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Bias Inc.'s SoundSoap Pro 1.2
More and more these days, editors are wearing many hats. Editor, motion graphic designer, 3D animator, and especially audio engineer. Apple has given us a great tool with Final Cut Studio 2, and with that, editors/audio engineers are running into problems they have never had before, and that is noise in shoot tapes and tapes given to us by clients that they want added to their shows.
Whether it's the hum of an air conditioning unit or buzz from a bad audio cable, clients are looking to us to get rid of it. In my opinion, the "noise removal" tool in Soundtrack Pro 2 just doesn't cut it. That's where SoundSoap Pro 1.2 (SSP) from Bias Inc. can step in to help us. Let's see if this tool from Bias Inc. will be the tool of choice for getting rid of noise from your project.
Much like any application, SSP installs quickly and easily, and you will have to restart your computer once the installation process is complete. One thing that I liked about SSP is that it comes with some tutorial files for you to work through so you can get the hang of how it works before you use it with a client sitting beside you. Also installed with SSP is the Bias Authorization Manager that is used to input your serial numbers for your different Bias products.
SSP will run in "Trial Mode" and will insert random patches of silence in your clip until you install your license key. Like I mentioned, the installation is quick and easy, and you should be up and running in no time. One thing that I also want to mention in the installation section is that not only is SSP Universal Binary and it runs under Leopard, but it runs on both OS X and Windows XP/Vista. You just need to make sure that you are running a RTAS/AudioSuite, Audio Units or VST host application like Soundtrack Pro. Also, Bias offers a 14 day trial version of SSP for you to try, before you buy.
What you get
Bias has released SoundSoap in two versions, a standard and professional edition. For the purposes of this review, we are looking at the professional version, and the toolset that comes with it. Bias has done a really good job in helping you down the restoration path by laying out the tabs in SSP in the order that you should be cleaning your audio in.
I thought I would start out by mentioning things that are unique to SSP overall, first of which is the Spectrogram that will show you your audio waveform, as well as showing you the input audio versus the output audio, so you can see exactly what is being removed from your clip. Also, each section of SSP has the ability to save and load presets, to save you time and headaches by being able to quickly drop a preset onto your clip. Each section also has a "Noise Only" button so you can hear exactly what is being removed, and make sure that the sounds you need are being kept. Another excellent feature of SSP is that certain host applications are able to automate parameters as necessary. This could be used in situations where the noise slowly creeps into your audio, and you want the noise to be reduced gradually.
Hum & Rumble
Just like it says, this section helps you remove annoying hum, and even low-frequency and sonic rumble. This is also the section to start your noise reduction process from. Some of the controls you have inside Hum & Rumble are Hum Frequency, Depth, Harmonics and Rumble Frequency.
Click & Crackle
Want to take your old vinyl records and transfer them to a digital medium and remove all the "authentic" vinyl sounds? What about removing some audio crackle from a shoot you just finished? This section will probably be the second most used by editors/audio engineers, as just about every one of us has had problems with crackles in audio from field shoots. Some of the controls you have inside Click & Crackle are Click and Crackle Threshold.
This will probably be the "go to" section of SSP for most users. This section is where you will remove your "continuous" problems like tape hiss and air conditioning/HVAC units. Bias has even added a "Learn Noise" button to have SSP quickly figure out which "broadband" noise you want to isolate and get rid of. Some of the controls you have inside Broadband are Threshold, Reduction, Learn Noise, Attack, Release, Attack Tilt and Release Tilt.
Noise Gate is the last of the four main restoration tools and is the final stop to give your audio one last clean-up. With a secondary waveform to view your audio, and controls over threshold, attack, release and reduction, here's where you give your audio its final polish.
Needless to say, I didn't go into every parameter of each section, but Bias Inc. has given the user exceptional control over the noise reduction process. One last thing that I want to mention is that I really like the fact that Bias has included not only tutorial files, but a section of the manual that is dedicated to these files, and the ideal way to remove noise from them. This is great for people new to Soundsoap Pro and new to removing noise from their projects. Now, let's take a look at how this works in a practical situation.
How it works
Now, even though Bias has supplied tutorial files, there's no better way to really see what SSP can do than to record my own audio with "noise problems", and see how easy it is for a new comer to jump in and get rid of some noise.
First, here is the file that I'm going to be removing the noise from.
I'm going to open Soundtrack Pro 2, and I'm going to drag the clip into my timeline. Whenever you are doing noise removal work, always try to have a little bit of headroom with noise at the top of your clip, as it will be much easier to remove noise that way. Next, I'll select my clip, and then navigate my way to PROCESS>EFFECTS>BIAS-INC>SOUNDSOAP PRO, and I'm immediately greeted with the SSP welcome screen.
I'm going to click on the "Broadband" tab, as the sound I want to remove is a "white noise" of sorts, so that's the best place to start. First, I have to activate "Broadband" so SSP knows that is the tab I want to use, and you can do that one of two ways. You can either click the checkbox beside the word "Broadband" in the tab, or simply change the radio button from "Bypass" to "On".
I had my time bar at the start of my sequence, so I'm going to click "Learn Noise", and then I'm going to press "Play". The timeline played for about two seconds with the old "noisy" audio, and then immediately switched to my "new" audio, and man, did it sound pretty good without having to do anything.
Now, if I was still unhappy with how things were sounding, I could get in and really finesse my sound, by adjusting the threshold sliders for the individual frequency bands of my dialog track, and then I would adjust the individual reduction sliders until I had removed all the unwanted sound. Like this:
I have to say that the difference between my "Shower After" and my "Shower Gone" clips was subtle, but very noticeable if you listen for it. I have to say that Soundsoap Pro really impressed me with not only its ease of use, but with the amount of parameters you can get in there and adjust.
To round this section out, there are a couple of things I want everyone to keep in mind. First, Bias does offer an entry level, standard version of SoundSoap Pro that gives you the absolute basics of what you will need for removing noise from your projects.
Also, there are a lot of users out there, especially people who are working on Final Cut Express or Avid Media Composer Software edition (and even Final Cut Studio for that matter) that might not have access to an audio editing/mastering application to do noise removal and other audio tasks. That's where Peak Pro comes into play. Peak Pro is Bias' flagship audio editing application that comes in three varieties. Peak LE, Peak Pro and Peak Pro XT all of which have Peak Pro 6 as the centerpiece of the package. Peak Pro 6 is brand new, and brings some new, exciting features to the table such as a new user interface, high-resolution meters, volume envelopes, Voiceover Ducking DSP (dynamically lowers music under voiceovers), cache in RAM (ultra-fast RAM-based editing), and many more.
SoundSoap LE is packaged with Peak Pro (SSP LE is exactly the same as SoundSoap 2, just that it only runs in Peak, and not in other applications) and Soundsoap 2 is packaged with Peak Pro XT, and as icing on the cake, Peak Pro XT also comes packaged with Soundsoap Pro and the Master Perfection Suite, which includes six mastering, processing and sound design plug-ins. PitchCraft, a real time pitch correction plug-in. Reveal, a high powered analysis tool with seven tools built in to analyze your audio. SuperFreq, a mastering-calibur paragraphic equalizer. GateEx, a Gate/Expander plug-in to help remove audio noise. Repli-Q, an EQ matcher, and Sqweez, a linear phase filter to adjust either three or five frequency bands. Bias really has taken the time to make sure that everyone from the audio beginner to the advanced audio engineer, no matter what their budget, really does have the tools they need to get their job done.
- Universal Binary, Leopard and Windows XP/Vista support
- Very easy to get great results
- Variety of purchase options for SSP for people with audio editing applications (Soundtrack Pro) and without (Peak)
- 14 day trial of not only Soundsoap 2/Pro, but Peak Pro and the Master Perfection Suite
- $599 price tag for SoundSoap Pro is a little high (over four times the price of Soundsoap 2)
Purchase Recommendation: Buy
In the end, I thought SoundSoap Pro was not only an easy program to get into, but it also produced great results. I do think the $599 price was a little steep, but if you are in the market for a good noise removing plug-in, definitely give Soundsoap Pro a try. You can download the demo for SoundSoap 2, SoundSoap Pro, Peak LE, Peak Pro and the Master Perfection Suite from Bias' website at www.bias-inc.com.
|Kevin P McAuliffe is currently a Senior Video Editor working in HD post production in Toronto, Canada. He has been in the television industry for 12 years, and spends his days onlining on a Final Cut Pro HD. Kevin's high definition onlining credit list includes concerts for Coldplay, Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, Snow Patrol, Sum41, Paul Anka, Il Divo and Pussycat Dolls, to name a few. Also, Kevin is an instructor of Advanced Final Cut Studio 2 at the Toronto Film College. If you have any questions or comments, you can drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org|
Related Keywords:audio restoration, digital audio editing,