When the Dow Breaks, The Cradle Will Fall

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Monday September 30, 2008 saw the biggest drop in history on the Dow Jones Industrial Averages – 778 points. At this writing it’s anyone’s guess where the DOW will be today or by week’s end. The question for composers, is how the DOW dropping affect you. 

Well, it does a lot. Right now the current crisis is on available credit for businesses. Without credit, based on an economy built on spending not saving, businesses cannot borrow to grow, to get through traditional tight periods, or produce movies.

That’s what I said, produce movies. And TV shows. And games.

All of these require a capital investment to produce and get to market. Some money comes from banks local to Los Angeles like City National Bank. Some studios raise money from private sources like the Silver Screen Partners which was formed to help Disney produce new films for Touchstone.

But when this money dries up, no producing takes place. And that means limited work opportunities for composers in an already competitive environment.

Given the times of the moment, each composer will need to determine what software should be purchased to give them an extra production edge in the market. I’ve thought about this as letters and calls come into me seeking my input. So I’m making some suggestions that I think are prudent, although not everyone will either like or agree with them.

SOFTWARE – Group 1
From a dramatic scoring perspective, I think there are two programs that are non-negotiable. 

Omnisphere Omnisphere is Spectrasonic’s long awaited update for Atmosphere. I’ll be doing several reviews on it after AES, but in the meantime, if you’re a registered owner of Atmosphere, the upgrade price is ridiculously fair! Don’t think. Just get it. Omnisphere is so massive it can’t be described in a single sentence. However, Spectrasonics did come up with a good summary – Exploration Station. It comes with all the original Atmosphere sounds plus expanded strings, and I’ve been told, Symphony of Voices. As you spend time reading about Omnisphere, it’s clear that this is a genuine music production software program whose limits are your imagination.  In the interest of disclosure, TrueSpec is not a dealer for this program.

Symphobia – Because of the currency exchange rate, in the USA, Symphobia is a horse of a price. However, Symphobia gives the working composer a decided edge over other composers who decide to pull in their horns rather than get out there and sell harder for work. Symphobia’s strength is the orchestral effects that really cannot be duplicated in MIDI mock-ups. Like it or not, that’s the kind of work that’s out there.  With Symphobia, you have those effects and as I wrote previously, they blend with other libraries. In the interest of disclosure, TrueSpec represents this program.

If you’re on a type budget and you can only afford one or two programs, these are the two.

SOFTWARE – Group 2 
For dramatic scoring, I have three solid recommendations.

Vienna Instruments Appassionata Strings – If you’re a professional writer, and you’re serious about scoring with strings, then this library is a must. It’s a different sound from other string libraries, but as an independent library, it’s the most satisfying to work with and listen to. There’s a muted strings version, Appassionata Strings II, which because of some computer issues in my studio, I haven’t installed yet. What you’re getting with the Appassionata Strings is a big lush sound that works for virtually any style. In the interest of disclosure, TrueSpec is not a dealer for these two programs.

Storm Drum 2 – If you’ve ever spent time listening to scores by the late Jerry Goldsmith and wishing you had that percussion section to give your music added oomph, then, you need this library. Yes, there’s ethnic percussion, but it’s what you most commonly hear in a Goldsmith score. I’m under nondisclosure not to reveal the source of these samples. All I can say is that if you want the Hollywood percussion sound – this one.

String Essentials 2 – This is the second workhorse string library. Like Symphobia and the Vienna stuff, it’s price is artificially high because of the currency exchange. SE2 is the great blender. If you own any Vienna library excluding Appassionata, or QLSO (old or PLAY), then your depth and range are greatly expanded. In the interest of disclosure, TrueSpec is a dealer for this and SD2.

UPGRADING YOUR COMPUTERS – GIGA
Composers are now beginning to realize the impact of GigaStudio being canceled. I wish I could tell you there’s a simple answer, but I can’t. We’re all stuck with libraries that can’t be upgraded to newer versions in Kontakt or other formats, and that simply won’t translate well from one format to another. As a test, I tried importing the older Garritan Orchestral Strings and Miroslav Vitous strings in Giga format into Logic’s EXS24. It’s hit or miss. And it’s going to be hit or miss no matter which programs you try to import and translate it into. So if you’re not skilled in programming, this isn’t a viable option for you.

It’s the same problem for those with the Vienna First and Pro Editions. If you have any of the Horizon libraries, you have some grace by working out the details to cross grade to Kontakt where you can take advantage of scripting programs.

My best advice with Giga and Vienna, is if the computers are working OK, don’t mess with them. If you have the First or Pro Editions, I suggest you supplement them with SE2.

UPGRADING YOUR COMPUTERS – MAC
If you’re on a tight budget, and you have a G5, max the RAM to 8GB and live with it. If you’re able to get the Mac Pro, get it through an authorized dealer rather than Apple because you’ll overpay. Read the Apple ads carefully as they’re now offering leasing. I have leased computers before for Alexander Publishing, and I have to tell you, I’ll never do it again. Once the technology moves, you’re stuck.

If you have other suggestions or input please add it below.
 

2 Comments

  • Chris
    September 30, 2008 @ 12:21 pm

    Peter,

    These are excellent suggestions. I would offer one more solution that is truly on the cheap. Instead of buying anything new, go through all of the samples and sounds you already have and look for fresh content. If other people out there are anything like me, I find I start to rely on the same “goto” sounds you know work and sound great over and over again. However when I’ve had the time to go back and search through my library of sounds I often find truly cool and fantastic sounds I forgot about or simply didn’t know I had. This is especially true for people who’ve been buying sounds for years. The latest, greatest stuff is always fun and inspirational, but if you’ve got thousands of sounds already, there are probably many gems waiting to be (re) discovered.

    Also-am I the only one who wished Apple sold a mid-range, yet EXPANDABLE computer (memory and PCI slots)? An imac will simply not do! Unless money is no object, it is hard to justify spending $7000 (loaded) on a computer. I refuse to return to the PC world for new purchases but iMacs and Mac minis don’t fit the bill either. The last time I bought a new Mac it cost under $3000 with memory and a drive (G5 dual 2.7 around Jan 06) and that seems like a reasonable price point to me. Not cheap, but less than half of a new loaded MacPro in 2008. Maybe this isn’t quite apples to apples, as I know the new machines offer much more RAM, drives and power but you get my drift. Just a thought, anyone else???

  • October 1, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

    Good suggestions, Peter.

    Here’s another one: How about the manufacturers (E/W, VSL, Project Sam, etc.) giving its customers some price breaks on software? True, E/W is already doing that with their 2 for 1 sale, but hey, they do that all the time! :-)

    I’m talking about some special “On Sale” items that are a direct result of the country’s economic woes. And yes, I still want the manufacturers to make a profit!

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