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Photophore Review: The Sound Of Flocks

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

photophore_1
Photophore, would I take it with me on a desert island? We often think of things we could not live without. My friends and I would determine if something was useful by rating whether or not you would want it if you were stranded on a desert island. With the obvious, food, water and shelter out of the way, you have a 16gb iPad.
Somehow it survived the plane or boat crash that landed you on the island. What apps would you install before getting on an airplane or a cruise ship, you know just in case something happens and you end up stranded on an island?

I think that Photophore would make the list. It is super small in size, 10 MB, and it is super powerful. It provides a simple interface for programing and modifying your patches. It has a unique sound engine is made up of flocks of oscillators that mimic animal behavior. You can interact with the flock by swiping your finger across the screen and watching the little oscillators flee from your finger. This can create chaos and pitch modulation to add some dimension to a simple saw lead or pad sound (check my video at the bottom of this post for a quick overview of the app).

A few technical details
It has a total of 12 waveshapes with a possibility of 100 oscillators at a time. This is depending on the polyphony. If the polyphony is set to 1 then 100 are available per note. The number of oscillators decreases as the polyphony is increased. It also features a glide and legato setting. You can change the behavior of the oscillators with the flock settings. It has an AMP and Filter Envelope and the filter has a Low Pass or High Pass. It includes a basic Stereo Delay and a simple but effective arpeggiator. One thing to note is volume is not consistent across presets so be wary when using headphones.

Little niggles
A few other things to note, none of which is a deal breaker though. It does not currently have a midi learn function. It would be nice to twiddle with actual knobs. It also does not seem to update its midi input sources, so if you open it first, then open another app it may or may not see it in the midi input section. There have also been a few instances when I was switching back to Photophore and it seem to almost reset itself but it is so simple to program that it does not matter.

On the island
Over all I have not had any major issues and it seems to be stable and usable in its current state, hence why it is allowed on the island. In a recent update it received 6 new wave shapes and it has had 2 updates since its release. So it seems to have a good developer and maybe it will get a few more updates before you get stuck on that island. If all else fails, it would be a nice app to have to blend in with those giant killer bees that are approaching your campsite using its wasp patch.

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IK releases AmpliTube 4 for iPhone/iPad with Improved Sound, Virtual Cab Room, 4-Track Looper, Dual 3D Mic Positioning, Redesigned Interface & More

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

IK Multimedia has announced the release of the latest version of AmpliTube for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. Version 4 of the mobile guitar and bass tone studio has been completely redesigned [Read More]
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Here’s How RX4 Can Save Your Bacon By Fixing Sound – Even on Hit TV

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

izotope-rx4-denoise

It’s sometimes tough to write about audio tools precisely because they tend to bundle together a lot of features. So let’s step back and consider why they tend to do all of those things.

With audio repair, it’s a pretty easy explanation. From your perspective, your sound is $ #*$ #ed up. You want to get it un-$ #*(&ed up.

Of course, in reality, there are tons of variables. The context can change: You might be repairing sound from a recording of instruments. You might be fixing dialog. You might know what you’re doing – even on big-budget TV and film, recordings can wind up with sound problems. Or, let’s be honest, you might kind of have no clue what you’re doing and wound up with $ (&*ed up sound because you yourself $ #(*&ed it up. (Uh… yeah, been there.)

The underlying problems can be varied, too – even in a single recording. Different takes didn’t match. There’s hum. There’s noise. There are unwanted sounds.

So, all of this is to say, over the years I’ve seen a number of general purpose repair toolkits, along with specialized toolkits. Right now, the one iZotope makes is special in that it bundles all the things you might ever need to fix audio into a single toolset that can work for more or less anyone. It doesn’t entirely eliminate the utility of more specific tools here and there – some of which may already be in some form in your DAW. But the tools are unusually advanced, unusually complete, and I think at the moment there simply isn’t anything else that does as much. If this is a First Aid Kit for sound, it’s kind of also a fully-staffed Emergency Room and Operating Room. Not like a field hospital. Like Mount Sinai.

I’m going to be talking a bit about iZotope this month partly because I’ve noticed that this year, they’ve shifted focus a bit from just reeling off features to talking about what they were doing in the first place. So I had a chat with them about RX and Ozone, in particular, two of their flagships, and it led to this.

RX4 is particularly useful in TV and film production because of the likelihood those users need to fix stuff – more on that in a moment. But it is worth considering in a production environment if you ever record anything for any reason.

Among other tutorials, iZotope have produced two videos that nicely illustrate what I mean by that.

First, this tutorial is great, because rather than the typical software demo sound, it’s — well, it’s awful. Buzz and cough and bangs — I’m sure this sounds familiar. To be honest, this is the point where iZotope RX becomes necessary, because otherwise you’re probably better off just going back and re-recording. What you can see is that the toolset of RX can be a musical one.

Even more in the musical direction, another interesting video from February released by iZotope deals with how to combine multiple takes that don’t match sonically. Here, the approach is potentially as creative as it is remedial; you get the opportunity to merge takes that otherwise wouldn’t fit.

I spoke to iZotope a bit about how they find users working with their tools, and they were willing to share exclusively with CDM a brief interview they did with Christian Beneventura, a re-recording mixer and engineer. That’s a fairly specific job – though also a reminder of the range of industrial gigs available to people with a solid sound/music background. (Use those ears, in other words.) Mr. Beneventura has an amazing resume, as you’ll see on IMDB, including The Vampire Diaries, Choke, Glee, and now Daredevil and The Following. (In fact, if you haven’t at some point heard his dialogue editing, you probably haven’t switched on your TV or Netflix lately, it appears.)

And he’s worked out how to deal with sounds in New York.

This is not some sort of advertisement for the product; to me, it’s interesting to hear this stuff and see how it works on production. Interview courtesy iZotope and Sean Greenhalgh:

christian

Why do you think you’ve been successful at your chosen craft while others have burned out or faded away?

I believe I’ve been successful because I’m constantly trying to get better at it everyday. Even though I have been doing this for quite some time, it’s important not to get complacent. I’m always trying to research and try new plug ins or try different techniques to get faster and more efficient. It’s important to keep learning and evolving because the technology does so.

Daredevil seems to be a very dynamic sounding show. Was this a conscious decision?

It was a conscious decision. From the very beginning, we knew that sound was going to play a huge part of this show. The character of Matt Murdock is blind and trying to convey how his other senses help him “see” especially sonically, is very critical to the show. I think every part of Daredevil’s soundscape was deliberate. Creating the backgrounds of Hell’s Kitchen, deciding what exactly Matt Murdock hears in the flurry of city chatter, having the rate of the heartbeats that Matt hears hit at exactly the right points. Every part of the editing and mixing process was very meticulous and we are very proud of how everything turned out.

Why do you use RX?

I use RX because it’s a life saver. There are many scenes that I have cut that would not have been possible unless I had RX Spectral Repair. RX has really changed the way I edit because I have integrated using the plug in within my editing routine. When I first began using it, I thought it was the future. “How can you not edit with this?” I said to myself and colleagues. RX is so reliable and I know what it’s going to do for me. Brake squeals or back up beeps, no problem. Lavalier mic cutting off or boom mic bump, got it covered. I use every single plug-in in RX because it’s reliable and I know it will get the job done.

What are some of the challenges of working on audio recorded in NYC?

Dealing with audio that’s been recorded in New York can be tough because of the pure fact the city is inherently noisy. Extraneous city sounds that you can hear when dialogue is being spoken is always a pain to take out. The traffic, brake squeals, people talking and shouting, music bumping from cars, New York will find a way to make a scene difficult to edit. RX spectral repair has always helped me in this bind. I could easily see brake squeals to take out over dialogue as well as people who talking who aren’t supposed to. I did work on a scene where it took place at Washington Square Park and there was a street performer drumming and singing over the dialogue and they didn’t want to ADR the actor. Sounds impossible to do but Spectral Repair and some fancy editing helped me achieve that.

Of course, to me, this is doubly interesting precisely because I’m not experienced at this stuff, nor many of the people I know. Sound we record for a video production is necessarily going to have problems because it’s not my area. And since I can’t afford someone like Christian, we have to DIY if I want to fix it. Ditto instrumental recordings. To me, the software doesn’t replace those skill sets – on the contrary, when you do have to learn this stuff yourself, you appreciate why those folks are so valuable. And, if you are willing to invest the time, you might even find a professional path you would otherwise not expect; there is huge need for people who are skilled to solve these problems.

I haven’t found anything coming close to what iZotope’s tools can do, but I would love to ask our readers – particularly any of those working in these industries – what you use. RX? Other tools? A combination? Let us know.

See also the excellent Designing Sound which covers these topics more regularly:
http://designingsound.org

While it won’t turn you into a TV sound editor overnight, if you want to take your first baby steps toward fixing the problems above, iZotope has some videos for that, too:

And for more on RX4 itself, our friends at Sonic State did a great video tour of what’s in this tool:

The post Here’s How RX4 Can Save Your Bacon By Fixing Sound – Even on Hit TV appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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Musicrow releases Free ‘Analog Sound Collection LE’ for Arturia Synths

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Musicrow has released Analog Sound Collection LE, a free ‘slimmed-down’ demo version of the complete ‘Analog Sound Collection’ for Arturia synthesizers. 120 sounds are included (Compared to 1200 [Read More]
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Sound Radix updates Pi to v1.0.11 – Significantly improves CPU usage

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

Sound Radix updated Pi v1.0.11, significantly improving CPU usage and improving compatibility with older Windows GPUs. The update is fully backwards compatible a is recommended for all users. [Read More]
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Ample Sound updates Ample Guitar to v2.0.3

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Ample Sound has updated Ample Guitar (AGG, AGF, AGP, AGL, AGM, AGT and AGML) to version 2.0.3. Changes: Fixed a repeatedly-note-on bug when using MIDI-USB connected keyboard in standalone app [Read More]
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Particle Sound releases “M10 I” for Kontakt with Introductory Offer

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Particle Sound has announced M10 I, the most recent offering in their Carbon series of Kontakt 5 formatted vintage synthesizer instruments. M10 I features 741MB of 24-bit samples from the Korg [Read More]
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Future Audio Workshop’s Circle2 Review: Sound + Design

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

circle2
The original Circle synth, created by a small studio – Future Audio Workshop, has garnered somewhat of a cult following by some of the forefront of the current generation of electronic musicians (think Guetta, Maus, Tejada).

The new release has been awaited with much anticipation, and it’s finally here. Circle2, everyone.

For those who don’t know it yet
Circle2 is a straightforward synth: The GUI is a very pleasing single window on black background with primary color minimal module information. Think iOS 8 in reverse. Beautiful, and contemporary. The left third of the single window GUI is the oscillator section – 4 oscillators, noise gen and feedback. Each oscillator gives you three wave type options: analog type (saw, sine, etc) wavetable (more on that in a bit) and a new type of synthesis called Vector Phase shaping. Not entirely sure what this type of synthesis is. On their website, they mention that it’s the result of collaboration with the audio research group at Maynooth University in Ireland. The synthesis technique seems to have been designed with modulation in mind – as you move the horizontal phase and vertical phase knobs the timbre and tone of the wave changes in a smooth and predictable manner, kind of like a phasey sounding filter cutoff and resonance.

The middle third is a mixer, a couple of effect modules, filter and vca, and on the right third, 5 modulation windows, where you can select from envelopes, LFOs and step sequencers. You can also use the oscillators as modulators, whether they’re engaged for audio or not. The LFO’s have 16 fixed shapes, but there are 2 per LFO, and you can blend between them (and modulate that blend!) I really liked that the sequencer has a smoothing function, that ultimately affects the sound quite dramatically, whether it’s being used directly on the sound, or to modulate another source. It changes the movement from the stepped clipped sound to a smoother glide.

At the bottom of the window is a bounce-up menu that contains three more effect modules, keyboard settings (arpeggiator, keyboard tracking), overall settings, midi and wifi control, and the preset window.

The preset window has the shape of most modern synths, in that it contains a characteristics menu to help filter the types of sound. You want a hard, moving, lead from the 90’s? Click the necessary filter buttons on the grid, and your choices narrow. It makes sense.

The effects are all solid – between the 5 modules, there’s a choice of 17 different High-quality effects. Standout to me were the reverb and bucket delay, that really gave a juicy and thick analog lushness to the sound, if you were looking for it.

Circle2-Logo

Workflow
This is the easiest and most intuitive synth I’ve worked with in terms of creating sounds: a sound designers dream. The instant audio and visual feedback on the tweaks you make is very inspiring. I particularly liked the preview effect when it comes to modulation – Wherever there’s a colored dot from a modulation source you can pick it up with a mouse, and move it to an empty dot, at a modulation destination. As you hover your colored dot over the destination, you get an audio preview of what the modulation will sound like. If you like it, let go, and it becomes permanent. If not, move on to another empty dot, until you hear something you like. To undo a modulation, grab the colored dot, and drag it off the destination dot you just placed it on. Simple!

As more of a trial and error sound designer than mathematical whiz, I love this approach. The wavetable oscillator section is a large window of 110 wavetables. While you can’t tell exactly what sound each oscillator will make, it gives you a general idea. All the modulators (The LFO’s envelopes and step sequencers) trace an outline of where they’re at in the cycle, envelope or sequence respectively. This gives you a visual guide to where the sound is in its modulation. You can see for example if the LFO is running fast or slow, or whether the envelope is in the attack, decay or release stage. This is especially helpful considering you can have up to 5 LFOs, envelopes or sequencers at a time.

Little thoughtful bits
In the preset manager menu, there’s a characteristic called ‘my sounds’. Clicking that removes all factory presets from the list, leaving just the sounds you’ve created. Brilliant.

The upgrade is free for current users! Very generous.

The randomization settings – in the little popup window at the bottom of the GUI, is perhaps the best control over ‘random’ preset creation I’ve come across yet. It might be pure coincidence as I worked with it, but it seemed that the sounds that emerged were a lot more useable than with other synths that have similar processes. You can choose the percentage of randomization for most elements of the preset, whether you want to keep the modulations as they are, etc.

I loved that when you click the ‘midi learn’ button – yellow highlights cover every single option that can be selected, and when you select one, it pulses gently until a midi control is assigned. Simple, but clear and effective.

Conclusion
I love this synth for several reasons. Firstly, I loved the layout and the look. I’m not a fan of skeuomorphism, and I dig this dimensionally flat yet really tasteful colorful design.
Secondly, I love the sound. The VPS oscillator is a fairly fresh sound – which keeps it fairly edgy and contemporary sounding, and combined with the wavetable (which you can add your own waves to) and the more trad analog stuff, you have a huge amount of flexibility when it comes to sound – and at a surprisingly low CPU cost.
Thirdly and mostly, I loved the balance of flexibility of modulation combined with the simplicity of the layout and the instant visual and audio feedback you get, making for very fast workflow and very quick beneficial results. All this combines to make a very nice package that will doubtless sell very well, and be used by many artists the world over.

Preview sounds from the FAW soundcloud:

FAW are also releasing free tutorials on youtube teaching you how to make some classic electro sounds like this:

Circle2 is currently selling for $ 129, and you can check more about it here.

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Not Just Stuttering: Fraction Plug-in Slices Sound Live on Mac

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Fraction by Sinevibes video demo from Sinevibes on Vimeo.

Sinevibes has been on a roll lately. The one-man Mac plug-in shop keeps churning out elegant, attractive plug-ins with a consistent color-coded visual interface, variations on a theme that invariably include clever twists.

And now, this.

Fraction isn’t the first slice repeater plug-in. But it might be the most direct and intuitive.

I’ve been playing with it for a bit, and it’s tough to describe just how much it’s able to do, or how quickly you can get at that range. Far from just adding some stuttering effects, you can add really subtle rhythmic and timbral variations or make a near-unrecognizable sound warped into something new. It does this by letting you directly get at the bit of the sample you want to modulate, then providing a host tools to work with from there.

EDM? Sure. IDM? Most definitely. But once you get past breaking up drum loops, you can also treat Fraction as a micro-DAW / sampler / effect unit, a sound-reshaping instrument you can use on anything.

Okay, so what does it actually do?

First, you can place slice markers on the sound directly, then use animated controls to determine what to do slice-by-slice. In fact, I must admit that when I first opened it up, I briefly was confused only because I wasn’t accustomed to effects processors letting me work that immediately with sound.

Fraction

From there, you get:

  • Eight audio slicers mapped atop a real-time audio waveform display
  • Each slicer has its own controls: size, repeat count, forward/reverse, duck/gate. So whereas more traditional slicers force you to rely on randomization or overall timing controls, here you can say, “you – that slice – I want you to do this.”
  • Eight slice sets for your slicers, each with different positions and on/off switches. (Yes, that’s 64 individual slices)
  • Each slice has three effect units and four “animation generators” for controlling modulation of those effects.
  • Each effect unit can choose among 15 algorithm types: low-pass, high-pass, band-pass and band-reject filters, phaser, barber-pole phaser, positive and negative flangers, chorus, bit depth and sample rate reducers, analog drive, circuit-bent filter, frequency shifter and pitch shifter.
  • Sync to tempo and even time signature automation.

Sinevibes continues to be a Mac-only affair, but the payoff for Mac Audio Unit users is significant: any Intel Mac running operating systems as early as 10.6 are supported in 32- and 64-bit format with Retina resolution. I will say, I notice some significant CPU consumption on my MacBook once I start turning on modules, so that’s something I’ll be testing more.

US$ 69 now, or be a fanboy/fangirl of Sinevibes and get everything for US$ 299.

I may offer some demos later this month, but in the meantime, here you go. These are good basic examples, but it can actually go a lot further, particularly with different sound content.

Now, the obvious comparison here is to iZotope’s Stutter Edit, produced in collaboration with BT. At their core, the idea is related: each uses a bunch of rhythmic variations and effect modules to reshape the sound. The UIs are completely different, though: Stutter Edit uses push-button step sequencers and builds “gestures” around them, compared to Fraction’s waveform view and clickable slice-by-slice controls. Stutter Edit was actually always a bit too deep for me; I got up and running with Fraction right away and really love its waveform-centric interface. I also like the flatter UI aesthetic.

Then again, Stutter Edit, while substantially pricier at US$ 299, has a huge amount of power, lots of ideas around live performance (via MIDI), and libraries of presets to get rolling. These two are begging for a comparison, not so much because I expect a “winner” from the two, but because they start with the same fundamental idea and go in radically different directions.

More:
http://www.sinevib.es/fraction

The post Not Just Stuttering: Fraction Plug-in Slices Sound Live on Mac appeared first on Create Digital Music.


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digi toys releases Sound Swap – MIDI Program Change software for Macintosh

Monday, May 11th, 2015

digi toys has released the Sound Swap MIDI program change software for Mac. With Sound Swap up to eight instruments can be managed. An instrument page contains seven sound slots, which include [Read More]
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