We all know this scenario: working against a deadline and the score does not work as we want it to. The strings of one sample library don’t match the brass of another, or the percussion has more reverb baked in the samples than the rest of our virtual orchestra, and it costs lot of expensive time to match these together. With Film Score Companion, SONiVOX says that it has released the most complete, most accurate, lifelike, and easy-to-use music creation tool for films that has ever been done. This is reason enough for me to have a closer look at it. Will it be the one library solution I hope for?
What is Film Score Companion?
Film Score Companion is a complete sample based film score sound production package, consisting of the 5 collections: Orchestral Companion Strings, Orchestral Companion Brass, Orchestral Companion Woodwinds, Eighty Eight Ensemble, and Big Bang Cinematic Percussion, all of which are also available and sold separately. It is notable that the collections, although sample based, use their own sample player plugin, and not Native Instruments Kontakt. The platform is available as VST, AU and AAX for Microsoft Windows and Apple OS X in 32/64bit.
- Orchestral Companion Strings: 9 GB library comprising string ensembles for 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos, and basses. Articulations include sustains, espressivo, staccato, pizzicato, tremolos, and more.
- Orchestral Companion Brass: 5 GB library comprising Solo and Ensemble Trumpets, Solo and Ensemble Trombones, Solo and Ensemble French Horns, and Tuba. Articulations include sustains, staccato, marcato, mutes, and more.
- Orchestral Companion Woodwinds: 9 GB library comprising Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, English Horn, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, and Bassoon. Solo and ensembles versions of each as well as full woodwind ensemble patches.
- Eighty Eight Ensemble: 11 GB collection featuring a Steinway 9-foot CD337 Concert Grand, recorded in the same hall as the orchestral instruments for a perfect mix.
- Big Bang Cinematic Percussion: 15 GB library of 200 different percussion instruments, ranging from classical to ethnic to pure raw power hits.
- Total size: 35 Gigabytes free hard drive space.
- A VST, AU, or AAX compatible host application.
- Internet Access (Download and Authorization).
- Price Tag – Film Score Companion Bundle: $299.99
- Price Tag Single Collections:
- Price Tag – Orchestral Companion Strings: $99.99
- Price Tag – Orchestral Companion Brass: $99.99
- Price Tag – Orchestral Companion Woodwinds: $99.99
- Price Tag – Eighty Eight Ensemble: $149.99
- Price Tag – Big Bang Cinematic Percussion: $199.99
After purchase, you will get several emails with your download codes. There are separate installers for each collection and its content. You need to download them separately and also install them separately. Activation is the same. This, of course, comes from the fact that each collection in this bundle is an individual product. To be honest: This makes installation a little bit of a pain. I feel this process could have been handled differently and more efficiently.
Orchestral Companion Strings
As I said before, each collection comes with its own plugin. The minimal GUI is not overloaded, and it is clear and easily understandable. If you are used to working with samplers, you will understand within seconds how the plugin works.
Orchestral Companion Strings is a collection of full orchestral string ensembles, and also a full array of individual string sections, including 1st Violins, 2nd Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Basses. The articulations available are: Up and down bow, sustain, staccato, and spiccato notes, plus instrument pizzicato and tremolo.
All the instruments are presented in multi-velocity layers, with natural swells available via the modulation wheel. Key switching provides on-the-fly articulations to select patches. The internal sound engine provides additional modulation (LFO) sources, dynamic envelope control, and a selection of reverb and effects to allow creative customization of the onboard sounds.
The strings were recorded at the Futura Productions Studios in Massachusetts. Members of the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet Orchestras were captured for all the performances. A combination of spot and ambient miking capture every instrumental nuance, while preserving the refined acoustics and intimacy of the performance space itself. The recordings were done by the Emmy award-winning engineers Antonio Oliart and RIAA award-winning engineer John Bono.
Orchestral Companion Brass
Orchestral Companion Brass works almost the same way its strings counterpart does. All the instruments are available as multi-velocity layers, with natural swells via the modulation wheel, and articulations can be switched via key switches. Here you will also find an LFO and several effects to shape the sound to your taste and needs.
Orchestral Companion Brass features a comprehensive collection of full orchestral brass ensembles, and also a full array of smaller brass sub-groups. In addition, there is a complete selection of solo instruments. All the major instruments are included, like Solo Trumpets, Trombones, Bass Trombones, French Horns, and Tuba. Double and flutter tonguing, sustained and staccato notes, plus instrument mutes, swells, sforzando, and marcato voicing all provide a fundamental core palette of articulations.
Orchestral Companion Woodwinds
The advantage of instruments from the same company is, that besides the GUI color, it always works the same way, and you get used to it. So it’s not surprising that there is no difference from the GUI and usage of Orchestral Companion Woodwinds to Brass & Strings.
For Orchestral Companion Woodwinds, all the major instruments are fully represented, including Section and Solo Piccolo, Flute, English Horn, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Contrabassoon. Articulations like double and flutter tonguing, sustained and staccato notes, plus instrument vibrato and glissando voicing, round out this collection. Like the other collections, Orchestral Companion Woodwinds was also recorded at the Futura Productions Studios by Antonio Oliart and John Bono, again capturing members of the Boston Pops and Boston Ballet Orchestras.
Eighty Eight Ensemble
The Eighty Eight Ensemble is a recreation of a Steinway 9’ CD 327 Grand Piano. Although the GUI of the sampler looks different to the rest of the Orchestral Companion series, it is just as easy to understand. Additionally, the sound can be shaped via a 4-band EQ, Limiter, Fine Tuning, and Reverb. The recording philosophy employed in creating the Eighty Eight Ensemble was based on using a simple signal chain, the finest A/D converters, and exceptional microphone preamps. The result is some 1500 sample recordings, with 16 dynamic levels captured and preserved for every key.
Combination patches come in two flavors with the Eighty Eight Ensemble. Layered combinations, or Pads, add a second instrument that sounds along with the piano, including strings, synth pads, and choral pads. Split Combinations, or Combis, introduce a second sound—or even a third—played in a specified range of keys. Setting a lower split adds a bass sound—such as bass guitar—playing below the piano. Setting an upper split adds a solo accompaniment instrument above the piano. Solo sounds include flute, clarinet, acoustic guitar, etc. Combis can have both an upper and a lower split. The zones, or range of keys where each instrument will play, can overlap as you desire. The velocity response can be set to make the most of your keyboard and playing style.
And last but not least – the Eighty Eight Ensemble comes with over 100 programmed sounds to get started right away. I think this should be plenty enough.
Big Bang Cinematic Percussion
What would be a cinematic score be without powerful cinematic drums and percussion instruments to score the most epic of battle cues? This is what the Big Bang Cinematic was made for. Provided is an amp page for detailed pitch, dynamic, pan, and volume control, whereas the Filter page offers a choice of filters for tonal control. Both the Amp and Filter include a five-stage envelope for shaping each sound. Eight stereo outputs and eight stereo effect busses allow custom-configurations of the output, EQ, and Delay routing exactly how they are needed.
Big Bang Cinematic Percussion comes with a note repeat function that continues to retrigger the active drum at some pre-selected beat/tempo value for as long as a pad, key, or trigger is held down. This makes it easy to build up complex parts quickly. Additionally, the Intelligent Rhythm Control (IRC) keeps playing in a pocket. Combining the IRC Resolution and IRC Gate adjusts incoming MIDI note data so your playing is accurately quantized in real-time. In addition, the stereo delay allows either the Left or Right channel—or both—to be synchronized to beat values of the current tempo, tying your sound, song, and effects together.
So What Do We Think Of All This?
Film Score Companion is a really huge package, and comes with the most basic needs to score an epic blockbuster. Although I find the plugin format a bit limited, compared to Kontakt, I love that the plugins are easy to use and not too complicated, keeping your workflow easy. What I really wonder about, though, is why this library is not available for Native Instruments Kontakt, as most composers work with this sampler.
Big Bang Cinematic Percussion sounds especially great, and is very useful for layering percussion beds, and even as a single percussion library. The Intelligent Rhythm Control makes it really easy to get very time accurate percussion within seconds. The Eighty Eight Ensemble has its special character and could also work – not in an “epic” way, but it will definitely work for jazzy sounding pianos.
The only weak point in my ears is the sound, especially for Strings, Woodwinds, and Brass. I personally find the sound a little bit static, harsh, and less emotional than I would have liked. There, I have to say that I have libraries that sound much better, but of course cost double or triple the price. Based on the price Tag of $299.99, I see the strength of Film Score Companion more as a basic setup for beginners, or as a second scoring libary to layer with your other libraries.