Online Review: Montage v1.0, by Arboretum





We will dive directly to the main findings on Montage v1.0, the brand new audio and video montage software by Arboretum.

During a couple of sessions, we tested Montage to the bone. Already after some hours of working with this new package of Arboretum, we asked ourselves a basic question: what kind of software is this? Well, to be honest: we still don't know for sure. Is it an audio editor and arranger? Yes, and no. You can arrange and edit audio to some extent, but not as suffisticated as an audio editor should be able to. Is it a post production tool for audio? More or less, but not totally. You can post produce audio, but the effects are limited to those that come in the box. Other plug ins are not possible. Is it a video production package? Hmmmmm...... yes, and no, again. You can arrange video clips and apply a bunch of effects to them. But not as complex as other video editors can. OK, then what is it? We will try to explain.

First of all: the basic concept of Montage is absolutely OK. The idea: provide musicians with a tool they can use to produce video clips along their music. Further more, provide the user with an easy to understand, intuitive user interface. Creative people do not want to read manuals, they want to be creative and produce right after the software is installed, remember? Well, with Montage you can. It took us about ten minutes to get the basic idea of working with this software, which is very quickly.

With Montage, you basically work like this:
- you import your audio production
- you import the video clips or images and arrange them along the audio,
you apply effects to video and audio by selecting the part you want to be effected and then choose one of the available effects,
- you preview your production in the View window.

It is just as easy as that. No hassle with complex positioning: just drag the stuff where you want it to appear in your audio or video production, using a free and intuitive user interface.



This screenshot of the user interface shows the video images in the upper half, and the audio track in the lower half. The parts with orange tabs are the effects for both video and audio, applied to certain parts of the production. All are non-destructive, so you can experiment around as much as you like without ruining the original audio or video.

Both video and audio fragments have handles to position them, or you can drag the clips any direction you want. The clips do not have to be in a horizontal sequential position: you can position your stuff any way you like, as shown below in the screenshot of the same test production.



The user interface provides basic stuff like popup menu, snap to grid (or not), time reel on top including snapping to the time reel, and the like. Enough to navigate you quickly and easily through your video or audio production.



In this screen shot you see the Time window, that -in this case- shows the start, end and duration of the selected clip (black). The green marker shows where the production should start, and the red one where it should end. The blue one shows the current position. The gray ones are markers you can snap your audio and/or video clip to.


* Hyperprism and Ray Gun Pro in action.

Ray Gun Pro.

Ray Gun Pro is Arboretums flag ship for audio restoration for OS X. Ray Gun Pro is built for cleaning up scratchy vinyl, tape hiss, noisy dialog, HVAC noise, and any track with poor sonic quality. Ray Gun Pro offers extensive control over individual parameters for more demanding applications. This plug in contains a new, state-of the-art noise reduction engine with attack and decay sliders for better tuning of speech, percussion, and sustained sounds. "Noise prints" allow users to select a noise filter for specific audio problems, and the noise equalizer offers low, mid, and high threshold sliders to raise or lower the noise threshold in one of the three bands relative to the global noise threshold. We found Ray Gun Pro very effective and well working.

Hyperprism.

Hyperprism is a standalone program offering more than 40 audio processes - a virtual rack of effects that can be "played" much like any musical instrument. Built for electronic music production, film/video, broadcast, and multimedia sound design.
Hyperprism's distinctive Blue Window™ permits easy gestural control of every effect parameter. You can change the resonance and cutoff of a filter, or the mix and regeneration of a reverb simultaneously, with a single mouse movement of the white dot shown in the screen shot above. Hyperprism for OS X includes: Auto Pan, Band Pass, Band Reject, Bass Maximizer, Chorus, Compressor, Doppler, Double Chorus , Echo, EchoTranz™, Flanger, Formant Pitch Shifter, Frequency Shifter, Hall Reverb, Harmonic Exciter, High Pass, High Shelf , HyperPhaser™, HyperVerb™, Limiter, Low Pass, Low Shelf, More Stereo, M-S Matrix, Multi Delay, New!! Multi Phaser , Noise Gate, Noise Generator, Parametric, EQ, Phaser, Quasi Stereo, Ring Modulator, Single Delay, Sonic Decimator™, Stereo Dynamics, Tremolo, Tube/Tape Saturator, and Vibrato. Those of you that already know the OS 9 version of Hyperprism will underline our findings: Hyperprism is a strong tool that gives you a full range of audio enhancement of all kinds mentioned above. Very good.

Will these plug ins run separately?

No. For this initial release, Ray Gun Pro OS X will only run as plug-ins within the Montage environment. Ray Gun Pro OS X will be available as Audio Units plug-in in the next upgrade release, ready to be used as stand alone plug-in under applications that can cope with the Audio Units plug in format of OS X. The same goes for Hyperprism. Audio Units -by the way- is the new Apple plug-in format that is proposed as a standard for all OS X audio related applications.

Formats.

When you production reaches its final state, it is time for a puzzle: in what format will you save your production. When only sound is involved, your choice is quickly made: AIF, WAV, System 7 sound for Apple, or uLaw. No MP3, for that matter. And no SD II... Idea for the next release?

When video is involved, you will have to do some extra thinking, especially when you consider to stream your stuff over the internet. This needs some extra knowledge, which is not explained in detail in the html help files that come with Montage. The help files give you a good explanation of all functions in Montage, but do not provide deeper info to help you get going on the question"what settings should I use for what situation". Maybe Arboretum can do some extra work here: most creatives are not that well educated when it comes to this kind of important stuff ;-).

Below are two screen shots that show you all options when exporting your production to the rest of the world.





Is this product finished?

Yes, and no. Meaning: the basic concept is good, what it has to offer works fine. Montage 1.0 cab best be considered as a easy to use basic tool for post production of audio and audio + video. Basic: the features are not very rich, but basically enough to get you on the road. So, in this perspective, Montage is a finished product. But we feel the product is not complete somehow and has far more potential, most certainly when looking at the way you can work this software in an intuitive and creative way. To our opinion some more video effects would not be a too great luxury. On the technical level: the developers still have some programming and debugging to do, since the application crashed several times during work. It just broke down and vanished into thin air, dragging the non saved modifications in the test production with it. No auto backup saved. As far as we are concerned, a commercial sold product should not carry these kind of bugs. Another thing is that VST plug ins are not supported, so all you can work with are the two plug ins that come embedded within Montage. That may be enough for some, for us this is too basic.

Rating.

If we had to rate this product for it's very good user interface, a 8,5 to 9 would be the result. However, the -to our opinion- too basic set you get lowers the overall rating. Plus the fact that Montage crashed several times during testing. Plus the fact that VST is not supported, thus limiting the audio manipulation functionality to only the embedded plug ins. Which is a too small basis, to our opinion. Montage has great potential, but still has some growing to do. Therefore, the overall rating goes to 7,5. When Arboretum can manage to let grow Montage to a more mature state, the next upgrade or release will most certainly raise to a higher rating. The potential is there, absolutely!

By the way, if you're interested: here are the audio files we used testing Montage. We won't show you the video: it's too embarrassing. We are audio guys, without any video creativity gifts ;-):

Loeloe's Birthday.

November 2001.

Pricing and downloads are available on the producers website:
http://www.arboretum.com/.


There is an upgrade to version 1.1.1 available here.


All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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Last modification: 08.06.2003