Can editing sounds be as easy as editing pixels in a tool like Photoshop? That’s the question asked yet again by an audio editor, in the announcement of a new tool called Spectral Layers, seen in a new teaser.
Visualizing sound is not a simple problem, but you can do worse than the spectral view. Mapping frequency over time rather than just amplitude, the graphic spectrum illuminates components of a sound as we hear it, showing sonic energy of different frequencies in brightness and color. And audio editors have routinely made use of these views, whether as displays in various audio editors (some editable, some non-editable views), or in graphical tools like the ground-breaking MetaSynth. In fact, even Adobe themselves have weighed in on the “Photoshop for sound” notion with their own Soundbooth app, which, naturally, copies the toolset verbatim from the company’s flagship Photoshop image editor. See also: Photosounder, which perhaps comes closest to this tool, and SPEAR, which is available free on Mac and Windows and has some fascinating resynthesis features. (Spectral sound design probably deserves its own post, later on!)
Spectral Layers nonetheless looks to potentially break new ground by focusing entirely on the idea. Whereas many audio editing tools that use spectral views have had modest editing facilities, here, it’s the entire program — and with some nice twists. On-the-fly selection previewing means that you’re constantly listening to your audio, not just looking at it. Advanced selection brushes make honing in on certain parts of your sound more precise, including by essential harmonic editing tools. (We hear harmonic relationships intuitively, so editing wave spectra at the literal frequency, rather than in the logarithmic proportions with which we hear, doesn’t work nearly as well.)
Spectral Layers also works with visualizing spectra in more compelling ways than just the typical, two-dimensional frequency vs. time view. Three-dimensional visualizations make seeing details in the sound easier.
Then you get into the actual editing. The developers are promising some powerful features, from extraction to independent pitch and time transformations, all moving this well beyond eye candy to the realm of deep sound editing. (The UI shows other features as well.)
There’s a new UI tutorial, but some of the features in brief:
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