by Lawson Hancock
When you're working in Flash, you're striving to create a great visual experience. However, many Flash projects also include audio, so having great sound quality is just as important to the overall experience. What do you do when the audio portion of your project has noise or pops in it? How do you record a voice-over for an animation? Perhaps you have an audio engineer you can turn to for help, or maybe you've got an old copy of Cool Edit 2000 kicking around somewhere. Better yet, grab a copy of the latest audio tool from Adobe: Soundbooth CS3.
Adobe released Soundbooth CS3 in July 2007. With Soundbooth, you can record, edit, and master your audio on Windows or Mac OS X. Let's look at a few examples of how Soundbooth can help enhance your Flash audio experiences. (If you want to follow along, you can download the 30-day trial version.)
You received your final audio file, and you're ready to put it on your Flash timeline, but you realize it has some extraneous noises you want to remove. You can easily remove them with Soundbooth (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Soundbooth noise removal task
First, open your audio file in Soundbooth and choose Tasks > Clean Up Audio. Here you have several options. You can click the Noise button and simply adjust the sliders to remove unwanted noise. Or if you want to remove a specific noise, you can highlight the sound in the waveform editor and then click Capture Noise Print. Make sure Use Captured Noise Print is selected and click the Noise button to remove the specific noise from your audio file. You can also remove subtle clicks or loud pops as well as rumbles.
Soundbooth also enables you to edit your audio file visually. This is called spectral editing. To enable it, choose View > Spectral Frequency Display. You will see a spectral representation of your audio file appear below the audio waveform in the Editor panel (see Figure 2). (You can adjust the size of this display in the Editor panel.)
Figure 2. Using spectral editing to remove a sound
Think of the spectral display as a heat map of your audio file — each section represents a different part of the sound spectrum. In this mode, you can use visual tools like those found in Adobe Photoshop software to edit the file. If you see a stray noise, you can highlight and remove it using either the Marquee or Lasso tool, which can be found in the upper left corner of the screen or in the Remove a Sound section of the Tasks panel on the left.
Once you have made your edits, save the file in its current format or choose Save As and select from several other supported file types, including AIF, WAV, and MP3.
Perhaps you want to tweak your audio file by adding some EQ or reverb. Soundbooth has 15 effects you can apply to your audio file. For a list of effects, choose Effects from the main menu and check out the pull-down list.
You can also loop a section of your audio file. Simply choose Tasks > Create Loop. Once you have created your loop, select Save Loop As from the Create Loop section of the Tasks panel to save it.
Soundbooth comes with royalty-free content you can use for creating audio, including sound effects and musical scores that you can adapt to fit your needs. Thousands of free sound effects are available online via Resource Central. Choose Window > Resource Central to preview and download them.
Soundbooth comes with 30 different musical scores in various genres. You can access them by choosing Tasks > AutoCompose Score > Browse Scores. All of the scores in Soundbooth can be adjusted to fit different lengths of audio. Also, each score has different parameters you can adjust, including volume and instrumentation levels (see Figure 3). So you can quickly customize them to fit your specific needs. You can also purchase additional scores via Resource Central.
Figure 3. Customizing a score for a video
In addition to working with existing audio, you can use Soundbooth to record audio. Use the record button on the transport controls at the bottom of the Editor panel (just look for the big red button).
The most important thing you need for recording audio in Soundbooth is a good microphone. Many computers have built-in microphones, but they don't always have the best sound quality. Blue Microphones makes a USB microphone called the Snowball that works well. The advantage of a USB microphone is you can simply plug it into your computer without having to go through a special interface as you would with a traditional microphone. Also, the sound quality on the Snowball is very good, and you can buy one (as of this writing) for just under $100.
Another cool thing you can do in Soundbooth is create markers in your audio file that you can export as cue points, which you can then use to trigger a particular action in Flash.
To create a marker, choose Edit > Markers. The markers appear above the audio timeline, and you can move them around within the audio file. You can also relabel them in the Marker Details section of the Markers panel and specify whether they should trigger an event or be used for navigation in Flash (see Figure 4). The Markers panel is located next to the Tasks tab and below the Files panel. For each marker, you can also add any number of name/value pairs that can be accessed from ActionScript.
Figure 4. Creating caption markers for Flash
Once you have all your markers set, Choose File > Export > Markers. You will be prompted for the XML filename where this cue data will be stored. You can then import the cue data file into Flash.
These are just a few examples of the tools Soundbooth provides to make your audio files sound great in your Flash projects. Beyond the 30-day trial version, the Adobe Store is also offering up to 50% off the retail price of Soundbooth when you buy or upgrade to Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium or Web Standard or Adobe Flash CS3 Professional.
For further technical inspiration, read Dan Carr's article, Producing audio for the web using Soundbooth and Flash, in the Flash Developer Center.
Lawson Hancock is senior product manager for Adobe's audio products and technologies. He is also a singer and songwriter and has performed under the band name Blue Tree.