2010 was a great year for sample libraries. Although some of us have the luxury of working with live musicians, samples are the reality for a great many composers. In my inaugural post here at SCOREcastOnline.com, share some trends I observed in the sample library world last year.
Increasingly Powerful Sample Libraries
By the end of 2009, the idea of running comprehensive orchestral templates from a single machine seemed a real possibility. In 2010, however, the stakes have been raised again with bigger libraries demanding more power than ever. Last year we saw increased multi-core support, CPU power advancements, huge amounts of RAM, 64-bit compatibility, and an increased uptake of SSDs. In addition, Vienna Ensemble Pro (released late 2009) made it cost-effective and easy to set up multiple machines. Developers are now seizing this opportunity to increase the power of their libraries. Sample playback engines such as Kontakt and PLAY continue to grow in sophistication meaning that modern libraries are being able to truly take advantage of multiple microphone positions, complex scripting, customized interfaces with more velocity layers and larger pools of round-robin samples. All of these demand more and more power from DAWs.
New Standards in Sampling
From extensive string projects with top Hollywood engineers to percussion libraries recorded in premiere London studios, new standards were set in the recording of sample libraries. Multiple microphone positions, improved legato/portamento, customized interfaces and more intuitive programming mean that the bar continues to be raised.
In 2010 there were a lot of developments in areas designed to help with composers’ workflows. It’s amazing to think that only twelve months ago, there were no string or choir libraries with polyphonic legato. Now you have Hollywood Strings, Requiem, and Voxos. In addition, VSL released Vienna Instrument Pro adding polyphonic legato to their enormous catalog of sample libraries. AudioBro went one step further adding polyphonic legato linked to a smart divisi script to create their LASS Auto-Arranger. Native Instruments released Session Strings with the automator for easily creating rapid spiccato passages. Symphobia 2 focused on pre-recorded unison/octave ensembles and pre-orchestrated textures. Although late in the year, Cinesamples’ CineOrch may have truly been one of the most remarkable and controversial releases featuring fully orchestrated tutti chords and octaves.
Although we had some extensive libraries, we also saw a lot of highly-focused products. Rather than try to be the ultimate string library or piano library we had pianos focused on soft, slow playing and libraries of just string runs or percussion releases of a single percussive instrument. Given the high initial outlay for creating new products and the fact that many potential buyers will already own a lot of high-quality libraries, such niche products seem to be a particularly attractive move for developers.
In conjunction with small, focused products we have seen an increase in vendors offering download versions of their products. In some cases there are only download versions. In 2010, some surprisingly large libraries have also been offered as download-only. Given the removal of packaging/shipping costs and the fact that (like many composers) I may suddenly need to buy a library at 2am on Sunday, downloads are very attractive to most customers… and do I really need to mention the instant gratification when impulse buying shiny new libraries?
Light Version of Libraries
While some vendors have offered stripped-down versions of their libraries in the past, 2010 saw a number of ‘light’ versions of major libraries with clearly explained upgrade paths. In such economically trying times, this has been a wise idea allowing consumers to buy-in cheaply without feeling that they’re wasting their cash. In certain cases, the reduced system demands of the light libraries have made them particularly desirable as alternatives to the full version.
The Return of Algorithmic Reverb
While many have never stopped loving algorithmic reverb, I think most will agree that convolution has been the darling for the last couple of years. In 2010, algorithmic reverbs came back big-time. The big news was that Lexicon finally released a software plugin of their highly esteemed PCM hardware reverbs (I then bought a PCM 90 at a great price on eBay!). New versions of the popular reverb continued to improve on their fantastic sound. The fantastic Reverberate plug-in combined convolution with some algorithmic reverb qualities and the word is that the next version of Altiverb (unfortunately not released in 2010) will also feature more of a hybrid convolution/algorithmic design.
Considering the current state of the industry, with budgets and schedules being forever squeezed, 2010 must have been a tough year to be a sample developer. Personally, I feel that most have responded in an incredibly positive and ingenious manner, continuing to produce game-changing offerings and providing amazing deals to customers. With the Winter NAMM Show happening this week in the USA, I guess it’s time to make some incredibly inaccurate predictions! Nonetheless, here are a few things I’m hoping for in 2011:
- EastWest/Quantum Leap to release a brass library to compliment Hollywood Strings
- Spitfire to release more commercial libraries
- Spectrasonics (who were suspiciously quiet in 2010) to wow us all again with… something (?)
- 64-bit Cubase on Mac
- Further developments in the style of Cinesamples’ CineOrch
Of course this is all only my viewpoint here. I did buy a lot of sample libraries in 2010 but not all of them, and I didn’t want to make any direct comparisons when I only own two of the three big string libraries or one of the two recent choir releases. I’m sure a lot of you have opinions on this subject, so let’s hear them in the COMMENTS below! What were your favorite sample libraries from 2010?