Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Samplitude and You Volume III

Every new release of software ends up having a couple issues which confuse lil' ol' me. But one of the best things about Samplitude is the user forum. It's registered, which keeps out some of the riff-raff. And although the developers don't always respond directly, the distributors do and it can be really helpful.

I had a couple problems with the new way Samplitude Pro X handles "objects". And a couple folks on the Samplitude forum, Kraznet and Graham Duncan solved them for me.

The big deal about Samplitude, and why it is so much better than anyone else's software, is the whole concept of "object editing". What that's all about is this: each "segment" or "clip" of audio can have any number of effects applied to it, and volume and fade-in and fade-outs applied.

This saves you from two things which makes audio projects unwieldy. Firstly, it keeps the track - count from going into hundreds of tracks because you don't need a separate track if you want an effect to just be on a brief bit of audio. Secondly it saves from having to automate every damn reverb or EQ setting or bit of compression you put on something.
You want a single note on the guitar to have a big ol' delay on it? That's fine -- just take the object/clip/segment* with that guitar note you want and put a big ol' delay on it. (Make sure you set the order of effects so that the delay will ring out past the length of the object and you're all set.) Easier and simpler than automating the send for the delay on the entire track.
In the world of music mixing I think that's pretty cool. In the world of dialog editing this "object" methodology of working is a HUGE improvement. For instance on feature films I only use three main dialog tracks. That's it. I only have a total of 29 tracks of audio on my feature film template (and I usually use far fewer tracks on any given act). Not having a bazillion tracks of audio to keep track of makes things go hugely faster for me.

The object editor lets you alter time, pitch, EQ, fades, and any effects you like.
What are the downsides of Samplitude?
It's a small company. Making software is expensive. And you're going to have to sacrifice something in order to get the software out on time and actually make some sort of profit. So what do they sacrifice?

  • Documentation. 

Of course that's true with all software. Documentation is always lacking. Writing up new docs doesn't help you sell any more copies of your program and it's very expensive and time-consuming. I'm sure most of their customers would rather they put their minds to bug fixing rather than writing documentation which will be obsolete in a few months. On the flip side, there's the user forum. The forum is very helpful and friendly.

  • Very large number of edits.

Actually, I don't know if this is a problem anymore. Up through version 8 of the software you could go crazy making edits. Like 20-minutes of dialog edits. Hundreds and hundreds of edits. And the program didn't care. Then starting with version 9 there was a problem with huge numbers of edits.
I know that for a while ProTools had this problem too. But eventually Avid fixed it.
But back to Samplitude -- what I did was to go down to 10-minute reels for all of my audio-for-picture. That was my work-around for VLNoE (Very Large Number of Edits). Because it's so much easier to deal with 10-minute reels than 20-minute reels I've been keeping the length of our reels down to 10 minutes. And there have been many many versions of Samplitude since this problem first came up. So the problem might not exist anymore. I'm still keeping our reel-length to 10 minutes.
Note that for music purposes you almost never run into the Very Large Number of Edits issue. That's only an issue for dialog editors. And I've never had a problem with Samplitude running a memory error when working on a 10-minute reel, no matter how much dialog is in it. I suppose your mileage may vary.

  • Waveform display

This isn't so much a sacrifice as a philosophical issue with how you like your waveforms displayed. I find that Pro Tools is better for editing music and Samplitude is better for editing dialog. For some reason I find it harder to find dialog ins and outs in Pro Tools and I find seeing the beginning of (say) kick drums harder in Samplitude. Since one gets used to whatever waveform display one is looking at, it's probably not that big a deal ultimately. I edit lots of music in Samplitude and heaven knows I used to edit dialog in Pro Tools like crazy.

So the downsides are pretty minimal. And the object editing is a monster. You're paying ProTools - like prices to own Samplitude, at the same time it's completely possible to work entirely within Samplitude without buying additional plugins.

I gotta get back to work now.

*"Object" is the Samplitude word for what other programs call "clips" or "segments". Objects go onto tracks.

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