MacDirectory Magazine

Summer-Fall 2008 (#38)

MacDirectory magazine is the premiere creative lifestyle magazine for Apple enthusiasts featuring interviews, in-depth tech reviews, Apple news, insights, latest Apple patents, apps, market analysis, entertainment and more.

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106 MacDirectory REVIEW | PRODUCTIVITY When the average video editor is in need of music for a low-budget/no-budget project, he or she has neither the funds nor the chops for creating a custom soundtrack. An interesting solution is found in Abaltat Muse; an application that takes an imported QuickTime movie, analyzes it and, following user defined settings, automatically composes and arranges a soundtrack to match the video. The automated creation of a video score is no mean feat and there is a lot of horsepower under the hood. Control of this horsepower is achieved via the combination of a fairly simple interface and a good amount of experimentation. The first step is to select a movie and open it within Muse. This initiates an analysis of the footage. In our tests with a 30-second teaser created in Apple Motion, the process took less than twenty seconds. After this is complete, you are presented with two windows. The main window includes a clip viewer, a scalable timeline, playback controls and tools for inserting keyframes and for associating instruments with specific colors found in the video. The right side provides information about the movie and the composition, the compose button, sliders for mixing new and existing audio, and checkboxes for enabling the five tracks of the composition (the lead and background melodies, drums, bass, and effects). The second window contains a synchronized nine-channel timeline representing colors that appear throughout the length of the clip. Pressing on the compose button summons an options window. First you select the band, choose a drum alogrhythm, and either a 4/4 or 3/4 time signature. Sliders are provided for setting the beats per minute, complexity of the composition, and the repetitiveness or "jingle." You then choose between color- based or ANN (artificial neural network) composition methods. The former creates melodies based on the enabled color tracks. The latter generates music that is influenced by the video content yet has more of a focus on the user input. Once your selections are made, hit the okay button and Muse goes to work. After the completion of the near real-time composition process, you can begin tweaking the arrangement with the keyframe and color/instrument tools. Keyframable adjustments include volume, pan, tonality (such as major or minor key), transposition, and instrument selection. With a few deft moves you can then build an arrangement that changes over time swells, changes instruments, shifts between keys and more. The result can be exported as an AIFF or WAVE file at 167 bits and with a sample rate of up to 48 KHz. As Muse's compo- sitions are MIDI-based, you can also export the project as a standard multitrack MIDI file and then import it in Garage Band or another sequencer, where you can edit the result and use your own favorite voices, effects, or virtual instruments. In addition to the application itself, Muse includes 3 GB of proprietary samples that constitute the seven bands of virtual musicians. Muse is not a simple push-button novelty and it may take a bit of experimentation to produce something truly stellar, but the same goes with any creative software. There are a few features that one might miss, such as paint or pencil tools, a MIDI event editor, and support for a keyboard controller (who knows when the inspira- tion may hit), but these capabilities are available in other compatible applications already in your workflow. This is only a 1.0 version, and it is reasonable to assume that these or other valuable tools may well arriving in a future release. Muse is an interesting product and, in the right hands, it can pay for itself in a single project. It may take a week or so before you begin to master the subtleties, but once you get the hang of it Muse can be very useful. It is great for bumpers, commercials, entr'actes, and corporate presentations. It also does a great job with vacation and family footage and any number of iMovie projects. It is a wonder- ful tool for the professional on a budget or on a tight deadline and it is also great for serious hobbyists. Download a trial version and take it for a spin. It might just be a lot of fun. ABALTAT MUSE > SEARCHING OUT THE RIGHT SOUNDTRACK Product Muse 1.0 Made by Abaltat Price $495 (box or download) Pros Fairly intuitive, good 1.0 release Cons Mastery requires experimentation Rating HHHH WORDS AND IMAGES BY TREY YANCY

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