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Original symphonic work: feedback on realism

stan-k

New Member
Hello everyone,

I would very much appreciate your feedback on the technical side/execution of this work. Obviously, it was rendered using sample libraries (VSL), and I'd like to know if you find anything particularly unnatural or unrealistic, i.e. use of articulatoins, dynamics, etc. Basically, how close, within reason, to the real orchestral sound is it, the overall feel?

Loud and fast:

Calm and slow:

Thank you.

You can listen to the entire work here.
 

Rodney Money

On V.I. avoiding work.
Congratulations on a very complex and well thought out composition, my friend. It takes immense dedication and time to write music with such detail, but lets talk about the sound since that's the type of comments you are looking for. When people say that they have rendered a complete composition just using VSL, a slight cold sweat runs down my spine. It can either be either "glorious" or end up sounding like standard midi rendered with notation software. I've only been in "the game" of rendering for about a year and a half now, but one thing I've come to realize is that it is truly an art form especially when the goal is realism. It is one set of talents to compose well which you have demonstrated, and another set of talents to render well. Put them together, and it becomes pure gold.

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but VSL is recorded dry, up-close, and mono which works great for solo woodwind instruments, but without work automatically puts brass and strings at a disadvantage. I would recommend using MIRx Teldex Scoring Stage for placement and panning, Vienna Instruments Pro for humanizing features, and another reverb such as East West Quantum Spaces for another touch of individuality and spacing options. In your renderings, the solo woodwind instruments such as clarinet and bassoon were the most convincing in terms of realism. When you render, you become not only a composer but also the living performer and the conductor. Think in terms of that for realism. Try performing in parts live, ride the mod-wheel for beautiful expression, let your whole-notes rise and fall with maybe a touch of vibrato near the end before the break to niente, watch out for sudden burse of unnatural velocities going from soft to loud, let the soloists breathe as well as let the sections play true phrases, And keep velocities low exposing the warmth and openness of VSL instead of higher velocities which can start to sound unnatural. Also, something as silly as adding room tone can help glue the samples together, especially in moments of silence or space.
 

markleake

Recovering sale addict
I think Rodney is on the money (sorry! :whistling:) with his comments. You've successfully written a complex piece and it seems to work very well.

Unfortunately VSL would be far from my first choice for getting something sounding realistic. I've heard some tracks produced with it that sound fantastic, but a lot of stuff that sounds very dated. I think it takes a lot of skill to get VSL sounding good (excluding the woodwinds - I think the VSL woods sound excellent). In your case the placement/reverb/production needs work to get it sounding real.

Also, one thing I'd add is I've never really heard anyone succeed at getting brass to sound realistic with VSL. I think it isn't convincing because the brass sound we expect to hear is always driven strongly by the interaction with the room, and adding reverb to a dry brass sound just doesn't seem to 100% work, no matter how good the reverb.

Disclaimer: I don't have VSL.

I'd love to hear the same tracks rendered with other libraries, if you have any at hand?
 

JBacal

Senior Member
I listened to the first piece and the composition is superlative! Really wonderful!

I agree with Rodney's comment's about the midi realization. In my very biased opinion, VSL is more than capable of creating a very enjoyable virtual performance. But consider purchasing MIRx and VI Pro. These 2 pieces of software will almost instantly improve the quality of your VSL production.

Best wishes,
Jay
 
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stan-k

stan-k

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Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but VSL is recorded dry, up-close, and mono which works great for solo woodwind instruments, but without work automatically puts brass and strings at a disadvantage. I would recommend using MIRx Teldex Scoring Stage for placement and panning, Vienna Instruments Pro for humanizing features, and another reverb such as East West Quantum Spaces for another touch of individuality and spacing options. In your renderings, the solo woodwind instruments such as clarinet and bassoon were the most convincing in terms of realism. When you render, you become not only a composer but also the living performer and the conductor. Think in terms of that for realism. Try performing in parts live, ride the mod-wheel for beautiful expression, let your whole-notes rise and fall with maybe a touch of vibrato near the end before the break to niente, watch out for sudden burse of unnatural velocities going from soft to loud, let the soloists breathe as well as let the sections play true phrases, And keep velocities low exposing the warmth and openness of VSL instead of higher velocities which can start to sound unnatural. Also, something as silly as adding room tone can help glue the samples together, especially in moments of silence or space.

Hey, Rodney, thanks for the feedback, that's valuable input for me.
 
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stan-k

stan-k

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I think Rodney is on the money (sorry! :whistling:) with his comments. You've successfully written a complex piece and it seems to work very well.

Unfortunately VSL would be far from my first choice for getting something sounding realistic. I've heard some tracks produced with it that sound fantastic, but a lot of stuff that sounds very dated. I think it takes a lot of skill to get VSL sounding good (excluding the woodwinds - I think the VSL woods sound excellent). In your case the placement/reverb/production needs work to get it sounding real.

Also, one thing I'd add is I've never really heard anyone succeed at getting brass to sound realistic with VSL. I think it isn't convincing because the brass sound we expect to hear is always driven strongly by the interaction with the room, and adding reverb to a dry brass sound just doesn't seem to 100% work, no matter how good the reverb.

Disclaimer: I don't have VSL.

I'd love to hear the same tracks rendered with other libraries, if you have any at hand?

Hi Mark, I only have VSL SE+, so can't really make another version.

I'm not really kidding myself here and wasn't going for 100% realism. I asked for your feedback on this particular aspect because I wanted to gauge the current state of the sound as you tend to lose objectivity when spending a while on a project. So, it is, in fact, very helpful to read your comments, and, incidentally, I agree with the points that you and Rodney have made, especially about the brass section.

What other libraries would you recommend for more, if not complete, realism? Is there anything else that offers a 'complete solution', i.e. an entire orchestra, like VSL SE or EWQL?
 
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stan-k

stan-k

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I listened to the first piece and the composition is superlative! Really wonderful!

I agree with Rodney's comment's about the midi realization. In my very biased opinion, VSL is more than capable of creating a very enjoyable virtual performance. But consider purchasing MIRx and VI Pro. These 2 pieces of software will almost instantly improve the quality of your VSL production.

Best wishes,
Jay

Hi Jay, parts 1 and 2 of the work were made with VI, parts 3, 4 and 5 with VI Pro. I used MIRx (Großer Saal) on all of them. I might be missing something, but as I mentioned in my reply to Mark I only have SE1+ to work with.

I didn't use standard settings in MIRx, I adjusted the reverb levels for each individual instrument depending on its position on stage and also made extensive use of the VI Pro features. Are there any other 'tricks' that I am not aware of that would improve the production?
 

markleake

Recovering sale addict
What other libraries would you recommend for more, if not complete, realism? Is there anything else that offers a 'complete solution', i.e. an entire orchestra, like VSL SE or EWQL?

Spitfire Audio and Orchestral Tools both offer compelling products, but their libraries are not sold as 'complete solutions'. Their separate libraries are designed specifically to work very well together however, and are very good quality. They cost a bit though. ;)

Spitfire and OT both use samples recorded in halls with their natural hall sound (reverb tail) included, so they sound much closer to the real thing without requiring much tweaking of the sound. (I'm not saying you can't get VSL to sound good, just that it requires effort/knowledge/software beyond just using the library itself.)
 

JBacal

Senior Member
Hi Stan,

Solution #1: Beg, borrow or steal a real orchestra to record your beautiful music!

Solution #2: Spend gobs of times tweaking your virtual performance.

Try shaping the legato phrases more. Start with the violins. Consider tapering entrances and exits using both velocity crossfade and the expression controller. For the brass also possibly use the master filter to help shape the timbre. Long notes rarely sound best if they remain at one constant volume and timbre.

Slightly randomize the starts of shorter notes so that all the entrances of the sections don't line up perfectly.

Listen closely to your favorite audio recordings of orchestral music and try to get your various sections to sound like the recording. Keep experimenting with reverb to create more depth and an overall sense of space.

Watch the ALL the tutorial videos on the VSL site.

You are clearly a very talented composer. So the question is how much time do you want to spend making your virtual performance "perfect." It will take a lot of your time. But if you keep experimenting you definitely will get closer to your goal.

Best wishes,
Jay
 
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stan-k

stan-k

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Try shaping the legato phrases more. Start with the violins. Consider tapering entrances and exits using both velocity crossfade and the expression controller. For the brass also possibly use the master filter to help shape the timbre. Long notes rarely sound best if they remain at one constant volume and timbre.

Slightly randomize the starts of shorter notes so that all the entrances of the sections don't line up perfectly.

Listen closely to your favorite audio recordings of orchestral music and try to get your various sections to sound like the recording. Keep experimenting with reverb to create more depth and an overall sense of space.

Watch the ALL the tutorial videos on the VSL site.

Whether you believe it or not, I actually did all those things, even the master filter on brass. However, as I already mentioned the I and II were made with the free version of VI and they were the first ones I did, obviously. The 5th part is were I actually got a grip on all those techniques.

I see now that I could have been less shy and less sloppy with drawing those velocity curves for tapering entrances and exits and moving that humanisation slider up a bit more - that is definitely something that I could have done more, so thank you for pointing that out.

On a more general note, which parts sound more unnatural, the calm, quiet ones or the energetic, forte ones (if there is a difference)?
 
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