If you have any interest in the technology of sound, stop reading and download the demo of Sony Creative Software's latest offering, SpectraLayers Pro. Got it? Good. SpectraLayers Pro will take about an hour to learn. But like fly-fishing, chess and tai chi, it may well take a lifetime to master. I figure about 20% of you will go that far. The rest will learn a few skills that can't be done by any other software and be satisfied. No one will regret the download.
Ray Beentjes, best known for his role as dialogue editor on such features as King Kong and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, explains, "SpectraLayers is like Photoshop for sound. You're applying image-processing concepts to sound— quite a groundbreaker. You have the ability to change the view of your sound clip, whether that be adjusting the contrast or the brightness of the image or its opacity, etc., and then use the selection tools to break down the audio into the parts you're needing to accentuate or remove. Those tools respond to a user-defined view of the sound and allow you to zone in on the precise area you're trying to attack. I've been using it for dealing with bad on-set noises that have happened during film production sound recording."
Suppose you have a location dialogue recording and a police siren messes up your best take. The siren appears as several distinct horizontal lines, representing the fundamental frequency and several higher frequency harmonics. Other sounds, such as narration, appear as more complex spectral images.
To rid yourself of the siren, open a new layer. The overall screen image can be enhanced using sliders to adjust the gamma and level of the graphic representation so that all of the frequencies are clearly shown. Of several extraction tools offered, use the Extract/Harmonics tool to highlight a portion of the siren's fundamental frequency. Automatically, the program highlights all of the harmonics of that fundamental. Press the Tab key to preview the selection, then copy that frequency from the source layer into the new layer. To eliminate the siren, simply click the Phase button on the "siren layer" (from + to -). Since the siren is now represented by two exact duplicates, each of which is opposite in phase from the other, the siren is eliminated. Performing edits are as simple as this.
Would you like a bit of siren for atmosphere? Adjust the layer's volume to your taste with the gain slider in the layer.
In addition to the siren, let's say there's fan hiss in the background. The "print" of a fan is more complex than a siren and will represent a vertical smear. For this, you'd select any of the extract tools and sweep an area of the file that has only noise. Then click the Extract/Noise tool and click Register Noise. The Extract/Noise tool has now become a new brush that paints only the noise.
Says Beentjes, "I feel like I'm just getting to know what it can do. It's fairly 'deep,' but it has a bunch of cool features that make it a completely complementary tool to many of the modern FFT-based cleanup software around."
After separating and adjusting the layers, you render out the new mix, or transfer the layers to Sony Sound Forge, Vegas or nearly any other editor or DAW for further mixing with other tracks or video.