Forge Digital Sound Editing for Windows
Once upon a time,
all audio production was edited with reel-to-reel tape, a splicing
block, and razor blades. This method had several drawbacks.
For one, all of your material would be lying around the room
in long sections of tape that were often several feet long.
Another problem would be, if your edits werent exactly
perfect, you would have to splice the original back together
and redo your edit. (Lets not even discuss the band-aids
youd go through.) Finally theres a better way. Sound
Forge for Windows lets you non-destructively cut &
paste your audio together in much the same way without the headaches
of the old method and also lets you add effects processing that
was previously only available with a large rack of expensive
Sound Forge works
with any sound card that has Windows supported audio drivers.
With Sound Forge 4.5, dynamic ranges as high as 24 bit and sampling
frequencies as large as 96 kHz are supported. The program will
also allow you to save files as low as 8 bit mono for the gaming/cd-rom
producer. Once files have been recorded, edited and processed,
the files can be saved in a wide variety of formats including,
.WAV, AIFF, as well as MP3 and Real Audio. In fact I find saving
files using Sound Forges codec for Real Audio to be superior
to Real Audios own encoder.
The flow of a typical
session in Sound Forge is as follows:
audio into the program.
effects processing on the file.
So far nothing
earth shattering. What I love about this program however is
the elegance and simplicity it uses to achieve its end.
Lets take a look at how easy it is to manipulate sound
with this program.
Into Sound Forge
When you first
open the program you are met with Sound Forges main screen.
The screen has the familiar look of a tape recorder transport
with rewind, fast forward, stop, play and record buttons. At
the top of the screen are a number of icons which include common
and some more esoteric applications such as new, open, save,
save as, cut, copy, paste, mix, play clipboard, trim/crop, undo,
redo, repeat, and edit, magnify, and pencil tools. In other
words, clicking on one of these icons can perform most of the
basic editing operations. Also included in this opening screen
are sets of stereo led meters that show what your playback levels
are as you hear them. In order to record a file you click on
the large red record button. This will cause the record screen
to pop up.
The tape recorder
transport appears along with another set of led meters that
show the level that you are feeding your sound cards input.
By clicking on the monitor box you can use these meters to see
your overall levels as you record. Other lines on the screen
inform you of the start time of recording, duration of the recording,
hard-drive space left, and SMPTE or sample times depending on
your preference. There are several different styles of recording
that you can perform in this screen including creating multiple
takes creating Regions (more on Regions later), Automatic retake,
create a new Window for each take, and Punch-In mode.
You can also define
a pre-roll time, which is especially useful in Punch-In mode.
I have found the
level meters to be extremely sensitive to any sound or noise
being received by the sound card. Even small levels of noise
or signal will appear on these meters. When you record your
sound file you can also change the default record quality settings
(CD quality 16 bit, 44.1 kHz) to a variety of settings depending
on your application. You will want to make a test pass without
recording to make sure that you wont distort the inputs.
If you do distort or clip the inputs the results are unmusical
and disturbing. Once everything is set simply hit the record
button and record away.
Figure 3 shows
a what your waveform will look like after recording. Once audio
is recorded into Sound Forge you can then perform a wide variety
of editing and processing in the program. In order to edit you
must first highlight the audio that you want to manipulate.
To do this simply left click on the beginning of your edit,
hold down the mouse button and sweep across to the right until
the end of the edit. If you would like to edit the entire file,
double-click on the file with the cursor. Sound Forge will allow
you to highlight just one channel of your audio (left or right)
so if you want to process both channels make sure that you click
on the middle bar to highlight both channels.
As I mentioned
before, basic editing can now take place such as cut, copy,
paste, clear and delete. Where Sound Forge really shines are
in the other types of processing and effects that you can perform
without any additional plug-ins. The Process menu includes Auto
Trim/Crop, Channel converter (coverts mono and stereo files),
Convert to 8-bit, Graphic, Paragraphic, and Parametric EQs,
Fades-in, out, and graphic, Insert Silence, Invert/Flip, Mute,
Normalize, Pan/Expand, Resample, Reverse, Smooth/Enhancer, Time
Compress/Expand, and Volume. The Effects menu features Amplitude
Modulation, Chorus, Delay/Echo, Distortion, Dynamics, Envelope
Shaping, Flange/Wah-Wah, Gapper/Snipper, Noise Gate, Pitch,
Reverb, and Vibrato. If you still need more effects Sound Forge
supports any Direct-X plug-ins that you may have. Using software
effects algorithms with other programs has often left me wanting
more, but the effects processing in Sound Forge is very musical
One of my favorite
ways to use this program is to convert and clean up vinyl albums
and then put them onto cd. There are two ways to digitize the
albums into Sound Forge. One method would be to plug the turntable
outputs into a mixing board and route the mixing boards outputs
into your soundcard inputs. If you dont have a mixing
board you can plug the outputs from the turntable into a Y cable
that has 2 female rca plugs on one end and a male 1/8 inch stereo
mini-plug on the other end. (The male plug size will be determined
by your sound cards inputs). Make sure in either case that you
tape the ground wire from your turntable onto a piece of metal
from the computer or board to get rid of the ground hum.
There are three
tools that Sound Forge has to help you make your scratchy LPs
sound better: Click removal, Noise reduction, and Vinyl restoration.
In order to do this you first record the track into Sound Forge.
You then highlight the track and click on Tools>Click Removal.
Sound Forge will find the first noticeable click or pop and
offer to remove it. Typically I have found that most albums
only have a few of these major clicks on them so this isnt
as time consuming as it might appear. If you want to perform
a general clean up of the LP choose Vinyl Restoration in the
Tools menu and it will perform a general clean up of the audio.
Noise reduction can be used for vinyl restoration and also any
noise that you may want to remove (air conditioner noise for
instance). I have used this filter to take out helicopter noise,
wind noise, shirt ruffling against the microphone, etc. The
only downside to this tool is that it is practically real-time.
In other words, if your file is 30 minutes long its going
to take around 30 minutes to process the file. Of course processor
speed and ram are going to contribute to these times.
Fig. 3 shows the
wav for Funky
a brief sound file that ships with the program.
As you can see
by Fig. 4, I highlighted the last 3 parts of the sax riff. From
the Effects menu I chose Chorus. Chorus is a nice effect for
the saxaphone, giving it a thicker, larger sound reminiscent
of David Sanborns recordings. When I chose Chorus, the
chorus screen pops up offering a wide variety of ways to sculpt
the chorus effect. In fact, each effect that you choose offers
up this screen which mimics a high-end effects processor.
Each effect has
several template presets you can choose from, or you can create
your own preset from scratch. Under the preset name listing
I counted 22 different types of chorusing including Cheap TV,
Chorus 1-5, Chorus/Vibrato, Echo/Vibrato, Fast Flange,
and Slow Flange. This is all for just one type of effect! After
you choose a preset or create your own you can then control
input gain, dry out, chorus out, feedback, chorus out delay,
modulation rate, and modulation depth. Hitting preview allows
you to hear what the effect is doing to the sound. It only takes
a few seconds to build your preview and hear the effect. Should
you decide to apply the effect, hit the Okay button and the
effect is applied to your sound. (Click here
to hear it.) Should you decide that the effect is not what you
wanted you have an Undo menu choice in the Edit menu. Sound
Forge will automatically create Undos for you unless you
override this option in the Edit menu. The program has 99 levels
of Undo for most applications.
Each effect has
this same level of control offering you extensive parameter
editing that is only found on extremely high-end effects processors
such as Lexicon and Yamaha. Because Sound Forge is Direct-X
capable, you also have access to a increasingly growing amount
of third party effects in addition to the effects that ship
with Sound Forge. Companies such as Wavelab, Cakewalk, and Steinberg
are creating effects programs that can be shared by any program
that uses Direct X. A common usage for this might be to bring
in an audio file with Cakewalk Pro Audio, fly that into Sound
Forge and do all of your looping, processing, etc., then send
it back to Cakewalk to add midi files and perhaps more audio.
As I mentioned
at the beginning of this article, two track digital audio editors
are a dime a dozen these days. Most of the major players have
moved on to multi-track digital audio (Cool Edit Pro for example).
Despite this trend, Sound Forge has opted to stay with its two
track stereo editor. By improving and building upon an already
great program, they have created the software that others are
judged by. When you factor in all the great editing tools, processing
capabilities and effects (worth the price of the program itself),
Sound Forge quickly separates itself from the pack. In my recording
business I use this program for one application or another everyday.
What could be better praise than that?
- Rob Albertson
as both a professor at the American Intercontinental University
in Atlanta, Georgia and owner/operator of Rare Air Studios,
Inc. He can be reached at www.mindspring.com/rareair.
For more information
on Sound FOrge, see Sonic Foundrys web site at http://www.sonicfoundry.com/main.html