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Crickets on a Glacier

Exploring the sound design potential in Apple's Soundtrack Pro By Frank Moldstad

Opening a Final Cut Pro file in Soundtrack Pro

It's perfectly natural that Soundtrack Pro's automatic file exchange with Final Cut Pro got all the attention when Soundtrack Pro was released at NAB. Being able to professionally clean up and enhance audio tracks for a video project with a minimum of hassle is a major extension of Final Cut Pro's capabilities.

But another application for Soundtrack Pro should not be overlooked: sound design. With multitrack recording capabilities, thousands of Apple Loops and an arsenal of effects, Soundtrack Pro offers a great sound design platform, either for adding sound elements to an existing track, or for creating new audio tracks from the ground up.


Soundtrack Pro is available as a standalone application ($299 MSRP), or as part of Apple's new Final Cut Studio suite, which bundles Final Cut Pro 5, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro 4 and Motion 2 in one box. Together, they form an audio-video production powerhouse, particularly with a new top-of-the-line dual 2.7MHz Power Mac G5 with 4MB RAM and a 1.35 GHz front side bus running the Tiger OS, which is what Apple provided for this article.

Soundtrack Pro's ability to serve as the default audio tool for any of the Final Cut Pro Studio Suite applications is a huge advantage for any audio-for-video project. Whether the task is sound design, soundtrack creation, or editing, there are no worries about incompatible file formats, timecode/sync problems or inaccurate previews. To launch Soundtrack Pro from Final Cut Pro, you Ctl-click the file and select Send or Open in Editor. For straightforward editing tasks -- noise reduction, editing, analysis, automation, effects processing --  files saved in Soundtrack Pro's waveform editor are instantly updated in the Final Cut Pro 5 timeline without having to be reimported. (You're given the choice of editing destructively or non-destructively.)

Editing options include destructive or non-destructive modes.
But if completely new tracks are created, as is often the case with sound design, they will have to be imported into Final Cut Pro the first time. This makes sense, because they never existed in the project before. After they are saved in the Final Cut Pro project, however, they can be edited in Soundtrack Pro and automatically updated without reimporting.

To put Soundtrack Pro through its paces as a sound design tool, I had a challenging piece of footage to work with. While on vacation in Alaska last year, I took a day trip through some of the magnificent glaciers that are just an hour south of Anchorage. With my video camera in hand, I was fortunate to witness a "calving" glacier, as huge chunks of blue ice cracked and fell from the face of the glacier into the water. It was a front row seat for global warming in action.

But the tape's audio track was a mess. The 75-foot boat had noisy twin diesel engines that periodically drowned out everything. And whenever the boat turned upwind there was a deafening roar. A guide was bellowing into a an amplified megaphone, and there were bits of unintelligible conversations and ocassional screams from passengers crowded onto the deck. Nothing like getting back to nature, I always say.

My first thought was to employ the powerful noise reduction functions in Soundtrack Pro to eliminate the tape's bad ambient noise. But since there was almost nothing but bad ambient noise on this tape, that didn't work out too well. The alternative was to create a new soundtrack, which was OK, since Soundtrack Pro beckoned with many possibilities. 

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Related Keywords:Soundtrack Pro, Apple , Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro, Motion, sound design

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