In January I published an article about an early upgrade deal for the Soundminer sound search software. That post described the software, the early upgrade discount, and the new features included in version 4.5 Pro.
I ponied up the cash for the discounted upgrade. I followed the software’s evolution. It grew fitfully from a beta download to the current, polished version available today. It added many new features not available when I wrote the earlier article in January.
Unless you were lurking on the Soundminer forums, you may not know that v4.5 Pro has quietly supplanted the older v4 software to become the official pro version of the app. Soundminer has yet to publish an official announcement of the new app and its features on their website.
I use Soundminer daily to manage my library and the collections of my clients. Many of you use Soundminer to help find, process, and transfer audio into the films and games you work on. What’s new in 4.5? What’s changed? Is this release ready for production? Should you upgrade? Today’s post will explore the new Soundminer software features to help you decide if it’s a good choice for you.
What is Soundminer?
New to Soundminer? Wondering what it is?
Sound editors blend hundreds of clips to create soundtracks for television, theatre, ad spots, and more. They often have tens of thousands of these sound effects and music clips spread across computers, external hard drives, and network storage. Finding a single clip from amongst that mess takes more time than most project deadlines allow.
Asset management software or metadata apps were designed to help audio pros make sense of these sound libraries. Soundminer is one of those apps. It is one of the market leaders in the field. Soundminer’s elite v4 Pro series is tailored to sound professionals, and has features to match. What new features does Soundminer v4.5 offer? This article will look at them in two ways:
- New major features.
- Other improvements and enhancements
New Major Features
Soundminer v4.5 Pro adds scores of new features. Here are the most significant changes:
- Inline waveform. Earlier versions of Soundminer displayed each sound’s waveform overview at the base of the app. v4.5 now allows waveforms to be displayed beside every sound in the main search results window. This matches the functionality displayed in other metadata apps, such as AudioFinder. Colour, size, and width settings may all be customized.
- Multi-channel waveform. Soundminer is no longer limited to displaying a summed waveform for a multi-channel sound. v4.5 now creates and displays a waveform overview for each sound file channel.
- Redesigned Right “Metadata Panel.” Soundminer’s right pane has been revamped. It’s easy to reorder which fields are displayed here, refine searches with a “Finger” mode, and search within fields.
- LegPicker. Soundminer v4.5 allows users to solo individual sound file channels by clicking buttons at the bottom of the waveform overview.
- Scrubber and Time Domain Mode. This cool box modifies sound file playback in realtime. Dragging the cursor to the right affects playback speed from 1 – 200%. Pulling to the left plays it in reverse. There’s more: moving the cursor up or down expands or compresses the audio.
- Record Function. Capture Soundminer playback into a new file as you audition audio. Simply line up your plug-ins, click the “Record” button, and play your files. Any playback and processing tweaks will be committed to a completely new file.
- 64-bit Rewire Engine. Updated code accommodates Pro Tools 11’s Rewire requirements.
- New Plug-In Window. The plug-in window has been completely redesigned. Plug-ins are helpfully nested within folders.
- Sample Transfer Button. Transfer single files between apps.
- Improved Mirror Function. Soundminer’s Mirror function transfers batches of sounds quickly elsewhere into custom folder layouts, all while applying sound file conversion and naming transformations. Supports chips with multiple cores for swift transfers.
- Install Scripts. Soundminer now allows scripts to be applied across selected records. Do you find yourself consistently adding the category to the beginning of your description field? Maybe you’re changing text from lower case to title case? The one-click scripts save you the hassle of performing find-and-replace repeatedly. Other functions: apply artwork, export file lists, and more.
- Pro Tools 11 Optimization. Soundminer v4.5 is coded to play nice with Pro Tools 11. Features include support for interleaved files and network drives.
- Faster Scanner Code. v4.5 takes advantage of multi-core chips to add sound files more quickly.
Other Improvements and Enhancements
- Improved Waveform Selection. Selecting portions of a file is easier with Soundminer’s new waveform selector and handles.
- Flat Interface. Improved interface to match the upcoming Mac OS Yosemite design.
- Radar waveform. See an alternative condensed, top-down representation of the waveform.
- Search By Date. Use a calendar selector to find sound files based on the time they were last scanned or “touched.” Helpful to display only the latest sound file additions.
- Pitch Control. Modify playback pitch by both percentage and semitone/cents.
- Analyze tempo and pitch. For the musicians in the crowd: quickly discover a music clip’s beats-per-minute tempo (BPM) and pitch. The result will automatically populate the appropriate metadata fields.
- Intelligent Transfers. Loading up your Pro Tools session with hundreds of transferred files? Soundminer’s “Intelligent Transfers” function automatically detects if the file has been added already and prevents duplicate transfers.
- iZotope 64-bit Transfers. v4.5 uses iZotope’s 64-bit code to transfer and convert files cleanly and more quickly.
- Transfer History. Soundminer documents all transfers for future reference.
- Tag Selector. If you’re anything like me, you gather the files you want to transfer by dropping them into a right-panel spotting folder. The tag selector saves you the trouble of dragging from the search results window to spotting folders. Simply type command-option-T. Your spotting folders will appear at your mouse pointer. Simply choose a spotting folder from that pop-up menu to drop your sound file selections inside.
- Import/Export. Additional options for importing and exporting in new file formats: CSV, XLS, and so on.
- Admin Window Improvements. It’s easier to add additional text using the metadata admin window.
- New File Formats. Both FLAC and MPEG4 support has been added to v4.5.
- SD2 Format. Pro Tool’s legacy file format SD2 has been officially put on notice. I’m guessing the next version of Soundminer will drop support for these files.
- v3 Databases. Soundminer v3 databases are not supported. There’s an easy workaround: just embed your data to your files before upgrading from v3 to v4.
Will v4.5 Help Your Craft?
So, should you buy v4.5 pro?
Well, it depends on how you work. After all, Soundminer is used by a variety of professionals: editors, designers, music supervisors, and sound library curators.
Every sound editor will likely get the most immediate use out of the LegPicker, multi-channel waveform feature, and improved waveform selector. Many under-the-hood modifications contribute significant changes, such as multiple processor support, speedy scanning code, and iZotope 64-bit transfers. The intelligent transfers feature is a nice touch to avoid session bulk. And of course Pro Tools 11 users will find the v4.5 upgrade essential.
The sample transfer, scrubber and time domain tool, and record feature will be especially helpful to sound designers and mastering techs. They allow far more flexibility twisting and warping sounds and capturing them into new files with fewer steps and less fuss.
Sound librarians will appreciate the time the “install scripts” feature will save them. Date filtering options help grapple larger collections. The new mirror window improvements provide additional options for organizing sound libraries more swiftly. The fresh import and export file types are a welcome addition that saves database format juggling. Hard-core librarians may even opt to use the new FLAC support to compress their collections by 30–40% while retaining all metadata.
Let’s not forget our brothers and sisters in music production. Music libraries will get good use out of the BMP and pitch detection as well as the revised pitch control.
The appeal of other features such as the inline waveforms, tag selector, and improved right metadata panel depend on your personal workflow.
Is v4.5 For You?
Regardless of your approach, Soundminer v4.5 remains the most feature-packed metadata app on the market. It has become the de facto organizational sound library app in many professional markets.
Are you just starting out editing audio? Have only a handful of sound files in your collection? At $899, v4.5 Pro is a hefty investment for a tool you may not use right away. Don’t worry, there are options. Soundminer’s product family begins with the cheaper v4 standard ($599) before topping out at v4 Pro. Naturally, the standard version lacks some features of v4 Pro (see a comparison chart). Yes, Soundminer v4.5’s improvements are compelling. The features aren’t matched by many other apps. However, recent film school grads may simply not have the scratch to buy this tool. Not to worry: I explored 14 other metadata apps in an earlier article. Compare them to find an app that’s right for you. You can always upgrade to Soundminer later when you find consistent work on a triple-A game title or a full-season episodic television series.
However, I’d say Soundminer is essential if you’re expecting to edit, design, or organize sound files consistently in a professional environment. The price feels right for feature set and the amount of use you’ll get out of the app every day.
Soundminer v4.5 Pro retails for $899. It’s available for Mac OS X 10.6.8+, and requires a HASP or iLok dongle for copy-protection.
Learn more about Soundminer on their home page.
- Learn more about metadata in a series I published during the summer.
- Learn more about Soundminer in an earlier article.