All moviemakers want soundtracks that perfectly match their films. SmartSound’s Sonicfire Pro 3 is centred on pre-built customizable score libraries that can be scaled to meet your timeline needs. And like scores made with Apple’s Soundtrack (bundled with Final Cut Pro 4), those made with Sonicfire Pro 3 dress up video projects with royalty-free music. But their approaches are different: Sonicfire gives faster results, especially with long projects. However, it does so at the expense of diversity of audio material.
It comes in two versions: one with two 44K SmartSound CDs, and the Bundled Edition, reviewed here, which includes five music CDs. Either can exploit the Sonicfire’s Infinite Search Maestro search engine.
Sonicfire Pro 3’s raison d’être is to simplify the tedious and often expensive process of adding a musical score to a project. Not everyone is musically inclined, but people still know a good thing when they hear it – and Sonicfire is based on this principle. You can listen to pre-made soundtracks, and audition them with imported QuickTime video.
Infinite Search Maestro lets you search intelligently – by style, intensity, instrument, and keyword – in the SmartSound audio on your Mac and the Web-based SmartSound libraries. This is particularly useful because you can find exactly the track you need, even if you don’t yet own it. Downloading it will cost $20 (around £12) – not that expensive when you consider that you can use the track without paying royalties. This can also be a bargain, since buying a SmartSound CD would cost you £59 even if you used only one track.
SmartSound audio is useful because it has been pre-processed into sound blocks that Sonicfire can manipulate. Sonicfire Pro’s intuitive interface lets you load the music into the timeline and make adjustments. You can also preview your movie as a QuickTime file with different soundtracks to see which works best.
The program will string together the music blocks to fit the length you need, and it does so in such a way that the music never ends abruptly. In fact, the SmartExtend feature always ends the clip in a manner that makes musical sense. You can also load your own audio into Sonicfire Pro and segment it into blocks; however, the program doesn’t adjust non-SmartSound audio with the same finesse.
One downside of the workflow is that you can’t change the actual music, as you can with Soundtrack. A more grievous problem is that the program is a victim of its own success: We recognized some of the tracks because they had been used on TV. The weakest part of the program is its PDF manual, especially the confusing tutorials.
Sonicfire Pro 3 is useful for those who need a quick way to add high-quality, royalty-free music scores to their work. People who are insistent on stamping their own personality on their music are better off with Soundtrack or hiring a composer.