Using Apple Soundtrack

Even if you’re not a musician and haven’t used music software before, Soundtrack could be just the excuse you need to get started. First bundled as a component of the $1899 Final Cut Pro 4 video authoring suite, Apple’s $499 Soundtrack is a loop and multi-track production environment for producing and remixing music and sound effects that can all sync with video.

Targeted at users creating various forms of video, Web and audio projects, Soundtrack includes over 4000 royalty-free loops and sound effects -- particularly useful for animators. Apple’s acquisition earlier this year of German audio software luminaries Emagic (developers of Logic Audio) has also benefited Soundtrack, which now features more than 30 real-time audio effects, automation, and an ability to handle high-resolution audio (24-bit/96KHz). Soundtrack can now also sync loops to a project using tempo and key information -- a feature that more comprehensive sync software such as Ableton Live (www.ableton.com) and Phrazer (www.bitheadz.com) have used to carve out niches.

Soundtrack has most in common with ACID Pro (www.sonicfoundry.com, tutorial on page 128 of the January 2003 issue), which retails for $599 and is only available for Windows. Soundtrack supports ACID loops in addition to the Apple Loop, AIFF and WAV audio file formats and can import any video file supported by QuickTime on your system. For more information, see www.apple.com.au/soundtrack.

Soundtrack’s interface is split into two main views. The Media Manager resides on the left and on the right there’s the project workspace split into a track headers with track controls (2) and the track timeline area (3). You adjust the look of the timeline using its setting icons (4).

The master controls (5) are not only where a project’s transport (playback and recording) controls are located, but also where you can set your project’s BPM (beats per minute or tempo), time signature and key. Any loops you add will automatically conform to these settings.

Media Manager

From the File Browser tab, navigate to the Documents-Apple Loops for Soundtrack directory. This is where the DVD full of loops will have been placed by default. You should see the Apple Loops or PowerFX Loop directories. Click on a sample and you’ll hear it play (control the volume of the preview using the volume control at the bottom of the Media Manager). Just above this you can see a sample’s default tempo, key and length. You can browse to a location on your hard disk where you have a collection of your own audio loop files. If so, you might want to -click on the directory and select Add to Favourites. Directories so tagged appear under the Favourites tab.

Under the Search tab you can choose to find samples by genre, time signature or key. The ‘view as columns’ button at the top left will allow you to view more specific instrument keywords, helping to find that particular type of sound you’re after more quickly, and with the Setup... button you can add more directories of samples. To change the genre-attribute tags of a sample, -click on a sample and choose Open in Soundtrack Loop Utility.

Once you’ve found an audio loop or even video (from your own collection) to your liking, click and drag it across to an empty area on your multi-track view, ready for arranging. When you drag a video into your project workspace, you need to place it on the top track (the video track). A video’s audio will appear in the top audio track (just underneath the video track). Single video files up to four hours in length can be used. A video preview is located under the Video tab in the area at the top left of the workspace. Clicking on the Audio tab will bring up a list of audio files your project is currently using, making it easy to click and drag more instances of a loop to your project.

Loop arrangement

Once you’ve dragged an audio loop to a track, you can increase its default length by clicking and dragging start or end points to shorten or lengthen. Clicking the middle of the green area will allow you to move the loop left and right along the timeline and arrange it with other loops. You can use -C and -V to cut and paste loop segments or drag them from the Audio tab as explained earlier. Apple has adhered to long-used multi-track software conventions such as time going from left (start) to right (end), and the type of track controls provided. Tracks can be titled, the volume and pan (left/right speaker balance) adjusted or muted, selected track turned off (speaker icon), selected track made to solo, selected track only plays (headphone icon), effects added (asterix icon) and envelopes drawn to change things such as volume viewed (arrow icon).

To use a volume envelope, for instance, a centred line is normal volume while upwards and downwards increase and reduce volume (5). Double-click on the line to create a change point and you can click and drag to adjust.

There’s also a master envelope button (left-most icon at (4) in FIGURE 1) that allows you to change the entire track’s volume, key and tempo over time (6).

Apple Soundtrack, minimum system requirements:

  • Dual 450MHz or single 500MHz G4 processor
  • 384MB of RAM
  • DVD drive for loop installation
  • OS X 10.2.5 or later
  • 70MB (for Soundtrack) and 95MB free disk space (for loops)

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Danny Allen

PC World
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