Test Bench:Sonic Desktop Movie Maestro Music Creation Software

$50

Sonic Desktop Software, Inc.

9836 White Oak Ave. Suite 209

Northridge, CA 91325

(800) 454-1900

www.sonicdesktop.com

Movie Maestro is the least expensive, easiest to use soundtrack creation tool on the market today. This product is for the home user and is intended for private use only, so if you are looking for royalty-free music for public or commercial distribution, you will need to look elsewhere. But when you need quick, customizable tunes for your personal videos, nothing could be simpler.

Too Easy

Our first thought upon opening the Movie Maestro box was "Where’s the manual?" No worries, mate – Videomaker is here to help you:

1. Import a video file.

2. Click the Add Music button.

3. Select a music category, style and track (sub-style).

4. Click the Finish button.

Immediately after completing this procedure, the sound track is finished and ready to be previewed. While it is clear that a manual is not really needed, the fine Movie Maestro Tutorial and Help file should handle any questions you might have. Once the music is inserted, you can adjust the start and stop points and insert additional sections (blocks). It’s not the same as just cutting a song into pieces. Instead, each block has clear and intentional introductions and conclusions. The volume of the music track can be adjusted on a section-by-section basis, so while you can’t duck the music out under the original audio track from the video, you can insert different sections that start and stop with, for example, the narration and adjust the volume that way. This is pretty effective when using the automatic fade in and out option. The only problem is that the fine intros and endings to the songs can interrupt the flow when using this technique.

Other manufacturers and engineers of beginner-level products take note: Movie Maestro has an excellent user interface. It is attractive and easy to use and it follows Windows conventions, which means that Windows users already know how to use the product as soon as they see it. Besides a full menu bar with a complete list of all commands, Movie Maestro also has an extensive array of shortcuts.

Mozart or Casio?

Movie Maestro uses professionally produced performances using largely synthesized instrumentation. Sir Neville Marriner is unlikely to appreciate the orchestral tracks and no one is going to confuse the horns on the Miami Slam style with Arturo Sandoval, but the music is pretty good overall and works especially well for the pop, rock and electronic pieces, which rely heavily on synths anyhow. The tracks included with this product are all 22kHz, which is technically not CD quality, but the synthesized music does not suffer from the lower sample rate.

The music is designed to please a wide audience. In fact, our first reaction to the music was that is sounded vaguely elevator-doctor’s-office-hotel-lobby-ish. It’s easy to make fun of this type of music, but the point is that it is designed to be background music – which is precisely what you are using Movie Maestro for. Movie Maestro comes with 26 songs with a handful of style variations for each. Additional style discs run $30, which is not bad at all.

Automusical Magic

Movie Maestro is the musical equivalent of muvee Technologies’ autoProducer (August 2002), which automatically creates music videos with the click of a button. Movie Maestro does not give you creative control over your sound track beyond a choice of genre, style and duration, but creative control requires at least a little musical talent and, more importantly, serious amounts of time. Music Maestro requires neither of these. If you find yourself branching out into the professional world of event videography or even broadcast television, there are professional products and licenses available with other Sonic Desktop applications. Movie Maestro truly could not be easier to use and, for the hobbyist producing home videos, Movie Maestro is an inexpensive way to quickly create custom-fit sound tracks.

TECH SPECS

System Requirements

Version: 1.0

Platform: PC and Mac

Operating System: Win 98, NT4, Me, 2000, XP / Mac OS 9 or greater

RAM: 16MB (24MB recommended)

Hard Disk: 16MB

Other Software: DirectX 8 (Win) / QuickTime 5 (Win and Mac – included) / CarbonLib 1.4 (Mac)

Other Hardware: sound card

Trial Version: 30-day

STRENGTHS

  • Fantastically easy to use
  • Great user interface

    WEAKNESSES

  • Synthetic sound of acoustic instruments

    SUMMARY

  • Nothing could be easier for home movie sound track creation.
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