Contained in the Apple Final Cut Studio 2 announcement is a new version of Apple’s video-savvy sound editor, Soundtrack Pro. Unfortunately, Apple still hasn’t restored the a la carte, Soundtrack-only purchase option — you have to get Final Cut Studio to get Soundtrack Pro 2. But the new release does build on some of the unique interface ideas of the first version, while adding the key capabilities the first version lacked — namely, usefulness for actually creating soundtracks. And look closely at these screen shots, and you just might see something of the next Logic. (Yeah, I know, you wanted solid information, but it wouldn’t have made sense to talk about a music product like Logic at a broadcast production show like NAB, where Final Cut Studio 2 was launched. When Apple’s ready, I’m sure we’ll hear from them.)
The big news here: Apple is certainly making an effort to push how we edit, in terms of spotting for video and interfaces for surround and effects. We’ll have to see if they pulled it off, and if these paradigms can effectively “trickle up” to their flagship DAW — and whether other developers can push even further in the same direction.
New in 2:
- Easier editing for video: “Rolling” edits and a new multiport video editor are designed to make spotting easier.
- Better take management for dialog: One nice feature of the first Soundtrack was its integrated takes; the hope was you’d use this for dialog recording, but it wasn’t quite there yet. The new version lets you take bits of different takes to get ADR right for fixing dialog after the fact. (Needless to say, this kind of take management can be used in other situations, as well, not just video. But unless you buy Final Cut Studio …)
- Automatic conforming, integrating with Final Cut: This sounds promising, but since some of you actually do conforming, and Final Cut Studio 1 botched a lot of the round-trip integration features between Soundtrack and Final Cut, I’m going to sit on my hands for now. Any thoughts, from those of you who know and what you can see in these … uh, product materials? Okay, never mind.
- Directly edit spectrums, as seen recently in Adobe Soundbooth CS3, which you can buy a la carte, for both Mac and Windows, or get free with the upcoming Adobe production suite.
- Surround: Noticeably missing in the first version was surround capabilities, and they’re here in Soundtrack Pro 2. The new surround panner looks beautiful aesthetically, at least. And it’s nice to see panners integrated in the track view. And there’s one unique feature:
- Combined surround and stereo in one project: Delivering to multiple formats? Now you can keep track of both in one project file. Nice.
- Surround clips: Since Apple is a big fan of giving you lots of pre-built sound effects and beds, these are now in surround. Hint to production people wanting to look professional, though: hire a composer and sound designer.
- Tape-style scrubbing as seen recently in Peak Pro 5.
- New Sound Palette for applying effects via a tooth-achingly pretty interface.
- Lift & Stamp for matching audio via effects. Done before with EQ, but seems to be done differently here; this is one I’ll definitely have to test to understand. (And, while they say matching EQ, did they say you can match other effects, as well? How?)
Soundtrack Pro 2 might be more interesting to the music market if it were available separately. And Windows users are now spoiled for choice in audio editors, with Audition, Sound Forge, WaveLab, and others.
But you might be able to spot some of the direction in Logic 8 in Soundtrack, as I had argued previously. You’ll see a new, layered interface for plug-ins, a lot like what we’ve seen in tools like iPhoto and Motion. And the surround interface (along with some subtler details to the former-Emagic plug-ins in the screen shots) are definitely an upgrade over Logic Pro 7.
Here’s a quick view of what Logic might offer. The effects have at least gotten an eye candy upgrade. The “Fade selector” to me should at least save some time, even if it’s not quite revolutionary. And as a sound design and effect addict, I love the idea of the Sound Palette and Lift & Stamp features, which let you freely apply effects and match EQ and other effects from sound to sound, respectively. Of course, I won’t be using them the way Apple intends. I’ll be trying to create ungodly applications of convolution reverbs that sound like a Javanese gamelan floated out the port airlock.
Consider this a preview. All bets are off until there’s a shrink-wrapped box in my office. More soon. (Soundtrack is shipping: May. Logic: no one knows.)
Apple Soundtrack Pro 2 Product Page (filled with plenty of demo videos … enjoy)