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Topic: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    Nova Scotia, Canada

    THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    With so many new libraries about to be released, would it not be a worthwhile exercise to isolate a few specific mockups that we can use to serve as reference pieces, for comparison purposes in assessing a library\'s true ability to produce very realistic results?

    The new libraries refer to themselves as orchestral or symphonic. This of course implies that they are intended to be used as such. But do we not have grounds to be somewhat apprehensive, as to date how many mockups come anywhere near at producing truly convincing results (at least when attempting to duplicate standard orchestral pieces). Despite some recent advances, the fact is that standard virtual orchestral phrasing invariably demonstrates the dreaded \"hybrid, half-synth sound\", for all the reasons that most of us are aware of.

    But before we all go once again on yet another \"next-generation library\" spending spree, would it not be reasonable to evaluate symphonic libraries on the basis of their practical ability to actually produce realistic results up-front, rather than just implying that it can be done? If the approach to creating the library was correctly planned in the first place (that is, astutely capturing the necessary articulations in a purely musical context), the libraries should be able to duplicate major orchestral works with a very significant degree of realism (given all the advantages of the current technologies we are working with).

    This approach to assessing new libraries should be of interest to both those interested in movie-score composition as well as people working with tradition orchestral textures for, after all, a truly convincing cello ostinato using rapid diatonic scales is as important to one style as the other.

    And yet the same old formula persists when it comes to library demos, the vast majority of them are provided as original compositions so that no direct comparison to actual symphonic works is possible! As such, the developers can easily highlight the most successful articulations while excluding the unrealistic ones, even though the later articulations may be of pivotal importance in producing the style of music you wish to produce.

    Just as a random example, here is a mockup of Mendelssohn\'s Hebrides Overture, which is a fairly straightforward piece without any unusual sonic demands. http://home.tallships.ca/island/hebridesgigaversion.mp3 As such, it may be used as a model representing the expressive limitations we are currently dealing with in regards to realism. (libraries used: Vitous, Garritan, Dan Dean, AO, SAM timpani) And here is an actual orchestra to allow comparison. http://home.tallships.ca/island/hebridesactualrecording.mp3

    I feel it would be very reasonable to suggest that the programmers of the new libraries provide their library\'s interpretation of something like this piece so that we can hear the result in a direct, practical context. Having been convinced of a library\'s sonic authenticity, you will then be somewhat confident that your compositions will sound relatively close to how they might should you have hired an actual orchestra. (Would anybody else be interested in compiling a group of mockups that could be served as references for comparison purposes with the upcoming libraries?)

    Considering the cost involved to the consumer, I believe a library developer could easily make potential purchasers much more comfortable by providing several demos of various pieces from the classical literature (each representing a different style), as well as a few movie score workups. Only at that point we will have the confidence that we are indeed moving ahead with our latest investment, and not just being subjected to the law of sonic diminishing returns.


  2. #2

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    This is a good idea. Clearly some libraries will lend themselves to better interpretaions of one piece than another, and the quality of the mockup will also depend on the skill of the programmer, but it would be nice to have the option to compare apples with apples.

    Maybe someone should start a thread in which we vote for several pieces which are regarded as exemplary of the textures and articulations which potential users are attempting to achieve through sample libraries?

  3. #3

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    This seems like a very good idea. We should start a list of pieces. Perhaps people could submit midi files.

    Next generation should hopefully mean that a library was recorded to sound like you would typically hear in a high quality real recording. That is typically not been the case. Secondly, a certain amount of ingenuity and intelligence in capturing more useful articulations is crucial. I am not just talking quantity here. I think this is true of some of the newer libraries.

  4. #4

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    Yeah, I know what you\'re saying Lee, at this stage there isn\'t any really new approach to playing a vioilin from a keyboard, but we\'re only just now at the point where the number and length of samples is not that relevant when making a library. So libraries which are created with streaming technology in mind are very new - kind of a next generation I suppose.

    You also have to keep in mind that as samplers like Gigastudio become more involved, it will be up to the developer to take advantage of the new parameters which become available. Some developers will be better at this than others. Look at how we\'ve seen a bit of trading in .art files lately. No extra samples, just alternate ways of using the same ones.

    And don\'t forget things like Maestro tools and Nuno\'s Text to midi programme for VOTA. If someone puts together some kind of extension software which helps their samples sound even more realistic with Giga, it should be audible when approaching the mockups.

  5. #5

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    Thats\'s all true, but I guess I wasn\'t clear enough. Many libraries, including one of mine, have some fatal sound quality/recording technique errors. Others offer VERY poorly executed articulations that were not tested in real life situations, or there are simply not enough to cover the stylistic range of an instrument. Many libraries suffer from both of these problems. Thats not to say that the developer didn\'t pour his heart and sole into the library. So what I am saying is that, there is much room for improvement in the confines of the current methods of sampling and programming.

  6. #6

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?


    I think we must have posted simultaneously - I didn\'t see yours when I replied to Lee.

    I totally agree that there\'s a lot yet to be exploited in standard pcm type sampling - longer samples have \'just\' become available and chromatic sampling is now practical. What we can look forward to is stuff like alternate samples of the same note performing the same articulation, and many more articulation choices being practical etc.,

    The \'next big steps\' in sampling are indicated by things like Melodyne and the Roland VP9000, Maestro Tools, and Nuno\'s VOTA utility.

    Some of these make a single sample more flexable, and some improve the interface between the user and the sample database.

    It\'s a lot of fun to be around when this technology is maturing [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

    I wonder how Kim Ryrie must feel about never patenting PCM sampling....!

  7. #7

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    Great idea Gungnir - I hope this topic doesn\'t get sidelined or diverge into other issues.

    I listened to your mockup - best classical orchestral mockup I\'ve heard. Maybe this piece could be one of the set-pieces. Could you list your libraries for us.

    But I can see a problem looming in getting some sort of agreement to the actual choice of \"set\" pieces, but we should be positive and push on.

    Some points:

    1. Agreement on the choice of example - probably both classical and film (although the latter poses problems with copyright)

    2. If midi files are posted, how should these be presented, given different libraries will respond quite differently and will need tweaking. So should the midi files really just contain note information (not velocity, volume, tempo changes etc) so the dymanics etc can be input by the library developer as they see fit and that suits their samples. An image copy of the relevant section of the score with the appropriate dynamic markings etc should be made available. Otherwise, someone would have the onerous (and I think impractical task of inputting the dymanics, tempo changes etc on the midi file which would require using \"some existing library\" to do so.

    3. There maybe a case for a large variety of \"set pieces\" that are limited to particular orchestrations - eg strings - brass - woodwinds etc - as it wouldn\'t be too onerous for developers to do a full orchestral orchestration mock-up when they have to use other people\'s libraries eg GOS, SI are string libraries, DanDean Brass etc.

    There are plenty of examples in both classical and film music where certain instruments are highlighted - eg tremelo Violins and Violas with agitato Cellos and Basses in the opening couple of pages of Mahler\'s 2nd Symphony. There may have to be twenty different examples for each section of the orchestra to get a flavour and the potential of these libraries. In film music for an example, the main theme for the \"Big Country\" is a great example for strings. I think we should think broader than current styles Zimmer, Newmans, Williams as great as they are. Herman for example still re-appears ( opening of \"Signs\" - homage to Hitchcock). Of course much of his music is influenced by Britten. Vaughan Williams of course is a large influence in film music and some of his pieces could be used which bridge a gap between classical and film styles.

    Anyway, more thoughts?

  8. #8

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    Sorry for the typo\'s folks, but it\'s 12.15am and the red wine is great! Gungnir, could you email me your midi file for mp3? I\'d like to have a go at the same piece.


  9. #9

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    Didn\'t we have a discussion like this before, talking about evaluating different libraries by showing what each one does with the same midi file? Though I would really like it if this could work, I don\'t think it\'s realistic. Just a few examples - to get a true idea of what GOS can do, you\'d need to show (at a minimum) the up-down bowing and the legato. Using any other library the same midi file would sound bizarre, to say the least. Or consider length of samples, and looped vs. non-looped - with one library everything sounds fine, with another the notes just stop halfway through. Etc. etc., it\'s a long list. Even if someone were willing to put in the work to create a homogenized midi file that made all libraries sound more or less ok (and that would be a *huge* amount of work), it could never show off what makes each library *special*, and I think that\'s a big part of what we\'d like to know.

    So I don\'t think it would be useful to have literally the same midi file for demoing individual libraries. However, I very much like the idea of establishing a set of *pieces* that we use as a sort of informal benchmark. Library developers (or whoever) render these pieces using particular libraries to their maximum potential. If we had at least rough agreement on what pieces should be in this set, I think it would be extremely helpful.

    It\'s easy (and kind of fun) to toss out names of pieces that show off this or that orchestral instrument, group, or technique - but if people just throw names out there, the list could eventually number in the hundreds. That would defeat the purpose; nobody is going to record hundreds of demos. So it seems like we\'d need some way of pruning this list - keep it to essentials. Maybe some kind of voting system, as Chadwick suggested.... And, of course, in order for this to be worth anything we\'d need library developers to generally buy into the idea. That might be the hardest part, though if even one developer were to render demos of our \"benchmark set,\" it would put pressure on other developers to do the same.

  10. #10

    Re: THE UPCOMING LIBRARIES: the most practical way to evaluate them?

    I think it is rather difficult for all the users to agree on a benchmark piece. The ET thing (some trying to mock up a while back) seems to be a good piece. It has a very clear string melody with brass doing answer back. Something like that will yield good results to show what the library can or can\'t do.

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