Sound designers working in the Pro Tools TDM environment have some excellent plug-ins at their disposal. In addition to utilitarian processors like EQ, compression, chorusing and reverb, there is a whole new breed of “extreme” plug-ins. Have you ever thought about turning your sound inside out? If so, keep reading!
Product PointsApplications: Studio, post production, multimedia
Key Features: Pro Tools plug-in software for creative sound design, harmony effects, pitch correction, chorusing, vibrato, tremolo, delay
Price: TDM bundled version -$1,195 Individual TDM plug-ins- $495
Contact: Wave Mechanics Inc., 1-877-COOL-EFX, 802-951-9700, Web Site
+ Highly original set of effects plug-ins
+ Easy to use
+ Good collection of presets
+ Excellent printed manuals
– High DSP usage
– Latency issues
The Score: A powerful and useful collection of TDM plug-ins for a variety of creative applications.
For sonic mutilation there is nothing like Wave Mechanics’ UltraTools 2.0. This packaged bundle includes PurePitch, PitchDoctor, PitchBlender, TimeBender and Speed. Looking at the names, it is obvious that Wave Mechanics specializes in pitch processing (hey, these guys used to work for Eventide)!
PurePitch and PitchDoctor are real-time monophonic plug-ins that work equally well on vocal and instrumental tracks. Both programs operate in two different modes. “Conventional” processing gives the best results. However, it only works for small amounts of pitch shifting (unless you want “chipmunk” or “Darth Vader” effects). For larger amounts of pitch-shifting, use “Formant-Preserving.” This mode attempts to maintain the original character of the source material during the pitch shifting process.
PurePitch handles standard pitch shifting and detuning chores as well as creating “other-worldly creatures” (as the manual states). Use this plug-in to create harmony parts, chorusing, vibrato, tremolo, doubling and gender-bending effects. However, by twisting the settings for delay, feedback, LFO and amplitude modulation, PurePitch takes on a whole new character! Check out presets like Altered States, Evil Aliens and Space Monkeys. Need I say more?
For intonation problems (and who does not have them these days?), PitchDoctor is what the doctor ordered. Just enter the desired key and scale while the program adjusts the intonation of the out-of-tune notes. Depending upon the material, PitchDoctor may be configured to work manually, note-based or in automatic correction mode. Other features include quantization, which controls the amount of pitch processing; a Score Control function that creates an editable graphic score within the Pro Tools automation window; and a Guide Track, which copies pitch correction data from one track to another.
The real fun begins with Wave Mechanics’ SoundBlender. This stereo plug-in is comprised of PitchBlender and TimeBender. The main difference between the two is that PitchBlender has a more extensive pitch- mapping section while TimeBender has a unique reverse pitch-shifting function. Otherwise, they are similar. In addition, both programs use a Tri-Modulation Matrix. This enables three mod sources to be mixed and routed to dozens of effects-parameter destinations. SoundBlender is easy to use with a deceptively simple interface. Sound designers looking to dig deeper can traverse sub-menus to program a plethora of parameter options. Very powerful stuff.
SoundBlender ships with 239 presets in 15 different categories. While this plug-in’s forte is “out of this world” processing, there are many conservative effects that will handle bread-and-butter processing chores. As for DSP usage, SoundBlender is a bit of a hog. Expect to use one entire chip on a farm card for each instance of PitchBlender or TimeBlender.
The newest member of UltraTools is Speed. Unlike the other real-time TDM processors in this package, Speed is only available in the file-based AudioSuite format. What does this plug-in do? It handles tempo changes from 50 to 200 percent and pitch modification from plus or minus 1,200 cents. Also, it can change the tempo of an audio file without changing its pitch. Conversely, Speed can change the pitch without changing the length. And it can change pitch and tempo independently. What is more interesting, Speed has the ability to process polyphonic audio tracks, including finished mixes!
Speed offers three control panels to choose from. In Simple mode, there are two smooth on-screen knobs. Dialing the left knob changes the audio’s tempo or length. The right knob controls pitch settings in cents, semitones and percent. Values may also be typed directly into each field. Hit the Preview button to audition the changes and the Process button to save it to disk. Simple enough.
In the Graphical panel mode, pitch and speed graphs are positioned against the audio waveform. Changes are made to each graph by dragging breakpoints to the desired location. Need to add accelerando or decelerando to the music? No problem; do it in this window. Users familiar with editing Pro Tools automation data will be at home here. Wave Mechanics also provides tons of other parameters to fine-tune (no pun intended) the results.
A dual-function Calculator is the last control panel. This module calculates the speed of the audio sample without affecting pitch and the pitch without affecting speed. Using it is easy. Just fill in values for two of three fields (original, modified and change) and the program figures the answer. Do you need to change a 15-second spot to 12.5 seconds? Or adjust a drum loop from 120 bpm to 125? How about changing the pitch from E to D . Speed will do it. The program also calculates changes in percent, frequencies in Hertz, and modulation in cents. This is one very versatile program. If Speed cannot provide the correct answer to your pitch problems, I don’t know who can!
I used UltraTools extensively while creating my sampling CD, “Infinite Sound: Ambient Atmospheres.” SoundBlender, in particular, was indispensable. It has a beautiful and elegant way of mangling sounds. In fact, it can change the sound to the point of being unrecognizable. I admit, this plug-in may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But Sound Designers looking for extreme processing will be mesmerized with its effects.
On the other hand, PitchDoctor, PurePitch and Speed are indispensable for any studio. With the emphasis on the “perfect” vocal track, these plug-ins will keep your vocalist in tune. Keep in mind, software-based pitch processing produces latency. So adjust your tracks accordingly to compensate for any delays that may occur.
Wave Mechanics has put together one powerful package with UltraTools 2.0. The bundled price for the TDM version is $1,195 while individual plug-ins may be purchased separately for $495. While this is not inexpensive, it is far cheaper than buying a bunch of hardware processors with similar effects. Download a demo of UltraTools at Wave Mechanics’ web site and decide for yourself.
Digidesign Protools, Mix Workstation and V5.1 Software; Apple Mac G4.