Test Bench:Sonic Desktop Sonicfire Pro Music Creation Software

$369

Sonic Desktop Software Inc.

9836 White Oak Avenue

Suite 209

Northridge, CA 91325-1342

(800) 454-1900

www.sonicdesktop.com

Most video producers realize the importance of music to enrich a video. But acquiring just the right music for your project is tricky.

To avoid the risk of copyright infringement videographers often use royalty-free music libraries and loop-based music creation software. But royalty-free music can be expensive and limiting, and loop-based software can have a steep learning curve, especially for non-musicians.

Sonic Desktop has taken a little bit from both categories and created SmartSound Sonicfire Pro, which provides a simple way for videographers to create music soundtracks for their productions. With Sonicfire Pro, you can quickly score music directly to your video. Videographers who rely on computer editing and need high-quality, royalty-free music will appreciate Sonicfire Pro’s ease of use, video-import window and soundtrack-creation wizard.

Hit it, Maestro!

With Sonicfire Pro, you can create professional-sounding music soundtracks for any visual project in minutes. What makes Sonicfire Pro better than royalty-free music libraries is the fact that it can make the music fit any time frame. The editing tools allow you to smooth the audio transitions and cut your soundtrack to the desired length.

Sonicfire Pro is available for both Mac and PC computer platforms. We used a Mac G3 for our tests, and installation was quite simple.

When we opened Sonicfire Pro, we were met by a user-friendly interface that featured three main windows: Timeline, Blocks and Video. The Timeline window is where the music is actually placed. It corresponds directly to your video. The Blocks window displays each sound file opened a project. It is a handy organizational tool, and it helped us keep track of what styles of music and which versions we were using. Finally, the Video window is where we previewed the video we chose to score. This is one of Sonicfire Pro’s biggest strengths: you can actually see your video as you put your music to it.

Sonicfire Pro also features Maestro, a step-by-step, music-creation wizard, which provided the easiest, fastest way to create our video soundtrack. Before we launched Maestro, we first opened an edited three-minute video we wanted to put to music, and the opening frame appeared in the video window. We then opened Maestro and began its five-step process. In the first screen, we designated how the soundtrack would be used: as an opening, a background or accents. In screen two, we chose the type of music we wanted: action, 90s, orchestral, techno, etc. In the third screen, we selected the piece that we wanted. Before choosing any piece, we could listen to a five-second preview to get a taste of it. Screen four let us determine the length of the piece, down to the frame. So, if we wanted to create a music soundtrack that played throughout our video, we would simply type in 03:00:00. If we wanted to have the music match a particular scene, we’d type in the length of that scene.

Screen five let us select from a variety of versions within music types. When we selected Western music we found about 30 different options, some containing different riffs, others with various drumbeats and still others offering optional song endings. There were pieces of music for the roundup scenes, the sunset and for those panoramic wide-open spaces.

When we finished, the music appeared on the timeline and, presto, we had a music video. We then hit "play" in the video window to watch, and listen to, our new video.

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Sounds Good

We were pleased with the quality of the music. The songs and arrangements were of professional quality and would work well in most videos. But there were a number of other features we liked as well. Using the Sonicfire Pro Browser, we could quickly sample and import sound files into the Blocks window. We were pleased to find that the software also allows you to import and customize non-Sonicfire Pro audio files.

Once you’ve placed a sound file on the timeline, you can lengthen or shorten it by dragging on the ends of the file icon. Sonicfire then re-orchestrates the piece to fit the length indicated, keeping a fully orchestrated ending, not just adding a fade out. You can also use the razor tool to cut long pieces into shorter ones, and place them wherever you like on your timeline. This is great for creating suspenseful music for dramatic scenes. There’s also a smoothing tool, which makes for smooth transitions between songs by aurally blending the files. The resulting crossfade is a great way to avoid ear-jarring segues. Markers are available to help score scenes of your movie. And if you’re importing a QuickTime movie, Sonicfire Pro recognizes the chapter markers.

What We’d Like to See

Once we’d lined up all of our music elements, we saved our file and watched the whole video with our new soundtrack. It was great and the timing was perfect. However, there were a few spots where the music was either too loud or too low. While you can raise or lower portions of a clip within the software, it was not easy to adjust levels accurately in relation to our video clip. Tech support recommended that we export the music file to Premiere and tweak it there. We did with no problem.

All told, SmartSound Sonicfire Pro is a godsend for most videographers looking to create professional-quality, royalty-free music. It’s easy to use. It is totally customizable and the best thing is that you can score your music to your video while you watch. There is no more guesstimating. And Sonic Desktop’s increasing number of additional, company-supplied music libraries gives the consumer of the product ever-expanding music choices.

TECH SPECS

Platform: Mac (also available for Windows)

OS: Mac System 8 or higher, Power PC

RAM: 8MB

Hard drive space: 8MB

CD-ROM, speakers

STRENGTHS

  • Easy to use
  • Video window
  • Customizable
  • Excellent music quality

    WEAKNESSES

  • Audio-level editing

    SUMMARY

  • SmartSound Sonicfire Pro is easy to use and produces excellent, customizable, royalty-free music for video productions.
  • The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.