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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Adding Sound


Any filmmaker knows the soundtrack is an integral part of the visual experience. By adding sound to video or multimedia shows, you can give them a richer dimension.

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SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5

We’re heading to a multimedia age. As new HD video-capable D-SLRs come online with more and more frequency, nature photographers are increasingly able to add dimension to their photography by incorporating motion and still imagery into short presentations. The still image continues to be the mainstay for outdoor photography, but HD video gives all of us some amazing new options.

One thing any video or multimedia presentation needs to have is good sound. New HD video D-SLRs are incorporating more sophisticated sound-recording capability, which makes it possible to use ambient sound, but that’s not always the best choice. We’ve all seen video with the sound of blowing wind or a muffled conversation in the background, and it’s not that exciting.

A lot of photographers who experiment with video don’t think too much about sound because, let’s face it, we’re not necessarily filmmakers or sound people. It’s just not at the top of our agenda. Also, it can seem like a daunting task to find the right sound to overlay on a multimedia project. It doesn’t have to be such a big headache though.

You have a few options to replace or augment the ambient sound in your multimedia or video production. One is to do a voice-over narration. You can do that with some simple recording gear and the right space. Most people don’t have a full sound booth in their home, so to keep the recording from sounding like it’s being made in an echo chamber, try doing it under a heavy comforter. It’s not the most comfortable way to record, but it will yield good results (make sure to come up for air from time to time).

We have some suggestions for making a good voice-over. First, write out a brief script. You’ll have thought it through better, and you’ll be smoother in your delivery. As you write the script, keep in mind that a voice-over is meant to be heard by an audience, not read, so keep it conversational. Digital recordings, like digital photos, are free to make, so take advantage of the technology to make a trial run and play it back to get a sense of how it’s sounding. Set the levels on your recording device such that you’re not hitting the peak, and be aware of your hard consonants (Ps and Ks), which have a tendency to “pop.” Also, use headphones plugged into your recording device as you record. In thinking about doing this sort of voice-over, act as though you’re speaking intimately to someone close by rather than trying to sound like an announcer at a baseball game. Once you have the recording, you can use software like Apple’s GarageBand to clean it up and piece it together, removing verbal stumbles, hisses and pops.

Whether or not you do a voice-over, something else you want to look at adding is music. Just like with images, there are copyright issues involved if you try to use someone else’s music, so it’s not a good idea to just grab a CD out of your collection and pull a track onto your production. A much better option is to generate your own custom soundtrack. If you’re a musician or you’re good friends with a musician, you can make something work. That’s not too common, however, so you might pursue the possibility of using software that can automatically generate a soundtrack for you.

SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5 Scoring Edition actually creates a custom soundtrack to your exact specifications. The software is designed for use with a video or multimedia production that’s already complete and edited to which you add your sound. Using the video window that opens up in Sonicfire Pro 5, you can tailor the music along with the pace of your production.

To use the program, you indicate the style of music you want, the pace and the length, and let the software do the rest. It creates a track that runs to the precise time you call for, and because SmartSound’s music is royalty-free, you can use it without paying any additional fees. Some of the cool features are the ability to specify the mood and to add “hit files,” which punch up the track at certain points. You’ll add drama with cymbal swells and crashes, and other hits that will have your audience gasping. There are supplemental discs with various music styles for added options. See a full tutorial on using Sonicfire Pro 5 Scoring Edition on our website at www.outdoorphotographer.com.

Contact: Apple, www.apple.com, SmartSound, www.smartsound.com.

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