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No Film School - "Add Sounds in Real-Time with Audio Design Desk"

By Daron James - This article originally appeared on nofilmschool.com

Part sound library, part AI – all at your fingertips.

Audio Design Desk is made for speed. It’s a new spin on a digital audio workstation (DAW) that uses AI-assisted tools and a huge sound library to help filmmakers create and manage aural workflows in real-time.  

How It Works

After importing video into a project you then watch the playback and strike a key on the computer’s keyboard and the sound effect associated with that key will be automatically placed and synced on the timeline. So if the video shows someone walking into a room, you can seamlessly place a footstep sound effect at each step while you’re watching in real-time. There’s no need to manually drag-n-drop each sound element to the timeline, though the program allows you do to so like any other DAW.

Sound effects are placed with the highest peak point synced exactly to where you clicked and are adjusted for latency. Once all the elements are set, you can audition new sounds automatically. Audio Design Desk will pull from its massive library of 20,000 AAC formatted sound effects and replace them without losing sync. Elements can also be automatically adjusted for mood, genre or feel creating infinite compositions. It can be all done manually as well. 

Music can be added to a project by pressing “Z” or by going to the music tab and selecting a track. You can also add your own music to the library.

Importing New Sounds

Any sound you import can perform the same as the included library. The program has an intelligent sound importer to attach metadata allowing the file to automatically sync to the timeline. 

Supported Formats

The program allows you to import WAV, MP3, AAC or AIF audio. For video, MOV, MP4, M4V, and MPG are supported. Exported video is either MP4, M4V, or Apple ProRes 422 LPCM and audio is limited to WAV only.

Interestingly, the program allows you to import YouTube and Vimeo videos directly into a project using the link via its “Open Remote Video” option. This bypasses the need to download videos separately.

Machine Learning

Audio Design Desk has AI built in to learn what sounds you like and reject over time adjusting to your taste. We hope there’s a way to turn this option off as sound elements vary from story to story, but it is an interesting concept. We’ll have to wait and see exactly how it works over time.

Integration

Projects can be easily exported to other non-linear editors or DAWs including Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Logic, DaVinci Resolve, Avid Media Composer and Pro Tools. You can export compositions as an XML or AAF file for sync. The software also works with hardware controllers like Elgato Stream Deck.

Compatibility

It’s currently only available for macOS with 10.13 or higher. You’ll need 8 GB RAM and 1 GB free disk space to install the program. No Film School spoke to its creator, Gabriel Cowan, and he said a version for PC is in the pipeline.

Price & Availability

The program is subscription-based. Each subscription receives one license that can be used on a single device. However, if you need to extend the license to multiple machines you can contact Audio Design Desk to inquire about expanding.  

Tier 1: $14.99/month: The basic subscription level provides everything you need to get going and includes quarterly sound pack updates.Tier 2: $29.99/month: This option adds integration support for AAF, XML, and Cuesheet export. It also has access to high-quality sound packs. If you plan on integrating with Adobe, Avid, or Pro Tools this is the option you’ll need.

Final Thoughts

Audio Design Desk is an interesting concept. It definitely opens up new doors for those who haven’t discovered the importance of sound design and sound editing. But there is a learning curve with the program as it will take time to get familiar with all the keystrokes.

The two different subscription levels are bothersome. It would be better if integration was included for $14.99 as it’s tough swallowing the additional cost to export to industry-standard AAF or XML files. I also wish there was an option that wasn’t subscription-based – a perpetual license to own the program outright. While each tier adds new sounds quarterly, it will be hard to know the quality, quantity, and genre you’re receiving until it arrives. 

However, I can see the program becoming a favorite among those new to sound design, especially social media users. You can find out how it works for you via a 30-day free trial by visiting here.

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