Movie scoring setup in 2013
gainreduction
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9th December 2012
Old 9th December 2012
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Movie scoring setup in 2013

So I'm getting more into movie scoring after 25 years in the "regular" music biz. Debating with myself on what kind of setup would make sense for me and I might aswell get some input here.

I have a studio together with a friend and it's great. Everything is covered - PTHD with Icon, 16 channels of CraneSong preamps and conversion, lots of great mics, Bricastis, great monitoring etc... That place is not in need of an update but is setup to record and mix live instruments, hardly any VI's installed or in use.

My plan is to compose mainly at home, away from the studio, and go to the studio for recording whatever ends up needing live musicians in the end and for mixing. So I need to set up a sample-based movie scoring setup at home in addition to the studio.

At home I have a PTHD rig with a 192 running on a vintage MacPro 3,1 dual quad core "Harpertown" from 2008. In addition I have a 2011 i5 MacbookPro with thunderbolt running Logic. I have bunch of extra monitors and preamps that I can have at home so it's mostly the DAW side of things that needs an update.

So far I have used the PT rig as the main sequencer - sequencing with midi tracks playing Kontakt libraries from the Macbook over network midi. PT handles the Quicktime video and records audio. Everything ends up in audio in PT in the end.

I want to stay in PT as the main DAW for two reasons - U know it inside out and I need to be able to exchange sessions easily with the studio, which is PT aswell.

I realize PT is far from efficient when it comes to running VI's and streaming
samples so I'm afraid I need a slave computer for that. Just one DAW would be fantastic but probably not realistic.

The Macbook/Logic machine can handle surprisingly big loads of Kontakt and I am planning on installing Reaper as it seems even more efficient than logic. Make it a fat soundmodule/slave. Anyone doing just that?

The ProTools situation frustrates me. PTHD is vintage by now (although it is stable and reliable as hell for me) and needs an update. What would you more experienced scoring folks do here to end up with a nice up-to-date scoring rig.

- get HD Native and a new MacPro/Macbook/Mini as main DAW and supercharge the Macbook/Reaper machine to serve as sample player?

- get HD Native Thunderbolt for the Macbook as main DAW and supercharge the MacPro to serve as sample player/slave?

- get HDX in thunderbolt chassis for the Macbook for main DAW, use the MacPro as sample player/Slave

- get the full ProTools license, run it native on obe of the computers with a non-avid interface like Prism Lyra on one machine, stream samples on the other?

- Other options given the circumstances? Budget does not have a figure but as always the less I can get away with spending the better.

I guess you could really boil down this long post into: how much computer power do I really need?

Thankful for thoughts and ideas about this.
#2
9th December 2012
Old 9th December 2012
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I know very high end professional composers who write on a laptop using stock logic orchestral samples - of course, these guys are going to be hiring top of the line orchestrators and orchestras in the end - but how much you want to spend is a matter of taste and preference.

if you look at the thread in here with on camera interviews with major composers you can see what their studios and set-ups actually look like.

In The Studio with Major Film Composers (YouTube Video)
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9th December 2012
Old 9th December 2012
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Your hardware is fine. No need to spend any money there. It will only move you sideways, not forwards. Even your harpertown is OK (not great, but OK).

You should Max out the RAM in your Harpertown to AT LEAST 16G, maybe 24 or 32G.

Max out RAM in your laptop.

Fill your Harpertown with 3 1TB or larger WG Black Caviar drives for your REAL need (coming up next in this post).

Buy yourself a copy of VEP - Vienna Ensemble Pro.

VEP will let your "vintage" HD rig host as much sample libraries as you have ram for while taking the load OFF Pro Tools (important). It will also let you network the laptop to the HD master and let your laptop stream to audio tracks on the PTHD rig.

Get this dialed, and you're ready for step 2 - Sample Libraries. Some composers may use "stock sounds and libraries" but in my experience they are few and far between. If they can get away with it, they are probably top teir composers who could sit down at a piano and sell the director. The rest of us need the FREAKING BEST mock-up's we can muster. This means top end sample libraries, and LOTS of em. Plan on spending between $5000-10,000. Cinesamples, Hollywood Strings (East West) , Vienna, LASS, 8dio, etc. all have very expensive and very good libraries. Don't skimp. Almost every graduating college student with an eye on becoming a film composer has "copies" of this software and knows how to use it. If you don't you will sound dated and your mock-ups will suffer.

After you get all of this worked out, make a backup clone of your boot drive with main DAW on it, and put it in the studio computer. Also get authorized copies of all your sample library drives in external enclosures, and put them at the studio - hung off the main PT computer. Get VEP on the studio computer as well (that will be THREE authorizations which Vienna allows, but you will need 3 Vienna or Steinberg (cheaper) dongles.)

Then, all you need to bring is a work drive and your laptop to the studio, fire up with your boot drive in the PT computer there, and flip on your library drives.....off and running.

Any other "hardware" will not be moving you forward in your goals. You are already pretty well set up for that. You MIGHT want to consider a new computer though, but that's your call. The harpertown can do it. Personally, I'd start there, and start building up your templates and see if there's any slowdown or brick walls. SSD drives will also speed things up and may be of more use than a faster more modern computer for this type of project.

I also work off a "vintage" nehalem Mac Pro with a Magma chassis and running PT8HD3. The ONLY thing that slows me down is not enough voices, but I would have to move to an HDX2 to make any substantial improvements, and for me, I'd have to leave behind too many workable plugins at this point, so I'm sticking here for the time being. I also find it a HUGE benefit in speed and efficiency to write in the same DAW I'm going to "produce" in - ie: PT.

Good luck.

bp
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9th December 2012
Old 9th December 2012
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I agree the audio gear is fine.

You didn't say what you have for a picture to work against. A real issue is that what works for a small screen often doesn't work nearly as well for a really big screen. Likewise full range monitors are very important if you don't want to be embarrassed when you get to the dubbing stage. We use the same tools in music but the goals can be quite different.

A big screen and great sound can make all the difference while working with directors.
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9th December 2012
Old 9th December 2012
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Vienna Ensemble Pro is definately a solution here:
- it improves workliad on your main system (since PT is very inefficient running instruments)
- you can use other systems to run instruments/libraries
- you can adress 64 bit instruments and use a lot mor RAM
- compatible with VST
- add affordable slave systems if required

The only real backdraw would be compatibility with other studios, but most composing rigs, no matter the software infrastructure, would suffer this.
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10th December 2012
Old 10th December 2012
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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wr5QyWpUYUg

the video is with logic but the principle can be applied to pro tools as sequencer.

VEP is the most ideal imo.

but bidule is also fine as you can see in the video.

different methods.
gainreduction
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10th December 2012
Old 10th December 2012
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Thanks a lot for the insightful replies, very much appreciated.

I need to check out Vienna Ensemble Pro. Do I understand it right that it makes the "host" MacPro capable of running VI´s outside ProTools but still within the same computer and control the slave laptop in addition to that?

When it comes to sample libraries I am in the process of checking stuff out and finding my favorites. For strings I really like LASS so far.

drBill, your post was exactly the kind of detailed info I was hoping for. I will digest this info and be back with further thoughts.

Bob O, I guess no two projects are the same and hopefully I will have the opportunity to work on everything from TV drama to documentaries to full blown movies. I want to rush slowly and be prepared for any kind of project. Sharpen my skills and toolset and be prepared. My "demos" have gotten me good feedback and I am close to landing a first major project. Fingers crossed.
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10th December 2012
Old 10th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
Thanks a lot for the insightful replies, very much appreciated.

I need to check out Vienna Ensemble Pro. Do I understand it right that it makes the "host" MacPro capable of running VI´s outside ProTools but still within the same computer and control the slave laptop in addition to that?

When it comes to sample libraries I am in the process of checking stuff out and finding my favorites. For strings I really like LASS so far.

drBill, your post was exactly the kind of detailed info I was hoping for. I will digest this info and be back with further thoughts.

Bob O, I guess no two projects are the same and hopefully I will have the opportunity to work on everything from TV drama to documentaries to full blown movies. I want to rush slowly and be prepared for any kind of project. Sharpen my skills and toolset and be prepared. My "demos" have gotten me good feedback and I am close to landing a first major project. Fingers crossed.
Yes. With VEP, you run it separate, simultaneous and outside of PT on the SAME computer to host your VSTi's. It connects back into your host DAW via internal networking. (Magic I say!!!! ) ALSO, if connected via ethernet network, you can have other computers stream back into your host DAW as well. ie: your laptop. Up to 3 instantiations with ONE VEP purchase - all controlled by your main DAW and streaming into your main DAW.

I like LASS too, but find I use it less and less and am looking forward to a Hollywood Strings purchase by the end of the year. At least with the initial release (which I own) in order to use the divisi's appropriately (which IMO is the power of the library) you had to load all the articulations separately (Legato, Marcato, Spicatto short, Spicatto long, Pizz, Muted etc., etc.) TIMES FOUR for EACH instrument group - Vln1, Vln2, Vla, Celli, DB. So....for all the articulations I wanted (again, no key switching) that left me with almost 150 midi tracks and kontakt instantiations - and with no grouping folders in PT, that's a deal breaker. So....I just ended up using the "entire section" patches. And that defeated the whole point. Kind of disappointed. Hopefully they have made life easier by now, but I haven't checked in in awhile. I like libraries that make life EASIER not exponentially more difficult. But that's due mostly to my work flow.....

Good luck with your journey..
gainreduction
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11th December 2012
Old 11th December 2012
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Vienna Ensemble Pro question. Are all your samples stored in your main Mac or do they need to be installed on the slave aswell? Can the slave run a VI that is installed on the host only?

It looks very clever, cool product. Innovative.

drBill: what OS are you running? I see VEP likes 10.6.8 or higher and PT 8.1.1 where I'm stuck at the moment needs 10.6.7 or lower... Any issues?
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11th December 2012
Old 11th December 2012
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samples are stored where your VEP server is. it could be in your main DAW computer or the slave whichever you decide to store them. the VEP plugin will connect to it and stream the samples into PT.

if its on the same computer the sample will be loaded onto ram outside Pro tools.
pro tools is a 32 bit app you can only use 4 gb of ram. if you load the samples onto VEP then it will load outside of pro tools so you can use as much ram as you have hardware-wise.
if you load the samples onto the slave cmputer then VEP connects via ethernet to your DAW PT on the other coputer and the audio streams through it.


check some videos out on youtube. it explains more about it.
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11th December 2012
Old 11th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gainreduction View Post
Vienna Ensemble Pro question. Are all your samples stored in your main Mac or do they need to be installed on the slave aswell? Can the slave run a VI that is installed on the host only?
I'll see if I can answer this question + the ones you will come up with next. What would help best is a sample scenario:

Let's say you want to have 4 slave computers. Each has a gigabit ethernet connection, and you have a 5+ port router, which connects to the host computer also.

#0: the Host computer
#1: Hollywood Strings dedicated machine
#2: Hollywood Brass, Symphobia 1+2
#3: QLSO Platinum, RA, SILK, Pianos, . . . LASS, etc
#4: Kontakt running the cool libraries from Soniccouture, 8DIO, Soundiron, Orchestral String Tools, and many many more . . .

Each of these could be either mac or pc. I recommend solid state harddrives for the Hollywood Strings computer. I personally use PC's, but you are welcome to spend more and go mac.

On each computer you will run the VEP software. The samples are housed on each slave machine. You will load up the samples how you want them. You will save the configurations into templates. You will then be able to click a button that says you want to make the network connection to that machine available. You will do this for all the machines, and it will take you a very long time to do it for the first time, and you will likely spend a ton of time dialing in your templates. tweaking them.

You will then create 4 new instrument tracks in ProTools (edit: on the host #0 computer). Starting with the first, you will put VEP into an insert. You will search for available networks, and you will see all of them that are available. Select #1, then do this for all the others. You will now have 4 instrument tracks, one for each slave machine.

Now you will be able to create midi tracks, and you will have your choice of which slave computer you want to control. Create a midi track for each port/midi channel you have in your slave templates. When you record arm any of those midi channels, you should now hear that instrument being triggered. The midi information passes through the network to the slave computers via ethernet cable, triggers the audio, and it routes back in.

in this scenario you have absolutely no samples installed on the #0 host computer.

You will have to be careful about latency settings on all machines to preserve timings. There is a lot to worry about and dink around with. Expect to put in a ton of time dialing this in.

Each slave computer and host computer will require a VSL dongle.

i'll stop here for now. . .
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gainreduction
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17th December 2012
Old 17th December 2012
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What about the graphics card? Any need for something special or is the stock MacPro graphics card ok?

I'm comfortable with just two screens, one for the main DAW and one for the picture.

Again, big thanks to everyone helping me out here.
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17th December 2012
Old 17th December 2012
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Stock graphics is fine, audio GUI's are all 2D.
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