Five months ago — while watching one of my favorite YouTube channels, Film Riot — I was confronted with an overview of a fascinating musical composition program called Filmstro aimed at providing “budding content creators” an affordable and flexible way of integrating and tailoring different musical scores into their work.
Click here to see my initial opinion and full exposition of the program.
Five months ago, I found out that the program was only available for Macs, but that a Windows version was on the way, slated to launch in March. March came and went. I checked in with Filmstro’s Twitter periodically to get updates. On June 9th, I get notice that it was only one week away, with the release date set tentatively on June 16th.
Unfortunately, June 16th came and went with no release, but we did finally get the Windows version of Filmstro July 11th! Windows can be a harsh mistress, especially releasing for Windows 10, so I’m not faulting anyone for the delays. Of course, I didn’t find out until the 15th, but as soon as I heard it was available I downloaded it, began the installation progress, and waited…and waited…and waited.
— Filmstro (@Filmstro) July 11, 2016
Here’s where we get into it! The following is my initial review of Filmstro from the perspective of a new, excited user who actually has no intention of using it. I just love innovative software that balances fun with productivity. I know. I’m a weird guy.
When I say that I waited and waited, there is one major factor to keep in mind while you read: My computer is far from top of the line. It’s a Windows 7 machine with an AMD Phenom II proc and 8 GB of DDR2 RAM. It chugs uphill through my Adobe CC programs and bottlenecks when trying to pre-render clips at half res. If you understand what I’m talking about great, if not it’s no big deal. Just know my computer is a little slow.
We start by downloading the 72.2 MB executable file; the program installs easily enough with the option to choose your own directory – a very important part to managing disk space!
After the install, we need to sign-in. But the app doesn’t give you the option to create an account from the home screen and the Google authorization didn’t work for me, either. I HAD to go back to the Filmstro website and create/authorize my account.
Once I’m signed in, the app then downloads the compressed audio library. This “let’s download more parts of the app” is a standard operating procedure for programs nowadays to make their from-the-web installers manageable to download in a timely fashion. After the compressed audio library is downloaded (about 15 minutes at around 75 Mbps), it is then unpacked before you can do anything with the program. On my “little-computer-that-could” this process took around 30 minutes. Time to make a pot of coffee and some breakfast, yeah?
During this time, you can watch a quick tutorial video. Very quick. It even starts fast, which doesn’t really allow much time for your brain to attenuate to what’s being said until about 15 seconds into this minute long tutorial. In my opinion, this embedded Vimeo video would be better branded as a quick-start guide (actually, the opening text on the video does say “Getting Started”). Further, with the actual installation taking so long, integrating a series of videos explaining different sections of the app could be helpful and educational!
Okay, it’s finally up and running. We see our three sections (again, read my previous article for a more intimate breakdown): Explore, Create, and Audition. I want to dive right into the demo so I can play with the bits! Except for some reason, the demo video didn’t download. The Demo folder in the directory is empty and clicking the button does nothing for me.
So I load my own video and get to tinkering! And it works beautifully. Mostly. This is where we circle back to the faults with my computer. The music selection takes a few seconds to load and the audio stutters. The first video I chose to import bogs down the program, but it was an old video that I obviously did not encode properly. The next import runs much more smoothly, though still suffering the audio stutters (again, that’s probably my computer).
Things I’d consider adding if I were the developer:
- Clicking the “Open Demo” button should connect to the server and download a demo file if none is present on the system.
- A “Reset” button that returns a theme to the default Momentum-Depth-Power settings whether listening in audition mode or even in a project. This would be helpful if you knew the key frames in which your shots come in line with the default theme setting, or if you just wanted to compare what you’ve tinkered out with the original.
- Tooltips over the import video button, export audio button, and perhaps a description for the three theme sliders. True newcomers will thank you for this. An option to turn tooltips on and off in the settings would be nice for veteran users. Or you could better explain the functions in other tutorial videos.
- The ability to drag themes in to edit even without a video so audio beds could be made for audio-only broadcasts (such as podcasts, commercials, or radio). Turns out you can import just an audio piece, I just didn’t have any in the folder I was testing from!
My Final Thoughts:
You may think that this review was a little nitpicky, and you’d be right. The reason for that is because I really like the program. The Mac version has been out for a while now, the interface is pretty intuitive, and you don’t have to worry too much about hitting a wrong button. Keyboard shortcuts are clearly marked in the header menu, though it seems unnecessary to tie so few controls into the CTRL/Command key. Regardless, the bottom line is I had to look for little things because overall it was a great experience!
Mixing the track to fit the scene is intuitive and placing key frames is literally as simple as clicking with the mouse. The timeline fading out the differing facets all but removes the potential for miss-clicks that could hinder your workflow. Overall, the learning curve is very shallow, and if you’re serious about mixing some music into a scene you will be able to choreograph your music to match your cuts or changes in action literally in minutes. Pro-tip: You can actually shrink different themes and layer multiple pieces into the same video!
They also include a wide range of options when it comes to licensing, as low as $9.99 per month for personal use all the way up to $5,999 for the “annual blanket” for television and radio broadcasts. They have a budget to fit everyone! There are even a few free tracks that you can just use. How awesome is that, seriously?!
Overall, if you’re a budding filmmaker, podcaster, creative director, or some other content creator this program is worth taking a hard look at, especially because you can start using it for free today. As an added bonus, if you tweet or share #filmstro from the app, they’ll give you a one-month free trial (personal use license).
While he's not reminiscing fondly over his ill-gotten acorn collection, you can also catch him pretending to know anything at all about audio while trying to produce this train wreck they call a podcast in his "studio," which is nothing more than an multidimensional pocket shimmed between the fabric of space-time. That's where sasquatches live, you know.