If you’re a regular customer of Time+Space it’s likely that the name ‘Dan Graham’ will be familiar to you. Dan was the producer behind several popular Zero-G sound libraries including Animato, Luminoso and Spiritoso plus the epic sound design series – Rise, Impact and Whoosh Designer. He is also the CEO of Gothic Storm Music – a boutique British music company with a focus on premium Hollywood sounds, therefore when it comes to creating cinematic sounds, Dan is your man.
His latest venture sees him partnering with long-time co-producer Adam Hanley to release the first library for Kontakt under their new brand – Gothic Instruments. DRONAR: Hybrid Module is now exclusively available from Time+Space so we caught up with Dan to get the low down on this exciting and unique library…
It creates huge, complex atmospheres across the whole audio spectrum (bass to high plus sound effects) from just a few notes held down with one hand, leaving the other hand free to play expressively with the beautiful dials, and then record those dial movements as a performance.
What was your inspiration, or motivation, for creating Dronar and what was in the initial plan in terms of your aims for the finished product?
Nothing like this exists. I thought about my normal method of making my own complex atmospheric sound design – with separate bass notes, moving mid range chords, high notes and sound effects – and thought, we could build something that generates all these parts automatically and leaves the user free to focus on being expressive.
Other options out there leave you either stuck with pretty but inflexible sample loops, or great synths that lose their intuitive expressiveness once you get stuck into sequencing all the separate parts of an atmosphere.
The Hybrid Module is the first in a series of ‘Dronar’ modules, could you tell us more about this concept and why you decided to do things this way?
DRONAR has a huge Kontakt-based audio engine (scripted by Adam Hanley) that deserves a huge amount of raw audio to go with it. However, we realised that it would take 2 years to create all the audio content we wanted and so we thought – why not release the project in modules? This means getting a new module out every 2 months until finally we can bundle it all together into a giant Master DRONAR in a year or so. Until then, this approach means users don’t have to wait until 2017, and also each module is quite attractively priced, making each module a good chance to try it out without breaking the bank.
Buyers of each module will get 20% discounts for other modules, and a big discount from the big Master DRONAR, so we’ll be careful to carry our loyal customers through to the end without upsetting them!
How would you describe the sounds in this module?
The “HYBRID MODULE” has grainy, cinematic and sci-fi sounds with a rich mix of presets from sub rumbles to otherworldly pads and space organs to insane horrific fearscapes. Overall you’d call it a “contemporary soundtrack” flavour.
We’ve recorded lots of live strings performed by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra string players – mainly for a future ‘strings’ module – but we’ve included some of them here to add some great cinematic expression to the amazing synth and sound design audio.
The interface is very simple, but as we know from using in the T+S studio over the past few weeks, this doesn’t mean the user is limited in what they can achieve – quite the opposite in fact. Was it a challenge to keep it so ‘clean’?
It began with us thinking – let’s see just how much you can control with just 6 dials. 4 of them are just the mix levels of the 4 layers of audio (bass, mid-range, high and sound effects) and that gives you a huge immediate power. For example, just fading out the bass note shifts the mood completely, and fading up the sound effects layer makes it instantly more complex and interesting.
Still, once you get past the main page and its 6 big dials you have hundreds more knobs and controls to play with, so it’s only simple and clean if you really want it that way!
Try the “Menus” patches because they each have 12 different sounds ready for fast auditioning. Then, your Mod Wheel has a huge expressive control over the intensity of the sound, and then, turning the 6 big dials on the GUI has an instant and huge effect on what you’re hearing. That should be enough convey the awe of DRONAR.
What are your favourite features and why?
I find the whole thing dangerously addictive because of the way it invites exploration.
Trying to thing why that is, some of it is how beautiful the animations look (important to inspire you and give visual feedback ), some is the way you can instantly change massive parts of the sound instantly in an expressive way (making it feel more like a performance), and some of it is that having one hand free changes your mentality – inviting you to turn the dials which then draws you in when you hear the dramatic results.
If I’m honest, it wasn’t until the first prototype that I realised that this was a lot more exciting than I’d imagined. I thought it was going to be a nice ‘auto-atmosphere maker’ but what was actually a new way of controlling sounds that invited a kind of interactive meditative journey through sound.
This is what I mean by dangerously addictive – it’s very easy to spend hours just going off on sound explorations.
The product offering for ‘cinematic’ sounds is huge in today’s audio production market, how do you feel DRONAR stands out from the crowd?
Although we were never thinking about trying to be part of any trend, I suppose we have a good claim to being ‘cinematic’ just because my other work is placing music in movie trailers and I’m constantly recording and mastering ‘cinematic’ audio at the highest possible level. Meanwhile we have these beautiful world-class string players who have played on many movie trailers, and Alessandro Camnasio, a genius sound designer who has also graced countless blockbuster trailers.
Above and beyond all that though, everything in DRONAR just sounds like an amazing modern soundtrack and there is literally nothing else that does what this does in spontaneously generating these complex and complete soundscapes with enormous amounts of live expression control.
It’s obvious that Dronar Hybrid Module is perfect for trailer and soundtrack work, are there any other applications that you would recommend it for and why?
Well, for one thing, the string patches on their own are great for anything needing orchestral strings pads. Anyone wanting interesting expressive pads will get a ton of mileage out of this, and really pretty much any genre is going to benefit from interesting and expressive pads.
We have a unique “AMOUNT” control in the arpeggiator too, which allows a seamless blend from chords through shimmering undulations to arpeggios – something that’s going to be great in EDM.
Some of our readers may have seen the video of you using Dronar with Leap Motion controller – could you tell us more about that?
I strongly recommend that users consider buying a Leap Motion controller (approx. $70 or £50) and a third-party Leap app called GecoMIDI which translates hand movements into MIDI information. I’ve included a GecoMIDI preset in the installation folders, to get users of both up and running. This setup allows you to easily control 6 simultaneous MIDI cc controllers with one hand using gestures (detected with an infra red 3D camera) and this means you can control all of DRONAR’s main page dials with one hand simultaneously, allowing fantastic expressive control.
We got very close to offering a Leap Motion + DRONAR bundle because they work so well together but sadly we felt that having to direct customers to the Leap store to buy a third-party app which we couldn’t officially support could lead to too many problems, so it will have to remain an (amazing) optional extra for now.
DRONAR still works amazingly with mouse drags on the dials, and even better with an external MIDI controller so maybe it would have been counterproductive harping on too much about Leap when it’s not necessary.
Head on over to the DRONAR product page now for full product details and audio demos.