers of the
San Diego UnderSea Film Exhibition and leads both underwater
filming expeditions and African safaris with upcoming excursions
to Kenya in Aug.09, the Red Sea for Nov.2009, and Truk Lagoon
in Micronesia for July,2010. Feel free to contact him if you
are interested in joining Steve on any of these exciting trips.
copyright © Steve
This article first appeared on www.kenstone.net
and is reprinted here with permission.
All screen captures and textual references are the property and
trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.