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SmartSound Quicktracks Review

SmartSound Quicktracks Review

A basic, but rapid, way to create your own sound effects.

You've just finished the last video edit of your project. Everything's in place, but you need the right piece of music to make it really shine. The video runs 2:54:00. You've got a buyout music library, but nothing you like is even close to that length. You could edit a piece down, but you'll never get it exactly right. Create something from scratch? Nah, it's too late and you really want to put this video (and yourself) to bed. So what can you do? Adobe editors have a unique alternative with SmartSound's Quicktracks for Premiere Pro. With just a few mouse clicks, you can generate a music track with the right feel and the right length. No musical training is necessary.

Start Me Up

Quicktracks is unassuming out of the box: a single CD-ROM and a quick-start pamphlet are all you get. Fortunately, that's all you need. The software installs easily with no surprises. Just be prepared to wait a few minutes for all the music files to load on your hard drive. Quicktracks contains 23 musical "elements" (you might think of them in terms of songs) and can mutate those into a seemingly endless variety of lengths and arrangements. There's no need to worry whether your computer is up to the task. Any machine that can handle Premiere Pro is more than ready to run Quicktracks.

Under My Thumb

Using Quicktracks couldn't be easier. While you're in Premiere Pro, from the File menu, click New and, from the submenu, select SmartSound. The tabbed layout makes the app easy to use. The SmartSound Maestro is the sub-app which sorts through all the music in your Quicktracks library. By default, all 23 songs are listed, but you're free to choose different criteria such as style and intensity to narrow the list for your project. Clicking on a song title selects the song and a click on the media player button at the right will play through the standard version of the song. In addition, you'll find helpful information about the track such as format, style, location, tempo and a brief description of the contents of the track and situations where it might be useful. Once you've found one you like, click the Select button on the lower right and Quicktracks takes you back to the welcome screen. The Length option allows you to specify an exact length in minutes, seconds and frames. In addition, there are variations of your song that emphasize different elements of the track, eight or more variations for any given song. This option keeps the tracks from getting old and offers you some flexibility using the same song for multiple projects. There is also a Looping checkbox that creates a seamlessly looping version of your track. This is great for long interview beds or DVD menu systems. Finally, you can preview your custom version and, when it's just right, click the OK button. Quicktracks will export your song into Premiere Pro for immediate use in your video.

When you input length information, Quicktracks automatically scans all the markers of the selected song and assembles a musically correct rendition that contains a distinct beginning, middle and end. With the addition of the previously mentioned variations, you can choose from several versions that meet your criteria, one of which should fit your production nicely.

Waiting for A Friend

This version of Quicktracks has a far better user interface and a broader selection of music from which to choose than the previous version. All of the music is 44kHz CD quality, which is also an improvement.

Of course, nothing is perfect and Quicktracks has a few minor issues. As nice as the music selection is, there are a few lingering tracks from several years back that sound quite dated. In particular, Kickin' Back and Olympic reek of early 90s motivational infomercials. The single entry in the Country/Folk category, Rodeo Roundup, is about as generic and clichd as you could imagine. Still, as background music, the quality and tone is quite ideal.

There are more than a thousand add-on songs available for purchase. You can preview and order them easily at their Web site or, according to the literature, even download tracks through the Quicktracks interface itself. To be honest, we never got this feature to work, although it seems like a good idea. When using the looping feature, Quicktracks admits that it may not be able to meet your length requirements, but will generate a track that is as close as musically possible. In practice, this isn't a real glitch, rather a limitation of the song and length you choose. Finally, on a few songs, we noticed Quicktracks didn't make a clean fade at the end of the song. Of course, you can repair this problem on Premiere's timeline, but it would be nice if the results were consistent.

Not Fade Away

On the whole, SmartSound Quicktracks for Premiere Pro is a quick, intuitive way to create royalty-free music for your video and DVD projects. It does not have many of the more advanced features that SonicFire Pro has, but it is less expensive. The variety of music options combined with the ability to specify exact lengths offers a level of control unavailable in any other product. The freedom of buyout music and the power of automatic editing make this a highly recommended product.

TECH SPECS

Version: 3.1 (Windows)
Platform: PC
Operating System: Windows XP (SP1)
Processor: PIII, 800MHz
RAM: 256MB
Hard Disk: 800MB
Demo Version: n/a
Upgrade: n/a

Strengths

  • Runs on any computer that will run Premiere Pro
  • Affordable

Weaknesses

  • Windows XP only
  • Premiere Pro only

SUMMARY

A basic, but rapid, way to create your own soundtracks.

Contributing Editor Hal Robertson can't believe he used to edit audio soundtracks with tape and razor blades.

SmartSound Software, Inc.
8550 Balboa Blvd., Suite 180
Northridge, CA 91325
(800) 454-1900
www.smartsound.com

$100

Tags:  December 2004
Hal
Robertson
Wed, 12/01/2004 - 12:00am