Welcome to the first post of the official Impact Soundworks blog! We hope to give you insight into the process of designing, recording, and editing sample libraries and virtual instruments.
After seeing the great response to CSD, I decided to take the concept and run with it for a full-scale library with hundreds of sounds, more variety, and a sophisticated UI. There are now multiple talented sound designers working on the project instead of just me, while Iain Morland is assisting with a number of editing and programming tasks. So, what goes into making a single sound? Our workflow looks something like this…
For example, a standard kick sound may begin as a humble sine wave – easy enough – but it is not a static sound. There is usually a sharp spike in pitch at the beginning of the sound followed by a rapid drop along a carefully-tweaked curve, followed by a rapid decay in volume. Another oscillator (perhaps noise) might add an extra bit of buzz and ‘click’, with a third envelope controlling the cutoff of a resonant lowpass filter. The second oscillator may have its own volume envelope as well, cutting it shorter than the pitch (fundamental) envelope of the first oscillator.
These considerations are only the beginning. Through additive and FM synthesis, one can create much more complex interactions between multiple oscillators and modulators, in which case one must meticulously balance harmonics and overtones. A little too much of a spike can quickly turn an FM sound into pure noise… though that may be useful for something later 🙂 Granular and wavetable synthesis introduce many more possibilities in creating evolving percussive sounds like crashes, or unusual overtone series for exotic snares and thips.
After the skeleton of the sound has been created through synthesis and layering, we move on to Processing and really get into the nitty-gritty of sound sculpting. Processing encompasses tools like EQ, compression, limiting, saturation, distorting, amping (or re-amping), spatial FX and much more. While not every sound necessarily uses layering, every sound in CSD Pro uses quite a bit of processing to achieve an end result that is immediately usable. I have personally purchased many drum libraries that have fairly ‘flat’ sounds which can be brought to life with plenty of multiband limiting, tape distortion, and re-rendering, but that was definitely not our goal here.
At this point, the sound asset has been created (with possibly a slew of variations) and the Editing work begins. Percussive sounds tend to be easier to edit than many other instrument types due to the lack of a human ‘attack’ such as a thumb or bow gently touching the string or the tonguing of a brass instrument. That is not to say that there are no decisions to be made; sloppy editing can truncate a juicy transient sound, while over-editing multiple variations of a sound can make them more sterile and lifeless (ironic for electronic noises, but it really is true!) Meanwhile, sustained sounds such as basses cannot be edited automatically – proper loop points can only be made through very careful work and lots of listening.
Kontakt scripting is an arcane art unto itself – though quite powerful, it is also severely lacking in documentation, often creating much consternation on the part of developers. That said, the feeling of compiling and applying thousands of lines of script and not getting an error message is pretty magical and makes it all worthwhile! As far as our script design, our goal is keep the needs of the modern composer in mind (it’s right in our slogan!) and that means creating tools that reduce, rather than add, complexity. We want to simplify and streamline things like post-processing, filter/EQ and modulation, not just by making those controls available on the UI but by creating sub-presets WITHIN a patch that let you create unique combinations of variations instantly, with a minimum of effort.
– Andrew Aversa