A Dolby media encoder — being one of the top of the line names in sound management and delivery — would cost a huge amount of money once upon a time. Now, it’s part of Apple’s Logic Studio, a music composing, mixing and engineering product. Together with six dual layer DVDs worth of free content (around 40Gb) to play with and features that look like beginner tools but wield real pro power, the whole package will cost you $649.
How can Apple do it? Of course, it’s the iPod/iTunes model. The more free copies of iTunes there are on the world’s computers, the more people will buy the music player that works with it. Similarly, Apple can afford to give away so much in Logic Studio because you’ll have bought a Mac to run it on. It’s another example of the beautiful simplicity and synchronicity of the whole Apple product offering, and those qualities are very much a part of Logic Studio as well.
As a graphic artist, music mixing or composing might be an area you’re just starting to dabble in. If you’ve installed iLife and played with GarageBand, you’re in a good position to move up to Logic Studio.
It’s based on the same timeline-based workflow as video editing or animation software, so if you’re comfortable in that sort of environment you’ll feel at home. Like Final Cut Studio, Logic Studio brings a number of major tools together in the one box, but you’ll spend most of your time in Logic Pro arranging loops and sounds clips into your music.
You can approach Logic Studio from two distinct directions — sometimes both at once — importing recorded music or sound and treating it for publication or release, or creating an entire track or album entirely from digital sources. Clips can be audio (recorded and imported) or computer generated, based on the same principles of a MIDI file. Theoretically you can add as many tracks as your processor can manage, and with around 30 in one file, an older style PowerPC G5 with a little over 2Gb of RAM worked hard but handled it.
From there it’s a process of playing around. Drill right down into every individual track to add effects or make adjustments. But there’s a lot more to the feedback than just looking at a timeline. For the classically trained, Logic produces sheet music from your project you can print or follow along, making adjustments as you go that change the arrangement. You can even turn the keyboard into a virtual organ to produce sound from every conceivable source and write the sheet music as you go.
A project can also be broken up into ever-smaller components for action. Your song can be ‘chapterised’ into verses and choruses for grouping effects or you can virtually zoom right into the sound wave display to make changes. It’s at such micro-levels you appreciate the Take tools. If you’ve performed or recorded several takes, you can stitch them together in one track and select the best note, warble or twang for the final product, switching between multiple takes many times over and producing none of the snaps, crackles or pops of analogue mixing.
But all that’s just the beginning. There are tens of thousands of instruments, loops and effects. You can also record a sound in a particular environment, save the acoustic parameters and then apply it as a preset to any other project (reflow your whole track through ‘windy cathedral’ and ‘my bedroom’ to see how cool that is). And if you write, perform or mix for a living, you’ll wonder how it all fits in one box.