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Sonic Desktop's latest offering right on cue for the musically-challenged
home video editor?
SmartSound technology uses clever software paired with specially created
library music to simplify the job of creating music tracks for video
footage. Many readers will already have hands-on experience of the SmartSound
approach since the company's QuickTracks plug-in is bundled with a number
of editing programs, notably Pinnacle Studio, and Mac and Windows versions
of Adobe Premiere.
The company also sells a flagship program for music-track creation,
SonicFire Pro, winner of a CV Editor's Choice award. But, although SonicFire
Pro is good, it isn't cheap - its £279 price-tag is over the top
for home video editors wanting just to add a bit of musical polish to
family videos. However, Sonic Desktop's latest offering, Movie Maestro,
reviewed here, is considerably more affordable, costing just £40.
It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of SonicFire Pro, but does
offer the same, wizard-driven, automated musical cue generation. And,
it can play back video footage, giving instant previews of how the music
gels with the video and its original soundtrack.
With the Windows version sent in for review, installation took just
a few minutes. The CD contains the program and a selection of 26 musical
tracks in a range of styles, all recorded at 22kHz stereo. During installation,
the user is asked whether the program should copy the music files to
the hard drive - something which will speed up use of the program. Each
file is under 20MByte in size, which is small in comparison to video
files, and the total is under 350MByte. A simple Library option also
allows tracks to be copied to hard disk at a later time. Stupidly, the
user has no control over where any library files are stored - they are
automatically placed within the program's own directory.
While there is reasonable variety in the supplied tracks, users may
soon want to expand their musical choices. But, unlike SonicFire Pro,
which can rip CDs and import a variety of audio files, Movie Maestro
only works with Sonic Desktop's SmartSound audio files. Not surprisingly,
though, the company sells an extensive collection of sample CDs, covering
styles from orchestral through to hip-hop.
Movie Maestro can work with these collections, but most 22kHz sets cost
£59 and all 48kHz sets are £99 - which may be too rich for
some users. Fortunately, the 22kHz range includes six recently launched
CDs costing £28 each and aimed at Movie Maestro users and others
on tight budgets (see the Library options textbox for more details).
In contrast with the more expensive collections, though, these are only
licensed for use in non-commercial video projects.
For the musically challenged home video editor, Movie Maestro is
a no-brainer. It does its job well and is likely to be within the budget
of many home video enthusiasts - though that budget may not necessarily
include a selection of additional SmartSound CDs. Creating scores with
Movie Maestro is far less hassle than trying to edit music to fit and,
despite the fact that the supplied samples use library music, the results
always sound very polished. Musicians may hate the idea, but won't be
able to deny that adding suitable musical underscores to family wedding
or holiday videos doesn't get any easier than this.
Reviewed in March's issue:
DVanced PAL/NTSC Converter
Sonic Desktop Movie Maestro
Sonic Foundry Sound Forge/Acid Pro
Combustion slashed to under £900
Matrox FX exchange web site
Avid DV editing freebie
DVD X Copy
MS WM9 hits the net
Video Forum 2003