Pet Sounds

“Audio is half the picture” is a filmmaking cliché that I have the tendency to overuse, but it’s not a bad mantra considering the fact that the way a viewer perceives the visual quality of a film or video is subconsciously influenced by the audio quality of said film or video. Having well recorded, noise-free, well mixed sound along with a music soundtrack and sound effects that reinforce what’s happening on screen is a key piece of the puzzle. For projects with big budgets & resources, an audio specialist (e.g. Sound Designer, Composer, Engineer) usually takes care of this end of things, but the rest of the time we’ve gotta do it ourselves.

Adobe Audition is the audio tool that we currently ship with Production Studio. Audition was formerly known as Cool Edit Pro — we changed the name when we acquired it and other technology from Syntrillium (along with some great people like Hart Shafer and Jason Levine). It’s widely used by audio engineers (particularly in radio) as it mimics the traditional audio production workflow, which is great if you happen to be an audio engineer. But if your specialty is film, video, or interactive design then you probably have no idea what to do with this:

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Audition 2.0’s realtime Mixing Engine.

What you’re looking at is a digital representation of an analog recording console. Everything is where you’d expect it to be if you’re used to working in the analog audio world, and you have everything you need at your fingers to do some serious aural surgery.

I show this to a group of videographers and their eyes glaze over.

The fact is that for those of us that do film, video, or Flash design, this is way overkill. Visually oriented people like ourselves need to work with audio, but the things we need to do on a day-to-day basis don’t require a tool as deep & complex as Audition. That depth & complexity comes with a learning curve, and if audio isn’t your main thing it probably doesn’t make sense for you to go that deep.

These were some of the things we were thinking about when Adobe Soundbooth was conceived. We decided to put the tools most relevant to visual pros right on the surface and make them easy-to-use, while leveraging the powerful technology behind Audition. Hart & crew logged countless hours visiting customers to see what the audio part of their workflow involved, and showing them early wireframes of Soundbooth to get their feedback.

But the best way for us to make sure Soundbooth will let you be more creative & work faster is to get it in your hands now, when it’s still in development. That’s the idea behind Adobe Labs, of which I’m a huge fan because it gives our customers a huge voice when it comes to how we develop new products. I really want as many of you as possible to go to Adobe Labs right now and download the Soundbooth Public Beta. More importantly, if you do download it, use it. Use it a lot and send us feedback, tell us what you like and don’t like, and give us your ideas on how to make it better.

Being that it’s a beta, not every feature works yet. But much of the meat & potatoes are in there today. Let’s have a look – first, here’s the Editor panel, which is the main panel of the interface (name of said panel and appearance subject to change before release, as is everything else in the beta).

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Soundbooth is designed to work with individual clips, be they audio only or video clips with an audio track. Once you import a clip, it appears in the Editor panel (above) where you have simple, draggable controls and buttons to do many basic tasks such as normalize the clip (which makes the volume consistent throughout).

To the left is the Tasks panel which currently contains 3 options. Clicking “Cleanup Audio” or “Remove a Sound “brings up some simple controls for removing noise, clicks & pops, and rumble from your clip, or for removing an individual sound by selecting it in the Spectral Frequency Display with either the Marquee or Lasso tool (just like selecting & modifying and image in Photoshop).

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The “Create Music” option brings up a wider set of controls which can be used to manipulate royalty-free soundtrack beds which will be a key component of the release version of Soundbooth.

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For now, you can download 3 sample soundtracks from the Soundbooth download page at Adobe Labs.

Those are some of the basics, and you can go deeper with the getting started documents included with the beta download. And no, we’re not discontinuing Audition, we’ll still be developing & marketing it for audio pros just as we have since we got it from Syntrillium.