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AutoComposing in Adobe Soundbooth

Creating variations on a theme with simple slider tools By Frank Moldstad

Tasks panel
It's fun to watch the progress of Adobe's Soundbooth application as it moves toward final release later this year-- and even more fun to play with the free beta downloads. I recently downloaded the second public beta of this audio editing and soundtrack creation tool, which was released Dec. 19, and became engrossed in the AutoComposer feature.

Soundbooth will be available for both Intel-powered Macs and Windows XP systems, and is slated to replace Adobe Audition as the audio tool in the Adobe Production Suite. Audition will continue as a freestanding application.

The AutoComposer feature is very simple to use, which is intentional, because Soundbooth is aimed at non-musicians who need to create scores for Flash or video projects. After one of the finished scores that come with Soundbooth is loaded (three are available for the beta version), there are some unique tools for customizing the music. And by customizing, I mean creating variations that the composer might not even recognize.

In this article, we'll take a quick look at how four of these tools can be applied to Soundbooth score to produce variations on a theme, as it were. They are Intensity, Melody 1, Melody 2 and Volume. These functions are controlled by sliders positioned in the Tasks panel, which is at the left of the interface by default (like other Adobe applications, Soundbooth is built around modular blocks that can be positioned anywhere).

The Intensity tool is especially interesting. With a Soundbooth score loaded, a user can increase or decrease the intensity of the song on a scale of 1-6 with a simple slider. To try this out, I took a 19-second Quicktime clip of a Ferris wheel and created several variations of one of the included Soundbooth scores, called "River of Unreality." First, I trimmed the audio clip, which was originally much longer, down to the right length by entering 19 seconds into the Duration dialog, which is also in the Tasks panel. Then I pulled the Intensity slider down from the default 6 to 1, the minimum setting. This gave the audio clip a very mellow flavor, appropriate for the languid turning of the Ferris Wheel. The differences between the two are dramatic.

Below are links to two Quicktime movies. Sequence 01 shows how the clip sounds with the Intensity level at the default level of 6. Sequence 02 shows how it changes with the Intensity level at the minimum level of zero.

sequence 01.mov

sequence 02.mov

For another approach, I slid both Melody 1 and Melody 2 down to the minimum settings, from 100 to 0. The Melody controls basically determine how much of melody will be heard, and by pulling these down, the audio clip became an intense rhythm track, which could also be a good accompaniment to the Ferris Wheel video.

Below is a Quicktime clip (sequence 03) with both Melody 1 and 2 sliders at 0.

sequence 03.mov

 All three of these Quicktime clips are using the exact same piece of music. The only differences are because of the Intensity and Melody settings.

Finally, I clicked the Keyframing tab on the Tasks panel, which allows nodes to be set for any of the four editing parameters, for creating volume swells, varied intensities and melodic interweavings. The two Melody controls make it possible to create interesting variations when used to offset each other on the timeline.

Using keyframes to vary Intensity, Melody and Volume behavior on the timeline

After you're finished editing your file, it can be exported by clicking  the Export Score button in the Tasks panel to save your creation as a new file.

Soundbooth can import and manipulate standard wave files, but the AutoComposer feature requires Soundbooth Scores, which have the .sbsc file format and are written and recorded especially for the application. Adobe says the final application will have many Soundbooth scores to choose from, and more will be added regularly.

This has been a quick overview of just one of the functions being designed for Soundbooth. There are a number of other editing and composing features under development, some of which are already operational in this beta, such as Frequency Space Editing, loop creation, and effects application (the second beta version includes several new effects). Others features are being honed as Adobe seeks feedback from users about the application as it is developed.

The Adobe Soundbooth beta can be downloaded at this address: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/soundbooth/. There's also a Soundbooth user forum on the Adobe Labs site for feedback and questions to the development team.


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Related Keywords:Adobe Soundbooth, AutoComposer, beta, soundtrack, audio editing, Adobe Production Suite, Audition

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