The Olden Days: circa 1996
It was only a few years ago when my sample sourcing colleague would turn up with a pile of cassettes and vinyl ready to make a tune using an AKAI sampler and an Atari ST. The first thing I would do is to try and establish the main rhythmic part, which invariably contained some sort of tuned item such as a bass line and then sample it, loop it and try and work out the tempo and key of that sample. Of course it would never be at the tempo we wanted so we’d tune it up or down to get the effect we were after, but then it would be in a different key entirely so I’d sit there with a calculator working how far to timestretch the original sample to get the tune into the desired key. The situation becomes even more tedious when you add other samples where you either have to do the same again or set it up so you could edit the sample whilst auditioning it with your bass and drums. We would literally spend an entire weekend looping ‘round the same 8 bars trying to get a dozen or so samples to just sound OK together. I knew there had to be a better way…
ACID PRO 3.0 is the latest version of Sonic Foundry’s multi-award winning loop based music creation software that allows the user to create original, royalty-free music with a simple click, paint, and play interface. Over the years, Acid Pro has evolved into a mature program with a wide range of features. This latest version is especially attractive for video and multimedia producers. The new video track, with its associated scoring tools, lets you sync your multiple audio tracks to video. Using the video track as your guide, you can change the tempo of the audio (without changing its pitch) or time-stretch it, in order to line up the audio with the exact frame of your video. While Acid Pro is limited to just one video track, its superior audio features, including DirectX plug-ins, loop-creation tools, and loop-editing tools, make it an excellent environment for merging audio with a work-in-progress video. If you need additional video tracks, you can import your Acid tracks directly into Sonic Foundry's Video Vegas.
If you're familiar with other time-grid software programs, such as Adobe Premiere or Macromedia Flash, you should feel right at home with Acid. On a basic level, it's as easy as finding an audio loop and pasting it into one of the audio tracks. You use only one loop per track, so adding a musical phrase is as simple as grabbing the drawing tool, moving the cursor to the point where you want the loop to begin, pressing the left mouse button, moving the cursor forward and releasing the mouse button where you want the musical phrase to end. Because the program keeps all the loops in the same musical key, maintains a consistent tempo and starts and stops each loop at the exact beginning and end of the measure, you don't have to mess about pushing samples about on the timeline. This takes away nearly all the tedious activities that I just mentioned.
You can download royalty free samples at any time by hitting the “Get Media” button and downloading sound packs from the web. Although this is a good easy way to get started and learn ACID, if you don’t source your own samples then your tunes may well sound like everyone else’s. ACID is such a doddle to use that I think you should spend more time sourcing and editing your samples as you will spend less time throwing them altogether when you are ready to compose your tune. ACID treats mp3 samples just the same as wavs.
Once you have the rough mix of your tune together you can then start playing with effects, panning etc. which are done with software ‘plug-in’ effects. These work well and can be edited in real time and can be downloaded from the internet.
Beatmapper and Chopper
Other useful features include a Beatmapper remixing tool that helps you add beats, combine musical loops with existing audio files, overlay samples and add tempo information to longer audio files. In fact the Beatmapper Wizard automatically kicks in if you try to import any samples longer than 30 seconds. It works well, detecting the first downbeat and then testing the rest of the track for rhythmic accuracy. At any stage in this process you can dive in there and manually point to the beat if your sample is more complex than a straight ‘four to the floor’.
A Chopper editing tool lets you create drum fills, stutters and DJ-style effects to your audio files. Experimenting with the Chopper can yield some very interesting slice-and-dice effects. No matter how you mangle the audio with the Chopper, the altered loops always play in sync with your other tracks.
Audio and MIDI
This latest version supports 32 effects per track, 32 effect chains that feed 26 busses, and sample rates as high as 192 kHz. Also new is MIDI file support, including MIDI record and playback. As with the video track, the MIDI support is limited. For example, there's no provision within the program for editing a MIDI file. Similarly, audio recording is bare-bones. If you need to combine your loops with multiple MIDI or linear audio tracks, you'll want to augment Acid with a more traditional audio-editing program. Fortunately, you won't have to look far; the Acid Pro 3.0 package includes Sound Forge XP Studio and Vegas Audio LE. The boxed version also includes Sonic Foundry's XFX 1, XFX 2 and XFX 3 collections of DirectX plug-ins, as well as more than 600 music loops.
Saving and Publishing your work
The save as dialog box gives you two options: an ACID project file (. acd) or an ACID project with embedded media (. acd-zip), the latter is an excellent way to share unfinished projects with people as you do not have to provide all your wav files and their locations. You can also burn a CDR straight from ACID assuming of course that you have a CD writer! Also you can publish your work straight to ACIDplanet.com, have a look and see what all the fuss is about.
I like it. I have actually now decided to breakaway from my Cubase mentality and use ACID full time. I’ll probably still carry on editing my loops in Wavelab because that’s what I know, but I really think ACID 3.0 is the way forward. If you think looping programs are severely limited in the kinds of music they can produce, visit Sonic Foundry's web site and download the free trial version of Acid Pro 3.0. Based on the ease and power of this program and the incredible range of the loop CDs, Sonic Foundry has created a set of tools that can serve video and multimedia producers, just as they already serve music and movie producers.
- 300 MHz processor Windows-compatible sound card
- CD-ROM drive Supported
- CD-Recordable drive (for CD burning only)
- 64 MB RAM (128 MB recommended)
- 60 MB hard-disk space for program installation Microsoft® Windows® 98, Me, 2000, or XP
- Microsoft DirectX 8 or later (included on CD-ROM)
- Internet Explorer 5.0 or later (version 5.0 included on CD-ROM)*
- 400 MHz processor and Windows 98SE, Me, or 2000 for video scoring.
- 98SE, Me, or 2000 for Vegas Audio LE.
- Ease of use
- Excellent Beatmapper tool
- Superb range of plug in effects
- Media easily available from downloads
- Supports Video
- You cannot edit MIDI
- Requires a fairly fast PC
- Quite pricey
Active Loop Zone tracks are available on Myspace.
Further details can be got by contacting Rick Lomas .
Rick is currently working on various websites selling mortgage payment protection insurance .