Archive for March 26th, 2011

Hollywood Winds

Niche market sample libraries… a cachet category these days. Products designed to fill the gaps that big-ticket products fail to address, that’s the deal. Enter, stage left, Hollywood Winds. This Cinesamples library can be purchased for $149 as a download at either the Cinesamples site ( or through Big Fish Audio (

Cinesamples co-founders Mike Barry and Mike Patti clearly spent a lot of time studying the manner in which woodwind combinations have been used to impart depth and imaging to film scores over the last 60 years. The idea is so simple that at first blush you could have realized it: record woodwinds playing in unison and in octaves, then throw in some chords, riffs, and tempo synced scalar runs. No big deal, right?

But there are decisions to be made. What happens when you reach a pitch that three or four instruments nail in their meat range? How do you create a seamless keyboard patch that covers this part of the spectrum and combines it with other areas that reveal the thinness of timbre of a particular instrument or the paucity of instruments that cover the range? Not so simple, right?

I suggest that you call up a Tutti Staccato patch. Microphones were set up at the stage and close levels; you can load up either as a preset, or one that gives you both plus controls that let you determine the balance between the two. I was curious as to the need for the individual patches, since the player allows you to load the full version and blend the two in any combination you desire, but Mike Barry told me that the company was simply responding to user demand. Hollywood Winds requires the full version of Kontakt 4, by the way, not the free one.

Start improvising monophonic lines across the full woodwind range. Notice how even the balance is. Cinesamples could have created balance by artificially introducing a second Bb clarinet when the bassoon reaches its tippy top Rite Of Spring range, for example. Instead, working as orchestrators, they used the available instruments to create a seamless set of registral transitions, just as a big time LA scoring pro would do. Study this work, it’s good! But be careful: you’ll be tempted to play chords using the Tutti patches. Don’t do it! You’ll end up creating a false woodwind section, larger, and more awkward, than anything you hear in concert or on screen.

The atonal rips are great. The plug-in uses a widget in Kontakt 4 that gives you a notation view for lots of the material, which is very helpful, but no scores are available for any of the atonal effects. Why? “We wrote a low note and high note on a piece of staff paper,” says Barry, “and then drew an arrow between the two and told the players to play in between them atonally. They did the rest, just the way they do when they’re working on a major film score!”

One of the big concerns I had was whether this library would be able to able to integrate with other woodwind libraries. After all, these winds play a specific role; they allow the user to grab classic woodwind combinations and quickly create unison and octave lines, with some extra tweaks thrown in as a bonus. But I had no problem creating a template that included both Hollywood Winds and some VSL wind instruments. Just be sure to use the Close presets; they match up well with the non-reverberant sound of the VSL samples.

Hollywood Winds is an intelligent, well recorded plug-in that does exactly what it’s intended to do. Bravo!

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