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Updated Audio Tools for Video Editors: Expand Your Arsenal with New Plug-Ins and Applications

Most video editors can get by with the audio editing tools that are built into their NLE systems, but if you want that extra audio finesse, you’ll need some dedicated audio applications and plug-ins. 2014 is closing out nicely with new offerings from Sony Creative Software and iZotope.

Sony Creative Software Sound Forge

Sony’s software arm—known for Acid, Vegas and Sound Forge, to name a few—has expanded its Mac audio offerings. Although Sony’s audio applications have traditionally been Windows-based, Sony ventured into the Mac ecosystem in 2012 with the 1.0 version of Sound Forge Pro Mac. Version 2.0 was released this year (for $299.95), with more features, power and support for 64-bit plug-ins. All Sound Forge Mac versions are architected for OS X and not simply ported from the Windows application.

Sony’s Sound Forge Pro Mac 2.0 and Sound Forge for the App Store provide new file-based audio editors for video pros.

As before, Sound Forge Pro continues to be a file-based editor and not a multi-track digital audio workstation designed for mixing. It supports high-resolution files up to 24-bit/192 kHz. Although file-based, it can handle up to 32-channel files and is capable of recording as well as editing and mastering. The Pro version includes a number of Sony and iZotope plug-ins designed for mastering (EQ, reverb, multiband compressor, limiter, imager and exciter), post processing (sample rate and bit depth conversion) and restore/repair (declicker, denoiser and declipper).

Sound Forge Pro Mac v2 includes the iZotope Nectar Elements plug-in. The Nectar series is a channel strip, all-in-one filter that combines a number of the processes that a recording engineer would place in the signal chain when recording vocals. However, it can still be used on music and mixed tracks without issue. Nectar Elements, the “lite” version of the full Nectar filter, is being bundled with a number of the Sony applications, including Vegas Pro. Another included filter is the Zplane élastique Pro time stretch and pitch shift plug-in.

The Convrt Batch Processing Automation Tool—a freestanding utility for mass file conversions—comes with Sound Forge Pro Mac 2. Load your files, set up the script and the rest is automated. If you purchase Sound Forge Pro Mac 2 as part of the Audio Master Suite Mac ($499.95), you also get SpectraLayers Pro 2, an audio spectrum editing tool. Even without it, Sound Forge Pro Mac 2 enables data interoperability between it and SpectraLayers Pro 2.

The Sound Forge Pro Mastering Suite includes a set of iZotope mastering plug-ins, including a multiband compressor.

Loudness compliance is a big concern to broadcasters, so Sound Forge Pro Mac 2 includes CALM Act-compliant metering. Unfortunately, the readout is by numbers and meters without the visual eye candy of an iZotope Insight or TC Electronic/Adobe LoudnessRadar; however, it does provide true peak values.

Mid-year, Sony released Sound Forge 2 ($99.99) for the Mac App Store. It doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the Pro version, and there are other minor differences due to the App Store’s sandboxing policies. Convrt and the iZotope plug-ins are not included; however, most of everything else is. Both versions support 64-bit AU and VST plug-ins. Both include real-time previewing. Both have generally the same tech specs. One extra that comes with Sound Forge is Wave Hammer, Sony’s own mastering compressor. (It is not included in the Pro version.) Lastly, both versions come with a large amount of downloadable sound effects content, which is available to users as a separate download once they’ve registered the software.

There are a lot of audio tools on the market, but I find Sound Forge or Sound Forge Pro Mac 2 to be definite must-haves for the video editor who is serious about audio. The Sound Forge interface is clean and customizable and the operation is intuitive. With nearly every spot I cut in Apple FCP X, I’ll bounce the mix out to Sound Forge Pro for a mastering pass. Same if I need to modify a TV mix for a radio spot.

iZotope Nectar

iZotope’s Nectar 2 is an all-in-one vocal processing toolbox.

iZotope is one of the top audio plug-in developers, and you’ll find their products bundled with a number of applications, including those from Sony and Adobe. One cool plug-in is the Nectar product, which is marketed in three versions: Nectar 2, Nectar Elements and Nectar 2 Production Suite. These are compatible with most audio and video hosts that support AAX (Pro Tools), RTAS/AudioSuite, VST and AU plug-ins.

Nectar 2 ($229) is an all-in-one plug-in that combines 11 tools: plate reverb, pitch, FX, delay, de-esser, saturation, compressors, gate, EQ and limiter. It functions like a very sophisticated channel strip in a mixing console, except with a lot more processes. Although designed with vocal recording in mind, it can easily be used for music and/or mastering. The interface presents you with an overview and easy controls for all tools, but you can open each individual tool for more precise adjustments. It includes more than 150 presets. You can switch between tracking and mixing modes for low-latency processing.

Nectar Elements ($129) is a reduced-feature version of Nectar 2. The controls tend to be geared to vocal recording and the needs of home enthusiasts. On the other side is Nectar 2 Production Suite ($299), which bundles the filter with a Pitch Editor and Breath Control plug-in for Nectar 2.

iZotope RX 4

iZotope RX 4 Advanced includes a comprehensive set of audio repair and restoration modules, including spectral editing.

The biggest iZotope news this year is the release of the RX 4 audio repair and enhancement tool. RX 4 comes in a standard ($349) and advanced ($1,199) version; both include the RX 4 standalone application and a set of RX 4 plug-ins that are compatible with a wide range of hosts. Built-in tools include declip, declick, hum removal, denoise, spectral repair, gain, EQ, channel operations, resample and dither. RX 4 Advanced-specific tools include deconstruct, dereverb, leveler, EQ match, ambience match, time & pitch, and loudness. Most but not all of these are also installed as RX 4 real-time plug-ins. Third-party plug-ins can also be accessed and used in the standalone RX 4 application. The breadth of what RX 4 offers makes it the biggest gun in the arsenal of most dialogue editors and sound designers, who are tasked with cleaning up challenging location recordings.

A powerful new feature is RX Connect, which is a special “conduit” plug-in. It sets up a round-trip between your host audio application and the RX 4 standalone application. For example, if you edit in Pro Tools, Audition or Sound Forge, highlight a range or a set of audio clips and select the RX Connect plug-in. (Where and how you select clips will differ with each application.) Doing so opens an RX 4 window, where you choose to send the selection to the RX 4 application. There, you can process the clip as needed and send it back to the host application. In this way, you can use the individual effects as real-time plug-ins inside your audio host, or use the advanced processing power of the standalone application via the RX Connect round-trip.

RX 4 Advanced includes Insight, iZotope’s powerful metering and audio analysis tool.

In addition to loudness processing, RX 4 Advanced includes the Insight metering suite, iZotope’s extensive set of audio analysis and metering tools. It can be used for troubleshooting or to ensure broadcast loudness compliance. Two other Advanced tools—EQ Match and Ambiance Match—are ideal for the dialogue editor. EQ Match is exactly what the name implies. To use it, you send both a reference clip and a clip to be processed to the RX 4 application. The second clip is then analyzed and “matched” to the sonic qualities of the first.

Video editors often have to cut out unwanted audio in dialogue tracks, such as director’s cues or background noises. This leaves gaps of silence in the track that need to be filled with ambient sound. In Ambiance Match, RX 4 samples areas of background sound around the spoken dialogue and creates a sound print from the quiet areas. RX 4 uses this to fill in gaps “automagically” between clips.

Finally, the standalone RX 4 application comes with built-in batch processing. There, you can set up a series of processing steps and specify output location, naming and file formats. Add a set of files, apply the batch steps and process the files.

iZotope’s RX 4 repair suite is a unique tool that is hard to beat when you’re struggling with difficult audio that you want to make usable. It’s a product that keeps getting better and, with the addition of the RX Connect plug-in, provides better interoperability than ever before.