Tip #7 – iTunes for Music and Effects

iTunes_soundtrack

If you work with temp music and effects and you haven’t started using iTunes as an adjunct to the Media Composer, you owe it to yourself to try it. Once you get used to the way it works, I think you’ll wonder how you got along without it. It’s great for two reasons.

First, iTunes makes it very easy to organize your sound effects and music. Most of the commercial sound effects libraries are now part of the Gracenote database, so when you load those CDs into iTunes the tracks get labeled and organized automatically. Once your effects are loaded, you can easily do a keyword search and find everything with the word “splash” or “gunshot” or “wind” in the description and listen to them with a simple double click. (Unlike the MC, iTunes keeps playing even as you move around in a clip, which makes it great for browsing.)

Second, iTunes can play things simultaneously with the Media Composer. This makes it a terrific tool for experimenting with temp music. You park the MC at the beginning of a sequence where you need music and press play. Then switch to iTunes and press play there. You are now playing music against picture, and you can move your cursor around in iTunes or the MC and try different synch positions easily. This is much quicker and easier than trying things out using CDs or, worse yet, within the MC itself.

Here are some tips that will make this process easier:

You don’t want to have to listen to iTunes through the tiny speakers on your computer. So make sure that the audio output of your Mac or PC is routed through your mixer. Then you’ll be able to adjust the level of iTunes just as you would a CD player.

Even though the Gracenote database now gets most CD tracks labeled correctly, it does make mistakes. Be sure to check the labeling, including the “genre.” You want scores labeled “Soundtrack” and sound effects labeled as “Sound Effects.” That’ll make it a lot easier to find things later.

Be sure you load your material into iTunes in an Avid-friendly way. The Media Composer won’t import “variable bit rate” MP3s, nor will it accept AAC-encoded files. So you must load iTunes using the MP3 encoder, preferably at a high bit rate, like 192 kbps. Better yet, load your audio as AIF files, which aren’t compressed at all. This takes up the most space but yields the highest quality. You’ll find these settings in the iTunes Preferences under Advanced > Importing.

Most important, the MC won’t import from iTunes directly. You can’t drag and drop from iTunes into an Avid bin. This is frustrating, and I hope Avid engineering will do something about it, but there’s a fairly simple workaround. Just drag from iTunes into folder on your desktop first. This creates a copy of the sound file and leaves the original in iTunes. Then drag that copy into a bin.

Once the file has been successfully imported into the MC you can delete the copy from the finder. You also probably want to adjust the level of the source file in the MC. For some reason, things that play properly in iTunes will come into the MC much too loud.

Finally, I suggest that you tell the MC to sample rate convert your audio during input. Though the system will now play any sample rate in the timeline, it will insist on rendering these files when you attempt to make a digital cut. That’s awkward and messy. It’s easier to let the MC do all of that during input. You’ll find these settings in Import Settings > Audio.

Once you start using iTunes for work, you may find yourself wanting to create more than one iTunes music library. Check out the program Libra. It does a good and simple job of helping you switch from one library to another. You’ll find it here: http://homepage.mac.com/sroy/libra/

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7 Comments on “Tip #7 – iTunes for Music and Effects”

  1. Dan Lebental ace Says:

    I have been using I tunes with my avids for a few years now. It was great untill the library got too big. Then you get the spinning circle all of the time. I finally got tired of it and bought Netmix Pro which is alot more hefty and can interface with protools.


  2. I recommend a little tool called Synergy that acts like a “remote control” for iTunes. You can assign a keyboard shortcut for the play, stop, next track etc. functions. For example, I have apple+spacebar for play/stop. I can hit this shortcut while I am in any other program to start playing a song without having to switch to iTunes first. It’s useful also when the telephone rings and you need to stop the playback quickly. I just hit apple+spacebar.

    http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/ipod_itunes/synergy.html

    For FCP there is a wonderful application called “Loader” that allows you to drag & drop out of iTunes onto a small Loader droplet that prompts a automatic conversion of the file to AIF and imports it into FCP. It would be lovely to have something like this for AVID.

  3. Steve Says:

    Synergy sounds great. Thanks. Stopping and starting the two aps at the same time is a pain, and, especially with Unity, pretty slow because the context switch takes so much time.

  4. Simone Says:

    where are the sound effects?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? Cannot find them!

  5. David Mann Says:

    Wow, way didn’t I think about it – I have been using audioFinder to organize my sound effects is is great ( but not free )

  6. Roger cooper Says:

    I like to keep the copied file on the desktop in the event The clip gets deleted, and i have to batch import. If I delete this copy as you suggest, would I be able to batch import the original into media composer from the iTunes/ music folder?
    Thanks.


  7. After hunting for the perfect “poor man’s Netmix Pro” for too long, I finally caved and went with iTunes. With some effort, it works pretty well. And of course, the price is right. To make it easier to manage, check out the great AppleScript’s at Doug’s AppleScript’s for iTunes (http://dougscripts.com/itunes/)

    Also excellent is XMiL Songster, which carries in metadata from iTunes into Media Composer via an ALE. (http://xmil.biz/Songster2/songster2appPage.shtml)


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