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SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 4

Mood Mapping adds a new dimension to an already-powerful music creation tool By Charlie White

A good piece of music can make or break a video production. But sometimes that's not enough. The music has to be perfectly synchronized with the video, becoming less complicated when there are voiceover sequences. Until SmartSound Sonicfire Pro ($199 Mac or PC, includes two music disks) came along a few years ago, to accomplish this kind of customization you would have needed to hire a composer at great expense. Not any more. And now with version 4, Sonicfire has added an even more human element to the mix which it calls Mood Mapping. It's remarkable.

Sonicfire Pro has improved significantly since I favorably reviewed version 3.1 three years ago. If you're not familiar with Sonicfire Pro, it's a music application that lets you fine-tune stock music so that it perfectly fits your production. All the music cuts -- and there are thousands available -- have been cleverly recorded with points where they can be easily merged with other points, letting you designate exactly how long the music should last. You can also in emphasize certain instruments at certain times, and bring the music to full volume at the exact point where you need it.

The most impressive new feature of Sonicfire Pro is Mood Mapping. This really opens up the capabilities of the software to a level far beyond what it could do in the previous version. You set a keyframe where you would like the mood of the music to change, and then select the mood from a drop-down list. You can choose full, background, dialogue, heavy, drum and bass, synth, no drums, or silence. By choosing one of these, what you can make the music more or less complicated in order to accommodate different emotions or situations with your video. It lets you mold the music to your own devices, changing it by feel, until it works perfectly with what you're doing. Even though the term "mood mapping" may sound frivolous, it's extremely practical and gives you great flexibility.

For example, say you're putting together a segment which starts off with scenes of skiers flying down a hill for 10 seconds before the voiceover starts. You want to start out with some heavy high-energy music, and then have the music dip down into something simpler as soon as the voiceover begins. At the point where you want the voiceover to begin, you just add a keyframe on the Mood Map track, and then add another keyframe where the voiceover is finished. Then, you select the mood you would like, and you can even adjust the volume of each of the instruments playing at that point. 

I did extensive experimentation with mood mapping, and found it to be a wonderful addition to the software. Not only are you making the music quieter in order to accommodate the voiceover, but you're changing the entire feel of the music, and I noticed that you can get quite creative with it. For example, in the graphic below, you can see that as soon as the voiceover (the file named testmp3.wav) starts, I changed the mood to just drum and bass, and the same time was able to lower the volume of the drums and bass to accommodate the voiceover. It was the perfect effect needed right then. Also, I could see the video in another window in the application, just to be sure everything fit together well.

Mood Mapping is used to bring down the music complexity and volume to accommodate a voice-over segment. The mood was changed from "Full" to "Drum and Bass," and the level was lowered for a perfect fit into the production.

This brings up another innovation in this new version of Sonicfire Pro, the ability to drop .wav files on its new multitrack timeline. Before, you were able to play video files to see what your music was doing in certain point to the video, and now you can sync up that video into the timeline, as well as mix in your own audio files. In my testing, I added mp3 and aiff files, too, and they were converted over to .wav files so they could work on the timeline. With this addition, SmartSound becomes more like an audio editing application. It gives you fine control of the volume of each track overall, and of individual elements within. That's easy to do, and I like the way each track's volume can be adjusted via rubber bands. 

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Related Keywords:music, video production, synchronized, SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 4 customization, Mood Mapping, stock music

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