Creating a modern virtual instrument requires more than just great recordings, editing, and programming – the user interface and layout of the instrument can make the difference between a great library and an unusable one. This is especially true with libraries that have a great variety of sounds, such as Cinematic Synthetic Drums PRO. Together with Constructive Stumblings, we’ve been building, testing, and iterating on an intuitive and powerful UI for CSD PRO, and we’d like to talk about that process here.
One of the first questions we had to address was how to make it as easy as possible for composers to pull up ready-made presets. There are two distinct approaches to this: one is to have each patch (in this case, a drum/FX kit) as a separate .NKI file on the hard drive. The other approach is to have presets switchable within the instrument interface. We decided to use a hybrid of these two options to get the best of both worlds. From the main patch, you can easily switch presets using up/down arrows and thus audition sounds very rapidly…
… but by hitting the Load button, you can browse for presets (in Kontakt’s NKA format) on your hard drive, allowing you to see at a glance all available options in a manner of seconds.
At the heart of the percussion/FX patch of CSD Pro is the ability to customize presets or create your own from scratch. With over 400 (!) individual sounds in 14 categories, making this process intuitive and fast was no easy task. Our early prototype for the library used a rather unwieldy method where you would bring up sound menus, find the sound you want, and then click a button on the interface to map it. You would then click “Kit Mode” to actually play the constructed kit.
Effects and Processing
A few months ago we wrote about the sound design process for CSD PRO, and how much effort and care goes into each individual sample. However, no matter how polished a drum or effect is, there is always room for additional processing – especially when combined with other sounds! Kontakt is more powerful than ever when it comes to FX, and we made sure to use a lot of them in the preset design for this library. To make FX tweaking intuitive for the user, we created a “rack” of things like saturation, transient shaping, delay, reverb, and filtering, with individual controls available within each processor.
The Complete Package
The overall look of CSD Pro is inspired by the clean, sleek design of modern hardware synthesizers, which we felt was appropriate given the synthetic nature of the library. Gritty textures like metal didn’t quite fit the sound and feel of CSD, while emulating the look of analog synths is something we consider a bit overdone. Our goal was to design something that looks very clean and streamlined without much ‘fluff’ and I believe we’ve achieved just that!