Tell us a little bit about yourself?
BIO AS SAM ESTES: I started playing music around the age of 3, developing a deep passion for playing and listening. My love for music technologies blossomed at the age of 12 when I bought my first keyboard sampler – the Ensoniq EPS. I continued my love for music and pursued a undergraduate degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and a Masters in Music Composition and Technologies at the University of Colorado. After leaving university in 2005, I started working with JunkieXL (Tom Holkenborg) where I worked on several movies and video games, designing sounds and making EXS and Kontakt instruments. I was later called by Remote Control Productions in 2008 to head-up their Sampling Department. There, I designed sounds and instruments for Hans Zimmer and the many other composers at that studio, working on films like: Inception, Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, etc. Four years later, I decided to leave Remote Control to join the Cinesamples team as their manager in 2012.
BIO AS Mike/Mike (CINESAMPLES) It all started with a harp. Michael Barry and Michael Patti were working on doing some midi-mockups and did not like their harp libraries. They decided to pool their money together to create a library for themselves so they could have some articulations they were missing from the current libraries. They decided to offer this online as a payed download, and then took the money from that harp library and re-invested it in more sampling, and CineSamples was then born.
and your sample libraries?
Our current collection of libraries are geared towards making mock-ups for film, television and video games, at this point we have a full orchestral pallet that is available for purchase. We want our libraries to have easy performability and sound, with options to easily tweak if you need to get the libraries to respond in a different way. Our main goal is to let the samples just work for you, and use minimal control and tracks to get your ideas mocked up. I try to bring my 20+ years of sample designing to the table, and combine it with what I know works for the blockbuster films.
How do you prepare or should we say, how does one start making sample libraries?
Well first, you need a general idea of you are going to record, and why you want to record it. Second you analyze what you want to record, figure out what the necessary things are that you need the instrument to do, calculate how long each of those “articulation/micro-performances” will take. Then do an analysis if what you really want to capture will be cost and time-effective.
How long does it take to make a sample library? (recording, mixing, programming etc.)
In General, for simple libraries (i.e. percussion) it takes roughly 20 man-hours per 1 hour of recording. For something like strings, or other extremely complex things that need a lot of scripting, it can take up to 100 hours per hour of recording. So when we do a 10 hour sampling session, we are looking at between 200-1000 man hours of editing, de-noising, scripting, GUI, tuning, etc….
Can you give us a little insight on your creative process? (microphone placement, equipment used, vst software)
That depends heavily on what we are trying to achieve, do we want multiple mic positions, do we want a simple sound, how do we want this to perform? We try to record everything in as quiet an environment with the highest quality mics, pre-amps, converts, etc. We are always recording first to Protools, doing the edits in protools, then moving to programs like Keymap Pro. Then either moving those instruments into Kontakt, MachFive or any other sample medium that is viable. Then after playing the initial patches we often go back, tune, de-noise some more, edit the scripts, try to make it as playable as possible with minimal effort to tweak the GUI or other controllers.
How much sound design is involved in making sample libraries?
Again depends on the library. Generally not much, If we are making a simple piano library – the only “sound design” we do is mic mixing, presets, and de-noising, and sample cut-timing. If it’s a synth or something more “electronic/pad” we could use up to 6-7 different applications to get the sounds we want to achieve.
What inspires you to make such amazing products?
Honestly, needing to use them. We don’t just make libraries and then expect to only sell them, we want to use them ourselves. So any library we make, we need to be able to use and use effectively in our own music. We also are inspired by trying to push a new sound or tool out to make things easier for composers, and also to give them inspiration to write some great music. We are often in the “A-list” composers studios and are getting suggestions from them as well on what they are needing in their pallets.
Any specific “lessons learned” on a project that you could share?
Hire musicians that know fundamentals of sampling. If your musicians do not understand the difference between mp and mf on their instrument, or cannot follow a simple direction of (“That tonguing you just did is a bit to harsh, please make it similar to what you just played prior”), that really is the biggest key to getting the right performance out. Sampling is nothing but a collection of performances, if those performances are inconsistent, then the library starts to be unplayable, if they are TOO consistent, the library is stale.
Knowing how to direct the musicians to follow the line between these two types of performances is key. This takes years and 1000’s of hours of sampling to recognize. The other big thing – don’t sample too long, it takes a lot of ear and brain power to sit there listening to EVERY hit over, and over, and over – if you start loosing the ability to hear the differences and determine if it’s a good performance of that sample, then your library will also have many flaws.
How can a composer approach you to become a demo writer for your sample library? (Do you accept demo reels from composers?)
We actually have our own team of composers through Hollywood Scoring that do our demos now. We accept demo reels from composers, but it’s for our Hollywood Scoring division, not Cinesamples. You can submit demos directly to our facebook page by sending us sound cloud demos. We actually try to listen to them all. We occasionally hold contests for the best mockups, so please like Hollywood Scoring and Cinesamples on facebook to catch these announcements.
What are your plans for the future?
We have several new lines we are in the process of developing. We have started our Artist series which highlights the amazing and talented performers that play on many of the big soundtracks. We also have a pallet series that will be coming out, focused on more of the sound-design aspects of sampling. We are also continually updating our products, adding new content and developing better scripts – which we always offer for free to our prior customers.
Any tips, hints or motivational speeches for the readers?
“Being a musician can be a good living as long as you are not an artist”…. I continually remind myself this entertainment industry is a business. I am making a product (both in creating samples and in creating music). I find artistry in what I do AFTER the product is done. If I try to force it while I am making the product, I might as well be only making it for myself (which is not a bad thing).
You should always be making the right product for the client. Sure, you can bring in your own “voice,” and expertise, but if it’s not what your client needs or wants, never hold fast to it – you are making something someone else needs, not what you need. If you don’t want to do this, keep music your hobby – not your living. That being said, you should always be doing your passion – if you love writing music and creating, then do it, and if you can find happiness in doing it as your main business and making a living at it, DO IT!