By Tor Rolf Seemann
Issue: November 1, 2003


PRODUCT: SmartSound SonicFire Pro V.3.1


PRICE: $99.95 per disc

· Automatic editing of any sound file

· Designed for visual creators

· Preview ideas in realtime with your video

· Mix and match search criteria based on your needs - for endless possibilities

· Fully orchestrated cuts - no loops to build

Let's face it, when you're under the gun to wrap a show, there's always a chance for a few unexpected "hiccups." You're project needs a score and James Horner is vacationing in Brazil, Hans Zimmer is booked solid and Moby hasn't spoken with you ever since that comment you made about his noggin being the shape of the A-Frame ski lodge you stayed at in Tahoe. We've all been there, right?

SmartSound's SonicFire Pro V.3.1 is a new audio software product that allows video editors and multimedia authors to create time- and theme-specific soundtracks in minutes instead of hours... with or without your favorite flesh and blood composers. It approaches audio creation from a visual creator's perspective - not a musician's. Visually creative people can open the program and begin creating emotionally packed, precisely timed soundtracks with amazingly professional results - on tight deadlines.


When you launch SonicFire Pro V.3.1, several windows come into view. The timeline is where you'll do most of your work. The application lets you load QuickTime (Apple) or DirectShow (Windows) movies and view them against a separate timeline. Once you've got your movie loaded, selecting a piece of audio is a breeze. The Infinite Search Maestro is one of the program's new features, and it's very helpful. The Maestro lets you search for music on your computer, on CDs you own, or on the Internet. (You can purchase individual cuts directly from SmartSound via the Internet.) Other fields let you search by style, instrument, or keywords. You can even input your own notes and use them to access audio files.

SonicFire Pro features a powerful, yet easy-to-use process called "Maestro." Significantly updated for version 3.1, Maestro helps you quickly locate the musical selections that will most likely fit your video and allows you to audition them in realtime. You can specify your search criteria and choose from such parameters as style, mood, intensity, key, beats per minute (BPM) and instrument (such as "guitar," "strings," "drums/percussion" etc.). You can mix and match search criteria around the way you like to work. Maestro offers you the fastest way to find, audition - and get - the music you need for your project. With the new Infinite Search Maestro you'll have limitless ways to find "the perfect" cut and manage your SmartSound library - including dynamic, "in process" purchase and download of individual SmartSound files. I found the workflow to be fluid and efficient. File management within the app made it easy to see which tracks I owned, which ones were already on my media drive and which ones were available for sampling/downloading from the Web. The tracks are well recorded, and the music feels authentic and fresh. Not like many other royalty-free libraries out there that are all "synth'd out" as if the Thompson Twins have come back to haunt us. This year, SmartSound has made it even easier to build up your thematic library.

The price of Professional CDs has been reduced from $129 to $99.95. Each CD contains approximately 15 to 20 pieces of original, royalty-free music. SmartSound technology is available for Windows XP, ME, 2000 and NT 4.0 or better and Mac OS 9.1-9.2.2 and OS X 10.1 or higher systems. I recently added Vol. 6 from the Edge Series "Chill-Out/Cool Moods/Lounge" to my SmartSound library. This CD includes 12 separate themes that capture the latest trends in primetime television commercials. I liked them so much, especially the work of Chris O'Brien, I called TicketMaster with hopes of seeing him perform live in LA. Apparently this is not possible at this time. Hey, I tried.

By default, the program's conceptual arrangement creates a beginning, middle and end to every piece. This results in butt splices, or hard edits, between sections. You can mitigate this effect by creating fades between sections. You won't find the variety of crossfade options or the detailed control over the operation that you'd get in a dedicated editor, but most users won't miss them. You can automate the volume of your track, which is especially helpful if you're scoring a video that requires narration rubber banding. You can also loop selections and trim the start point of your selection.

When you graduate to the 201-class level, you'll discover Smart Razor. One of the new features in the version, Smart Razor lets you cut up SmartSound files into individual blocks. This plug-in can also slice up other pre-recorded audio files you might have "rights" to. All you have to do is import the track into SonicFire Pro V.3.1, use the Smart Razor tool to slice the song into sections and lay them against picture in the timeline. Of course, this audio won't be encoded the way the program's own music blocks are, so you won't be able to stretch these elements to infinite durations. conclusion I doubt if Horner or Williams will have to get a second job with SmartSound in town. However, if you're involved in post, or other multimedia endeavors, you should definitely consider adding SonicFire Pro V.3.1 to your toolkit. It combines powerful automatic audio editing tools with the fastest music search and retrieval system available. Oh, and Moby... I'm sorry, but I'm sure there are a lot more people out there with A-frame heads, they just hide them with a full head of hair.