The use of virtual instruments was a cheap and inferior alternative to real instruments at the production stage only up until a few years ago. Today, the highly performing processing ability of new processors along with the stability of drivers and operating systems have made virtual instruments become the favorite way for almost every big producer. They are also considered as a valid alternative or often a real qualitative choice in live contexts where latency issues and fear of system crashing used to prevent their spread among professionals.
Virtual instruments are more and more consistent in the setup of musicians and this is why the plugin development has become a business the big international groups have strongly focused on. Native Instruments, IK Multimedia, EastWest, UVI and VSL (just to name the most popular) have created real operating environments where it is possible to install hundreds of libraries and to keep the user up-to-date about new sounds or increasingly faithful emulations of instruments of all sort: acoustic, electric, vintage and more recent ones. For example, the market of libraries for Kontakt is particularly thriving: many producers and third party companies are investing in resources to accrue skills focused on the creation of libraries to be used in this widespread field, fully exploiting the potential and the flexibility offered by e-commerce. So what do we need not to miss out this new business opportunity? We’ll ask that to the composer and software developer Francesco Sabatini. He has gained several experiences in many recording studios, looked into methods of audio and sampling takeover and then decided to combine IT and musical knowledge becoming producer and scripter of Evolution Series and the startup Composers Tools.
A.Campeglia: Hi Francesco, which are the main tasks of a scripter?
F.Sabatini: Most of the time, a scripter takes care of writing the source code but also of programming, that is the creation of the project intended in its functioning, and modelling of a user-friendly layout.
A.C.: How do you organize your work?
F.S.: I like to set everything up in Illustrator, drawing the patch through lines and texts in order to get the final follow chart. Only then I begin to code and according to the cases I make some changes, but they will be irrelevant comparing to the original plan.
A.C.: Which are the most significant difficulties?
F.S.: When you create a software destined for a creative purpose, you need to treat it very respectfully, because in one way or another you are going to affect the user workflow. The hardest is to keep it simple, but at the same time to provide an inspiration that can be easily incorporated to the instruments the user already has. An example could be a drum patch with a midi player: this function allows to obtain rhythmic sections very quickly but in Kontakt is very limited in terms of groove manipulation. A creative solution facing the needs of the user is the inclusion of a drag&drop in order to export the desired fill very quickly and to modify it in its sequencer.
A.C.: Which is your favorite work editor and why?
F.S.: I prefer Xcode, even though most of my collegues use SublimeText. I like it because of the way the project deals with the files, often incorporating other languages to create tools; having everything in one place is handy. Nevertheless Sublime is a great editor which includes also a SDK for Kontakt and it has many interesting functions. It’s up to you.
A.C.: How much do you think musical knowledge and audio activities are important?
F.S.: They are vital. You can’t innovate something if you don’t understand it. The key to create something useful is being inspired by your own musical needs as well as the ones of the others around you. Understanding harmony, knowing the instruments and having skills about technique and phisics of the sound are very powerful extras for a scripter.
A.C.: What is it that makes a script more functional than another qualitywise?
F.S.: It is important to always keep an eye on the workload on the CPU and its optimisation is the key. I’ve seen scripts of just a few lines do everything possible in Kontakt, while others of 300000 doing nothing but overburden the performance.
A.C.: Which direction is the Kontakt world going towards?
F.S.: The further we go the more the framework proposed from Native Instruments innovate. I hope the next step will be the graft of an editor for the internal effects in order to give anyone the chance to program their own DSP.
A.C.: What do you think Kontakt Framework lacks of at the moment?
F.S.: Beside the DSP scripting? Well, further steps can be made within the Gui building; it is still too limited in terms of creation of innovative interfaces, that can be easily found in framework such as Juce.
A.C.: What is you salary based on? Is it up to the commission or something else?
F.S.: It depends on the importance of the client; you always need to consider whether there is a chance of a sharing or to earn from the sales. The average cost of small commissions or intervention is between 100 and 3000 euros.
A.C.: What do you think of distributors such as VstBuzz or KontaktHub?
F.S.: They are great if someone wants to relaunch a product or make their mailing list longer. The percentage they get for their services is up to the 45% of the sales, so you always need to pay very much attention to a distribution because it shortens up the commercial life of a library in the long-run.
A.C.: Which experiences have you influenced the most in the process of your personal development?
F.S.: Work is a daily experience, but my first project of “true-legato” has been the most significant. Understanding the way the software had to make the samples transit has required a careful analysis of how instrument makers adjust themselves to the several challenges of a musical performance.
A.C.: Big projects or small jobs? What does offer more and what do they mean in terms of work?
F.S.: Big projects take a lot of time and usually you need to wait before having something back moneywise, if we compare this to the overload of work in advance…However, they are the ones worthed focusing on, because they have a longer life than the small ones, which might be a bit of a dry spell sooner or later.
A.C.: Is anything coming down the pike?
F.S.: Yes, it is.There are many products related to Evolution Series and a shared brand with them that I hope to launch soon. Also Composers Tools is going to launch a collection of ancient instruments and they are working on a community project to incorporate external sound designers to their productions.
A.C.: How do you get a commission?
F.S.: If nobody asks for a commission, I become my selfdeveloper. I create something to offer or sell personally. However, if you need to get a commission, the right place to go is Vi Control, the ultimate forum for whoever uses software instruments.
A.C.: What would you suggest to the people who are just starting over or want to work in the field?
F.S.: I recommend to start from the understanding of the framework before approaching the coding and to study very well the listener, that is one of the most useful callbacks for most of the sequencer operations. Most of all, it is important to remain objective. The development side of this job is very wide in terms of opportunities and you can really be very happy when users are satisfied because of the tools you’ve given them for their creations.
A.C.: Which are the basics to decide to starting over in this job?
F.S.: IT basic knowledge is fundamental. I’d recommend to approach a C or even a Basic just to understand what creating a code means. Knowing musical technologies is also very important. If you are not confident with that, you might end up with not understanding what the developer needs by asking you: “Can you please deal with the routing in order to synth the effects chain in four or five bus(es)?”. All you have beside that is an extra. I also recommend a handbook about orchestration like Adler, very inspiring about potential of musicians and limits of instruments.
Stand by tune