capsule review

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 2.0

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Those who've attempted to add background music to digital movies know that it's difficult to find a piece of music exactly as long as a particular scene. Sonic Desktop Software offers a solution to this vexing problem with its SmartSound line of soundtrack-creation software, which automatically creates royalty-free background scores of any length. Previous versions didn't allow you to view your movie from within SmartSound as you created a score; instead, you had to run the movie in a separate application, note the length of time you wanted the soundtrack to play, and then create the soundtrack in SmartSound. Sonicfire Pro, the latest addition to the SmartSound family, improves upon this approach by allowing you to score a variety of video types--including QuickTime, DV, and AVI--directly within the Sonicfire Pro application.

Smart Sound

Like previous versions of SmartSound, Sonicfire Pro includes a collection of royalty-free music in a variety of styles. Each musical piece is divided into small blocks; when you ask Sonicfire Pro to create a piece of music that's 37 seconds long, for example, it strings together the necessary number of blocks in a way that makes musical sense.

The program creates these strings of music via its Maestro feature, an assistant that asks you to select the category of music you want (action or background, for example), a style of music within that category (such as jazz or classical), the soundtrack's length, and a thematic variation. Once you've satisfied Maestro's curiosity, it creates a soundtrack that suits your needs.

Smarter Sound

Sonicfire Pro's interface comprises Timeline, Blocks, and Video windows. The musical snippets Maestro helps you create appear as colored bars in the Timeline window; you can expand or contract these snippets by dragging the edge of a bar. The Blocks window contains the individual musical blocks that make up the snippet. The Video window, as its name hints, is for video display.

To score your video, simply start playing your movie and add markers where you'd like music to begin and end, and then run Maestro to audition different scores. As you add bits of music to the video, you can change the score's volume by adding adjustment points to the volume timeline and moving them to create fades or more-abrupt dynamic changes. Because you can change the sound level only via this graphical interface, however, fine-tuning your score's volume can be difficult.

Included with the program are two music CDs in a format compatible with Sonicfire Pro. Additional collections of music are available for purchase (they cost $70, for the 22kHz version, and $130, for higher-quality 44kHz files). I sampled four of these CDs and found the quality excellent throughout. You can also turn your own music into SmartSound-compatible files, though only music with a relentlessly steady beat works well with SmartSound's blocking scheme.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Sonicfire Pro 2.0 is as easy to use as other members of the SmartSound family, and like its siblings, it lets you create and customize dynamic, royalty-free musical scores for your video projects. If your movies would benefit from musical accompaniment, you should certainly give Sonicfire Pro 2.0 a try.

Audio with Visuals: With SmartSound Sonicfire Pro's Video window, it's easy to sync your music and video.
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