Soundbooth CS4 review
Adobe’s audio component for working with video and multimedia is now restyled and more integrated with the other CS4 components. New in this release is multitrack mixing, allowing you to work on more than one mono or stereo file at a time and to create new sounds by mixing multiple tracks and scores.
A drop-down menu on the Editor panel simplifies adding files to the project. In the Editor you can add video or audio tracks, dragging them from the imported Files panel, or delete existing tracks. The new equalize-volume and volume-matching functions can quickly match up the volume of multiple clips to one another or to a single reference volume level.
Another new feature is volume keyframing, which lets you adjust the volume of dialogue and sound-effect clips over time. Once this function has been enabled, you can click on the blue line running through the middle of selected clips in the timeline to add keyframes that will allow you to adjust the volume level up or down. This makes it a lot easier to build up a multilayered soundtrack, using ambient sounds as well as music and dialogue from different sources.
The volume keyframing and multitrack features are also useful when you create podcasts. When you’re ready to output the podcast in MP3 format, the new MP3 compression options, including a Bitrate selector and preview function, allow you to play the sound quality at whatever bit rate you select and view the file size before proceeding. This also comes in handy when creating multimedia files for web delivery, or anywhere there might be a trade off between file size and audio quality.
Dynamic Link integration has been enhanced throughout CS4 Production Premium and Soundbooth lets you open After Effects compositions or Premiere Pro sequences directly in the editor. As with the other components, Dynamic Link eliminates the need for intermediate rendering by creating a direct link between new or existing assets in supported CS4 components. Any changes made in one application are quickly reflected in the other. You can also add markers in Soundbooth audio files which, when saved as FLV format, can be used as cue points in Flash to drive events and navigation.
New for this release is the Adobe Sound Document file format (ASND). This aids Production Premium integration by packaging multiple tracks into an ASND file that can be shared easily with Flash Professional, Premiere Pro, or After Effects and supports non-destructive editing. You can take snapshots of your work in progress, then when you save your work as an ASND file this data is stored in the file information, allowing you to return to the snapshot point at any time.
Also new is the transcription tool (which we covered more in the Premiere Pro review). Accessible from the new Metadata panel, this provides a very effective way to extract text from a speech in a video or audio file.
Soundbooth ships with a library of loops, but it’s often useful to create your own. If you click on the Create Loop task and then check the box for Show Beat Indicators, another CS4 innovation can be seen. Individual beats appear above the waveform, represented by orange lines, which you can use to set in and out points for a loop precisely. Enable snapping to beats and once you have a selected loop, you can lock the duration and move the selection to the next set of beats, or save another loop with the same timings. Of course, it’s not totally automatic as you’ll still have to listen carefully, but by tweaking the in and out points and using the controls in the Create Loop panel, you can make some decent loops fairly quickly.
As before, you can use the spectral view of the waveform in Soundbooth to ‘heal’ the audio, removing extraneous sounds by selecting it with Photoshop-style marquee tools. Other such Tasks include changing the pitch and timing and removing hum, clicks or pops. There are a number of interface enhancements, including the ability to zoom vertically to a frequency range in spectral view and a new look to the Resources panel. This gives access to a large collection of prerecorded, royalty-free Soundbooth Scores and sound effects, with more available to purchase via the panel when you’re online.
Soundbooth CS4 undoubtedly offers more than previous versions. The interface has been improved, there’s a new sound format, and you have more control over volume and compression. Multitrack editing alone makes this an essential upgrade. However, with more power comes more complexity and Soundbooth CS4 will require care to use effectively.