The multifaceted MetaSynth
2.7 sample editor and synthesizer from U&I software offers a broad
range of DSP functions. But what really sets it apart is its palette of
graphic sound-design tools. Not only can its Image Synth turn images into
sound, but it also converts sound files to sonograms for graphic manipulation
and resynthesis. MetaSynths assortment of standard and not-so-standard
DSP tools offers a range of possibilities not found anywhere else. This
makes it an essential tool for both sound designers and composers.
Yet because MetaSynth is such a deep program and, frankly, doesnt
conform to conventional Mac interface design, unlocking some of its mysteries
requires a bit of know-how. In this article, I will provide an overview
of some of MetaSynths more advanced features, including the Image
Synth, the extensive array of filters, and the Cross Convolution tool.
Along the way, Ill touch on other aspects of the program, but keep
in mind that this only scratches the surface of MetaSynths capabilities.
the Heart of the Image Synth
To fully appreciate the uniqueness of MetaSynths Image Synth, heres
a brief look at how it works. At its heart, the Image Synth is a graphics
editor with tools specially selected for sound manipulation. In converting
a picture to sound, think of each horizontal line of pixels as representing
a single note that will play the built-in synthesizer or a sample of your
choice (the sound-making option is called the rendering source).
The lines vertical position indicates the notes pitch, the
horizontal position marks its position in time, and the lines length
shows its duration. The line also provides time-varying volume and pan
information for the note: changes in brightness control volume, and changes
in color on the red/green scale control pan position. (The RGB spectrums
blue component doesnt affect the sound.)
Pictures are rendered into sound using a variety of sound sources, including
a variable-waveform oscillator, a sample player, a multisampled instrument,
a pseudo-FM synth, and a granular synth. The Image Synth can be approached
as a kind of glorified piano rollstyle note editor or as a sound
canvas for painting and analyzing sound files. The view you adopt during
any session will greatly influence how you use MetaSynths many graphic-editing
tools, and it will also affect your choice of rendering sources. Ill
describe both approaches in this article.
with permission from
Magazine, February, 2001
© 2001, Intertec Publishing, A Primedia Company All Rights Reserved
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