Review of Quantum Leap's
OK, you eventually
do find a reason to leave the
studio. If for anything, to appease the significant other who says "Honey,
we need to go out more". "Ok, dear", you smile, "lets go to a movie".
Of course you are thinking 'I'll see anything they want as long as it has a good
soundtrack.' Hehe. Don't worry. I won't tell. You might
be thinking a lot about soundtracks. I am. And when I get to the
theatre, all immersed in surround sound, I can't help wonder why my sound is not
like their sound. I mean really, how to they achieve that HUGE sound?
I don't have all the answers (yet), but I do have some. (You see, the
Tweak himself is a student; we never stop learning).
Browse StormDrum through Tweak's Audio Pro Shop
Part of the answer is the sheer numbers of
professionals involved. There are music supervisors, often several
composers, companies that do nothing but foley and sound effects, top notch
recordists, musicians, and mix engineers. That's a lot of hats to wear for
a single person in their home studio. It might seem strange to the newbies
here, but much of the sound you hear at the movies is created on the same tools
you may have in your studio.
Another big part of the sound equation is the
quality of the recorded sound itself. The best mics, preamps and signal
processing are used. That's stuff we may never afford. Hiring a string
section, percussion ensembles, virtuoso musicians--another element we are
unlikely to be able to afford. To the rescue are sample libraries. Many of
these are so good that people making soundtracks use them. Go ahead turn
on the TV to HBO and Cinemax and scan through the movies. Is that a real
string section? Or is it sampled? Most of the time its the latter.
The software sampler is the modern solution to
inexpensive music production for film. The sounds are, depending on the
package, recorded in top notch studios and halls by experienced engineers and
producers. They come already mapped for you and accessible to your
sequencers by MIDI as a VSTi or Audio Unit plugin. Not that many years ago
this was impossible. Film composers had multiple racks of 16 bit samplers,
each holding only 128 megs of samples recorded at 48khz tops. Now we can
gang up multiple computers and run hundreds of virtual instruments if we want
with a separate track for every instrument in your imagined orchestra.
Even on a single fast computer you have enough horsepower to make big sound,
given that you have the right sounds.
This is exactly where StormDrum fits in.
I've had it at the TweakLab about a month and have used it in about 4
compositions. I'll tell you now, I like it. Storm drum has the
percussion hits and action beds you need for dramatic, action-oriented film
scores. Some of the hits are huge and perfectly treated with just the
right blend of reverb to be monstrously cinematic. Heh, when I hit the F1
key in the Kompakt preset "Taikos Earthquake" the room rattles and shakes.
Many keymaps, when viewed and dissected in Kontakt, show the richness of the
mapping. Some drums have different samples for 8, 10, 12 levels of
velocity. This lets each key respond beautifully to your touch, something
you won't find in inexpensive sample sets or in synths.
StormDrum is so easy to use it feels like you
are cheating. The kind of feeling you may have had when you first started
using audio loops in Acid or Ableton's Live. But Storm Drum is much more
than audio loops. You actually get two soft samplers with
it--special versions of Kompakt and Intakt designed by Native
StormDrum Kompakt lets you work with
individual drum hits. The samples are laid out across the keyboard in the
familiar drum map. You sequence like you would any synth's drum kits, in
the grid, piano roll, matrix or drum editors depending on which flavor of
sequencer you are using. Like the full version of Kompakt, you can have 8
keymaps active at any time in each instance, addressable by 1-8 midi channels.
StormDrum Intakt loads audio loops that play when you press a key and
stop when you let it up. As with Intakt, the loops play at whatever tempo
your sequencer is doing. You can use multiple instances both at the same
time in your sequencer.
The Kompakt Side
You get lots of stuff, all percussion based,
from classic and vintage drum kits to esoteric world percussion. There's
some strange stuff in here too, a couple of maps called "Metal Shop" and a very
clacky but cool prepared piano. The major categories for the presets are
1. Acoustic drums 2. Electronic Drums 3.
Large Percussion 4. Metal Shop 5.Prepared Piano and 6. Small Percussion
On first look this does not appear to be much,
until you start to dig through the directories. There are tons of samples.
About 6GB total. Many of the kits follow the GM standard for
mapping, making it easy to audition different kits without changing the pattern
you made in your sequencer. There's stuff for Rock, pop, vintage, dance
and hip hop. Plenty of snare sets and toms cymbals. In the Large
Percussion, the standout instrument is called "Big Hits" which is exactly as
those two words describe. Ideal for making your own movie action bed.
The world percussion includes stuff you won't find in may other collections,
like the Chilean Bombo, Temple Rain drum, Azerbaijani Doira and Taikos which all
have a unique sound. Unique sounding Small Percussion favorites are, for
me, the Iraqi Talking drum, Nigerian Udu, the Kohl Drum, Talking Coconut.
There's lots of ot
her stuff, these are just the highlights for
me, who has been sampling world drums for many years. There's a definite
African, central American and Middle Eastern slant to the collection, unlike
other traditional world sets that focus on Latin and Indian samples. (Might want
to consider Yellow Tool Culture for those.) You won't find congas or
tablas; you will find dumbeks and batas. And one very nice ThunderEnsemble.
Perhaps the biggest strength of the collection is not that it does an
encyclopedia or drums, but for those it does do, it does them extremely well.
The Intakt Side
On the Intakt side of things you have the
1. Action Beds 2. Big Beats 3. Ethnic Chase
4. FastBreaks 5. Film Tech, and 6. Thunderous
The Action Beds, as you might guess, are
perfect for action sequences in film dramas. Many of the loops are 16 bars
and you get 8 or so variations on adjacent keys. This keeps your track
from sounding too canned, like what you get using typical 2 bar loops. Big Beats
has stuff that can work in a variety of contexts. These are well-baked
loops, resplendent with FX, often distorted hits (which I personally have had
enough of). The Ethnic Chase loops are cleaner, though staying with the
film motif, are generally fast and energizing. FastBreaks are even faster,
providing for a drumNbass kind of sensibility using worldly samples. Film
Tech has loops with more of a film score flare. My favorite category is
last, called Thunderous. Check out the beauty of Ape City and Around the
Island, Assassins, and Evil Minions. Heck, you might get some strong ideas
as to what film shots you need to complete the picture.
There are some limitations to these "special
versions" of Intakt and Kompakt. The main one is that they only load the
supplied sounds. Building new instruments out of the samples is not available.
The special versions do not have a browser that lets you drag in samples like
the full versions. However, if you do have the full versions of Kompakt
and Intakt, these restrictions are freed and if you have the full version of Kontakt you have total control to build presets from the sample level up,
including velocity switching. (The Full Kompakt only lets you build keymaps with
one sample per key). So if you want total flexibility you really want all
3, and at that price you might as well go whole hog and get Komplete2 along with
StormDrum. That's the marketing angle. But if you are just loading
preset instruments and adjusting their filter and effects, the supplied special
versions are fine.
So is StormDrum right for you? Of course
it depends on what you are doing. If you are just after typical hip hop
beatz, yes you can do them with StormDrum but you might be disappointed,
depending on how conventional your hip hop is. The more open you are to
true African and Middle Eastern type drums the happier you will be. You'll
also like the variety of snares. Ditto for the trance masters. Cool
stuff? Yes. But it is not going to fit the standard mold.
Rockers and Poppers? Stormdrum will work and well because the drums are so
well recorded and effected. The hats and cymbals all work together and the toms
are gorgeous. However, if you like to work with dry samples, this may not
be the package. Nearly everything has ambience, if not full reverb, imbued
in the recording. What is nice is that they got the reverb right for many
professional-sounding productions. But at the end of the day in the mix,
the sampled treatment will either work or it won't.
That brings us to the world percussion and the
film oriented hits and beds, which to me, are the crown jewels of the set.
The drums are rare and not easy to find, let alone find someone who can play
them, and they sound fantastic. The film oriented sound takes work
to make--hours on each sample--if you were to do these yourself from raw
drummage. Here again we have things recorded with lots of ambience and
high quality reverb, which is the nature of the beast in terms of getting the
big blockbuster sound. Here it is all done for you, sort of like having
your own personal sound effects company and audio engineer. Folks that are
too busy with the visual aspects of the film and just need great sounding audio
will find the Intakt loops a godsend. Those who want to take control of
the audio and build sequences from scratch will be using the Kompakt side.
Either way you'll find that massive sound you may be looking for to perk up your
movie. The hardcore tweaks will enjoy the addition of a great library to
their Kontakt collection, which can be mixed and mangled with their other
Want to talk about StormDrum? Visit the
StormDrum Topic at Studio-Central