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First contact: Adobe Soundbooth CS3

Rather than offering endless ways to modify audio waveforms or alter waveforms with an arsenal of effects, Soundbooth includes a very task-oriented toolset that designers must undertake for their projects. such as removing noise, performing basic fades and cuts, and generating automatic tracks with musical pads.

A familiar face

Adobe designers wanted an interface that was familiar to users of the rest of their products; And the truth is that they have achieved this by using an interface similar to the one used in Photoshop with a single window that offers a central work area (the Editor panel) as well as a series of stackable panels that you can place to your liking to create a customizable workspace. You can then save these workspaces for later use from the Workspace drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the Soundbooth window.

In addition to the Editor panel, the rest of the panels correspond to the File characteristics (in which the open files are shown), the Effects panel, from which you can add effects such as delays, chorus, reverb and equalization; The Markers panel, in charge of containing any marker assigned to the file; a History panel similar to the panel of the same name that we can find in Photoshop; the Video panel where you can see the video imported into the project; and the Task panel that includes the functions to compose the musical pads, change the pitch and tuning, clean the audio, create loops and delete a sound.

The upper part of the window contains a series of tools, such as the Selection tool that allows selecting the audio in the timeline, a frequency selection tool that allows selecting a sample from the Spectral Frequency view of the program (for example selecting the highest frequencies which is where noise is usually found), a standard selection tool that allows you to select a range of frequencies in the Spectral Frequency view, a Lasso tool to create manual selections in the Spectral Frequency view, and the hand and zoom to navigate the Editor panel.

At the bottom of the window are the usual controls for play, rewind, forward, stop, play, loop and record, along with a timer, buttons to add fades, a control to change the volume numerically ( increasing or decreasing decibels), and a Louder button to increase the volume in a range of + 3dB with each press.

In the Editor panel you can see the waveforms for the audio and optionally the Spectral Frequency view that represents the frequencies and content as color bands. At the top of the Editor panel is a preview of the waveforms represented in greater detail at the bottom. You can navigate this view by dragging the blue box to either side. You can also expand or contract the waveform view by placing the pointer inside it and using the scroll wheel in either direction depending on whether you want to increase or reduce the size of the view.

Effects for all

As we have mentioned before, Soundbooth is not an audio editor like the rest. This means that you will not find commands to reverse the direction of the audio or create crossfades. There is also no support for multiple tracks, but you can only work with a set of stereo tracks; and you will not be able to import AAC audio files, MP3 or MPEG-4 video files (including H.264). You also won’t be able to select individual channels in a stereo file (useful when you want to apply an effect or volume to change only one channel of the stereo image). Instead, you will have to export the stereo file as two mono files, which is inconvenient. What it does provide are tools to perform the kinds of audio tasks that video producers typically need.

For example, producers often have a need to create audio that exactly matches the length of the video. Soundbooth’s Change Pitch and Timing task does this by compressing or reducing the sound to match the specified value, all without changing the pitch. (It can also be matched by percentage, from 12.5 percent of the original to 800 percent.) In this same task, you can modify the pitch, making it lower or higher in increments of up to 72 units.

The program also includes the Clean Up Audio task, and it can be used to remove noise such as clicks and pops and background murmurs. As with some professional audio editors, Soundbooth lets you take a sample to examine the noise in a file, such as air conditioning running in the background, by intelligently filtering it.

Soundbooth also includes the Heal feature, the audio equivalent of the Healing Brush. Select a portion of the sound that you want to fix (for example a “pop”) and click on the Auto Heal button in the Remove a Sound section of the Tasks panel. The unwanted sound will disappear and the surrounding sound will be blended to create a smooth transition.

To fix portions of sound that are too quiet, Adobe includes a Louder button that, each time it is pressed, increases the volume of the selected audio by 3dB. Other audio editors refer to this type of function as “Normalize.” If you want to have more precise control over the volume, you can select the waveform and click on the Volume drop-down control of the program, dragging to the left or right to reduce or increase the volume in increments of .1 units from –96dB up to + 12dB. You can use a similar control at the bottom of the window to change the overall volume of the file.

You can also create fade-ins and fade-outs by selecting the Fade button along with one of the three included fades: linear, exponential, or logarithmic. Once you have applied the fade you can change its duration by dragging the Fade handle to the right or left, as well as its ramp by dragging it up or down. You can also trim the beginning or end of the audio file by dragging its trim handles located at either end of the Editor panel.

Soundbooth includes a limited set of effects, including Analog Delay, Chorus / Flanger, Compressor, Convolution Reverb, Distortion, Dynamics, EQ: Graphic, EQ: Parametric, Mastering, Phaser, and Vocal Enhancer. Select an effect and a small dialog box will open in which you can choose from the provided presets; for example, in the Convolution Reverb effect you can select Small Club or Smokey Bar. You can also select the amount of effect to apply using the Amount slider. The Avanced command available in the Effects menu allows you to drill down into the parameters of each effect. For example, you can select Advanced> Mastering and you’ll find controls to adjust the high-pass and low-pass filters, reverb, amplitude (for the 3D audio effect), sound exciter, and limiter.

Shoot and compose

Much of Soundbooth’s audio functionality can be found in cheaper sound editors. One feature that sets it apart from such editors is AutoCompose Score. Use this command, select a composition template