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SEVEN GROUP TEST:
SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 3
we looked at V2 of Sonic Desktop's SonicFire Pro (review, February 02,
p68) we were impressed. Version 2 made it easy to build a suitable soundtrack
for a video production using SmartSound Audio CDs - themed collections
of royalty-free library music created to work with the company's range
of music-track creation programs.
Sonic Desktop - which has renamed itself SmartSound - has released V3
and, given that creating music tracks in V2 was only marginally more
difficult than falling off a log, we initially wondered how the company
could have made the process any easier. However, that is what it claims
for V3, along with a few other notable improvements.
SmartSound software technology has been around for a good while
and will be familiar to many readers who found it came in-pack with
their video editing software. Versions are bundled with Pinnacle's Studio
7 and 8, and with a number of recent versions of Premiere - for Windows
and for Mac - though it is absent from the latest iteration of Premiere,
All SmartSound-based applications do essentially the same job - offering
an intelligent and rapid music-track-creation tool using a simple wizard
to generate a suitable music cue for each scene from the company's dedicated
library of music CDs. The company calls these SmartSound Audio Palettes,
and there are many of them - see the New CD releases text box for details
of recent titles. There is also a range of six sound-effects CDs available
under the Sound Palette name.
As the range-leader, SonicFire Pro offers the most functionality. Perhaps
the key difference between Pro and its cheaper stable-mates is the inclusion
of a video window - allowing musical cues to be created and auditioned
alongside the video footage, with obvious advantages.
Each audio CD contains a collection of themed musical pieces several
minutes in length. The clever bit is that each piece is divided into
a number of shorter audio sections known as Segment Blocks, and SonicFire
Pro will assemble these Segment Blocks in different ways depending upon
the length of musical cue required. The program picks Segment Blocks
suitable for intros and endings, and can assemble Segment Blocks in
a number of pre-determined ways to provide further variation.
Once completed, the finished soundtrack can be exported as a standard
audio file (such as WAV or AIFF) for use in another application or exported
complete with the video. All this is very simple and, at this broad
level, the new release offers the same core features as version 2. But
what new features does version 3 offer to persuade new users to take
the plunge and existing users to upgrade?
Like its predecessor, SonicFire Pro 3 is capable of excellent results
when used with SmartSound CD audio tracks. While no dramatic additions
have been made to the core functionality, SmartSound has streamlined
the interface and made the program even easier to use. The ability to
preview individual tracks via the company's website is also useful -
taking the uncertainty out of purchasing additional CDs and adding the
ability to buy and download individual tracks.
While only the keen home video enthusiast with deep pockets is likely
to opt for the program, its appeal will be considerably greater in the
world of low-budget corporate or special events, including weddings.
Anyone currently dependent on standard library/production music sources
should give SonicFire Pro a close look. It's not cheap, but the experienced
video producer will easily be able to calculate how the price of the
program and CDs compares to the current outlay on library tracks. If
the SmartSound musical styles fit your needs, then soundtrack production
does not get any easier than this.
ALSO IN THE MAGNFIFICENT SEVEN GROUP TEST:
Read the full feature
in January 2004's Computer Video magazine.
Reviewed in this issue:
SonicFoundry SonicFire Pro 3
Adobe Encore DVD
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