Sound-editing and Creation Software Flash

limited edition (a.k.a. LE) versions of popular sound applications bundled with Macromedia Director or video application suites such as Digital Origin’s EditDV. For a price, you can upgrade these LE versions to full versions, or purchase them separately if you don’t need or want a multimedia production software package. While very few of the following applications are available on both Macintosh and Windows platforms, their functionality is virtually identical.

Several software companies produce excellent sound-editing software. Many of these companies offer a software suite of their flagship products bundled with several supporting products that specialize in different areas of audio editing and creation. The following is a list of some of the most popular software developers that offer audio editing and creation applications.

Sonic Foundry’s suite (PC only)
Sonic Foundry provides the best-known sound-editing solutions for the Windows operating system. From simple editing to powerful looping effects, Sonic Foundry has a tool to work with any sound project.

Sound Forge
Sound Forge is a powerful, yet easy-to-use waveform sound editor for the PC environment. A great feature of Sound Forge is nondestructive editing. Sound Forge can also be integrated with Sonic Foundry’s ACID software. Sound Forge supports all three of the Flash-compatible audio import formats, .AIFF, .WAV, and .MP3. In addition, it has the capability to save in the RealAudio G2 streaming format. You can open an existing sound file, edit it, and save it as .WAV, .MP3, or .AIFF at several different sampling and bit rates.

Another application in the Sonic Foundry’s suite is the multitrack recording and editing software, Vegas. The strength of Vegas lies in its capability to perform multitrack editing and recording. A great added feature is that Vegas can synchronize your audio composition with a video clip within the program. This is a very handy feature when trying to match sound with your animation. Furthermore, Vegas also supports an unlimited number of tracks and a vast array of effects and plug-ins for some funky sounds.

ACID is a powerful, loop-based sound-editing program that is ideal for use with Flash (see Figure below). With ACID, you can very easily take loops created in other programs and arrange them on multiple tracks. One of ACID’s great features is its capability to change the speed of the loop without changing the key. ACID Pro also comes with over 100 ready-to-use loops, so you can arrange an audio track in a pinch.

In ACID, you can very easily preview an audio clip, add it as a track, and move it around a timeline.

In ACID, you can very easily preview an audio clip, add it as a track, and move it around a timeline.

Bias suite (Mac only)
Bias creates sound-editing applications for the Macintosh operating system. When Macromedia stopped developing SoundEdit 16 and Deck, Bias picked up the products and started to fine-tune them for new Web technologies.

Peak specializes in getting down and dirty with editing stereo tracks while supporting a large number of file formats. Some of the other features of Peak are its capability to execute batch file processing, burn CDs directly from a play list, export in RealAudio G2 streaming format, and nondestructive editing. Peak is rapidly becoming one of the most widely used audio-editing applications for multimedia on the Macintosh. It is available in both full and LE versions.

Deck is a powerful multitrack editor, also with nondestructive editing, for the Macintosh platform. In addition to being capable of playing back up to 64 tracks simultaneously, Deck can also function as a multitrack recorder, enabling you to create your own music or sound effects. It is less expensive than other similar software packages, and can be closely integrated with Bias Peak.

SFX is an amazing little tool that enables you to create your own sound effects. This program will keep you entertained for nights on end, especially with its randomizer mode that creates a new sound with every click. Of course, SFX ties in very neatly with the other Bias programs, Peak and Deck.

Cakewalk Pro suite (PC only)
Cakewalk manufactures top-of-the-line audio software for the sound professional. Their software is designed for serious users who need to master audio for broadcast and CD applications.

Pro Audio is comparable to the multitrack editors/recorders from Bias’s Deck and Sonic Foundry’s Vegas. With Pro Audio, you can record and mix up to 256 tracks of MIDI and digital audio. It supports 24-bit audio hardware (that’s above CD quality), and it enables you to export your audio in the standard .WAV and .AIFF formats along with .MP3, RealAudio G2, and Windows Media Player. Of course, Pro Audio doesn’t come alone in the Pro Suite. Cakewalk packs the suite with a long list of programs such as Nemesys GigaSampler, GigaPiano, Audio FX 1, Audio FX 2, Audio FX 3, and Musicians Toolbox. If you would like more information on the programs packaged in the suite just hop on over to Cakewalk’s Web site.

Studio Vision Pro (Mac only)
Studio Vision Pro is probably the best deal out there for anyone on a tight budget but who needs all the advanced features from the more expensive programs. Studio Vision Pro is a multitrack editor/recorder with the capability to work with MIDI information and digital audio.

Cubase (Mac/PC)
Cubase is one of the very few programs available on both platforms. Cubase is a top-of-the-line multitrack editor/recorder. Cubase has the capability to edit and print musical scores and to handle both MIDI and digital audio. It is capable of 16- to 24-bit audio and has a built-in virtual synthesizer.

Macromedia SoundEdit 16 (Mac only)
SoundEdit has had a relatively long history with Macintosh users as a sound-editing workhorse, especially for use with multimedia. Although still widely used, SoundEdit 16 is no longer being produced by Macromedia, and Mac users are slowly migrating to the more robust, full featured Peak.

Digidesign’s Pro Tools (Mac/PC)
Last, but not least, is Pro Tools, the industry standard. If we were to walk into just about any major recording studio, we would see Pro Tools displayed on their massive monitors. Naturally, the professionals will have more than just Pro Tools on their system. In fact, the audio engineers will usually have several of the programs mentioned earlier because they might require a feature or two that only another program supports. In comparison, Flash can’t do everything we want, so we use other programs to help get that desired effect. But in the end, the reality is that the Pro Tools system is their primary tool for audio editing and mixing.

Not only do the makers of Pro Tools make software products, but they also make a bit of the hardware for sound studios, including computer peripherals. Once you bring hardware into the equation for setting up a system, the cost can go sky-high. Thankfully, Digidesign is aware of this fact and has developed two home studio kits for all those people who love to make music but just don’t have a major studio budget or a degree in audio engineering.

Starring in both of Digidesign’s home studio package’s is Pro Tools LE. This LE version is far from skimpy though. This multitrack editor/recorder is capable of playing back 24 tracks of 16- or 24-bit audio and 128 tracks of MIDI. It also supports Real Time Audio Suite (RTAS) effect processing and sample-accurate editing of audio and MIDI simultaneously, along with being capable of exporting .MP3 and RealAudio G2 files. The full version of Pro Tools is capable of 64 tracks of simultaneous recording and playing back plus a lot more. The full version is beyond the scope of this.

Setting In and Out points
One of the first things you will want to do with your audio file before you bring it into the Flash environment is set its In and Out points. These points, respectively, control where the sound will start and end. By precisely placing In and Out points, you can minimize the sound’s file size (see Figure below), making it less cumbersome to move around, and reducing the amount of time that you’ll have to spend using Flash’s less-than-full-featured interface. You can set In and Out points in most, if not all, audio applications. In Sound Forge, Peak, and SoundEdit 16, follow these steps to set the In and Out points of a sound:

  1. Highlight the area you want to keep.
  2. Test your selection by pressing the Play Loop or Play Normal button (Sound Forge).

You can greatly reduce the file size of a Flash movie by limiting an audio track to its essential portion.

You can greatly reduce the file size of a Flash movie by limiting an audio track to its essential portion.

To create a new audio file with your selection:

  1. Select File➪Copy (Command+C or Ctrl+C).
  2. Select File➪New (Command+N or Ctrl+N).
  3. A new window opens. Select Edit➪Paste (Command+V or Ctrl+V).
  4. Your selection will now be a new audio file.

Normalizing audio levels
You can use the Normalize function to optimize your sound levels and to prevent your audio file from “clipping.” (Digital clipping occurs when an audio clip is recorded at too high a level. The clipping sound is distorted, resulting in an undesirable crackling or buzzing sound.) Normalize can also be used to boost levels when your audio file was recorded too low. Normalize is an option available in most audio applications.

To normalize in Sound Forge:

  1. Select part or all of the clip to be normalized.
  2. Choose Process➪Normalize
  3. The Normalize Window appears (see Figure below). You can click Preview to see what the default settings do.

Sound Forge’s Normalize window enables you to preview the settings before you apply them to the audio clip.

Sound Forge’s Normalize window enables you to preview the settings before you apply them to the audio clip.

Watch the Play Meter on the right side of the screen. If the levels seem high (constantly in the red), lower the levels with the slider bar on the left side of the Normalize Window. If your levels are too low, gradually raise the slider bar. Click OK, and your file is now Normalized. Note that many other options exist in the Normalize Window. If you like, you can experiment with these settings to get the result you are looking for. To normalize in Peak and SoundEdit:

  1. Select part or all of the clip to be normalized.
  2. In Peak, choose DSP➪Normalize; in SoundEdit, choose Effects➪Normalize.In Peak’s Normalize dialog, you can move the slider bar back and forth to choose the normalization percentage. The number you choose will normalize to a percentage of the maximum level. After you click OK, you can listen to the normalized selection by pressing Option+spacebar. Watch the levels for any clipping.

Fade in and fade out
Fading in means increasing the volume of a sound over time and fading out means decreasing it. Most audio-editing applications have more sophisticated fading effects than Flash. To fade audio in Sound Forge:

  1. Select the part of the audio that you wish to fade in or out.
  2. Choose Process➪Fade➪Graphic.
  3. The Graphic Fade Window appears .
  4. Sound Forge enables you to save custom fade effects to apply to other sounds.

    Sound Forge enables you to save custom fade effects to apply to other sounds

You should now see your selected sound as a waveform (that is, a graphic representation of sound waves). The interface for customizing your fade is vaguely similar to the one used in Flash. You create envelope handles by clicking points on the envelope line at the top of the waveform. Drag these handles around to create your desired volume/fading effects. The lines themselves show the volume level of the sound. Thus, when you drag an envelope handle down, the line slopes down, indicating a decrease in the volume level. Click Preview to hear your custom fade. Click OK when you are satisfied. Using Peak to fade audio:

  1. Select the section of audio that you want to fade in or out.
  2. Choose Preferences➪Fade In Envelope or Fade Out Envelope. The Fade In Envelope or Fade Out Envelope Window appears.
  3. You can use the default fade shape, or create your own by using a similar technique to the one described previously in the Sound Forge instructions.
  4. Choose DSP➪Fade Out. Peak will apply the fade to your selection.
  5. To hear your Fade, press Option+spacebar.

Fading with SoundEdit:

  1. Select the section of audio that you want to fade in or out.
  2. Choose Effects➪Fade In or Effects➪Fade Out.
  3. Create your fade using a similar technique to the one described in the SoundForge instructions. Sound Edit also has Slow, Medium, or Fast fade presets. Click OK when finished.

Creating a reverb effect
Adding reverb to a sound file can create an interesting effect. Reverb creates the auditory illusion of acoustic space. For example, you could simulate the sound of water dripping in a cave. To add a reverb to an audio sample in Sound Forge:

  1. Select the section of sound that you want to add reverb to.
  2. Choose Effects➪Reverb.
  3. The Reverb Window appears.
  4. Select a Reverberation Mode from the drop-down menu. To create the drippingwater sound, choose Cavernous Space.
  5. Press the Preview Button to hear how it sounds. Play with some of the sliders and other options until you achieve the desired effect. When done, click OK.Peak does not come with a reverb effect. However, a variety of third-party effects plug-ins are available on the market that are compatible with Peak. SoundEdit 16 has a similar effect to reverb called Echo. To add Echo to a selection, choose Effects➪Echo.

Other effects
Many other effects and processes are available in these audio-editing applications, and to list them all would be beyond the scope of this book. A great feature of many of these software packages is nondestructive editing. You can make as many changes to your audio clips as you like without destroying the original source files. Set aside some time to experiment and let your creativity take over.

If you don’t have any source sound material for adding effects, you can create your own super-synth techno music with Propellerhead’s Rebirth. The next tutorial by Justin Jamieson shows you how to create a soundtrack with Rebirth.

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