Review Cinematic Studio Strings by Cinematic Studios Series

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It is more and more difficult for a new “orchestral” library to up the ante on sound quality and ease of use while elevating realism but somehow, Cinematic Studio Strings does just that.

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Jump to the Videos of Cinematic Studio Strings

Jump to the Videos of Cinematic Studio Strings

Review Cinematic Studio Strings

Cinematic Studio Strings (CSS) is a Kontakt Player library featuring recordings a mid sized string group of some of “Australia’s finest musicians”. The library was created for composers working on film, TV and game scores. The GUI is the kind that composer’s dream: simple and intuitive. But the real stand out feature for this library is it’s sound! Cinematic Studio Strings plays back lush and lifelike with realistic dynamic breadth and a hint of studio air and life in it.  CSS is quite a fantastic library especially when you consider the price point.

Cinematic Studio Strings sells for $399 from Cinematic Studio Series

Thoughts

It is getting very difficult to come out with a new “orchestral” library these days that ups the ante while elevating realism for composers but somehow, CSS does just that. I personally had never used Cinematic Strings or Cinematic String 2 but heard good things about the sample quality. If your interested in the differences in CS2 to CSS check out our post comparing the 2 libraries.

First, these strings sound lush and life like. Before I previewed them a fellow composer friend of mine had just recorded at the FOX scoring stage in Los Angeles with a live string section. When he heard CSS he couldn’t believe how close the playback was to his final recording with a real string section. If you haven’t heard any demos check them out!
CSSViolins

Cinematic Studio Strings was recorded with 10 1st Violinists, 7 2nd Violinists, 7 Violists, 6 Cellists and 5 Bassists.  This is a mid sized collection of players when compared to the other string libraries out like: 8Dio’s Magestica 20/20/30/30, Audio Bros’ LA Scoring Strings, 16/16/12/10/8, Orchestral Tool’s Berlin Strings 8/6/5/5/4 and is even slightly smaller that Cinematic Studios Series’ Cinematic Strings 2 library (12/8/7/7/6).

Now if there is one thing I have learned doing all these reviews it is that section size doesn’t always make the library. Once I started working with CSS all the number comparisons go out the window. When you playback the instrument and hear the wonderful live, airy feel Cinematic Studio Strings is capable of. With just the MIX mic position on you get a very full sound. Dial the instrument back to just the close mic position and you get a very intimate “chamber” like sound. I was surprised how flexible the character of the samples are when changing Mic positions levels.

All the number comparisons go out the window when you playback the instrument and hear the wonderful live, airy sound Cinematic Studio Strings is capable of performing with.

Besides Cinematic Studio Series being able to capture that “air” in the room with it’s beautiful sample set, there is some clever, well done scripting going on with the engine.

The Sustains in CSS were sampled with four dynamic layers. The engine uses some clever scripting to achieve extremely expressive performances with dynamics controlled via the mod-wheel. I was also pleased to see that the engine will go down to silence for those all important fade ins and outs us media composers often demand.

The PROS of the legato engine is that there are up to three legato samples that are velocity triggered meaning if your playing soft you get an actual slow legato transition sample and if you playing hard you get an actual fast legato transition sample.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 10.50.44 AM

CSS Legato options

With any of the long-note articulations, you can enable the Legato switch to play legato or disable it to polyphonic. The PROS of the legato engine is that there are up to three legato samples that are velocity triggered meaning if your playing soft you get an actual slow legato transition sample and if you playing hard you get an actual fast legato transition sample.

Every legato transition triggers an actual sampled performance by the live performers. This does wonders for the realism and your ears notice what is going on. All to often libraries use tricks in scripting to try to approximate what the playback should sounds like.  This does wonders for the library and gives it that extra edge amongst the competition.

Every legato transition triggers an actual sampled performance by the live performers. No scripting tricks were used to replicate “something similar” to legato playing and this really elevates the library.

The interface also shows you which legato speed transition is played back in real time. This attention to detail for legato playing is some of the best I have heard and I was able to get very musical performances from the very start of testing out the legato articulations.

CCS also contains a wide expressive vibrato. It is really nice and warm. I like it a lot and will need to A/B it with my go-to molto-vibrato library (Soaring Strings) to get a real comparison.

 

The keyswitch to toggle on and off the legato functionality is A#0. But for the life of me I can’t get it to just switch over with a simple press of the key. It almost seems as though it is velocity sensitive with ON being achieved at top velocities while OFF can only be activated at medium velocities. Softer velocities seem to do nothing I could find no information in the manual. This is odd for such a wonderfully designed instrument.

When first reviewing the library I could not understand the keyswitch function of the legato ON/OFF.  Alex from Cinematic Studios Series contacted me to point out the velocity function chart which I had missed in my review  I found a chart explaining the way the key switching for legato (and con cordino) is supposed to work. And seeing the chart and can get the instrument to function with legato switching by playing very soft velocity for Legato Off and max velocity for Legato ON (same goes for the Con Sordino)

CSSKeyswitch

velocity function chart

One thing to note is that although the library loads up with a big reverb nob on the front of the interface I found that the sound to be full and pleasing without any reverb turned on at all and just using the “MIX” mic positions. After reading the CSS material I was surprised to find out Cinematic Studio Series designed the instrument this way stating “All of our demos were created without reverb – all you hear is the natural air captured in the samples.”

CSSFullEnsemble

I’m a big fan of the Full Ensemble patches in most libraries. In my opinion, the strength in CSS really lie in it’s sections and not so much in the Full Ensemble (of Lite Ensemble with smaller foot print). I couldn’t find any documentation as to the key ranges of the section so I am not sure what is playing back across what range. While the sections sound real and inspired I found the ensemble patch seemed to loose some of the intensity (especially in the Cello high register). The Ensemble instrument is handy to have for sketching but I don’t think it will often make it into any of my final mixes.

I love when I don’t have to get out the manual to figure out a library. Interface design is all to often left at the tail end of so many kontakt library development project and then some “graphics” seem slapped on for the controls. This is not the case with Cinematic Studio Strings as the interface is one of the most intuitive I have used. Especially for an orchestral library with multiple articulations!

Cinematic Studio Strings as the interface is one of the most intuitive I have used. Especially for an orchestral library with multiple articulations!

I also like how CSS comes with details about delays of the short notes “Please note that there is a short delay of 60ms from the beginning of the short note samples to their “rhythmic peak.” They left this in the samples intentionally believing this adds to the  realism, and most importantly it is consistent across all the short notes.

CSSCelliPizzArt

Cinematic Studio Strings Celli with Pizzicato Articulations

I can’t belive I have written this much with out talking specifics about the articulations! Well, the instrument comes with Sustain, Staccato, Tremelos, Harmonics, Measured Trem, Marcato and Pizzicato and they feature additional controls that will pop up on the right hand side of the GUI.
The clever part of this articulation selection method (besides having access to ALL of them in one instrument) is that with some of the articulations have options to change to other “sub” articulations pops up on the right side of the GUI. In the graphic above (Cinematic Studio Strings Celli with Pizzicato Articulations) you can see you can now access “sub” articulations with the modwheel including Pizzicato, Bartok Snap & Col Lengo (slapping the wood of the bow on the string).
Or on the below graphic (Cinematic Studio Strings Celli with Staccato Articulations) you can see the Staccato articulations (Sƒz, Staccato, Staccatissimo & Spiccato) are all accessa ble by using the modwheel.
CSSVIOALAShorts

Cinematic Studio Strings Celli with Staccato Articulations

I can’t complain about the sound quality or playability of the articulation sets, but I would have liked to have even more extended articulations like some fx and more trills. The trills come with half step and hole step and I would love to have gotten to a 4th trill. Unneeded articulations can be removed from memory by holding Alt and clicking on the articulation tile.

As a composer working on music for media my conclusion is that this a top-notch sounding library and will do wonders for a more lush, dare I say “intimate” sounding score. LASS has been my go to string library for years and CSS holds it’s own with the functionality and the standard articulations included but the key to using CSS over a currently library is really in the sound and ease of use.

CSS isn’t “Hollywood Hyped” or “Gigantic” but if you’re looking to add a fantastic sounding easy to use string library that will add air and realism to your tool belt then I do recommend it.

I saw a post aptly commenting on CSS vs LASS saying: “LASS = Goldsmith’s The Haunting, Howard’s Signs, Williams’ Star Wars IV-V-VI, Young’s The Uninvited. CSS = Williams’ Angela’s Ashes / The Terminal / War of the Worlds, Young’s Untraceable” and I agree. If that is the kind of difference you can perceive and need to be able to produce in your work I highly recommend adding CSS to your arsenal. CSS isn’t “Hollywood Hyped” or “Gigantic” but if your looking to add a fantastic sounding string library that will add air and realism to your tool belt

Facts

Cinematic Studio Strings is a kotnakt player instrument and downloads as 34GB.

CSSAdvanced

Cinematic Studio Strings sells for $399 from Cinematic Studio Series

Demos of Cinematic Studio Strings

 

Videos of Cinematic Studio Strings