Field Test: Sony Cinescore Soundtrack SoftwarePROFESSIONAL TOOL FOR LICENSE-FREE, MADE-TO-ORDER MUSIC
Cinescore from Sony Media Software helps both musicians and non-musicians quickly create music, stingers and effects for video and other projects. One way to think of it is as an on-demand music library: Cinescore builds custom tracks based on requirements such as length, mood and instrumentation, unlike a static music library where you have to search for fixed-length tracks that fit the piece or edit longer tracks to time. Cinescore builds custom tracks to match the length of the video or other media you're creating with single parameters, such as genre, tempo and instrumentation.
SETUP AND WORKFLOW
Cinescore will run by itself or as a plug-in with other Sony Media Software products. After installing Cinescore, I first attempted to use it as a plug-in while editing in Sony Vegas. I was greeted with an error message asking me to re-install the application. I downloaded an update from Sony, and on the second attempt, the plug-in launched but issued another warning that it couldn't initialize the Lynx sound card in my system.I found that strange because Vegas was running just fine before I attempted to “Insert Generated Music,” the label of the menu pull-down item in Vegas for the Cinescore plug-in. I spent some time troubleshooting the plug-in issue and fired off a few e-mails to Sony, but decided to move on to stand-alone mode. I found that the results were better.
In stand-alone mode, the interface is immediately familiar to users of Vegas and ACID. Cinescore's layout is much simpler because the media elements being worked on in this environment will be much closer to their final form; i.e., a video that needs some music.
The workflow couldn't be much simpler. It's a drag-and-drop environment comprising one video track, three audio tracks, a timeline and basic editing controls. Assuming one of the audio tracks is locked to the video, this gives you two more stereo audio tracks to work with for music and effects. Cinescore also includes volume and pan envelopes for each audio track.
BUILDING A TRACK
Cinescore's musical building blocks are similar to what you would find in a typical loop-based production tool — mainly instrument and phrase samples. However, the process for assembling these building blocks is much different. In a typical loop-based production tool, you mostly have to do everything from scratch, choosing all the samples you need to create an intro, middle, close, verses, bridges, chorus, etc. In Cinescore, you define the piece's length, style, instrumentation and tempo, and the software does the rest.
Cinescore automatically creates the intro, verse, chorus, fills, bridges and endings based on the track's length. The track can be further tweaked if you decide you want more or less variation in the structure, mood, tempo and intensity. You can edit the generated piece of music by adding what Sony calls “hints” to make changes to each of the above musical characteristics.
While working in Cinescore, you use themes rather than specific samples. The musical themes are located in folders with helpful descriptions. For example, “High Adrenaline,” “Room Full of Tears” and “Night Clubbing” give a pretty clear indication of what each of these themes might sound like. In addition to the Cinescore-bundled themes, Sony plans to offer a variety of other theme packs.
I checked out two additional themes called “Pass the Ring” and “Incredible Vistas.” “Pass the Ring” comprises a variety of themes geared toward editing — you guessed it — wedding videos. When I heard that title, the first thing I thought of was The Lord of the Rings, and I imagined some crazy hobbit trance music. “Incredible Vistas” is music that would work for beauty shots of a helicopter ride into the Grand Canyon.
IS IT A SCORE?
The theme packs are going to make or break Cinescore. Like its big brother ACID, Cinescore has plenty of samples and synths for creating electronic music. Where it needs to improve is with better-quality acoustic sounds. Of the two theme packs I used, “Incredible Vistas” was more inspiring than “Pass the Ring.”
As a producer for an NBC affiliate, I spent many hours searching the original music and “soundalikes” in my music library, sometimes striking gold, sometimes not. If I had more time, I might make something custom, but that usually wasn't part of the budget. That's one of the reasons a product like Cinescore is so attractive: It's fast, affordable and easy. Overall, I found Cinescore especially useful for making short stings, bumpers, loops and audio transitions for video.
Sony Media Software, 608/204-7680, www.sonymediasoftware.com.
Rick Spence is the owner of AVT Pro, a production company in the Silicon Valley.
Click here for additional theme packs.
Microsoft Windows 2000 (SP4) or XP
512MB RAM (1GB recommended)
200MB hard disk space for program installation
1.7GB hard disk space for optional Cinescore Theme installation
Windows-compatible sound card
CD-ROM drive (for installation from a CD only)
DVD-ROM drive (for installation of Themes and audio transitions)
DirectX 9c or later (included on DVD-ROM)
Internet Explorer 5.1 or later (included on DVD-ROM)