As another year comes to an end we got in touch with some of our composer and artist friends including Nainita Desai, Andy Barlow, Ty Unwin and more to see which effects plugins and virtual instruments they have been regularly using for their music in 2015 and why they find them so inspiring and essential to their work.
Lamb’s Andy Barlow kicks things off with his Top 5…
Andy Barlow – British music producer and musician most famous for his work with chilled downtempo electronic band Lamb:
1. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2: The best soft synth yet. The presets are great – really inspiring and creative. I wish it had a live performance page like Trilian but apart from that perfection !
2. G force Imposcar: I used to have a real Oscar. Which was amazing (when it worked). This is the real deal and much more reliable. From warm pads to snarling bass lines and really tweakable.
3. Native instruments Lazer: It’s a Reaktor instrument and can be fairly dsp hungry but if you want a sound to cut through the mix there is nothing that can beat it.
4. Spectrasonics Trilian: My go-to plug in for bass lines and sub basses. Fast, intuitive and the most realistic electric and double basses out there
5. Lounge Lizard: I have a real Rhodes in the studio bit still use this loads. It’s really versatile, providing Rhodes that are warm and will support a mix, to hard and cutting to give power and presence.
Nainita Desai – With a career that spans over twenty years, Nainita has written the scores to hundreds of award winning films as well as TV documentaries and dramas for the likes of the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, HBO, Discovery, National Geographic and many more.
1. Ceremony Melodyne – This remarkable piece of engineering was invaluable for the BBC film “Mumbai High – A Musical” I wrote this year.
Working with untrained children who had to sing and record vocals under immense time pressure, the accuracy and natural sounding time and pitch manipulations of Melodyne saved the vocal performances on this production.
2. Spectrasonics Omnisphere 2 – time after time this staple VSTi is invaluable has a part to play in almost every TV score I write. Great inspirational sounds right out of the box. The organic sounds in particular the bells
and atmospheres are very versatile and bed in with real instruments.
3. Lexicon PCM Native Reverb – lush , realistic, spacious reverbs that are part of my staple effects buss on almost every score.
4. Heavyocity Damage – powerful, versatile and still fresh sounding compared to the competition. Great drum elements for dramatic TV scores.
5. Everything from Spitfire! The Sable and Mural strings – they blended in exceptionally well with real strings on the BFI / Film4 feature ‘The Confessions of Thomas Quick’
to the theme tune for Smithsonian / ITV series ‘Million Dollar Princeses’.
The subtle percussion elements of Albion were also great for the ITV film ‘ The Day Hitler Died.
Miguel d’Oliveira – Award winning composer who has scored for big live ensembles and shows such as First Dates and Grand Designs. Miguel says…
“Although I frequently invest in good old reliable hardware (synths and FX) I find that I tend to use the plug-in versions of those units a good deal (FATSO being one of these) – mostly because its quicker, the tweakability and the total recall.”
1. Omnisphere (when will this one not be on everybody’s top 5?): Omnisphere is like an interesting metropolis. Doesn’t matter how well you know it, you come back to find great ideas time and time again. A track could easily start and end with just this plug in.
2. iZotope Ozone: You can do your own chain of mastering plug ins and then come back to this one. The best thing about it? The way it compensates for gain on bypass, allowing you to truly check if its doing any good at all.
3. Waves H delay and H comp: In my experience, minor adjustments get good results 90% of the time. Huge bonus when you can’t even afford time to insert plug ins, let alone tweak values. And I love the look of that massive VU meter on the H comp.
4. Trilian: For bass is still main choice. I haven’t found an acoustic bass I prefer to this one. The synth basses are also superb and the fact you can tweak them with spectrasonics very impressive plug ins is super appealing too.
5. UAD’s (LA-2A and FATSO): I think LA2A go as standard on 90% of my track presets. Can’t fault it. Also love their FATSO. I have the real thing (the superior -i think- UBK version) and still use the UAD. Sometimes because it proves more adequate. A lot of the time because you don’t need to bounce in real time.
1. UVI Falcon: There’s a depth to this package that is wonderful and the way it integrates with the other UVI libraries (of which I have a lot) is fantastic…. all of a sudden those libraries have a new life! It would be so easy to stick Omnisphere 2 in this list (ESPECIALLY with the Unfinished series of libraries which are EASILY the best out there) but there’s just something about Falcon that is new and fresh… and reminds me of Alchemy in a lot of ways before that was bought out for Logic only. It’s a new instrument that I think will develop into something REALLY special.
2. iZotope Ozone 7: I’m a big Izotope fan and narrowing it down to one plug in is hard as everything they do oozes quality but there is only one plug in that is on EVERYTHING that I do…. Ozone lives at the end of my DAW’s output with a patch that I’ve written that includes a bit of everything… just to make everything sound that bit more special and sparkly. Because of the fast turn around in music for TV there’s never really time to “master” tracks so having this permanently there doing it’s magic (even in a generic way) is a great compromise.
3. Best Service Galaxy X: This is a lost classic… not many people seem to use this VI and is a secret weapon of mine… (I shouldn’t be telling you about it then…. bugger!) I’m a big fan of the Hartmann Neuron, a unique hardware synth from the ’90’s and although this is in no-way the same, it has a similar organic quality and incredibly creative engine that can produce really new and exciting sounds that you can’t really get with anything else… Again it’s normally somewhere in just about everything I do…
4. VSL Solo Voices: VSL have been a huge part of my life for the last 15 years, right back to when I had loads of Gigastudio machines and again, narrowing it down to just one library is tough but there’s something about this library that other’s haven’t quite matched yet.. it’s their infamous legato patches. There are plenty of ‘Voice’ libraries out there but there’s something about the legato scripting and crossfading of dynamics in this library that is very natural and so I’ve kept coming back to it a lot this year.
5. Spitfire “Grid” libraries: I’m not sure whether this series should be classed as a plugin or a library… because it’s essentially both… the way that Spitfire have hit on this “grid” format in libraries like “Evo-grids”, “Olafur Arnalds Evolutions”, “Symphonic Evolutions” etc.. is pure genius. The clever way it’s scripted and works makes it feel like a plug in although officially I suppose it’s just a Kontakt library.. EITHER WAY… these instruments have been incredibly useful for me this year and have creativley allowed me to do things that would previously have taken a lot more time and money. Just like all of the Spitfire libraries there’s something very organic and “real” about these instruments that make them incredibly playable and difficult to put down. PLUS there’s a randomise option and when you’re out of ideas EVERYONE needs a “randomise” button in life!!
Daniel James – composer known for work on known for his work on Terminator Genisys, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Proximity as well as the creator of Project Alpha and Project Bravo Kontakt libraries…
1. Kontakt 5: The ability to tweak any sample to my hearts content, throw on top of that the ability to create my own libraries makes this essential in my work as not only a composer but a musical sound designer
2. Omnisphere 2: Before version 2, I used various different synth plugins for different types of sound. With the Omni 2 update all those plugins have been rendered virtually redundant as I have more options than I can handle in one place, throw on top of that the ability to import my own samples and manipulate them alongside the built in synth engine and you have perhaps the ultimate synth.
3. T-racks 3 (plus its expansions): This has been my mastering chain for years, its modular nature means I can mix and match various hardware emulations to hone in on the overall sound I want for a piece.
4. Sound Toys Decapitator: This plugin is on everything, from the filthy over the top distorted sound designs to the softest string lines, adding a warm edge to my tone.
5. NI Reflektor: This plugin from NI is now my goto delay plugin, giving me multiple different delay styles and tail FX, I can really design the type of sound I want.