Register    |    Sign In    |   
electronic MUSICIAN

Passing the Audition

By Jon Rose | September 1, 2003

When Adobe Systems recently purchased Syntrillium Software'stechnology assets, a new era began to unfold for Cool Edit Pro. By thetime you read this, the name likely will have already changed:Syntrillium's Cool Edit Pro has become Adobe Audition.

Changes in Adobe's release of the software under its new moniker areprimarily cosmetic. The direction that Adobe plans to go with Auditionis not yet clear; for now, though, the software remains a standaloneaudio application, and its basic functioning has not changed. Becauseit would be impossible to explore all of Audition's features in asingle article, this Master Class will focus on using the program forrecording and mixing music. Audition is relatively simple to use andintuitive enough for novice users, but there's far more to it thanimmediately meets the eye. (Take a look at the sidebar “AuditionOverview” if you are not already familiar with the program.)

RECORDING SETUPS

Seasoned recordists can readily adapt and apply their knowledge toAudition. For the less experienced, a little logical thinking on yourpart can determine a workable session layout for the Multitrack view(the Edit view is designed for destructive stereo editing). Shortcutkeys for the various functions are real time-savers, so use them! PressAlt + K to change or add keyboard shortcuts. Fully displaying alltoolbars can save lots of time (right-click in the Toolbar area foroptions). The button icons for the toolbars are fairly descriptive, andhovering the mouse over them can remind you of designatedshortcuts.

Live recording in stereo

FIG. 1: Using the Merge function, whichconverts sets of cues into ranges, and the Batch function, which allowsfile saving, you can create a series of individual files from a list ofcues in the Cue List.

Even if you're recording a stereo pair of microphones (or a mixerfeed), you should still use the Multitrack view for live recording. TheEdit view limits your recording time to however long it takes yourchosen resolution to reach 4 GB, and that could spell disaster in alive situation. In the Multitrack view, audio is automatically dividedamong multiple temporary files, so hard-disk space is the only limiter.After you stop recording, drop in cue markers (F8) between songs or atother logical points. (If you “baby-sit” the computerduring the show, drop in your cues on the fly.) Then drop a cue at thebeginning and at the end, and press Alt + 8 to open the Cue List.Highlight all of the cues and choose the Merge function, which convertsthem to ranges (see Fig. 1). Using the Batch function (itsdialog box is self-explanatory), save your selections as separatefiles, and you have a viable work-around for size limitations on audiofiles.

Set Audition's temporary directories for your fastest, largestdrives (press F4 and then find the System tab). If you have only onedrive available for recording, don't even define a secondary tempdirectory. Many people misinterpret the term reserve value— that is the disk space the program won't use, so don'tset it to some huge value and expect to record for long periods!

Live recording using multiple channels

Assuming you have a multi-I/O audio card in your computer (or two orthree, as I do), you can feed your computer lots of channels. Becertain, though, your system is optimized in advance. Test yourdisk-bus throughput. Will it simultaneously support as manychannels as you want it to? Don't wait until the gig to find out!

Lay out sessions that make sense to you. Define conventions andstick to them, particularly if you're going live for the first time.You can easily reorder your tracks by right-clicking and dragging theTrack Properties areas up or down in the Multitrack view, but that canwaste session time and cause missed takes. Now, some might safelyignore this advice and be just fine without it. But since recording andmixing is how many of us feed ourselves…

Time is money. Clients get impatient and testy, even when theyaren't paying for setup and downtime, and shows are a one-chanceproposition. Create several different session templates for differenttypes and sizes of projects and keep them handy. Lay out a generalizedsession and save it as the default session in the File menu. Choose thesampling rate and bit depth that you'll use to record, though —this information is saved with Audition's sessions. Whatever samplingrate you choose, use the highest bit depth that your audio card allowsand mix using 32-bit, floating-point files for little or no degradationto the audio.

Zipping up and down through the mix with a modern,scroll-wheel-equipped pointing device is effortless; but wasting timetrying to find a particular track isn't. Practice getting around inyour new session layouts, and do that before the gig, too.

In the studio

Always spend adequate time obtaining good cue mixes for your talent.If they don't have an adequate cue, they can't give their bestperformance. Seasoned musicians and speakers might be able to work withalmost anything (not that they'll like it), but most people like a wet(affected) cue mix to get into a comfortable sonic space, especiallywhen wearing cans (headphones aren't exactly a natural way to listen!).Take the time to get this right — if you've worked on theperformer's side of the mic, you already understand the value inthis.

FIG. 2: Effects are added to tracks byusing the Effects Rack in the Multitrack view. QuickVerb, in the Delaycategory (shown here), uses less CPU power than other reverbs and stillsounds decent.

External cue mixing almost always necessitates a multiple I/O audiocard, a mixer, and outboard gear, but if you don't have multiple I/O,you can work out some parts of your cue mixes directly in Audition. Fora decent-sounding reverb that won't overtax your CPU, open an EffectsRack, expand the Delay Effects list, highlight and add the QuickVerb tothe Rack, and press Apply (see Fig. 2). Adjust the reverb'sparameters, lock the effect (to take the load off your CPU), and you'reready to roll.

Too many people discount the usability of the track EQ. Highlight atrack and press Alt + 5. These 3-band parametric track equalizers arefast and easy to use and are valuable in final mixing, too.

To use a dynamically unruly track in a cue mix, insert acompressor/limiter from the Dynamics Processor into that channel'sEffects Rack and adjust as necessary. Some players don't even realizeit, but inconsistent drum hits are very distracting and disorienting,even if they're precisely in time.

You don't have to make the tracks perfect while you're overdubbing;just get them under control quickly (with reasonable dynamics) and intoa usable space for your clients. Using the Effects Rack, Mixer window,and the Track Properties areas, you can quickly massage a cue mix intoshape. Pan, EQ, and time-delay effects are all nondestructive effectsthat you can remove, tweak, or change later during final mixing. Usewhatever you need to move the session along so that creativity isn'tcompromised, and save the fine-tuning for later. Also, think aboutwhether that unruly track will be usable later, and try to be objectiveas you work.

NATIVE RESOURCES

In native applications, everything runs on a single microprocessor,so budgeting your system resources is paramount. If you're adding lotsof effects to your cue mixes to make your talent happy (hey, it's theirmoney, right?), be sure that they're locked. Locking effects avertspotential recording dropouts by temporarily rendering effects toAudition's temporary files, thus taking a load off your CPU.

FIG. 3: Right-clicking on the greenBackground Mix bar brings up its context-sensitivemenu.

Your system will perform differently if you change your BackgroundMix priority settings (see Fig. 3). Those settings determine theamount of time Audition devotes to premixing tracks for playback andhow far ahead it works. Right-click on the Background Mix bar toquickly make changes. Depending upon the complexity of your project,you might need Audition to mix farther ahead or with higher (or lower)priority.

The relationships between a project's complexities, track effects,and mix priorities, and your system's speed and resources are critical.If that sounds nightmarish, don't let it scare you off. There's nosingle setup that works in every situation, and this fine-tuningprocess is akin to setting your audio card's record and playbackbuffers. To get the right settings, you'll have to experiment,especially if you are pushing things hard. From the View menu, enablethe Load Meter, which provides a quick visual reference of CPUusage.

Turn off virus scanners, TSRs (terminate-and-stay-residentprograms), unneeded system services, Microsoft Messenger Service, andany other unnecessary background applications. Install current driversfor all your devices, especially your video card, or you'll suffer aserious performance hit. (Audio and video applications are resourcehungry.) Optimize your system!

PROBLEM TRACKS

Despite the hype surrounding digital audio, not every problem can berepaired, removed, or overcome. Some things, such as overloaddistortion, can never be fixed. There are tools that might help withthe little things, but those “little” things can constitutesome of the most annoying and obstinate problems you'll ever encounterand are sometimes the most difficult to isolate.

Let's say, for example, that your tracking is complete, the talenthas left the building, and you spot a simple (albeit common) problem: anasty click. Audition has some highly adjustable restoration tools thatcan be used creatively to a mixer's advantage.

FIG. 4: Clicks and pops can often beeliminated using the Fill Single Click option in the Click/PopEliminator effect. Fig. 4a (top left) shows the area of the click; Fig.4b (bottom left) is a zommed-in close-up. Fig. 4c (top right) shows theclick in the Spectral view, making it very obvious (note the brightvertical area); and Fig. 4d (bottom right) shows the result of usingthe Click/Pop Eliminator.

In Edit view, isolate the area where you hear the click as best youcan. Zoom in and refine the selected region until you can still hearthe click while looping the zoomed selection. Zoom in vertically too,as needed — you're looking for a very fast rise time (or a sharpfall) in the waveform. Fig. 4a shows a tiny piece of a waveform,but the problem is difficult to see. A closer look in Fig. 4breveals the problem: the click is only two samples long. Toggle thedisplay to Spectral view (Fig. 4c), and the click is painfullyobvious (many people use this view for search-and-destroy work). Tosolve the problem, I selected a range that extended beyond the clickand enabled the Fill Single Click feature in the Click/Pop Eliminator.Fig. 4d shows the smoothed result.

Here's another related problem. In a quiet room, hold a smooth, flatobject (or your hand) a few inches in front of your mouth. Open yourmouth and close up the back of your throat with your tongue. Move yourtongue all around, listening carefully. The mouth and glottal noisesyou hear are common with inexperienced singers and speakers and canhappen with professional talent when they're a bit dry or tired. Youcan clean up these high-frequency glitches using the same method I usedfor the click, but now for the unorthodox tidbit: because you canselect an area up to 5,000 samples wide when using the Fill SingleClick option, sometimes you can quickly surround and reduce thelower-frequency glottal noises, too! With a quiet passage in which thevoice is prominent or there is only speech (and gating might thereforebe too obvious), using this trick along with some clever editing and EQmight be your best bet.

Noise reduction is too involved to address thoroughly here; ingeneral, however, experiment with the Spectral Decay setting and don'ttry to cut the noise too deeply (keep in mind that getting good resultsalways depends on the material you're working with). Carefully selectyour noise profiles. A quiet concert recording that has air-handlernoise in the background can certainly be improved, but be careful thatyour reverb tails don't disappear into digital artifacts! You mighteven try reversing a waveform and applying the noise reduction thatway.

LET'S GO SWEEPING

Some folks have never worked with a quality hardware equalizer, andmany more don't yet have a trained ear. Audition's Parametric Equalizeris a powerful tool for finding frequency-related problems, and byfollowing these steps, you can make it work for you (watch carefully!).You'll need to grab the file honkguitar.mp3 to try this one at home.

FIG. 5: Creating a sweepable peak withthe Parametric Equalizer is a useful way to identify problemfrequencies.

As you'll notice, this file is a short acoustic-guitar track with aslightly honky sound. Load the file into the Edit view, highlight thetrack, and open the Parametric Equalizer. (We won't be using any of thesliders directly adjacent to the graph.) Select the Reset To Zero(Flat) preset in the Presets list. In the middle of the screen on theleft, click on box 3 to enable that filter — a new dot appears onthe graph. We're about to raise the volume of a narrow band offrequencies, so before doing anything else, type “-15”(minus 15) into the Master Gain value field (bottom center) or reduceyour monitor level considerably. This EQ is an Infinite ImpulseResponse (IIR) filter, which can ring or feed back. Now, to the rightof the graph, drag slider 3 upward roughly +15 dB and note the graph.Next, enter the value “40” in the third filter's Qparameter field (marked Width). Observe the graph — our filtergot narrower (see Fig. 5). Click on the Constant Width radiobutton and the Q value should change to a frequency range of about 20Hz.

Now click Preview to loop your selection. Here's the fun part: inthe Center Frequency area, sweep the third slider slowly backand forth with the mouse. The filter peak we've created will exacerbatethe honky part of the guitar. Congratulations, you've just identifiedyour problem frequencies. Slowly reduce the level slider, listeningcarefully as you pass zero. A slight cut should help, but you mightneed to increase the filter's width.

This procedure allows easy location and mitigation of many suchproblems. When you're comfortable using this technique, you can safelygrab points on the graph with the mouse and move them around. Aftersome practice, try sweeping your filter with a cut instead of a boostto obtain this result directly. It's not as easy to hear this way, butit's a great training tool for your listening skills.

UNLEASHING CREATIVITY

Audition is loaded with effects and processors, and a thoroughexploration of the subject would require another entire article —the list of parameters is just too vast. Experimentation is often thebest approach, but I'll give a few suggestions to get you going.

I want to be affected

Upon installing Audition, you'll need to enable DirectX effects bychoosing Effects/Enable DX in the Edit view menu. When you add a neweffect, be sure to use the Refresh Effects List menu option. To checkif effects are enabled, go to the Multitrack view, open an EffectsRack, and look for the big DX-enabler button in the middle of thedialog — if it's not there, effects are already enabled.Remember, Audition supports DX effects, but not DXinstruments.

Even the fastest machines can't run more than a few instances of theFull Reverb effect, which is probably the most processor-intensive ofthem all. Locking an effect will reduce CPU load, and you can alwaysUnlock an effect and adjust it or insert something else.

You can build your own multiband compression in Audition. Use theFrequency Band Splitter in the Multitrack view and apply appropriatecompressors on the resultant tracks, or just stack several band-limitedcompressors in an Effects Rack.

Route several tracks to a bus to apply a common effect or overallcompression (complex projects can benefit from buses). Busfunctionality and routing could be improved in Audition (you can'troute a bus to another bus, for example), but it's still ratheruseful.

Play with the Dynamic Delay and the Stereo Field Rotate effects— they're a real kick. Or try building your own multivoice chorusand applying it very sparingly to background vocals. Nice!

Mix it up

The Mixer window gives you a lot of manipulative power, all in onearea. Expand the Mixer with the Show/Hide buttons to show as much or aslittle of its functionality as you need. If you click and drag on thetop-left corner of the (undocked) Mixer window off to the lower rightof your desktop, it'll leave just the Master volume visible in a handy,out-of-the way spot.

Envelopes are powerful tools for fine-tuning loudness, panning,effects, and tempo parameters over time. Enable and Show the Volumeenvelopes, drag their endpoints down halfway (-6 dB) to give yourselfsome working room, and then raise the track volume by 6 dB tocompensate, if necessary.

Sometimes a crossfade just can't be accomplished properly unless youzoom closely and draw your own envelopes, so go for it. Clicks causedby gaps between waveblocks can be easily smoothed with Volumeenvelopes. Usually you'll need only a few milliseconds of fade at theiredges.

Don't forget to use effects and Wet/Dry envelopes in conjunctionwith track effects to make dramatic temporal changes (a good companionfor that Stereo Field Rotate effect).

You're surrounded

Cool Edit Pro 2.1 added the Multichannel Encoder, and it's stillpart of Audition. You need Windows Media 9 Runtime and at least Windows98 SE to use the WMA multichannel encoder, so download and installMedia Player 9 from Microsoft if needed. Just in case you're runninganything older, DirectX 8.0a or above is also required, as is an audiocard that has a working multichannel Direct-Sound device driver.

Although a handful of users will be ready for 5.1 surround, mostprobably won't be. The changeover to 5.1 is still in progress, and manyaudio cards don't quite support it (device driver problems are alsostill common). Things are improving, though, so do some research andask questions before you buy any new computer audio hardware.

If you're already mixing 5.1, take care with your bass managementand pay attention to your stereo fold-down mixes. Even check in mono— you never know where your mixes may end up being played, andbroadcast processors can mangle them.

TAKE ME TO YOUR MASTER

FIG. 6: Laying out the segments of aproject sequentially on successive tracks can be useful when masteringa project. Among other benefits, all tracks and processing are easilyaccessible.

Mastering in Audition can be approached in many ways, depending onthe material. Some users find it easier to work primarily in the Editview; others compile and master their mixes by arranging the segmentsof a recording sequentially in the Multitrack view (see Fig. 6).The advantages of that tack include being able to use effects andprocessors, such as the stacked band-limited compressors I mentionedpreviously, as well as providing quick and easy access to every elementof the project. And the Edit view is still only a button (F12) away ifyou need it.

Of course, well-mixed audio segments, whether music, voice, or whathave you, really shouldn't need much in the way of mastering. But whenyou're satisfied with your track-to-track balance and any desiredprocessing, select all waveblocks and mix down the entire project,which will drop you into Edit view. Hopefully you've been working at32-bit, so you'll need to convert to 16-bit (and maybe downsample) forCD (press F11 to access the Convert Sample Type dialog). Add your CDtrack cues, merge everything into ranges in the Cue List, batcheverything out to separate files, and you'll be ready to fire up yourfavorite CD-writing software.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief survey of recording and masteringin Audition. Check out the sidebar “Ten Quick Tips” forsome additional useful pointers. And keep your eyes out for even moredevelopments in the Audition world. No doubt the folks at Adobe havesome exciting tricks up their sleeves!


Jon Rose is a musician, engineer, and producer currentlybased in Oregon. He records and mixes a wide variety of music and voiceprojects with Audition.

AUDITIONOVERVIEW

If you aren't a current Audition owner, here's a short summary ofthe main features of the program. Adobe Audition, which runs on Windows98 SE and later versions, is largely the same as Cool Edit Pro, version2.1, and has the same three primary pillars of functionality: a waveeditor for manipulating mono and stereo tracks, a multitrack interfacefor recording and mixing combinations of as many as 128 stereo and monotracks, and a collection of processing algorithms, including more than45 built-in effects as well as audio restoration and masteringtools.

Audition supports up to 32 recording and playback devices and canrecord at 24- and 32-bit resolution at 96 kHz, 192 kHz, and highersampling rates. The program also supports DirectX effects plug-ins (butnot DirectX instruments), and it works with WDM (and, of course, MME)drivers. Acid-like looping and loop-based composition tools, includingsession tempo- and key-matching, are integrated into Audition. It canread and write standard loop-file formats and supports acompressed-loop format for smaller file sizes, making possible fastonline loop exchanges.

Audition is not a MIDI sequencer, but it can play MIDI filesinserted into multitrack sessions, and it can act as a SMPTE master orslave in synchrony with a software or hardware sequencer or other SMPTEdevice.

Audition has a variety of other features, such as automatic silencedetection and deletion, tempo detection, scripting and batch-processingcapability, and timed recording, whereby you can set the software likea VCR to begin recording at a specific time for a set period. There'salso support for more than 20 audio file formats and severaldata-analysis displays that update in real time, including frequencyanalysis and spectral analysis.

Audition should work with any Windows audio interface or sound card,and it also supports several hardware controllers, including the TascamUS-428 and US-224, Mackie Control, Event EZbus, and Syntrillium's RedRover. You can download a fully functional copy of Audition from www.adobe.com/audition.

TEN QUICK TIPS

  1. Remember to right-click everywhere. Many areas havecontext-sensitive pop-up menus that save lots of time. Keep in mindthat there can be three or four ways to get to some of Audition'sfunctions.

  2. A modern pointing device with a scroll wheel is an extremelypowerful tool in Audition and allows you to move around in yoursessions effortlessly. Scrolling through large numbers of tracks,scrolling along the timeline, or zooming in and out both horizontallyand vertically is as simple as hovering the mouse in these areas androlling the wheel.

  3. Most of the windows are undockable and movable. Arrange your desktopany way you like.

  4. Use the Time-Lock button on the Toolbar to lock newly recordedwaveblocks in time. It's very easy to inadvertently nudge a track witha pointing device. If the track is only a few milliseconds off, youcould waste lots of time looking for this problem later!

  5. Need to make all your tracks the same loudness? In Edit view, tryout the Group Waveform Normalize function, which analyzes and adjusts agroup of files to the same apparent loudness using their RMSvalues.

  6. You can drag-and-drop effects right onto a waveblock (in either Editview or Multitrack view) from the Organizer window (Alt + 9) for quick,easy access to the effects' dialogs.

  7. Control + P opens the File Header/ID tag window where you can entercreation information for your WAV and MP3 files.

  8. Need a visual representation of spectral activity? Open theFrequency windows in Edit view (under the Analyze menu). FrequencyAnalysis has four Hold snapshots available for comparison purposes. Ifyou need to do some discrete FFT analysis, you can export your audio'sFFT data to a text file using Copy Data To Clipboard.

  9. Need to check for mono compatibility? Check out the Phase Analysiswindow, also in Edit view. It can show your signal in a Mid-Side view,as well as Left/Right.

  10. Audition has advanced looping capabilities built right in, withthousands of free loops available online at www.loopology.com.

Does all this stuff just raise more questions? Try searching theKnowledge Base and Help areas at www.syntrillium.com/common/search (and put a checkin the Forums box, too).

Alert to All Users of the Disqus commenting system:
Because of a recent global security issue, the Disqus website recommends that all users change their Disqus passwords. Here's a URL about the issue: http://engineering.disqus.com/2014/04/10/heartbleed.html
comments powered by Disqus
related articles
Connect with EM
Free eNewsletter
the em poll


most popular
No Articles Found