Apple’s Soundtrack made its debut last June, as part of the massive video-editing bundle Final Cut Pro 4. But now the same Soundtrack software is available as a stand-alone product. This puts Soundtrack within reach of video editors, Web designers, and content providers who don’t need the rest of the Final Cut Pro 4 package.
Soundtrack 1.0.1 is a fun program based on sound loops. It lets you quickly create original, royalty-free music for video and multimedia projects.
It requires at least a 500MHz Power Mac, Mac OS X 10.2.5, and 5GB of available hard-drive space. Apple’s official specs say that you can install the program with a CD and that the sound loops, called Apple Loops, on the included DVD are optional, but this isn’t really the case. Soundtrack’s entire appeal lies in the fact that it lets you mix and match the 4GB of material it provides. So, at some point, you’ll need a DVD-ROM drive to install the Apple Loops.
Soundtrack is in some ways similar to
Sonicfire Pro 3
; November 2003); both programs are designed to create background music for your video productions. But the two programs differ significantly in their approach. Sonicfire Pro lets you quickly adjust previously composed pieces to fit any length. In Soundtrack, you’re the composer, arranging the supplied instrument loops into a unique composition.
Working with Soundtrack is a very tactile experience — you achieve almost everything via drag and drop. The program’s finer adjustments are just as easy to use, although they’re hidden from ready view. To set volume and to pan keyframes, for example, you must first reveal the volume and panning adjustment tracks via a drop-down arrow at the head of each instrument track.
When you start adding Apple Loops to your composition, Soundtrack automatically adjusts the tempo and key of the added audio to match the composition you’re building, so instruments that aren’t traditionally paired often sound great together. You can experiment for hours as you nail down exactly what you want — this is fun, but beware of the temptation to play around when you’re on a tight deadline.
To make sure your Soundtrack composition matches your video project well, you can import the video into the program and play it with your developing music. The stand-alone version of Soundtrack does lack some features that the bundled version includes. For example, when you import video tracks from Final Cut Pro 4, the scoring markers embedded in the track also get imported; anyone using Avid Xpress DV, Adobe Premiere, or previous versions of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express won’t have the embedded scoring markers. But for the most part, Soundtrack worked flawlessly, playing back the video and dozens of instrument tracks. On one occasion, the video window stopped updating properly after the computer woke from sleep mode, but restarting the program cleared up that problem.
If 4GB of sound loops isn’t enough, you can easily record your own sound into the program if you have an audio-input device. Soundtrack also natively supports third-party sound loops, like those in Sonic Foundry’s Acid. The application also ships with a respectable array of sound filters and effects, including a set of eMagic effects from Apple’s pro sound application, Logic Platinum.
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Soundtrack won’t instantly transform you into Mozart, but its easy-to-use workflow does make creating music a pleasure. If you want to use it for business, make sure to keep your eye on the clock, because the hours can melt away when you’re playing with Soundtrack.