I wanted to take a minute to talk about The Crate 2, the sequel to one of our best selling sample Libraries “The Crate: Ultimate Urban Samples”. This library is really an amazing project that has tons of value and will really be a useful studio tool should you choose to pick it up. To really see how cool The Crate 2 is first we need to take a look at its predecessor The Crate:
A few quick specs on The Crate, 6.8 GB original content, 24-bit and 16-bit WAV files. That was pretty much it. There is no formal REX, RMX, Apple Loop, Acidized WAV or Kontakt formatting done on The Crate, we just set out to provide some amazing samples and made sure we packed it full of drum hits and samples. The result was an incredibly dynamic library that is being used all throughout the industry today.
Fast forward a few years to our production department reminiscing over how much work and raw hours it took to organize, rearrange, rename and put together The Crate, when they had a brilliant idea: “Lets make part 2 BIGGER, and FULLY FORMATTED!” Lets look at some quick specs for The Crate 2, 9.7 GB original content, Fully formatted loop content in REX, RMX, Apple Loops and Acidized WAV, 4,400 drum/percussion hits and 184 completely original sample based synths formatted for Kontakt.
Anybody who has ever tried to get a raw audio file to time-stretch, pitch-bend and lock with tempo/barlines knows how much work goes into formatting a loop library. On top of the loops we created fully functioning sample based synth pads, basses and leads for when you have something in your head that needs to get on a track and the loops just don’t cut it.
Countless hours recording, editing engineering and formatting has been invested into one of the most exciting libraries we have ever put out and we are so happy to say that The Crate 2 is FINISHED and ready for you to use and inspire.
Go check it out, listen to the demos, and make SURE to watch the walkthroughs so you can really get a feel for what The Crate 2 has to offer and don’t forget to tell us what you think!
Happy music-making my friends!
My Name is Benjamin Stelzer, I am the lead developer of Acou6tics and Electri6ity and I’d like to take you on a behind-the-scenes tour and give you some insight on the development of our newest virtual acoustic guitar library.
Maybe you’ve already heard of Electri6ity, which is our award winning electric guitar library. The reason why I’m also talking about Electri6ity in this blog – just in case you were wondering – is that Acou6tics is meant to follow in the footsteps of this critically acclaimed library, using the same advanced technologies only to re-imagining the acoustic guitar instead of an electric guitar this time.
After releasing Electri6ity, the library quickly became very popular and we’ve got so much feedback from customers on it and even more request to create an acoustic version of this library using the same technology. So when we started to plan Acou6tics we first sat down, took all the feedback, the feature request and read through almost all the discussions on the internet about Electri6ity to get a feeling on what would be the perfect acoustic guitar library. Doing this, it quickly became clear on what we had to lay our focus on:
1. Recording & Tone
3. Ease of use
4. Chords & Strumming
1. Recording & Tone
When we did the first recording tests we spent almost a month, only testing different microphones, micing techniques with various guitars. We tested traditional micing techniques like AB-stereo micing, XY-stereo micing, M/S-stereo micing, but we also tried mics inside the body of the guitars and various types of transducers. We tried different mic characteristics, (omni, cardioid, hyper-cardioid), different micing distances, different rooms and different room treatments – all to get the idea of an ideal acoustic guitar tone for a perfect acoustic guitar library.
You need to know, that this is something completely different compared to recording a live acoustic guitar part for a particular song, because in that case you only need to find a tone which fits this one song. An acoustic guitar library will be used in a lot of different songs and music styles later and ideally it needs to fit all of them all equally!
What we came up with in the end, was much simpler than our initial tests, but tone wise it was the most versatile recording setup, which perfectly captured the natural tone of all the guitars:
We recorded the guitars in Blumlein-stereo using two large condenser mics in a room which was treated in a way that is was almost completely dead, except for some carefully placed diffusers. This technique has a lot of benefits: it’s fully mono compatible, the mics used have figure 8 characteristics, which sounds much more natural than cardioid, the stereo image is excellent and the samples are very dry. Additionally we also recorded the piezo output of all instruments.
The realism of a virtual instruments depends on two factors: First of all, the important articulations, noises and nuances need to be captured in the recording process. And the second factor is an engine which plays back the samples in a way that resembles what a real player would do when playing that instrument. Our experience with Electri6ity, which also was samples extensively, already gave us a pretty good idea of what we had to record and how we had to record it.
But we also wanted to push the playback engine to a new level in terms of realism. So we spent weeks analyzing different playing techniques and nuances of a real guitar and figuring out ways, how to implement them into the engine. In the end we had a completely new sympathetic resonance engine, a physical modeling based approach for the pick position simulation, a completely new strum engine, a new chord detection engine – pretty much everything was completely rewritten from scratch.
3. Ease of use
Here the feedback we got on Electri6ity was very helpful. We went through all the critiques and all the improvement requests to figure out how it would be possible, to offer the same flexibility and control the Electri6ity engine offered, but much easier to use. The Acou6tics GUI is very easy to handle and easy to understand, the instruments load pretty fast and the memory usage is very reasonable.
4. Chords & Strumming
We are especially proud of our new chord & strumming engine. The chord library contains up to 25,000 guitar chords per instrument. This means that for almost every chord you are playing on your keyboard, the engine will instantly find the correct guitar voicing for that chord! But not only that, Acou6tics also allows you to learn user chords with only one knob. Whenever you play a certain chord on the keyboard, the guitar voicing you’ve learned for that chord is selected – and you can choose from up to 50 different guitar voicings for each chord.
The new strumming engine has a lot of humanization build and allows you to play realistic strum patterns in no time. We’ve even added transition strums, which are strums that often occur on a real guitar between two chords, since your finger will need time to finger the new chord on the fretboard. That added quite a bit of realism, since those transition strums are so audible and recognizable on a real guitar.
Acou6tics can be adjusted to exactly fit your needs! You don’t like the default keyswitch layout? No problem. You can simply customize it.
You don’t like the default setup of the instrument? No problem. You can customize it.
Almost every aspect of the playback engine can be customized and automated if necessary!
I hope you enjoyed this insight into the development of Acou6tics.
For more information and demos visit the Acou6tics page.
Vir2 Development Team
In this article we are having Dieguis Productions give us a behind the scenes look at how they create a music sample library from start to finish. We’ll look at the process they use for coming up with the initial concept for the library, the recording challenges, formatting nightmares, mixing of the project and all of the additional things that go into creating Dieguis Productions unique hand-made music sample libraries.
Big Fish Audio – What are the first steps you take in coming up with the concept for a library?
Dieguis Productions – Each library is actually created a little bit differently depending of the outcome of what is needed for the library. Each library has its own unique challenges depending on the instrumentation, genre, availability of skilled players and so on but that’s the fun part and the challenge…Each library keeps us on our toes.
The first stage is typically figuring out what types of libraries are needed and then creating a concept for the library around that need. This might mean seeing what genres of music are currently doing well on tv, radio, film and commercials. It might mean seeing what has consistenly sold well for us and other sample library companies. Steven Bolar (Head of Product Development at Big Fish Audio) is also invaluable in the process of coming up with fantastic concepts. He and I are on ichat constantly discussing what’s working, what’s not, what’s selling, what’s not…on and on, back and forth, in a way to come up with solid concepts for libraries. My favorite way by far to start a concept for a library is when owners of Dieguis Productions products email us and let us know what they want. They’ll email us and request that we create products that they haven’t been able to find on the market or genres that might actually need more products than are currently on the market. This is starting to happen more and more and we love it when this happens because we get direct confirmation that this type of library is exactly what’s needed.
BFA – How do you go from concept to recording session? How do you choice the instrumentation, players and studio?
Dieguis – Well, after the initial concept has been somewhat firmed up, I test it ……We go over the concept and say what would the concept look like if there were no compromises, no budget restrictions, what are all of the various pieces and ideas that we’d like to include in the ultimate library with this concept? We go through a process of writing out everything we can think of related to making the library the ultimate “x” library. What might be included, what extras we could include, what things haven’t been tried…on and on. Its usually in this phase that challenges start coming up in the way of “How” questions. How would we do that, how will we pull this off, how can we afford that studio and engineer, how can we get those players, how can we add such and such feature. We’ll eventually end of seeing how many “how” questions we can achieve and fulfill. Then we create a budget for the project which is always way less than what we usually end up spending. There is always one more session or ooh it’d be great to include this feature, nobody’s ever done this….and on it goes. The great thing about this process is that overtime these questions and challenges begin to shape and mold the actual concept of the product, its like working a big puzzle, you just have to put down one piece at a time.
Once the concept is in place and its approved, then we go into creating a “Session List”. This list will include ideal studio to record at, most suitable players and engineer for the library, how many sessions the library will require, any recording needs for the project (for example – The ability to have DI and Amped sounds, the ability to have both “Dry” and “Ambient” samples), having additional gear on hand for certain situations and on and on the list grows. We then call the players we think are best suited for the library and cross our fingers that they’re available. Many times they’re out on tour with various artists, booked for various album and movie dates, so we have to get creative on our recording schedule. One of the things we always strive for is getting the perfect players for the specific library we’re creating. Nothing creates a more authentic sounding library then using the right players for the job. We then book the studio and engineer based on the dates and players availability. Many times the ability to not have the right players, engineer or studio has delayed a project from starting and moving forward. We feel that its much better to record with the ideal “player, engineer, studio” set-up vs. compromising, so sometimes a library doesn’t happen as quickly as we’d like for it to.
BFA – I know lots of our users love hearing about the specific details of how something is recorded, can you go into specific detail about the recording gear and such that is used?
Dieguis – Would love to but I don’t have the various library sessions, gear list and notes in front of me so we’ll have to do another recording and gear list article….Cool?
BFA – Ok, sounds good, can you give us a general overview on how you record the various instruments?
Dieguis – Sure, It really comes down to the specific project. We would never record a Cinematic type library in the same manner that we would for an Americana library but most of the time we strive to record the rhythm tracks (Drums, Bass, Guitars, Keys) together in the same session. This typically allows for the best player interaction and performances to happen, which after all is a lot of the magic that makes real music real! It also allows us to get great room sounds for the various instruments, especially drums. We’ll then typically overdub as a group. So for example, the drummer might do an overdub of percussion, the guitarists might record another pas of an acoustic instrument, someone will switch to another amp, the keyboard player might record piano or bells for example. Recording in this manner keeps everyones mind working and creating … Its very energizing!
There are some libraries that aren’t conducive to “tracking” (recording) all together like mentioned above, some styles of music just doesn’t make sense to record in that manner. Some music genres are based on programmed instruments or are based on sound design and that’s something that needs to be crafted over time and layered. In these cases we typically will program and create the foundation of what is needed and then overdub the various players on top of the existing material. We’ll also work in this single instrument overdub way if the library is about a featured instrument. Sometimes its a straight forward recording session with lots of players and sometimes its using paper bags as percussion instruments, it really all comes down to what is the best method to create the particular library that we’re trying to create.
BFA – What is next in the process or you?
Dieguis – After the concept and recording phase has been completed the “work” definitely starts. The next phase is the editing and formatting of the library. The original session files are imported into editing sessions which are then cleaned, organized…fixed if needed. The tracks are then consolidated and are meticulously edited so that each and every loop is perfect and play well together ….. this process alone is a huge task and a job unto itself and takes a loooong time. After these final wav files have been finalized and checked over multiple times, we then create the various formatted files from them…Rex, Apple Loops, Acidized Wav, Multi-Drums, Stylus RMX and so on. Its also at this stage that we take the final files and start mapping the Kontakt player for the KLI instruments.
BFA – Tell us about the mapping and what’s involved in the KLI instrument building and creation.
Dieguis – The creation of the KLI format is an extensive process as it corresponds to how various owners use and create with the product. We experiment with the mapping quite a lot to handle the way people like to create and the needs they might have. Some owners like to pull up the various kits for quick sketches, some like to overdub individual instruments, some want the flexibility to go into each file and manipulate and re-arrange it in whichever way they choose. So we strive to provide owners with the ability to create in which ever manner there comfortable with.
On some of the libraries like Illusion, Oxygen, Synthetic, and Piano Soundscapes we wanted the ability to have mulit-sample instruments included so the owners could perform and create their own melodies over the various grooves and kits. On many libraries we’ve also started including what we call “Drum Elements” which are the drum “groove” but instead of simply getting a stereo loop, we’ve also included the single drum elements broken out into individual pieces (kick, snare, hat, shaker etc) so that owners can stack and layer these “elements” on top of one another for various degrees of depth and complexity. This has been one of the new features that owners have really responded to enjoying and needing.
BFA – Can you take us through the mixing process for the various demos.
Dieguis – One of my favorite parts of the process! It usually works out that the concept and initial phases are very creative and ideas are all flowing. Then you get to the recording process, which is definitely creative but you also are super aware of all of the “wants and needs” of the library. You start thinking about how many this and that you have, how many more you want and need, how much over budget you are and on it goes. Your getting less sleep and having longer days so it starts wearing on you. You then come into the formatting stage and the days continue to get even longer, the formatting phase is really a make or break phase in creating a quality library. So much time and attention has to be devoted to making sure each and every file is perfect, then multiply that effort by thousands…it gets very consuming. Thankfully between the Dieguis Productions team and Big Fish Audio, we have an incredible amount of eyes and ears on the project, tweaking, perfecting and making in right.
Anyway, its at this phase in the process of the creation of the library that my eyes start to cross and I know I have to get back to the creative …which is the mixing phase. I love mixing! Its so much fun to take the files from the original recording sessions, bring them back up in front of you and remember the great experience the recording of the session was. It’s funny saying this now because that’s exactly what music tends to do to people….music has this power of reminding you of places, times in your life, friends, smells…its crazy what music does. So when I pull-up the tracks to mix its like going back in time to the session and reliving it, its so much fun. Then the thought process is, now that I have these great tracks in front of me, how can I make them smack even more, how can I further increase the mood and vibe? These are fun challenges. One of the many things that I’m always proud and take a lot of time to ensure is that we are creating libraries that are as authentic to the genre and style of music as they can possibly be.
This “authenticity” is mostly accomplished in the recording phase but greatly enhanced in the mixing process.
Another trick that I’ll do is to pull up some commercial tracks that are similar in style to the library being worked on. So for example, we’re working on the “Crossroads Blues” library, this is a library that is focusing on various styles of classic Delta, Chicago, Memphis, Mississippi Blues styles. I’ll pull up some Muddy Waters album and check out how they placed the various instruments in the mix. I’ll check out how they’ve created this amazing intimacy through panning, volume levels, verbs etc. I’ll listen for what kinds of effects are being used, many times there aren’t any effects in this particular genre. Is there a lot of room in the drums? Is the bass amp being pushed so that its distorting? Is that guitar really being doubled or are there two separate parts recorded? On and on it goes….Actually, this same process of deconstructing genres, production of records and such starts from the conception process and definitely all through the recording sessions. Tons of time is spent to figuring out what’s going on in the various styles and how we can best capture this vibe in our libraries. After the final mixes have been printed (these usually end up being re-printed many times and listened to, tweaked, re-printed and tweaked some more) then they are mastered by a good friend of mine in Nashville who’s been mastering for decades…He’s awesome and makes the demos sparkle that extra little bit.
BFA – What choices and concerns come into creating the graphics, copy and details for the libraries?
Dieguis – The final pieces of the library are creating the library graphics that will be used for the cover, banner and KLI Series skins. We typically go through many revisions of tweaking the graphics in order to get the cover to match perfectly with the sound and vibe of the library … after all, its what the potential owner sees even before they listen to the demos. Its during this final phase that we’re typically doing tons of testing with the various formats and library parts to ensure that they are spot on. We also then go through the library and create the various read-me pdf’s which contain valuable information on how to best use the library….but nobody ever reads manuals ;)
We also gather all of the various types of instrument details and numbers used in the recording, we count the library content sizes, format numbers and any library specific details.
BFA – The videos for the libraries have changed quite a bit, what was the thought behind the various changes?
Dieguis – Yeah, the videos have certainly changed overtime a bit.. We originally made them really long showing every detail of the library, every file, every feature, this and that and found that they were too long and people were bored. So now, were constantly experimenting with length of the video, maybe just showing one instrument type per video, maybe only demo’ing a few instruments versus every single instrument. We also started creating “Song Building” videos after owners had requested that we create videos that would show how to actual use the library to create a song…great suggestion from our owners! We’re working on coming out with new DAW specific videos as well this coming year and will certainly have many more additions and revisions to the videos. As always, we really want to create videos owners will get the most out of. So we constantly are asking for feedback and how we can do things better so anyone reading that has a suggestion, please comment below and let me know exactly what you want to have us focus on and include in the videos.
BFA– What have been the most enjoyable libraries to create?
Dieguis – Tough question because each library has its own personality and story to it. Hmmm, I’d say a few favorites off the top of my head would be “Funky Gumbo“, it was the first time we had recorded in New Orleans and the players, engineer and studio were fantastic! Each time I listen to the demos, I can hear that old studio sound, see the brass players, it just has a magical and authentic sound to me and reminds me of that great week in New Orleans.
The “Mariachi” library was a great one creating because it was a real challenge in every aspect. It is a style of music that has never had a commercial music sample library recorded before that we know of…..I believe it still might be the only one out there. We finally ended up being able to record with Mariachi los Toros which are world renowned and have tons of accolades, are great players and have become good friends, so it was amazing working with them creating something that had never been done before. “Modern Rock Guitars and Basses” was a fun library as well because at the last minute I was fortunate enough to be able to snag a couple of my friends that play in the group Paramore. It was one of those sessions that were high energy, lots of coffee and very late into the night with friends, it doesn’t get better than that!
BFA – Any final secrets on how your making these libraries happen?
Dieguis – The best decision that I ever made was to work with the best people in the world. This is truly the “secret”. Use the best players, engineers, studios, editors, formatters, coders, graphic artists etc….always use the best!
I definitely give praise to the Dieguis Productions team…. Milan, Johnny, Udara, Joe, Iglika, these guys work non-stop to make all the crazy ideas happen ….. they are the secret sauce…oh, and lots of coffee!
One more thing, I know I sound like a broken record but it is our number one goal at Dieguis Productions to create and produce libraries that are absolutely the most useful in every way possible to our owners. This does require that owners take the time to let us know what they need. So please, I’m making an official request, let us know what we can do to help make amazing libraries for you! Let us know what you need, what you don’t want, what functions we’re missing, what you like and what you don’t like…….anyone that has any suggestions on how we might create better and more user-friendly libraries please feel free to comment below.
We loving hearing from our owners and learning exactly what they want and need, so please do me the favor of letting us know!
Hi, Steve Sechi here, producer of EPIC: Cinematic Drums & Sound Design, which was just released this week. As those of you who’ve been to the BFA site before might have guessed, EPIC is related to the best-selling Epic Drums sample CD series. I think it’s safe to say that if you liked the Epic Drums series, you’re *really* going to like EPIC.
The difference is that EPIC: Cinematic Drums & Sound Design is not a sample CD – it’s a Kontakt virtual instrument. Like the Epic Drums series, EPIC features hundreds of killer performance loops, organized into 24 different Kontakt construction kits. But EPIC also includes multi-sampled versions of all of the drums we used in the performance loops, so you can easily create your own customized fills, rhythms, and sounds, or mix and match pre-generated loops with your own custom material.
EPIC features a huge variety of ethnic drums and percussion, including Chinese drums, taikos, African drums, frame drums, small and large gongs, cymbals, quints, a complete set of five Roto-Toms, and a massive, studio-shaking 39″ nagada drum from India. We also included hundreds of high-quality cinematic sound design elements, like thundering Hits, Impacts, Metals, Risers and Whooshes.
Every construction kit features a selection of loops, one-shots, and cinematic elements, making it fast and easy to compose Action, Suspense, or Horror cues when you’re on a tight deadline. Another time-saving feature: we mapped all loops according to their pitch, from low to high on the keyboard.
EPIC’s Graphic User Interface is also a time-saver. It’s pretty much plug-and-play – easy to use right out of the box, with the most important controls located on the front panel of the GUI. And of course, those who like to tweak their sounds and loops can find the full compliment of Kontakt effects under the hood just by clicking on the “tool” icon.
We had a great time playing and recording EPIC. Hope you check out the demos on the BFA website and let us know what you think of it.
The Legacy continues…
Back in September of 2000, Big Fish Audio released the smoothest, sexiest, absolute sweetest R&B grooves to date. Producers looking for a sound sexy enough to make them turn off the ringer found exactly what they wanted with the birth of Off The Hook. From Keyboard Magazine to Electronic Musician, reviews were telling anybody who would listen… “These grooves are crying out for some vocal arrangements!…”, “The word that keeps coming to mind is smooth!” Within a few short months the bar was set and Off The Hook became the highest standard for urban kits.
Twelve years later, from MTV to HGTV… The Food Network to the NFL Network, sounds and loops from Off The Hook titles can constantly be heard on numerous television shows. From legendary rap moguls to teen heartthrobs… pop princesses to sultry R&B kings, Off The Hook elements have been used on countless music projects by the best producers in the business.
Based in Atlanta Georgia, Anthony Myers is the talented producer behind the entire Off The Hook Series. “Back in the day the sample library market was flooded with house, techno, funk, and live drum products.” says Myers… “There was no exclusive RnB product and I felt we could fill the void and Off The Hook was born.” Anthony admits he was taken by surprise by the success and demand… “Who would’ve ever imagined the success and how it has lent to the offspring of products.” Currently, there are 11 Off The Hook titles and more on the way! Myers is a dedicated perfectionist who understands that the key to a great sample library is current music with tons of content and top notch musicianship and production couple with quality mixes.
Off The Hook producer Anthony Myers at the NAMM Convention in Anaheim, CA.
From the smoothest R&B kits ever made in Off The Hook 1-3, to the hottest urban guitar loops in Off The Hook Guitars, to the sounds of the most current Pop in Off The Hook Radio Pop, producers have been asking for more and more for over a decade! The Legacy that started back in 2000 continues to bring the goods to those producers who will accept nothing less than the most authentic Hip Hop, Pop and R&B kits.
The latest release in this epic collection reminds us of why the very first release created the Legacy that is Off The Hook!