By Craig Jackman
Although Cool Edit Pro is now Adobe Audition, we will reference the product in this article as “Cool Edit Pro” just to make sure everybody knows what I’m talking about.
Let’s start with a disclaimer. I’ve been a Cool Edit Pro user since I got onto computer editing, so if you use another platform, either flip to another page, or better yet, see what you can use in your application. Who knows, you might find something you think is really, well, cool.
Some of these tips came from the Cool Edit Pro users’ forums. If you use CEP, either 1.2a, 2.0 (get the free upgrade already!), or 2.1, you really should take the time to check the forums on a regular basis. I know a lot about this software, but I learn something new on the forums on a regular basis. You can link to the user forums from the main Syntrillium website at [Links no longer active] http://forums.syntrillium.com (which now links you to http://www.adobe.com/special/products/audition/forums.html). It’s also the best way of keeping up to date on software updates. As an aside, if you are a 1.2a user wondering if you should pay for the new version, my take is that 1.2 is fractionally faster, but 2.1 does a lot more. If you’re content with 1.2a stay with it. I promise that I won’t think any less of you if you do. I like 2.1, but I’ve left 1.2a installed on all our computers for users who are more comfortable with the old version. Both versions are now similar in terms of stability. However, these tips apply to both 2.0 and 2.1 as the needed feature isn’t available in 1.2a.
The first tip concerns those bleeping rap and alt rock songs. You know the ones, where the record company hasn’t bothered to issue a clean version, and the P.D. is sure that some delicate listener will complain the first time they hear @*#$ or &^%%. Record the song into multitrack view. Better yet, since you can rip digitally in 2.0 or greater, rip it into the system, and place it in multitrack view. Select and highlight the whole song, and then choose FREQUENCY BAND SPLITTER from the multitrack effects menu. You will then get the preset choices that will split the song into frequency-limited bands. I prefer the radio/5 band setting, but your mileage may vary. 3 or 4 bands may suit what you want to do or how you choose to work better. Clicking OK will then split your song into the frequency bands listed, and place them back into multitrack and line them up in phase. When you go back to the multitrack view, you will then have to mute your original file, but if you hit play, everything still sounds normal. Go to the mid-band where the range of human voice lives. Find the offensive word, and highlight just the word. Switch to edit view, and select REVERSE from the transforms menu … there is also a REVERSE icon in the tool bar. While you’re there I like to drop the volume of the now reversed section by 3dB, and to smooth things out use a volume envelope as opposed to just whacking the chunk down. Switch back again to multitrack view, and play through the offending word section. The word is now disguised enough so that most people won’t notice it, but you could overdub a record skip or scratch if you want to hide it some more. The lower frequencies haven’t changed so the groove stays solid. The upper frequencies haven’t changed, so reverbs and harmonics flow through undisturbed. There will be harmonics from the original voice part in the higher frequency bands, but they will be inaudible, and combine with the now reversed word to further disguise it.
There are other ways to bleep out songs of course. You can just overdub a bleep tone and bleep out everything. You can silence out everything. You can reverse everything, or you can try and match keys and beats with an instrumental section of the same song and cross-fade around the offending word. I find those way’s intrusive and/or time consuming, while splitting the frequencies is much more elegant and transparent. More work you say? Maybe, but once you try it you’ll find it’s a whole lot longer to read about it than it is to actually do it. Of course you can adjust the crossover points in the FREQUENCY BAND SPLITTER to better match your source material and more tightly target the voice range.
You can also use the FREQUENCY BAND SPLITTER to mimic multi-band processors like Ozone or Waves C4. Once you’ve split a WAV into however many bands you choose, you can then process those bands using the built in effects, like dynamics (compression or hard limiter), reverb, stereo widening, and EQ (graphic, parametric, or FFT filter). By using the real time effects available in multitrack view in 2.0 or greater, you can have all the processors open on all the bands at the same time. However this will totally cover your screen and you may have to search through a couple of menu options per effect. The only thing that you’re missing from something like Ozone is a harmonic exciter. The external plug-ins have all the processors ganged together, usually with all the parameters on the same page, so they are far easier and faster to use, but if you’re stuck or just want to play without buying in, this method will do in a pinch. Plus you’ll be able to save your results, without any annoying bells — unlike the demo version of some plug-ins.
The FREQUENCY BAND SPLITTER is also handy in re-mixing a song. Want more bottom end? Grab a virtual fader and have at it. Add more “air” by playing with the upper bands. This gives a different sound than just using EQ as you are amplifying different parts of the WAV but not the associated recorded harmonics. You get more fundamental tone, and you’re not modifying the other bands so there is less interaction. Try it out sometime; I think it’s pretty neat.
When the budget came through to replace our production computers, one of the things we specified was a video card with dual outputs so you can hook up 2 monitors. This just rocks! CEP has dockable windows, so with the new setup I’ve got the main edit view/multitrack view window on my main screen. On the second monitor I’ve got the mixer, track EQ, and track organizer windows while in multitrack view. In edit view I’ve got the track organizer, cue list, phase meter, and frequency analyzer display. Of course what you choose to have visible is up to you, but having the second monitor means that you don’t have windows popping up all over what you are trying to work on. Or if you’re waiting for an important MP3 to come in via email on a Friday afternoon, have your email program open on the 2nd monitor while you work on other orders on your main monitor. That way when it pops into your in-box, you can tell at a glance whether it's something you have to stop what you are working on to take care of.
The frequency and phase meters are something that I’ve recently started to use a lot. With the phase meter, besides checking to see that everything is in phase (your mono listeners are as important as your stereo listeners after all), you can see how much of your material is essentially already in mono. If it’s already mono, why are you saving it in stereo? All you end up doing is using twice the hard drive space, which means that you run out of room sooner or have to defrag more often. The frequency response meter is a handy visual confirmation of what you are hearing. Users of Ozone will be familiar with the “cheater line” overlay, where a certain slope to your frequency curve tends to sound best. I wouldn’t not listen and just use the meter, but if you’re wondering why that MP3 sounds funny on the top end, look in the meter and see where it’s literally been chopped off at anywhere from 12k to 16k. I had one MP3 come in from a client that had been through multiple conversions. It sounded funny as there was a –40dB hole between 9k and 12k, with significant harmonic material between 12k and 16k. I could have spent all day trying to EQ it better, when the only real choice that I had was to band limit it to 9k; that way it just sounded like another crappy MP3.
If you are a CEP user, any version, the one thing you have to do is to use the keyboard shortcuts. There is a huge list of commands available under the Options menu, virtually everything you’d want the software to do, and you can assign those commands to any key or combination of keys that makes sense to you. You want to do this to get the mouse out of your hand to avoid repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow in your mouse arm. As a tennis elbow sufferer due to computer use, I can tell you that you really don’t want this. Set up your shortcuts for any command that you use on a regular basis. Setup shortcuts for your favorite compression or EQ presets. What ever you setup, just use it! Your tendons will thank you later.