Online Review: Pitch-'n-Time v2.0.1, by Serato





    I don't know who did it the first time, but the guy or woman who came up with the idea for designing the time pitching plug in should get an Oscar equivalent. Time pitch software makes fitting audio to a predefined period of time a piece of cake. If the quality you get is OK of course, and your stretching or shortening demands are within certain limits. Stretching four minutes to two minutes will give you mostly nothing but digital audio garbage. The singer is digitally molested is such a way that -were it for real- he/she never would be able to look through the window of the studios control room again. You'd better rearrange the music and record it for new. In fact, that is what happens most of the time when the desired changes are off limits for the software.

    There are a lot of plug ins out there that give you pitch and time adjustment. Sometimes separated into two different plug ins, sometimes combined into one. Pitch 'n Time, by Serato, is an example of the combined version. We downloaded it from their website (www.serato.com) and installed it under Pro Tools Free Mac. (This free version is available for download for Mac and Windows at Digidesing's website). After having received the proper answer on the authorization challenge by e-mail, we fired up Pro Tools Free and started to explore the quality borders of Pitch 'n Time.

    "Before we dive into the detail, we give you a piece of info we found on the producers website. It describes the way Pitch 'n Time was designed:

    Up until now researchers have looked at the problem of time stretching as a mathematical one, and applied objective mathematical techniques to the problem. They've failed, because they haven't properly defined what they're trying to solve.
    It may seem obvious, but the perfect time stretch is one where the output sounds the same as the input, just faster or slower. The key word here is 'sounds', which means the problem isn't about waveforms or kilohertz - it's all about hearing.
    Serato Audio Research has developed a sophisticated model of the human auditory system. In a sense, the software "listens" to the music, performing a sophisticated auditory scene analysis. Only by listening can it determine what 'sounds' the same, but faster or slower. Normally using such a sophisticated model of the human auditory system would be computationally prohibitive, so novel mathematical methods had to be developed by Serato to speed up this process in software."

    OK, Sound good. Now that we know about the philosophy behind it all, let's see if these theories work in practice.

    First we give you a screenshot of the user interface as it appears when you pull down the AudioSuite menu in Pro Tools Free, and pick the Pitch 'n Time option:



    The user interface is crisp and clear, following Digidesign's standard for all plug ins under Pro Tools. Time and pitch settings can be obtained by typing in values, or using a percentage slider. The pitch also gives a character input, so that you can type in the desired pitch following the musical notation standard. The preferences button up right pulls down a subscreen, where you can click your desired way of working:



    So far, so good. No matter what way you're used to work (slider, values, percentages, musical notation), it is present in the user interface. Well thinking. As the user interface is simply clear, efficient and well designed, we can start testing right away. No fuzz with puzzling. Good. We're very curious.



    OK, we decide to rock this baby a little bit more than you normally would. We're putting this plug in just a little bit too far over the edge on purpose. If Pitch 'n Time fulfills this task in good order, it certainly will give you good quality within the borders you normally would use.

    We decide to take a track of the latest CD of the singer Anastacia, in the Netherlands well know for her voice that sounds a lot like good old Janis Joplin back in the old days. Maybe even a bit stronger, to our taste anyway. The song: the first 40 seconds or so of "One more chance", form her latest CD. We take Anastacia's voice on purpose as it is strong and lively,goes way deep and far up high, and is therefor a perfect victim for testing the occurrence of artifacts after having pitched and timed.

    As you can see within the red circles, we decide to bring the song, which takes 4:38:752 back in time about 38 seconds: back to exactly 4 minutes, the length of the virtual production we need this song for. We can assure you: that's a lot, far too much in fact. In a normal production we would not even think of doing this. This most certainly would bring full war with the artist. But for testing purposes, we think it's allowed. We want to put the plug over the edge, bad minds as we are ;-).

    Pitch 'n Time can do pitch and timing at the same time, so we shift the song two semitones (from C to D so to speak).

    We can preview the result and then hit the process button. It takes about 2 minutes and 10 seconds before this song is completely rendered according to the parameters just described (on a G4/500 Mac).

    The processing time is promising for the quality: a bit more time spent mostly means better quality. Is that the case with this plug in? Listen for yourself: we give you two links to Anastacia: first the original as extracted from her CD, then the Pitched and Timed one. Both files are in MP3 format, 704K, non-streaming. The files contain the first 40 seconds of the song, otherwise your download time would be unacceptable. If you're able to load these files into an audio editor that presents the waveform, do so. You will see the difference in timing.

    So: first a part of the song as it appears on the original CD:


    Anastacia Original.mp3


    And now the pitch and timed version we produced during the test:


    Anastacia TimePitch.mp3


    Well? Considering the fact that we chased this baby far over the edge on purpose, we think the quality is still very OK. Of course, if you listen very intensively you'll here some small artifacts. No wonder with these highly oversized values. And besides that: you're listening to a MP3 copy of the AIFF file we have on our harddisks, and that of course decreases quality a bit due to the conversion from AIFF to MP3.

    Consider that the reduction would only have been a few seconds, what you normally would do, the quality most probably will be excellent. In fact: we did this test and the quality appeared to be as good as we expected.

    Features.

    On the producers website, we found following list of features. It gives a pretty good overview of the functionality of Pitch 'n Time:

    * Perfect Pro-Tools integration.
    * Modify tempo from 50% to 200% of original and simultaneously pitch shift by ±12 semitones.
    * Unrivaled and unprecedented processing quality.
    * Unique patent-pending time compression/expansion and pitch-shifting algorithm.
    * No loss of timing accuracy.
    * Process stereo tracks without phasing.
    * Process Dolby matrix encoded tracks without losing surround information.
    * Time stretch by tempo change, length change, target length, or target BPM.
    * Select pitch shift by frequency change or semitone shift.
    * Preview changes in real time.
    * Fully Mac and Windows compatible
    * Multi-Channel Mode - allows you to process up to 48 tracks together while maintaining their original phase coherency.
    * Time-Morph - allows you to drop a marker at an event and move it anywhere; the audio flexes before and after to allow you to stretch out a single note, or even change the timing of a loop.
    * Variable Pitch Mapping - allows you to pitch-correct individual notes, remove or create pitch slides, or even make a realistic record scratch sound.
    * Variable Tempo Mapping - gives you the power to create variable tempo maps and changes over the length of your sample.
    * Waveform Overview - means you can actually see the effects of your tempo map as it is applied directly to the waveform.

    Looks impressive, right? Well: read the conclusion to learn about the rating we gave this baby.

    Conclusion.

    Pitch 'n Time is a very, very well designed tool for use under Pro Tools. On the scale from 1 to 10 we use, we give this timer and pitcher a really strong 9.
    Unfortunately, this plug does not run under the VST environment. In that case, it's superb quality would reach far more users. But: there are a lot of Pro Tools users out there. So we are not the only ones that are so enthusiastic about this plug. When you take a look at the producers website (http://www.serato.com), you will find quit a lot of very positive comments on the quality of this plug-in, made by several owners of recording studios all over the USA. One of these comments says: "Pitch 'n Time is what pitch shifters and time expanders/compressors promised to be, but could never fulfill". That is exactly the way we think about this plug. Very, very good, hence the fat 9.

    Pricing and downloads are available on the producers website.


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

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    26.12.2001