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Posted by on Jun 22, 2012 | 0 comments

Iris Review

I guess you already heard of Iris, the most recent creation of the masterminds at iZotope. A spectral processing tool created specially for dealing with recorded material, being able to extract, combine and process all kinds of sounds based on visual representations of frequency, amplitude and time.

At this stage of the game, when we’ve clearly surpassed the limits of what we thought possible in terms of creating and manipulating sound digitally, it’s hard to find new tools that really worth to be purchased. Personally, I try to really question the need for a new tool before getting into it. Not only from the economic aspect, but from the sound palette already available to us, since more options also mean more things to have in mind when creating, and that’s not always great. It’s important to be simplistic in terms of the techniques, so you can be always focused on what’s really important: the emotion. With Iris, since it began to be announced, I was preparing for a pretty cool tool and that’s what I got.

I’d define it as pure magic. It’s something dedicated to the beauty of sculpting sound visually, being able not only to see the elements of field recordings and sound effects, but also being able to extract, isolate, combine, manipulate and control sonic material. Some musicians could find great value in this type of tool, but those deeply interested in sound design will completely love it. I’d say that I haven’t known anything like this before. I’ve been a true lover of the magic of iZotope RX spectral processing and before trying that piece of software, I worked with different kinds of noise removal tools, but the RX engine really impressed me. Every part of that application is a wonder, and their users will understand when I talk about being amazed with the spectral extraction tools specifically. These magical tools, capable of extracting material were very useful at the moment.

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When the Iris rumor started, I immediately thought: if they make a synth based on RX, would be a complete success. And indeed it was. Although the market already offers a good variety of synths and samplers, some of these also based on spectral analysis and so on, there wasn’t something like Iris available. There has been similar tools like MetaSynth, PhotoSounder or Alchemy, which have shown immense potential using spectral/re-synthesis techniques. But Iris is totally fresh, new, it’s something that did not exist before, and although it has similarities to the aforementioned and other products on the market, is not comparable.

Perhaps for a more traditional musician purposes Iris would be just another tool of the bunch, but for someone dedicated to process field recordings, design sound effects or do any kind of sample-based sound works, this is a gift. It’s really fun to see and listen to how Iris revolutionizes the way you work. Why? Because its visual approach to sound combined with the performance options, not previously found elsewhere, at least on the things I’ve used. And not only talking about the sonogram, but also the way layers are combined, how you can process them and the particular expression you get from the instrument. Actually there videos you can find on the web, its descriptions and even appearance of the instrument itself does not tell one bit of what I feel with it. Just spend some minutes processing field recordings, and you realize how exciting it really is.

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Posted by on Feb 9, 2012 | 1 comment

Sylvain Lasseur Interview

Symbolic Sound has published on their blog called “the eight nerve”, an interview with sound designer Sylvain Lasseur talking about his use of Kyma system and several aspects about his work.

Sound designer Sylvain Lasseur is not just bi-coastal; he’s bi-contintental, working part time in Paris and part time in Los Angeles!  We recently had a chance to ask him a few questions about how he uses Kyma for 5.1 sound design and to explore some of the differences between post production work in Paris and Los Angeles.  By the end of the interview, the discussion turns to food, wine, and the Marx Brothers.  Read on!

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Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 | 3 comments

Harry Cohen Special: Sound Design Moments Re-visited

[Written by Harry Cohen]

I wanted to write a different kind of article, one that indulges my more geeky-tech side. While the main source for material remains great recordings, there are lots of times when we find solutions to problems in processing; these days that mainly means plug-ins, but that was not always so.

Sometimes, looking back, I see creative sound design moments as being more like a place you might visit, as opposed to a method you might use over and over. Time has shown me that the tools will constantly change around me. My main editing platform has changed three times during the course of my career. And so, some great tools become obsolete or unavailable. For this reason, I always encourage designers, when they find their way to an interesting combination of source/processing, to keep going and record lots of material; the next occasion you may want to repeat the process might not be so easy to get back to !  Some examples from my past follow:

The Ionizer

This was a great, if somewhat hard to master, plug-in. It did lots of stuff, eq-wise. One of its tricks was to be able to analyze the frequency profile of one sound, and then to impose it on another. I used it in the film “Wanted” to make some design-ey glass breaks in the convenience store scene by imposing the frequency spectrum of glass windchimes on some explosions:

The Ionizer was so widely cracked that its makers decided not to carry it forward to OS-X; so it has become inconvenient to use, to say the least.


While the NI vocoder Vokator still works, I notice that NI no longer sells or supports it, so it is only a matter of time before it too, becomes unavailable. I have had great luck in using it for creatures. In short, I like to put a series of animal sounds on a software sampler, under different keys, put some under midi fader or foot pedal controller, feed that into Vokator as the carrier, with a mic as the modulator. Set up so you are listening on headphones to your output only, and using lots of gestural control on the faders and pitch wheel, while making ridiculous sounds and screaming into the mic, start to work your way towards interesting sounds. Record your output so that you only have to get it right once, for any given moment ! Record lots of stuff, go through it and pick out the good bits, then edit it together as you would for any creature.


Ah, the synclav. While I have so much to say about how the interface on this wonderful machine shaped the outlook of so many sound designers, for now I will mention only one detail. There was a button combination that would allow you to use the big wheel control to change the octave ratio of the keyboard tuning. This meant that on each side of a breakpoint, as you turned the dial, the sound would pitch up to the right of the breakpoint, and pitch down to the left, by as much as hundreds of semi-tones. It was useful for making some sci-fi type turbine sounds; like this Minbari engine made for the tv series Babylon-Five.

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Posted by on Oct 18, 2011 | 1 comment

Soundminer Pro v4.3 Available, Lion Compatible

Soundminer Pro v4.3 has been released, including new features and fixes.

Main New features

  • OS X 10.7 Lion Support
  • Brand new Rewire engine which thus far has proven to be more reliable, faster and less CPU intensive. This is part of ongoing developments for our next pro version.
  • Auto-Detect Pro Tools session – Soundminer will check when moving between the two applications to see if the current session has changed and alert you as well as import the new session parameters. A configuration file can turn this on or off.
  • Improved Foreign character support – umlauts, accents and other ‘non-English’ characters are parsed without issue in the boolean search area.
  • Improvements on speed – we’ve begun to roll in some of the ‘new code’ that will see huge improvements upon speed in both searching nd conversion over time.
  • VST RACK now with 16 slots for sound design! And we’ve added a new XML configuratin file for better SAVE/RECALL of presets.
  • Improved iTunes import – v4/v4pro now pre-reads any iTunes library file and parses any and all playlists.
  • AAC scanning of metadata.- added to this version is improved metadata embedding and reading for AAC files.


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