You may recall back in March 2011, we interviewed Daniel James for the Time+Space blog. At the time, Daniel had just completed his contributions to the Spectrasonics Bob Moog Tribute Library, which was designed to work in Omnisphere and also to raise money for the Bob Moog Foundation.
Since then, with his production company Hybrid Two, Daniel has worked on numerous soundtracks, produced more fantastically detailed walkthrough videos of well known virtual instruments including Cinematic Strings 2 and Albion 3, been lucky enough to visit Hans Zimmer at his LA studio, and developed a brand new cinematic sound design library for Kontakt – Project ALPHA.
Project ALPHA is now available to buy from Time+Space so we asked Daniel if he’d answer a few questions for us about this new library…
Hi Daniel, congratulations on the release of Project ALPHA, first up, who are Hybrid Two?
Hybrid Two is a sound and music production company created in 2008 and owned by myself and co-founder Aaron Frensley. Primarily we provide music for Films, Games and Trailers however more recently we have branched off into the world of commercial sample library development. Both Aaron and I have previously worked on sample library projects for other developers as sound designers, however we felt that we were both in a good position to take a solid crack at creating one ourselves, this project became what is now known as Project ALPHA.
How would you summarise Project ALPHA?
Project ALPHA is a Cinematic sound design library made up of hybrid musical sound design samples handcrafted by me and Aaron. The main aim of the library is to give composers a high quality and flexible way to add a layer of that modern cinematic sound design tone, that is very popular in all aspects of current media music, to their compositions in the most effortless way possible.
What makes it different from other cinematic sound design libraries?
Well the first thing to remember about musical sound design is that it is a very personal thing. The amount of different ways sound can be manipulated is practically limitless. Each sound designer has their own aesthetic ear for how sound should be shaped, much like a sculptor has their own style to the way they carve at their marble. So the first main feature is that the library is handcrafted by us, we have had our sound designs previously used in places such as The Dark Knight Rises trailer or in the modern remake of Total Recall to name just two.
Secondly, and probably most importantly, is just how flexible the library is. We made a conscious decision early on to create the library so that each and every patch could be manipulated, in engine, beyond recognition. Allowing each and every composer to truly create something which is unique to them. We designed the UI so that even if you don’t really know what each dial does, you can play around and intuitively be very creative with any of the provided sample files.
What prompted you to develop the library?
As I mentioned previously, we have both developed sound design for other companies, composers and libraries. Each and every one of these project was great fun to work on however they were designed and produced by the companies.
After a few months of chatter we decided it would be fun to try developing a small custom library for ourselves, to share with a few friends in a private shared dropbox folder. After a while we had developed quite a nice library of sounds and people were starting to enquire as to where they came from. After a while people started to express interest in the sounds we were making and asking if there was anyway they could buy some of them. Eventually we realised that the sounds we were creating would actually make for a solid commercial library, something that would both help and inspire other composers. That’s when we started into the process of taking the custom sounds and working them into a commercial setting, something people would want to use.
What were the challenges you faced during the development?
The biggest challenge we faced was programming our script for the library. We had grand ambitions of making it extremely flexible. However the more features you dream of giving the user to play with directly equates to the more sleepless nights and headaches for the programmer. The entire script was built from scratch inhouse by Aaron, who really pulled out the stops and created a solid backbone to, what seemed initially, like a daunting task but turned out to be everything and more than we planned.
One of the most unexpected challenges was that once we finished designing our UI and Script we realised we had something so powerful on our hands, we owed it to the people using it, to really show it off. Initially the library had no ‘Synth’ folder like it does now, however after even a few hours with the finished UI we discovered that we could easily create completely new patches in engine just using the source audio we were already including in the library.
The challenge here was that we discovered all this about two weeks from what we initially though would be our launch date. That’s when we made the call to delay the release, to sink our teeth in to deliver something more than what people would expect from the library.
What are your personal favourite/most useful features?
I think the most useful feature of the library, and my personal favourite, is the step sequencer / gate section of the UI. The step sequencer can be activated on any patch allowing the user to adjust the velocities, rhythm and notes that the library will play back allowing for incredible variation options. You can move a few velocities, set an arp sequence then hold a chord, the engine will then throw back a completely original ostanato, which is perfect for either layering into a track or just getting the ideas started.
Another amazing feature is the FX rack, it may sound simple but the fact that the FX are literally one click away allows you to instantly audition and tweak different types of combinations to really mangle any sound to the point that it is something completely new. You see, in our industry there is a thing know as patch fatigue. Patch fatigue is when a popular sound in a sample library is used over and over again by many composers, to the point where it starts to stand out and people, who are not composers, recognise it (think of the wilhelm scream but for sample libraries).
Once a sample gets to this point of saturation, its hard to use it in a musical context and still have it sound original. This is where Project ALPHA is designed to stand out from the crowd. Because each sound can be crafted in so many directions it’s really easy to create something truly original of your own, meaning you can take the sound samples provided way past their initial purpose adding to both the longevity and value of the library.
What’s the feedback been like so far?
It has quite literally been unbelievable, to the point of being speechless about it. We had been working on, and with, the sound samples for almost a year and a half so we had really lost all point of reference as to what people might think about the sounds once they were in their hand. But within the first few days, the emails and instant messages from people telling us about all the exciting projects they are already using it in or how it inspired them to try something new, were both the most amazing feeling and biggest sigh of relief we have both had for a very long time.
Have you already started working on an update as a result of people’s feedback? If so, what can we expect to find in there?
Yes updates are heavily in development, we have been collecting peoples feedback and creating a list of new features we are planning to implement into the library over the next few updates. The first update which should be out very soon after this interview goes live which will contain some new functional controls for the step sequencer and gate allowing people to decide how the gate syncs with the internal clock of the daw.
We are also looking at some new features such as key switchable pitch changes, live trigger fx, assignable LFO and a few others which we are not talking about just yet, you’ve got to have some surprises.
Finally, what else has Hybrid Two got planned for 2013?
Like I mentioned earlier, as well as sample library developers we are also working composers and sound designers. In the near future we have 2 feature films, a few unannounced video game titles and a new trailer music library to create.
On the library side of things we are completely focused on adding to expanding what is capable with the Project ALPHA engine. We plan to make it into something that can be around for a while yet maintain its usefulness and continue to grow in size and features.