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By
Rod Klein

If you ever wanted to create great sound tracks for video or multimedia and wanted to have a fast, easy tool to use via your computer SmartSound may be the answer. SmartSound is an assembler of musical blocks, with a minor in editing.

The program is available for Mac and Windows and ships with a CD library of 22KHz, 16-bit audio files called SmartBlocks, including music of widely used effects (For just under $100 more, you can buy two CDs with the same sound libraries in 44.1KHz, 16-bit format. The quality of the sound files is excellent, even in the lower resolutions and is great for all video and multimedia applications.

Why is SmartSound unique? SmartSound's power and effectiveness lies in it's ability to manipulate real music and audio almost instantly, with no knowledge of music or editing required from the user. It stands significantly apart from the myriad of sound wave editors and "midi sequencers" that  assume the person wants to learn about music and editing before they can produce professional results. SmartSound was conceived and developed from the ground up to get professional results in customizing audio, with no learning curve. Gone are the visually complex sound wave display, MIDI "events" lists and musical notation common to every other audio program on the market.

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SmartSound features two extremely accessible interfaces; First is the Maestro, which is a simple "Wizard"-like series of screens that will walk the user through the process of creating a highly professional soundtrack with simple radio-button selections and interactive prompting and information. The Maestro is an automated composer that asks for your specifications regarding the length of the composition,  purpose, and mood, then gives you several optional pieces to preview and choose from.

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The Smart Blocks Editor, coverts audio to simple graphical elements called Smart Blocks which can then be dragged and dropped to a "paste-board" time line. Living up to its name, SmartSound creates music in a specified format (length, style, mood) by combining phrase blocks into smooth pieces, which can be saved for use in multimedia or video applications. A large library of musical blocks and sound effects comes with the program, or tracks can be imported. The software ships with a complete library of full digital music and sounds featuring top professional musicians from Hollywood. My favorites are the cool sound effects which can be totally customized. This music and audio is then encoded to work with the software to allow the user to customize it very precisely to their specifications including length accurate to 1/10 of a second, style, mood, usage and other parameters. These customized, high-quality files can then beimported into any multimedia authoring, video editing, presentation or another audio software to create compelling, powerful mood enhancements for their visually oriented projects.

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The main window of the program is the Sequencer, in which blocks are laid end to end to form a finish piece. Blocks are loaded into the Block Window via the Sequence Window in which blocks are laid end-to- end to form a finished song. Blocks are loaded from disc to a browser, then dragged into the timeline. Sequences can be exported as AIFF, QuickTime, or Wave and stereo/mono. There are a number of effects that can be added to individual blocks in the sequence or to all at once, including 15 echo, flange, volume, and EQ presets. The effects single slider is used to control the level or mix of the files, at a choice of resolution, sample rates, and stereo or mono. SmartBlocks are the clips or phrases that come with the program, smart in their ability to sense how well they will blend with what comes before or after them in the sequence. A small red flag will appear on the SmartBlock in the timeline warning of possible incompatibility, which can be eased by using smoothing tool to better blend the transitions.

So lets take a look at some actual clips that have a sound track created in SmartSound. The graphic above shows the actual structure of how the track was created. I wanted to make it exactly thirty seconds which was easy. I just added blocks,arranging them to get the best composition for my needs and was able to simply drag the blocks to fit the time frame. There are several automated features like smart fade which will actually adjust the blocks for you. Once the track was the way I wanted it I simply exported it as a .wav file and then used it inside my video edit program as the sound bed.

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Real Video

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The next clip was created exactly the same way. The screenshot above shows the different color blocks are actually two separate music pieces that have been imported into the block window from the included CD. Additonal CDs' are available or you can import your own wav or aiff files but you must create your own blocks. As you can see I merged two separate pieces of music inside the sequence window to create one 30 sec track.

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Real Video

Finally, lets look at a company logo. It's a clip just under 15 seconds, so I used the Maestro to build a 13 sec track and then added an electronic sound effect at the end. It took about 15 minutes to build this audio.

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Real Video

As a tool for creating quick and simple soundtrack pieces for video or multimedia, SmartSound is especially fun to use as a preparation tool, to export sound collage beds for further work in . Because of its speed and clean sound, it's also a great tool for roughing out several versions of a musical idea.

Features and Benefits

Create Soundtracks Automatically: SmartSound's patented technology creates professional soundtracks to your exact specifications in terms of length (accurate to 1/10 of a second), usage, style, mood and arrangement with simple radio button selections in the Maestro ("Wizard" process).

 Create Complex Soundtracks, Easily: SmartSound's drag and drop Smart Blocks(r) environment allows you create single, complex soundtracks spanning multiple styles and moods in minutes, by simply dragging and dropping easy to understand graphical blocks to a paste-board time line.

Smart Tools That Save Time in Working With Audio: The patent pending technology forms the basis for a variety of Smart Tools that automate the process of working with audio in the Smart Blocks editing environment. They include the End at Marker Tool (auto length), Auto-End Tool (create a piece with a musical ending), and other powerful tools including "Smoothing" (automatically smooth rough transitions), Add a Block and Delete a Block that save even professional users significant time.

Includes a Complete, Professional Music Sound Library

SmartSound ships with a library of 50 categories of music and sound effects created by top Hollywood professional musician and composers. These tracks are enabled to work with all of the Automated and Smart features of the SmartSound Technology.

The SmartSound Audio Palette Series of add-on CDs allow you to build a large, robust and varied library of categories from which you can build an almost limitless variety of soundtracks. The software design allows your copy of SmartSound to be updated when you purchase a new SmartSound Audio CD, so the software always 'knows' exactly what audio you have available from which to create soundtracks. New Audio Palette series CDs are being released regularly, on average (at this time), of at least one every quarter. Check their website at http://www.sonicdesktop.com for the latest list.

Royalty Free: All SmartSound enabled music is completely royalty free so you need'nt worry about any additional payments. From jazz to classical, rock to cinematic and every style and instrument combination in between, SmartSound enabled music has it covered.

Import and Edit Your Own Audio: Imported audio will not respond to the Smart and Automated functions of the software but can be edited and customized (manually) in the SmartSound editing window and dragged and dropped as graphical blocks to the timeline to personalize your soundtracks with your own music and sound.

Hinting ? Warning: SmartSound's unique hinting and warning system, guides any user to making the right - and most musical - choices, regardless of your musical knowledge. No other audio software on the market offers this exceptional aid in making your customized audio sound completely professional.

Automatic Looping: Create music that loops seamlessly automatically. Musically looped segments are ideal for interactive games, web sites and other user-specified projects.

Overdubbing: Use overdubbing to add dialogue or sound effects on top of your soundtracks. Our non-destructive editing approach allows you to overdubb unlimited additional layers of audio and always return to your original soundtrack.

Support for Multiple File Formats:. Save, Export and Import your soundtracks and audio in a variety of audio file formats including .WAV, AIFF, Quicktime, RealAudio, AU and Sound Designer II. Also includes support for up and down sampling, 22KHz, 44Khz.

Digital Sound Effects: Includes easy to use Digital Signal Processing such as reverb, delay, volume change, pitch shifting, chorus, flanging, echo and more.

For more information contact SmartSound at  http://www.sonicdesktop.com