UVI Cinematic Shades (Falcon Expansion) by Diogo C
UVI continues to build up the Falcon library, and Cinematic Shades adds a further options to owners of their flagship virtual synth. With a tone that is definitely “darker” than previous expansions, Cinematic Shades brings brooding atmospheres, disturbing dissonances and random elements that are excellent for setting up tense moods without sounding predictable. The Cinematic Shades library consists of 130 patches that are organized on seven following categories: atmospheres, pads, textures, melodies, sequences, basses and cinematic elements. Some patches have long, evolving soundscapes and mostly only triggered instead of played, and although there are some sounds that will allow for keyboard leads or pad-like sounds on this expansion it is more about holding a note or triggering sparse notes and modulating a few macros than actually working your hands on the keys - and that’s a good thing because it diversifies the Falcon library and adds further depth to it, presenting different alternatives. If that’s not your thing, then check out the Atmospherics or Ether Fields expansions for more “playable” or keyboard-oriented sounds.
Sound quality: Simply put, this one of the very best set of patches for Falcon so far, and a personal favourite that now shares with Ether Fields the number one spot on my Falcon expansions shortlist. Cinematic Shades adds interesting new elements to the Falcon library, it taps from the cliches usually associated with cinematic-type libraries of today but it also manages to bring something fresh to the table. It feels somewhat familiar but at the same time it has plenty of surprises, with many intriguing sounds that will not only work great on certain music genres (notably the electronic-centric ones) but also on soundtrack scoring and sound design for film or games. It’s really useful for building ambiances for those tension-rich moments.
Ease of use: As with other Falcon expansions, installation and authorization were a breeze. Cinematic Shades relies a lot on samples, the file size of roughly 1.5GB makes it the biggest Falcon right now, but fortunately the single-file approach taken by UVI makes file management as painless as possible. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about the in-session performance, as the CPU consumption is really off on some patches, some even unusable on my rig (check the full specs below this review) and resorting to buffer sizes as high as 2048 didn’t help. I’d say at least a fourth of the patches suffers from this issue, which is a bit disappointing and in fact surprising, as my experience with many Falcon expansions has been quite good in this regard, with UVI delivering patches that are well-optimized and that allows for many instances to be used simultaneously. A workaround is to dial down the polyphony on each part, which for a newcomer might be a bit tricky since it requires the user to navigate through Falcon’s “Edit” section and find the proper settings. Hopefully this performance issue can be addressed with an update, as it spoils a portion of the content on an otherwise excellent expansion for the Falcon.
Features: As pointed above, some of the patches on Cinematic Shades are CPU-intensive and could benefit from a “max polyphony” macro to allow people with aging computers such as myself to have a better handling of the computing resources. Perhaps a “lite” version of some patches could help to improve the experience as well. Outside of that, there’s little to complain here. Patches are very well-designed, making good use of the macros (usually around 8-10 macros per patch) and showcasing Falcon’s excellent sample-based tools such as the IRCAM granular module. The attention to detail and the presentation are also very well done, with a 13-page PDF user manual and an “info” button on Falcon that shows a summary of the expansion’s core concepts - although I’d love to see this on a per-patch basis.
Bang for buck: Priced at $39, Cinematic Shades provides excellent value for the Falcon user looking to add a “noir” angle to their productions, regardless if its music, film or game or sound design in general. On a side note, as previously pointed out on my review of the Atmospherics expansion, I’m a bit unsure about how we can keep on buying expansions every few months, so a subscription service or different ways of serving patches will likely be necessary at some point. A loyalty-based system should also be considered if UVI wants to keep its users happy in the long run.
• Highly interesting patches, all done with great attention to detail.
• Covers previously uncharted territories and engrosses to the Falcon experience.
• Uneven patch optimization may present a challenge to some computers.
Testing rig specs: Custom Mac with Intel i7-3770 CPU, 24GB DDR3 RAM, 480+240GB Sandisk SSDs, NVIDIA GTX 960 4GB (1080p), RME Babyface Pro, Ableton Live 10 Suite and Pro Tools 2018 on Mac OS Sierra 10.12.6.