SAMPLE FUEL – DANNY LUX INTERVIEW
Can you give us a brief summary of what kinds of projects you have worked on and how you got into scoring TV/Film?
I have been a prolific TV/Film composer since about 1990. I had the very fortunate opportunity to work for Mike Post right out high school. Mike is one of the most successful TV composers of all time. I spent 9 years working with him and it was the springboard into launching my own career.
Since that time, I have been incredibly fortunate to get so many great opportunities to work on a very long list of incredible shows.
Here is a sampling of some of the shows/movies:
Grey’s Anatomy, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, My Name is Earl, The Good Wife, Party of Five, Dawson’s Creek, Profiler, Halloween Resurrection, etc…
Why are you starting a company like SAMPLE FUEL?
Over the years I have been very proactive in making my own sounds and samples. In order to get the sounds that I wanted and needed for my shows, it took a lot of time and quite frankly, a lot of my favorite synths were sometimes a bit difficult to use. I always wished I could have that kind of power, flexibility and sound quality in one easy to use plugin - the only way to do that was to make my own.
About a year ago Steinberg released HALion 6 with the ability for users to make custom front end interfaces for the first time. I decided It was time to make the “synth” interface to control HALion that I always wanted. My assistant Jared and I spent about 2 months designing what became the CRE8 Engine.
The whole concept was I wanted a MAIN PAGE that had all the functionally I reach for about 90% of the time without the need to dig deeper. The goal was to create an interface that was extremely quick and easy to use as my TV schedule requires me to work incredibly fast and efficient.
The end result was so successful that it seemed like taking it a step further and actually developing complete stand-alone products was now an idea that started to make sense. Then it turned into “why don’t we actually start a company and release these at an unheard of low price to get them in as many users hands as possible”.
What makes your products better or different than what is already available?
I am not aware of another synth-sample library company that has been started by a composer with similar credits. I have scored approximately 2000 hours of primetime network shows in the USA (very few composers have reached that level) and think I have a very good idea what works and what does not work in terms of what kind of sounds fit into modern scores.
I like many composers have been incredibly frustrated buying sample library after sample library, or various synths only to end up using just a handful of patches out of the hundreds that come with it as the rest are mostly useless for the kind of music I make.
My approach is conceptually simple, an interface flexible enough for the pro’s, but easy enough for beginners. I am programming almost all the sounds myself. I only program sounds that I will hopefully use in my own compositions. In essence I am making these products to satisfy my needs plain and simple. If it works in my compositions, it will probably benefit your compositions. The fact that I am actually selling the tools I am using on current hit TV shows makes this a unique opportunity. Anyone can now get their hands on the exact same sound pallet and tools that I am using for the first time ever.
Can you be more specific about what is different the way you program and make your sounds?
Many sound programmers and designers out there do great work but just don’t have the composing and producing experience that I have under my belt so to speak.
I find that most synth patches or sample libraries try to make too many sounds that consume too much of the sonic landscape or try to sound like “instant cues”. I can’t use sounds that are “instant cues” for several reasons…. you are going to sound exactly like someone else using that sound and you are completely restricted by having to write around that sound.
The sounds I make are not meant to take over the track. They are suppose to be able to enhance what you are writing or inspire you to write with them not around them.
Sonically I don’t want them to consume the entire sonic frequency range. If they are a full sound I most likely will try to scoop out low mids to create room for other sounds. Often, I will thin sounds out quite a bit, so they can add textures to very dense cues with out creating a muddy cue.
My job as a composer is to never get in the way of dialogue. This needs to happen with your sound/patch choices as well as your composition. This is always what I am thinking about when I am creating sounds. I suspect many other programmers never think about this or if they do they still are not in the scoring trenches on a regular basis.
As part of my process trying to keep patches sonically not out of balance I get frustrated with other synths and sample engines that don’t provide enough tools to control these frequencies. The CRE8 Engine has so many filter options and stages to it that you have multiple places through out the signal chain where you can attack and fix these issues. CRE8 also has a fixed Hi Pass Filter and Lo Pass Filter at the end of the signal path. I get so frustrated when there is not at least a Hi Pass filter at the end of the signal chain to make a final “thin out” to the sound if it is too full. Way too many sample libraries and synths do not have this.
Often when composing a scene, the composition needs to be simple and not move around too much. So often I am droning around one tonality for a long time. The cue needs to be produced in interesting ways to keep the cue from getting boring. That is where the need for simple, yet interesting sounds come in. These are sounds that need interest with out being too big, busy, etc… These are things I think about as parameters when making sounds.
How would you describe the sounds in your products?
So far, the concept is all about MOTION. All the sounds have an incredible amount of MOTION to them whether its pulsing, pumping, panning, etc… Not just with volume but filters, distortion, etc…
There are 8 quick controls at the bottom of the interface that control things like Attack, Release, Filter, etc… but the most interesting control knob is the “MOTION” knob. Here you can control all the motion from the Volume LFO, Step Envelopes, User Envelope, and additional LFO’s. In other words, if you have a sound that has a lot of movement in it you can dial all the movement down to no movement by turning the MOTION knob all the way to the left. You can adjust the MOTION from extreme to zero or anywhere in between all in real time. One of the coolest and most useful features.
Why did you choose Steinberg’s HALion platform?
I know many people seem allergic to the idea of using HALion. It is one of the best most stable options that I have ever used. I am a fan of many other platforms like Kontakt, Omnisphere, UVI Falcon, etc... Personally, I have had more issues with Kontakt than any other format but I still use it and love it.
HALion has just always clicked with me and my workflow. I have used it in various ways since version 1 or 2 but really started getting serious with it when they re-wrote it from scratch for version 4. It is now in version 6 and I don’t think anything can compete with it as a “hybrid” synth sample engine. Only UVI Falcon comes to mind as similar in capabilities. Omnisphere of course is amazing and kind of in its own league due to the enormous amount of amazing content that comes with it.
I wish Steinberg would have done a better job over the years getting the word out about how great this platform is. They have had virtually no 3rd party development support but I believe that is about to change. I certainly will be releasing quite a few products over the next year.
Some people have expressed they don’t want to learn a new platform, etc… HALion Sonic SE is just a simple Multi-Timbrel shell that is similar to almost any basic player like Kontakt. The install and registration process is the same amount of steps as anything similar like Kontakt (Native Access), etc…
The feedback we have gotten thus far is that the learning curve for the player and the CRE8 interface takes about 15-20 minutes to get totally comfortable and the response has been that it has been totally worth it. I spend longer getting familiar with just about any new Kontakt library I buy.
My goal from the beginning is to try to make this the most user-friendly synth interface available period. So far, the user comments have supported that goal.
Why are you pricing everything so low compared to your competition?
We are new company and I really want as many users out there to get their hands on these tools and benefit from them. The prices are an extreme value. Of course, I want this company and its products to be successful, but money is not the main driver for creating these tools. These are tools I am creating for myself and my own needs. I have been incredibly fortunate with the success of my career and find great satisfaction in creating these tools and get even more satisfaction when I get incredibly positive feedback from new users. I view this as big “win win” for me and anyone else that gets to use these incredible tools.
I want to give Steinberg a big “thank you” for providing such an incredible product that has allowed me to create what I consider the best tools I have ever used for my personal needs.