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electronic MUSICIAN

Phantom Power: Logical Scoring

By Doug Eisengrein | August 1, 2008

Photo: Doug Eisengrein

Photo: Doug Eisengrein

If anyone has succeeded in putting a dent in the old-school Pro Tools/Avid sound and film software stronghold, it would be Apple. Way back in the Neanderthal days of Mac OS 6 (if you can remember that far back), the company unveiled the first version of QuickTime, which among other things introduced the playback of digital video on the Mac and later on PCs as well. Almost a decade later came Final Cut (now dubbed Final Cut Studio and the lighter weight Final Cut Express), which revolutionized digital video editing and postproduction. While those facts may be fascinating for filmmakers, what if you are not the next Quentin Tarantino or Spike Lee, but a music producer who needs full-scale multitrack audio capabilities and also wants to spread your wings into film? Once again, Apple can fit the bill with Logic Studio ($499, including Logic Pro 8; www.apple.com/logicstudio). Take a look inside the Silicon Valley stalwart's top-billing DAW to see what it has in store for you budding score composers.

A/V LOCKSTEP

New for Logic Pro 8, when you use the New command to launch a project, a wide selection of predefined templates is presented from which to choose. One of those, found in the Produce tab, is “Music for Picture.” That template includes, among other things, multiple audio tracks and a track ready for importing video. You can open any QuickTime movie, and it will appear in the Video track along the timeline in the Arrange screen, frame-by-frame, as well as in a standard QuickTime Movie pop-up. This window conveniently sets the volume linked with the loaded movie to silent, in the assumption that you will be scoring the movie yourself and thus not need the audio that is currently tied to that video clip.

As you might imagine, all QuickTime and Logic transport functions are linked; if you move the playhead position in Logic, the movie in the pop-up follows along, and vice versa if you use the slider or buttons in the QuickTime player to rewind or fast-forward. Though only one movie can be opened in a single project at a time (the Video track is global), you can reopen the QuickTime player as many times as you need — a convenient feature if you use multiple Logic screensets. If you are used to using markers to easily find locations in Logic arrangements, you will appreciate this: You can use Logic's scene markers to notate important movie events such as scene cuts. These are SMPTE-locked, which means you can create any tempo changes you like, and these will remain fixed at the absolute time position in the song. As a bonus, you can transform regular timeline markers into scene markers and vice versa. But be careful — if you delete a movie from a project, the scene markers disappear with the movie.

SOUNDTRACK SWAP

Although you will need another program such as Final Cut Studio/Express or iMovie to accomplish any video-editing tasks (Logic doesn't edit video yet — hint, hint Apple), you can view the video all the way down to accurately placed single frames (all viewable frames are aligned left, with the last frame being the single exception — it is aligned right). This feature is certain to come in handy when interaction between the video and your audio material needs to be perfectly in sync.

If you want to use all or just part of the audio tracks that are already linked to a movie in your arrangement, you have two options: You can import any selection of audio (if there is more than one track) into the Audio Bin and then drag it into the Arrange screen precisely where you'd like, or you can select any available audio track and with a single function, import the audio into the Bin to place it on that track. All imported audio tracks are converted into standard AIFF files. That is great if you want to boost/cut volume, run the tracks through Logic's or other available Audio Units effect plug-ins, create fade-ins and fade-outs, or anything else that your film-scoring heart desires. Another cool use for that is the inherent ability to cleanly pull sample material from movies without having to re-record, which compromises fidelity.

Of course, the main point is to arrange your own scores for movies, and it is just as easy to export your arrangements into a QuickTime movie (essentially overwriting the original soundtrack). When you choose Options > Movie > Export Audio to Movie, you are presented with a Sound Settings pop-up that allows you to choose Format, Channels, Sample Rate and other critical settings. In Linear PCM Format, 5.1 Surround is an option (you must first set the output of individual tracks to surround in their respective mixer channel strips). Afterward, you are prompted to save the movie somewhere on your computer, which means you don't have to worry about backing up your original videos before beginning work on your new score — though I always advocate the practice of offline backups of anything you are working on, just to be safe. That could be a backup removable hard disk, FTP site or anything else that gets the job done. A few basic tips can be found on backing up your crucial data in the May 2007 Phantom Power, titled “Hyper Drives” (http://remixmag.com/production/tips_techniques/remix_hyper_drives).

There are more things to learn about with video scoring in Logic 8, such as the choice of outputting your finished videos to a QuickTime window, a connected DV or DVCProHD device or a dedicated AGP graphics display, as well as outputting the audio to various locations. If you are a Logic 8 user, there has never been a better time to create your first YouTube movies, music videos or to think about getting serious with film scoring.

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