Sound Forge Audio Studio
4.0Overall Score
Price (RRP): $169

 

Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio brings an array of quality tools to your suite, says Denby Smith.

Sound Forge has to be one of the best Audio editors around. I have used it for years, by itself and in conjunction with Acid, so it was logical that Sony would release a ?Lite? version in concert with the rest of the Movie Studio suite.

What?s in the box?

In the box you get your Sony product?s guide, plus a Quick start manual, Install CD and a great disc of 1001 sound effects from Sony?s Sound Effects range. The samples on this CD and others like it are fantastic. A really useful resource.

The list of file types is comprehensive.

After installation

Once installed, I?d recommend going through the properties dialogue and tailor it to your needs ? I?d also recommend associating all file types with Audio Studio so that you never have to worry about this again. This version of Audio Studio allows opening of all relative file types except, Real Audio formats, however it is able to save to that and all other common formats.

Setting up your preferences is an important first step.

Another good idea is thinking about what tools you want on your tool bar at all times. All the options are available in the various menus of course, but you can easily add commonly used items to the toolbar for quick access.

And thankfully, dockable windows means you can utilise dual monitors if you have them.
Note: MPEG 1 and 2 support requires the Main Concept MPEG plug-in from Sony which must be purchased.

In operation

The range of customisable processes available is staggering, from the most subtle dynamics processing to the most extreme effects that you may never use and all these have their own list of presets which are really helpful. With reverb for example, you can set your scene in a ?small night club? or a ?large Olympic size swimming pool? You can even save your own presets, for settings you can recall in an instant at a later stage.

One old favourite of mine is delay – the range of complex sound trails you can design is amazing. Open up a small sound like a hand clap from the ?Sound Series? CD and put it through delay, experiment with the presets and the settings themselves to see what I mean. You can of course apply these effect several times in different ways to get some interesting results.

The fact is, good audio is 70% of good video in that it creates the mood and mental space in which your images sit. In video projects, audio processing generally comes down to two things – fixing and sweetening.

Fixing

Inevitably, when you get home, say after an on-location shoot, and scan through your takes, you will encounter some bad sound at some stage. It could be environmental, background noise, planes flying overhead, or technical such as poor mic?ing, unsuitably low or uneven levels and so on.

Good noise reduction is a major key to top notch audio, but sadly Audio Studio does not have this tool built in. You can purchase the excellent Sony plug-in that will work with Audio Studio however. There is a Noise Gate tool, but don?t get confused as this is designed for musical instruments and has a very different purpose to a dedicated Noise Reduction tool.

Audio Studio has two types of EQ available; Simple (low, mid and high) or Ten Band Graphic. Each has the basic presets but neither is really capable of properly fixing audio for any sort of professional video. Their resolution is too low, meaning that you cannot isolate sounds within a small enough field to discretely remove them without affecting other aspects of your sound.

However, if you already own other Sonic Foundry applications, you can access all of  their effects via the ?FX Favourites? menu. Select ?Organise? and all your currently loaded effects will appear, Right click on Track EQ and select add to favourites. It will now be added to the ?FX Favourites? drop down menu. Repeat this for all your other favourites. Be sure to add Track Compressor as well.

Once you have opened your Track EQ (this is a paragraphic equalizer allowing control over frequency, gain and bandwidth, over four positions), hit preview, and this will loop your selection. Next select one of the dots on the line (2 or 3) and raise it to the top (watch your amp level!) then slowly ?sweep? left and right listening for the particular sound that you wish to remove. Adjust the bandwidth to home in further, and then when you?re happy, pull the slider right down (or as far as necessary), thus removing the offending sound. You can repeat this for all problem sounds.

With a bit of practice and a bit of stacking (achieved by applying an effect, like EQ, to a file several times, each time slightly changing the parameters to suit the desired effect for each aspect of the sound) you can achieve quite good results. Be aware though, this could take some time!

Once you are happy with your sounds, I advise that you render out your new ?clean? audio at this point, with a new name and reload it into your video project.

Sweetening

Once you?ve cleaned up your sound ? say it?s a voiceover ? you want now to bring out the best qualities of your speaker?s voice.

Obviously male and female voices have radically different properties and there are also differences in the particular types of sounds each gender respond to. Males tend to enjoy a lot of deep bass tones, whereas women prefer a lighter tone. As a consequence, male and female voice-overs require different, specific treatment.

But if you don?t have access to those particular effects, what can you do? Using your graphic EQ, for a male voice, you need to give a slight boost of about 2 or 3 Db at 113Hz and  drop the 28Hz slider down to ?inf. Pull the 56Hz down by ?10 Db and then boost 7.2K and 15K by about 2 Db.

For female voices push these settings one slider to the right and set the 56Hz slider to ?inf.

This is only a rough guide and further experimentation may be necessary, but it?s definitely enough to get your speakers sounding better! But once again, when you are happy with your sounds, render out your new ?clean? audio with a new name and then reload it into your video project.

Verdict

I have reviewed all four programs in the Sony ?STUDIO? series and the Audio Studio package once again confirms this line of products as one of value and benefit for the lower end of the market, allowing entry level users to experience the quality, features and scope of the full product with surprisingly few (though distinct) limitations.

Once you master these ?Lite? applications, you can take the next steps with ease if you want to go further. But with these applications at a fraction of the cost of the full blast siblings, who?d complain?

Sound Forge Audio Studio
Price (RRP): $169
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