Synk Musicbed DV Helps Mac Users Score

Synk Audio‘s Musicbed DV is a unique Macintosh application that lets you take royalty-free stock music and customize it to create scores for videos or background music for podcasts and other productions.

What makes Musicbed interesting, though, is that it isn’t a standard collection of stock music, but an application that lets you generate music based on stock themes and the requirements of the job at hand.

Tools within Musicbed let you adapt the stock music themes, giving you control over pitch and tempo. You can also control high-level aesthetic aspects of the music, like whether the music should be more melodic or more percussive, or whether it should be more electronic or more acoustic.

The software also lets you mold the music over time, so that you can build the music to a climax, create sharp transitions, and make the music more or less prominent as needed.

While Musicbed is designed to be easy to use by non-musicians, it also has some professional capabilities, like the ability to export music stems and surround sound support.

Getting Started

Installation is painless. Musicbed comes on one DVD that contains the Musicbed editing application and a library of stock music themes.

Synk MusicBed DVWhen you open Musicbed, you find a sensibly arranged screen (right).

The interface is broken down into three main areas:

  • The top section has tools for importing video, exporting finished music and adding Markers.
  • The middle section lets you browse and select Music Packages on the left side, and has controls for viewing the completed video on the right.
  • The bottom section is a timeline that you can use to scroll to a specific place in the video or the soundtrack. This section is also used to add markers and to create transitions in the music.

To test out the program, we imported a short video. You do this using menus commands or the top icon bar:

Musicbed DV

Once you’ve imported a video, you can preview it on the right-hand side of the screen:

Musicbed DV

You can also use this section to adjust the relative volumes of music vs. audio from the film.

Next, you can browse through the Music Packages to select the style of music you want to use:

Musicbed DV

Music Packages are orchestrated themes. They aren’t stock chunks of music, though; they are malleable themes that you can shape, changing orchestration, tempo, pitch, density, etc.

Musicbed lets you browse by genres, or you can just select a Music Package. You can preview the music by selecting a Music Package and then clicking the play icon.

Once you find the Music Package you like, you can drag it into the timeline and stretch it to the correct length.

Customizing Your Soundtrack

What makes Musicbed interesting is the way it makes it easy to shape and adapt the music. Here are a few examples that demonstrate how the program makes it very easy to create custom soundtracks.

For the purposes of testing out the program, I created a soundtrack section with these (arbitrary) requirements:

  • It needs to be thirty seconds long;
  • It needs to start fairly laid back;
  • After 10 seconds, it should transition to a more driving middle section;
  • 25 seconds in, it should peak and then die out.

In order to do this, I selected a Music Package and dragged it to the timeline:

Musicbed DV

At top of the timeline, you can see markers set at the transition points. The bottom section shows the title of the Music Package, “Full Heart”, structural sections within the music, and a section where you can draw in automation.

I adjusted the music to be the correct length, and selected the structural sections (Intro, Section B & End) that I wanted to use.

Next, I drew in some automation to shape the music. The interface overlays all of your automation curves, with the active parameter highlighted with a bold line. The screen capture above shows the Smooth – Punchy parameter, but you can select any of the other parameters, like Synthetic – Organic or Sparse – Dense, and create automation curves for each.

Here’s an example of what Musicbed sounds like. (MP3)

A feature that will really come in handy for some people is that you can change the Music Package at any time, independent of your timeline and your automation curves.

Here are some variations that were created by changing the Music Package and making minor tweaks to the automation:

Once you’ve got the music customized to meet your needs, you can export it as a stereo mix, as stems or as 5.1 surround sound. You can tweak surround settings such as the cutoff for the bass channel.

Summary

Synk Audio’s Musicbed DV is an easy-to-use Mac application that lets you manipulate musical themes to create custom soundtracks. You don’t need any musical knowledge to use the program, but there is a lot of power “under the hood”. Once you get familiar with the program, you can work very rapidly with it.

The program is very responsive. I tested it on an early Intel Mac mini, and was very impressed with Musicbed’s speed. The only times I had to wait on the program were when I imported video or exported the final music.

The Musicbed themes (Music Packages) provide enough variation to meet a variety of needs. I’d like to see inexpensive add-ons that focus on specific styles of music, such as jazzy/downtempo music or electronica. This would make the program more appealing to users and make it easier to get a Music Package that meets your needs.

I asked my contact at Musicbed about this, and she said that “third party music packages are not available right now, though we would very much like that to be the case and are working on strategies to make creating music packages attractive to third party content developers.”

Synk Audio has more Music Packages in the pipeline, but doesn’t have a release date yet.

It would be very interesting if Synk Audio opened up the Musicbed format and provided documentation for it. This would allow a Musicbed community to develop, which could dramatically expand the amount of content available for users to work with.

When I asked Synk about this possibility, they said that “Though we have not settled on a final strategy, in the future the music package format and/or content creation tools will be available for third parties.”

I’ll be interested to see how this develops. If Synk could open their platform and get others to build upon their foundation, Musicbed would be that much more useful as a tool.

Musicbed retails for $249. Synk has created a Musicbed DV screencast that does a great job of introducing the application. You can also download a demo of Musicbed from the Sync Audio site.

Features:

Music Browsing

  • Browse by story genres (Action, Drama, Sports, etc.).
  • Browse by story moods (Progress, Major Setback, Climax, etc.).
  • Browse by music genres (Cinematic, Electronic, Pop, Rock, etc.).
  • Browse by music moods (Aggressive, Positive, Melancholy, etc.).
  • Browse by music styles (Background, Percussive, Dense, etc.).
  • Browse by music texture (Intense, Spacious, Punchy, etc.).
  • Browse by music tempo and pitch.
  • Browse by factory and user presets (Ambience, Background, Full Mix, etc.).
  • Real-time music previews while playing video or audio project.

Music Editing

  • Adjust music style (Synthetic, Organic, Percussiveness, etc.).
  • Adjust music texture (Intensity, Spaciousness, Smoothness, etc.).
  • Adjust music with factory and user presets (Ambience, Background, Full Mix, etc.).
  • Adjust pitch and tempo independently.
  • Adjust duration without changing pitch and tempo.

Music Timeline

  • Automatic generation of music clips for specified start, stop, and duration.
  • Non-repetitive music generation without loops.
  • Non-linear editing of music clip start, stop, and duration.
  • Music clip theme/section editing and arrangement.
  • Seamless and gap-less music theme/section transition editing.
  • Overlay or overwrite multiple music clips in the timeline.
  • Music clip package switching while retaining existing timing, transitions, and keyframes.

Music Keyframes

  • Sculpt music style and texture over time with keyframe automation.
  • Keyframe add, delete, and edit operations with easy-to-use dragging, button, and keyboard commands.
  • Keyframe automation curve overlay display.
  • Keyframe snapshots generate style and texture values over a time range. Useful for quickly controlling builds and punctuation.
  • Intelligent keyframe generation feature creates style and texture variations at markers or time intervals. Useful for quickly generating evolving styles and textures.

Video

  • Any file type supported by QuickTime.
  • Project creation via QuickTime file drag and drop.
  • Visual markers display video frame at marker location.
  • Video timeline scrubbing.
  • Video scrubbing during music clip add.
  • 30 fps, 29.97 fps drop and non-drop, 25 fps.

Markers

  • Visual markers display video frame at marker location.
  • Synchronization of music clip start, end, and duration using markers.
  • Precise positioning of keyframe time using markers.
  • Import chapter and scoring markers from Quicktime, including those from Final Cut.

Export

  • Export mixes as stereo audio files.
  • Export instrument submixes as stereo audio files (Bass, Percussion, Instruments, etc.).
  • Export 5.1 surround music as 6 mono audio files (L, R, Ls, Rs, C, LFE).
  • Surround mixes for multiple usage scenarios (Immersive, Theatrical, etc.).
  • Export tempo maps.
  • AIFF and WAV file types.
  • 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 96 kHz sample rates.
  • 16 bit, 24 bit, 32 bit depths.

Miscellaneous

  • Professional audio limiter eliminates digital overs.
  • Factory presets for useful stock music styles.
  • User music style preset creation.
  • Custom location for music content on disk.
  • Automatic and manual music detail preferences for optimal system performance.
  • Automated cue sheet generation.
  • Unlimited undo.
  • Royalty-free license, use as many times as you like without incurring additional fees or costs.

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