DELIVERING MUSIC FOR THE FILM “FOR BLOOD” (COFFEERING ENTERTAINMENT LOS ANGELES, CA)
Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the time to take on a project outside of Cakewalk, and I love that those projects let me put our current SONAR Platinum “Rolling Update” to the test in the field. Recently, the LA-based production company Coffee Ring Entertainment asked me to write, produce and deliver three tracks for their new movie, For Blood. This article describes highlights of the process involved in writing and producing one of those tracks for a specific scene in the film.
My first question to the director was, “Do you already have placeholder music in the rough cut?” When producers and directors have placeholder music they like already set into the cut, it speeds up and simplifies writing and producing the music. Fortunately the answer was “yes,” so all I needed to do was replicate what they liked about their placeholder tracks using the array of instruments and plug-ins in my home project studio rig.
A primary objective in writing music for film is to forget about yourself and your own emotional agenda. And oddly enough, for me at least, this notion really speeds up the workflow because you are writing/producing for someone else’s purpose other than your own thoughts. Adamantly keeping this in mind throughout the writing/producing process helps to stay focused on what the client wants. For this song, it’s exactly what I had to do because the producers had a Tarantino-ish type track set into the scene, and my innate production style tends to lean more towards big, clean commercial pop rock. Luckily, I could go to YouTube and analyze suitable styles of music but even luckier for me, SONAR’s Addictive Drums and TH2 plug-ins were ideal for dialing in the kind of music that was needed. Continue reading Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder
Looking for some advanced, interesting, or downright weird ways to use the new Patch Points feature? Here you go:
Suppose you want to split one track to several outputs, for example to do multiband processing. Here’s how:
The Dry track output goes to Patch Point 1 instead of the master bus. Five tracks, each of which filters a different band of frequencies, have their inputs set to Patch Point 1. The Dry track now feeds all five channels simultaneously. Placing all these tracks inside a track folder makes it easy to fold them up when you want a tidier setup. Continue reading Five Reasons Why Patch Points Rock
This month, Equipboard will be giving away a copy of SONAR Professional to 4 lucky winners.
Equipboard is a community of musicians and music fans, building the world’s largest database of artists and the gear they use. For a chance to win, just submit music gear for any artist on Equipboard between October 1 and October 14. Each submission will count as its own entry, so you can improve your chances with ease! The first 2 winners will be selected on Thursday, October 8, then the next 2 winners a week later on Thursday, October 15.
Windows 10 is here, and our trusted code-commanders have been working closely with Microsoft to ensure an enhanced experience for our valued Cakewalk community. Our benchmark testing has shown the new operating system to be very efficient with a lighter footprint. In general, Windows 10 has outperformed Windows 8 in all of our tests in terms of performance and efficiency. Subjectively speaking, the “look and feel” of this free upgrade is a much welcomed improvement over the “Metro” landscape of the previous operating system. But what does this mean for music creators?
1.) More responsive: Out of the gate people will notice a much snappier operating system. The tweaks Microsoft made to the kernel and other parts of the OS in general have given it a responsive overhaul.
2.) Upgrade ease: Moving into Windows 10 is a very quick and easy upgrade.
3.) Unified OS: The best elements of Win 7, Win 8, and Win 8.1 have been combined into a streamlined experience with Win 10. Store Apps and Desktop Apps seamlessly run side by side for a smooth universal experience.
4.) New MIDI API available across all devices: The new API allows multi-client access to single MIDI hardware and new jitter-free operation. Microsoft worked hard on bringing this all together for better MIDI implementation.
5.) Enhancements to the kernel: Microsoft has made changes in the multimedia scheduler and kernel components to minimize spikes – this can make a big difference in low-latency streaming apps like SONAR.
6.) FLAC and ALAC Support: Windows 10 has native support for these two codecs. Both “Apple Lossless Audio Codec” and FLAC could mean great things for Windows audio moving forward.
7.) Much faster boot-time: A lower footprint in memory combined with some new optimization techniques will get you up and running and making music faster than ever.
8.) Runs smoother on older machines: The lower memory footprint and optimization tweaks will also allow Win 10 to run more efficiently on older machines. This is great news for Wn 7 users who never upgraded to Win 8.
10.) Core isolation: Drivers and applications can now isolate and dedicate low latency audio processing to a single CPU core. This can minimize the effect of DPC latency spiking from networking, Bluetooth, or other DPC spiking processes by preventing interruptions to audio processing.
At Cakewalk, we are dedicated to staying on the forefront of technology. Our CTO (featured below) and his team worked closely with Microsoft to make sure our products run smoothly on Windows 10. We are very excited about this free update, and highly recommend it to our customers. Try SONAR with Windows 10 today for the ultimate music creation experience.
With the advent of digital audio, some feel a certain quality associated with the analog signal path has been lost. While that may have been true at one point, analog emulations have come a long way since first introduced. Let’s find out how to add that “analog sound” using some of SONAR’s plugins. (Note: Many of the following examples use features are exclusive to SONAR Platinum, so if you don’t already have this version, you can try a free demo by clicking here.)
#5 – ProChannel Tape Emulation
Tape does some pretty magical things to audio, so SONAR Platinum includes tape emulation as a ProChannel module. Best of all, you can use it as much as you like without having to clean the heads!
Here’s how tape emulation enhances the sound:
Emulates the “head bump” of analog tape to enrich the low end, adding subtle warmth
Smooths response by slightly rolling off lowest lows and highest highs
Increases sustain by smoothing peaks
Saturates the signal in a non-linear, analog manner
Optionally introduces high-frequency hiss
For a basic application, insert the Tape Emulator in the Master Bus ProChannel. You’ll immediately hear a more cohesive mix. Increasing the REC LEVEL increases the overall saturation. The REC LEVEL knob, TAPE SPD switch, and BIAS switch all interact in unique ways, so try out different combinations to hear how they affect each other.
After hearing how the Tape Emulator affects your sound, try applying it to individual tracks (your drums will sound particularly fabulous). This will be a more subtle effect, adding a sense of depth to the overall mix.
SONAR Platinum artist iLan Bluestone’s career trajectory is moving fast. The jet-setting EDM producer is touring the world, but was kind enough to share not only his time with us discussing his music production techniques, but also his new single collaboration with mogul-producer BT titled “All These Wounds.” We caught up with iLan in Chicago at the Spring Awakening Festival, and then again down the road at Sweetwater’s Gearfest:
Congratulations to SONAR user Norman Matthew and his band Murder FM for their first major-affiliated record released just last week. Entitled Happily Neverafter, the 12 song full-length album was tracked mostly in SONAR over a period of time. As many commercial records these days, this recording project started out as a demo and then as fate would have it, ended up in the hands of a label and a real-deal mixer (Famous/Sony Red and Beau Hill).
Murder FM have been on the fence about signing with different labels over the years since they debuted a video on http://www.revolvermag.com that shot out of nowhere. In 2013, the track/video “We the Evil” took over the top spots surpassing major label artists next to Rob Zombie, and projected the band into the public eye as well as the industry eye. The video alone had 150k views within a short time of it being released and is now up to 320k globally.
Finally, and recently, the band found the right label partner with Famous Records Global (Sony/Red) and the final touches were made which includes a death-defying remix of the focus-single-track by Tommy Lee of Motley Crue. Interestingly enough, many of the tracks mixed by Beau Hill on the record were created by Norman in his SONAR studio stemming from demos he created over the years.
“SONAR allowed me to capture a lot of great moments where there was really no need to go back to the drawing board.”
Already sharing stages with bands such as Black Veil Brides, Orgy, Halestorm, Powerman 5000, Young Guns, Korn, The Used, The Birthday Massacre, Sick Puppies, Trapt, Rob Zombie, Deftones, Avatar, Five Finger Death Punch, and The Pretty Reckless to name just a few, they embark on touring in support of the new record for the rest of 2015. As MFM supports their first official global release distributed by Sony/Red, the future is wide open and arena rock will live and breathe again in the fiery form of Murder FM!
On July 29, at 12 AM EST, Microsoft started rolling out Windows 10 upgrades. If you signed up for the upgrade earlier, you may have already received a notification. If not and you absolutely can’t wait, Tech savvy users can use the Media Creation Tool to install immediately on one or multiple devices.
Fortunately this time around, we have much more mature release compared to Windows 8—there’s no missing start menu, and the confusing divide between “Metro” and desktop apps is history. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will be the last “version” of Windows. Subsequent updates will be delivered periodically to users, so we won’t need to wait two or three years to see improvements. This isn’t all that different from what we at Cakewalk have adopted with our “rolling updates” model; we’ve seen how this has led to a proliferation of new features and enhancements along with ever-improving stability, and we hope Windows users will see similar benefits. To make Windows 10 more attractive to customers and get them onto the new platform, it’s even being offered free to existing Windows 7 and 8 users.
Microsoft’s new management under Satya Nadella has led to some positive changes in how Microsoft communicates with its partners. Over the last few years we’ve seen a renewed interest in our audio domain compared to prior years. It’s encouraging to see some additions to Windows 10 that were influenced directly by industry feedback, including concerns about low latency audio and MIDI problems such as jitter and multiclient support. Even at trade shows and other industry events there has been a renewed presence from Microsoft. These are positive steps—it looks like Microsoft has put Windows 8 behind them, and are making a fresh start that’s more responsive to consumer needs.
Cakewalk SONAR has always been one of the leading digital audio workstation (DAW) vendors at the forefront of Windows development, and we’ve been following the music production for Windows 10 development cycle from very early on. I spoke to some Microsoft contacts, and got some under the hood details on some of the Windows 10 features that are relevant to music production applications like SONAR, as well as a few areas of general interest.
Audio Stack Low Latency Optimization
There have been many significant improvements toward improving low latency performance in the Windows stack when using WASAPI (shared mode). The Windows audio stack now has as much as 15 msec lower round trip latency by default in WASAPI. Additionally, applications using WASAPI shared mode can now explicitly specify a lower buffer size to be used instead of the default system buffer size. Drivers can also now report a minimum buffer size to allow the applications to select a suitable buffer size.
Microsoft claims that one can now expect “near ASIO performance” when using WASAPI shared mode. This is a big accomplishment since in the past WASAPI shared mode had very high latencies, close to 50 ms (similar to MME drivers). Applications like SONAR that use kernel streaming or ASIO already communicate at a lower level that bypasses the Windows audio engine, so in theory the lower latency advancements in Windows 10 will not allow for lower latencies than previous versions unless you were using the Windows audio engine.
However, I asked Microsoft if there had been any changes to the Windows kernel (the lowest level in the audio stack, which can make or break low latency audio processing) that affect audio processing and received this response:
“Yes. There have been changes in the multimedia scheduler service and kernel components to minimize DPC spikes (particularly when in lowlatency mode).”
This is great news, because it could make a big difference to low-latency streaming apps like SONAR.
Audio Core Isolation
Drivers and applications can “opt in” to isolate and dedicate low latency audio processing to a single CPU core, which can minimize the effect of DPC latency spiking from networking, Bluetooth, or other DPC spiking processes by preventing interruptions to audio processing. Behind the scenes this is done using interrupt steering and thread affinity. This is an opt-in feature at the WASAPI level where an app has to identify the threads that need to belong to this isolated core.
This feature looks promising, particularly because Microsoft says they’re looking to expand this to multi-core scenarios that relate to DAWs like SONAR.
New WinRT MIDI APIS
Prior to Windows 10, MIDI was primarily accessible via the older MME MIDI APIs or the less common DirectMusic APIs. These APIs were desktop-only and not available to universal apps, which is Microsoft’s new programming model. Music production for Windows 10 has new MIDI APIs that are suitable to universal applications, so they’re applicable to Windows 10-based desktops, phones, tablets, etc.
The API also allows for multi-client access to MIDI devices, and has improved jitter-free performance.
New Audiograph API’s
AudioGraph is a high level API that sits on top of WASAPI and allows simplified building of audio applications without getting into all the complexity of WASAPI.
While not necessarily applicable to DAW’s which require more fine grained control, this can be useful to build simpler applications that require low latency audio support in Windows 10.
Latency Measurement Tool
Windows 10 now has a hardware latency measurement tool that’s part of the Windows HLK package, and which you can download to measure round-trip latency.
FLAC and ALAC Support
Windows 10 has native support for these two codecs. ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) should allow better interoperability with Apple devices, while FLAC uses a lossless compression algorithm to provide a better quality (and free) alternative to MP3. Hopefully, native support in Windows might steer more people into using FLAC instead of MP3.
Desktop and Windows Store Apps Run Side by Side
Unlike Windows 8 where Windows Store applications always ran full screen, in Win 10 they can now run as windows side-by-side along desktop applications.
This is a much smoother experience to the end user when you want to use both application types simultaneously—if this was Apple, it would be like running iOS apps alongside your desktop apps.
Cortana Search – Integrated Voice Support
Ported over from Windows Phone, Windows 10 now has built-in voice search capabilities—a first for a desktop OS—that lets you perform (for example) web or desktop searches using you, voice. Its impressive how good the voice recognition in Cortana is. I’ve had very few problems with even long sentences from across the room. And yes it does understand “Hi Cortana, open SONAR”!
(Cortana search is optional and can be disabled if you don’t want to use it.)
Faster Boot – Smaller Memory Footprint
One of lesser known but great improvements in music production for Windows 10 is its smaller memory footprint compared to earlier OS’s and the fact that it does smart compression. This reclaimed memory is now available to other applications. Check out this link from the windows team to see how this was achieved. Its interesting that Microsoft’s their work on making Windows 10 scale to mobile platforms benefits the desktop OS as well.
Additionally Windows 10 boots much faster due to a combination of optimization techniques. These improvements can make Windows 10 actually work better on even older PC’s as reported in this article that recommends Windows 10.
Windows 10 Auto Updates
There is a somewhat controversial change to how Windows update works in Windows 10.
For Windows 10 Home users, there is no way to turn off automatic updates and they will be mandatory.
Windows 10 Pro users will have a little flexibility; they’ll be able to switch from the mainstream release to the “Current Branch for Business (CBB).”
This will give some control over when updates are deployed.
While the CBB will essentially track the consumer release, it will allow feature updates to be held back for some amount of time so you can prepare for the update.
Windows 10 Enterprise is the only OS for which users will be able to actually turn off Windows updates. By opting for the Long Term Servicing (LTS) branch, Enterprise users will be able to defer feature updates for years, electing to receive only security fixes during that time.
Testing Windows 10 With SONAR
Many of our users have been running Windows 10 preview builds with SONAR Platinum for some time now and have reported no problems.
At Cakewalk, the Gloucester release of SONAR is the build that we have validated officially with Windows 10.
We ran several of our validation tests and tested all our installers and inbox plug-ins for this release. We have also run the Windows 10 App certification on SONAR. We’re happy to report that everything works great, and SONAR passes Windows 10 certification with flying colors. Additionally, we noted some performance gains when running SONAR with Windows 10.
The common impression from those doing the evaluations felt that in general, Windows 10 felt snappier compared to Windows 8. The user interface, spotlight searches, opening menus, loading programs and other common operations all appeared to be faster and more fluid. Switching among desktop applications and Windows Store apps was also much more natural.
SONAR Benchmarks with Windows 10
In addition to testing Windows 10 compatibility with SONAR, we ran some simple benchmarks to compare performance of SONAR Platinum Foxboro on the same system running Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.
It’s always interesting to look at benchmarks since you sometimes see results you wouldn’t expect. The next article has benchmarks done by Dean Capper, but independent PC integrators PC Audio Labs, one of the major custom DAW integrators with a lot of experience building and testing DAW hardware, has done a pretty thorough Windows 10 benchmark.
Their benchmark was done using SONAR Platinum as well as other DAWs. One of the reasons SONAR was featured in their benchmark was because according to them “SONAR was used because it is very friendly to the WDM standard, and is a well-known and very efficient DAW.”
The PCAudioLabs benchmark results can be found here: Windows 10 For Pro Audio. PCAudioLabs test was even featured in Microsoft’s Future of Audio Keynote on Windows 10, presented by Pete Brown of Microsoft. You can see the benchmark presentation starting around 22:16. It’s notable Microsoft is now listening to DAW system builders for feedback on Windows 10 performance.
Their benchmarks found notable improvements in low latency performance when running SONAR Platinum on Windows 10. Their test also mentioned improvements in CPU performance as well as well as disk performance in music production for Windows 10.
Compatibility: It’s Not Just About SONAR
Although SONAR has tested 100% compatible with Windows 10, it’s important to check whether your audio interfaces and other hardware are compatible with Windows 10 before upgrading. Microsoft has a good track record of supporting older applications and drivers, and this continues with Windows 10. Their upgrade process will even point out any known incompatibilities.
However, we highly recommend that you ensure your system is up to date with the latest drivers for all your hardware. Many audio interface vendors have already published Windows 10 validated drivers in advance; if available, you should use those. Many drivers may work without modification, but it’s a good idea to check with the vendor first before taking the plunge and updating to Windows 10.
The Future Of Windows 10
Perhaps even more exciting than what’s in Windows 10 today involve plans for its future. In the Windows 10 presentation at A3E, Microsoft tantalized us with other features under considertion: Thunderbolt 3, USB-C, Bluetooth MIDI, MIDI routing, audio aggregation, and more.
With the continuous integration model it’s likely that we will see these features rolled out sooner rather than later. For example, USB2 audio class driver support didn’t make the Windows 10 release, but hopefully we’ll see this soon.
Microsoft has shown that it’s taking user feedback seriously with Windows 10.
There’s even a portal where you can submit and vote on feature requests for Windows so if you have a suggestion to improve Windows for Audio Production, go to the Uservoice Feedback Site to submit your request.
Windows 10 is a mature version of Windows that might just be the best OS release from Microsoft, building on the performance of Windows 8.1 while addressing many of its limitations.
It’s great to see features in there that benefit both audio professionals and consumers.
The overall user experience is smoother and initial benchmarks show that it performs equally or better than Windows 8.
The new continuous integration model, Microsoft’s renewed attention to the audio industry and the fact that it’s a free update from Windows 7 and 8, should make this a great update for most DAW users.
We wanted to do some simple benchmarks to find out how running SONAR under Windows 10 compared to Windows 8.1. We did our tests on a moderately powered system using a basic audio interface (TASCAM’s US-322, the predecessor to the new US-2×2 and US-4×4 interfaces) set to 286 samples on input and 287 samples on output, for a total of 573 samples / 13 ms.
The SONARBench Project
This test project is useful to run not only because it provides information about SONAR’s performance, but also gives us a 1:1 basis for comparison with results reported by users in the field. The test project includes a 12-track mix of a band plus several additional tracks with only a sine wave. Each track includes five instances of the Sonitus Multiband compressor that are initially bypassed. We enable one Sonitus plug-in at a time until the CPU is taxed enough to cause audible “glitches,” and then notate the maximum number of enabled Sonitus plug-ins that SONAR can play once through without audible glitches.
The test continues by enabling more and more instances of the Sonitus Multiband until the audio engine drops out so we can note the maximum number of enabled plug-ins that allow SONAR to play without dropping out.
Test 1: Number of Sonitus Multiband plug-ins that can be inserted in audio tracks before glitching occurs.
Win 10: 203
Win 8.1: 179
Windows 10 is the clear winner here.
Test 2: Number of plug-ins that can be inserted before SONAR drops out.
Win 10: 362
Win 8.1: 362
For this test, there’s no difference in performance.
The DAWBench Project
This benchmark is similar to SONARBench, but uses plug-ins that other DAWs would be able to use (in this case, the CA-2A T-Type Leveling Amplifier running as a VST3 plug-in). This test also includes a 12-track mix of a band plus several tracks with a sine wave, and CA-2A instances are enabled one per track at a time until each track has one active CA-2A. We then repeat this until all tracks have a second CA-2A enabled or the audible glitches return, at which point we note the maximum number of active plug-ins that can be enabled without audio glitches.
Like the first benchmark, additional CA-2A instances are enabled until the audio engine drops out completely. We then note the maximum number of plug-ins that can play twice through the audio loop without a dropout.
Test 1: Number of plug-ins (CA-2A VST3) that can be inserted before before glitching occurs.
Win 10: 50
Win 8.1: 52
Statistically, the results are essentially equal; the discrepancy is likely attributable to jitter.
Test 2: Number of plug-ins (CA-2A VST3) before dropout.
At Cakewalk, we are fortunate and proud to have some great cutting edge professional artists who rely on SONAR daily to write, record, and deliver world-class tracks. We are constantly getting feedback from many users to improve our software, so in our recent pole we decided to ask some artists to tell us about their Platinum upgrade experience in their own words:
International Electronic Producer/DJ
[Currently touring internationally and working on new tracks]
“Upgrading to Platinum was a big deal for me. I basically transitioned from SONAR 8.5 and was toggling back and forth between that and X3. Platinum really put me over the edge to move forward. Once I was over the initial learning curve which was actually enjoyable, the system became more like a writing partner. The tools and workflow are like no other – and there are so many options to approach music in different ways, so getting creative ideas flowing is the best thing about Platinum. This is what really keeps my custom sound always on the cutting edge.”
Winner of NBC The Voice
Recording Artist: Concord Music Group
[Currently touring and finishing a Holiday EP while also gearing up for a new full-length record 2016]
“I went from SONAR X2 to Platinum and the new features have been a Godsend for me. When I have a system that works well I usually just stick with it until I am forced to upgrade. The difference between X2 and Platinum for me personally meant discovering new ways to make my demos sound way better and more pro. I often have to send demos from my home studio to my label (Concord Music Group), and since getting onto Platinum, a lot of my tracks sound really polished. For me and my style of music, the combination of the comping tool and VocalSync meant the difference of actually using some vocals for my new record that I cut on my own – could have never done that with X2.”
Composer of Music for Film, TV and Video Games
Los Angeles, CA
[Currently working on a new film and new video game both TBA shortly]
“I upgraded from X3 to Platinum right when it came out. I usually stay behind new releases but had heard that Platinum was the most stable release to date – and it certainly is in my book. It’s rock solid and super snappy (the only way I can really explain it). The features included in Platinum are hands-down better than any release Cakewalk has had in the past. There are so many ways to explore music creation and that is what keeps my productions sounding fresh. I find myself using things like Strum Session 2 and Addictive Drums 2 a lot. The upgrades to the ProChannel have been really useful as well. And I absolutely love getting the updates now – I look forward to it every month.”
MDS Recording, Toronto
[Just finished writing and delivering the main theme song for the Pan ParaPan Am Games]
“I went from SONAR X3 to Platinum and I was a bit reluctant at first since I’m constantly in the trenches every day with people counting on me to deliver music to labels, artists, publishers etc. This was by far the smoothest transition I’ve had with upgrading my SONAR rig. Whatever the code-kings did, this version of the program has been absolutely rock-solid. The biggest thing for me by far has been VocalSync. With the style of music I write and produce, I have to have big vocals to stay in the game. VocalSync gives me so many options on how I place vocals in mixes. I can quickly embellish a lead vocal track by tightening another to it, and then processing it in a whole different way for different effects in the mix. Time really is money for me, and the tools in Platinum have never been more creative or professional in any prior SONAR release.”
Producer/Songwriter/Musician/Solo Artist/Live and Session Guitarist
(Has worked with): Shakira, DJ Zedd, Koshi Inaba, Chris Cornell, Buckcherry, Wallflowers, Fuel, Melissa Etheridge, Five For Fighting, Meredith Brooks
Los Angeles, CA
[Currently working on music for various forms of media and performing live with various artists]
“I upgraded not too long ago from SONAR X3 to Platinum and have noticed a big difference in the program. First of all, it’s much quicker and seems to be way more efficient than X3. To some, that might not mean much, but for what I do it’s important. Besides playing guitar for some great artists and doing my own music (you can read more about that here http://yogimusic.com/bio/ =), I write a lot of music for commercials and libraries through agencies – this is where time is a factor and Platinum is really efficient. The ability to totally customize the program to my workflow gives me the ability to deliver more music, and better quality music in way less time. The upgrade to Addictive Drums 2 is worth it alone not to mention all the other new features and tools.”