INTRODUCTION

Metroplolis Ark I is my new Superhero.  It is very aptly named as its sounds are all big, epic, and beautifully sampled. As the name infers, this library is designed to build bombastic trailers and grand cutscenes.  It is absolutely perfect for video game music, which almost always requires cues that are epic in nature. Though it lacks subtlety, if you need the Man of Steel to swoop in and save the day, look no further than this mind blowing library by Orchestral Tools.

The library has almost everything you need under one roof, and it seems they included all the tools you need to create soaring music without having to go elsewhere to dig up anything. Epic strings – check.  Woodwinds, brass and horns – check. Grand choirs – check. You want electric guitars playing power chords – got it!  You want earth shattering drums and percussion – got that too.  What about a piano – yep, that is in there and they call it Drake Piano.  Notably missing are the high woodwinds, but who needs a piccolo for an epic trailer or cut scene?

SF_10_14_01

The wonderful thing about having all these instruments in one library is that they were all sampled at the Teldex Scoring Stage in Berlin. Having all the instruments sampled in the same scoring stage gives them all a very natural reverb that helps to glue all the instruments together in the mix.  All of the Orchestral Tools libraries were sampled here, so that Metropolis Ark will fit in very snugly with your other Berlin series instruments.

This library is geared toward the sound of Mahler and Holst (rather than Vivaldi and Bach), but it is surprisingly versatile, as you will see in the review.  The inspiration was a 1927 film, Metropolis, now a classic science fiction film made in Berlin, and though that was a silent film, the influence from the music of that time period is striking.

 

It has two modes, the regular Kontakt Instrument mode as well as the Multi mode, which is where the library really shows off its power and ease of use.  Orchestral Tools developed a proprietary interface they call CAPSULE (Control And Performance Symphonic Utility Engine.) This makes selecting articulations fast and easy with triggers. Much more on this later…

First, let’s take a quick look at all that this library has to offer with this quick overview of the features of Metropolis Ark I.:

 

METROPOLIS ARK I FULL VIDEO REVIEW

Here is a playlist that contains a walk through of all of the multi-instruments and several of the additional single instrument patches, along with a description of various articulations and functions of CAPSULE.

 

COMPARISONS

By way of comparisons, Metropolis Ark might be considered the fierce and feisty love child of Project Sam’s Symphobia and Spitfire’s Albion series.  However, this library stands on its own and stands out from the crowd.  It is not as lush as LA Scoring Strings or Vienna Symphonic Library, but it is not meant to be.  Its target is the film and video game composer who want to work quickly to create epic passages.

One of the beautiful things about it is that it sits perfectly in just about any mix – and cuts through when you need it to.  It works especially well with the host of other Orchestral Tools Berlin instruments as it is recorded on the same sound stage with the same equipment and the same producers.

Where it really stands out above its competition at the very highest end of orchestral libraries, is that it is easy to play. The proprietary technology CAPSULE makes creating orchestral music thrilling, and takes out many of the hurdles normally faced when creating large scores.  Read on and you will see what I am talking about.

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY

One of the most prized mental states of any composer is FLOW.  This state first described by Hungarian positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is defined as:

Flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. [1]

Flow is induced when doing activities like playing games, meditating, and playing music.  Composing music, often a tangled web of technology and technique, is a challenging process.  However, with the introduction of ground breaking tools like Metropolis Ark I, our challenge is reduced and the opportunity to compose in a state of FLOW is maximized.

The use of tools has long been a hallmark of human beings, and Metropolis Ark may well be one of the finest tools ever developed from composers of orchestral film, video game and trailer music.  Years in the making, the innovative CAPSULE technology allows for things like  Adaptive Legato and Selective Round Robins helps you to create quickly and realistically. Multiple mic positions, including surround mics, really help when composing for 5.1 and Virtual Reality.

The design goals for Metropolis are clear, as the user manual states:

The Metropolis Ark Series brings Orchestral Tools into a new era: This series unites collections crafted to ease working on tight deadlines. Special sections made up of unconventional instrument combinations, the inclusion of non-orchestral instruments into the orchestral body and a focus on making ready to use tools available eminently playable out of the box make Metropolis collections a great way to expand any sonic palette.

SAMPLING AND RECORDING

There are four primary factors that go into creating a sample library – The musicians (performance and quality instruments); the sound stage; the microphones and processors; and the producers and engineers.  From the sounds that this library produces, it is clear that only the best of each of those components was employed.

The articulations achieved demonstrate the high quality of players in these samples, and the Teldex studio is used by several top notch sample libraries, such as the Vienna Symphonic Library as well. According to Sound on Sound, “It is the largest independent recording facility in Germany, and the 455–square–metre live room, which has almost the same size and proportions as Abbey Road’s Studio One, remains in its original shape.”

All the instruments were sampled at 96 kHz and only downconverted at the final stage to 48 kHz.  All the mics and preaps are the most expensive top of the line equipment.

Hendrik Schwarzer and his team at Orchestral Tools are composers who really understand the instruments, articulations and technology necessary to build world class libraries.

To have a sample library where all of these elements come together is a huge blessing.  To be able to have such a powerful orchestra easily controlled via a keyboard is nothing short of amazing!

MAIN FEATURES

CAPSULE



  1. Polyphonic Keyswitching -lets you play multiple articulations at the same time (up to 4 simultaneous articulations)

  2. True/Adaptive Legato – play True Legato that adapts to your playing of long notes

  3. Aleotoric Samples – Glissandi, Flutters and more

  4. Auto Gain – automatically adjusts volume when you switch between different mic positions to keep a balanced mix


There are dozens of instruments that are divided into “districts” (a pun on Metropolis…)  Each instrument has multiple articulations (from 1 to 16 different articulations per instrument group.)


District I – Orchestra

01. Finkenstein Strings (High)

02. Wolfenstein Strings (Low)

03. Holbein Bassoons a4

04. Barnak Contrabassoons a4

05. Kommandanten Trumpets a4

06. Schwarzdorn Horns a9

07. Rotdorn Horns a3

08. Friedrich Bass Trombones a3

09. Koenigsberger Cimbassi a3

10. Hindenburg Tubas a3

District II – Choir

01. Viktoria Choir (High)

02. Aarauer Choir (Low)

District III – Percussion

01. Kopernikus Percussion

02. Drake Piano

District IV – Band

01. Kornmesser Guitar Ensemble

02. Kornmesser Guitar (L)

03. Kornmesser Guitar (R)

04. Troppauer Bass (Dry)

05. Gardeschützen Drumset



Pros: Perfect for quick mockups and production ready songs for video games and trailers. Complete with everything you need to make epic sounding music.


Cons: A bit more expensive than other libraries, but well worth the investment!  It lacks subtlety, but that is not why you are buying this library anyway.


List Price: 549 Euros (but on sale for a limited time (currently Jan 31) for 399 Euros -about $430 dollars at the sale price)


Website: www.orchestraltools.com


CAPSULE

Since Metropolis Ark I is Orchestral Tools latest is the latest library released, it comes with the latest version of CAPSULE. To see the amazing power of this unique innovation, check out this short video from OT’s Stan Berzon, head of scripting development:

TRUE LEGATO

By simply clicking a switch, you can turn on true legato for most articulations.  What this means is that the scripting in CAPSULE will detect your playing speed and adjust the legato based on rules you can set. Check out this video to see how it works and more importantly, how it sounds:

CUSTOM ROUND ROBBINS

CAPSULE gives you the ability to customize your round robbins – you can choose which ones you want to include in the patch and how they are played back. As I show in this video example, in the case of choirs, each syllable is a different round robbin.  You can take out certain syllables, and you can have them play polyphonically (so that multiple syllables will sound when you play a chord) and you can choose whether the syllables are played in sequential order or randomized!

RESCORING WITH METROPOLIS ARK

Here are three videos that I created to demonstrate the beauty and power of Metropolis Ark.  I used only instruments from this library in all three videos.  I wanted to show three different genres, RPG battle sequence in The Witcher 3, A Space Battle cutscene in Mass Effect 3, and finally a longer trailer style scene from God of War 3.  I am a huge fan of the original composers of all of these games, but the scenes from the games are so inspiring that I found them to be beautiful and intense backdrops for Metropolis Ark.

 

 

WALKTHROUGH OF TRACKING IN REAPER AND MIXING IN PROTOOLS

Here is a short video I made showing how I set up a very large orchestral template in Reaper with all the individual instruments contained in Metropolis Ark.  I also show the mixing stage in ProTools (not using any EQ, Compression or effects) and how clean the raw output from Metropolis is, which will save you a ton of time when doing mockups!

 

FURTHER DETAILS

ARTICULATIONS

Numerous articulations await you for each instrument.  Strings come with 16 different articulations, and the other instrument groups have between 1 (piano and drums) and 14 different types.  These include articulations such as Sustains, Legato, Marcato long and short, Creschendo Long and Short, Tremolo, Clusters, Flutter, Swell (louder and then softer), and Glissandi.  For the Electric Guitars  there are various power chords and single shots, including some very cool slide effects! Percussion is huge and loud, and fits in perfectly with this library.

For a complete list of articulations per instrument, download this Articulations Guide PDF.

MIDI CC’s

CCFunction
CC 1The modwheel controls morphing through the velocity layers if the X-Fade mode is activated on the Main Knob. You can change this CC in the Controller 
CC 11All patches have CC 11 (Expression) set to control the general patch volume. You can assign this CC freely in the Controller Table.
CC 7In all patches, CC7 is mapped to the Kontakt volume slider. Use CC7 for balancing the collections in your template. You can assign this CC freely in the Controller 
CC 3This CC controls the vibrato mode (select patches only). You can assign this CC freely in the Controller 
CC 64(Sustain) All Longs patches (as well as of course Longs articulations within Multi Articulation patches) use CC64 to hold currently playing notes after you have let go of their respective keys. In the case of retriggered notes (for example when a new chord uses notes already present in an earlier chord), the note(s) common to both chords will be faded out and retriggered. This allows you to play repeated chords and chord changes in a very realistic manner. This feature works automatically and does not need to be activated. You can assign this CC freely in the Controller 
CC 115Capsule uses CC115 internally to purge samples. Do not assign this CC to any function and make sure it is not sent automatically by any MIDI device. Do not delete this CC115 assignment in Kontakt's AutomationMIDI tab, otherwise the patches will not work correctly! There is also a warning shown in Kontakt's automation tab. Heed it! CC115 sent by any outside device will be ignored by all Capsule patches.

CONCLUSIONS

You may already have an orchestral library that you are happy with in day to day use, but take my word for it, you have not lived until you take Metropolis Ark I for a spin.  I know the price is a bit of a barrier to entry, but when you think about what you are getting for the investment – a world class orchestra recorded at the top scoring stage in Europe with the best gear and experienced producers and designers – it seems like a good investment (and it is on currently sale now at an introductory rate until January 31, 2016.) I am sure this comparison has been made elsewhere – it is German engineering applied to sample libraries at the highest order.  It is like driving a BMW, nay, a Maybach.  Once you have a chance to drive this sample library on the Autobahn of video game scoring, you will not want to drive a lesser model (insert your favorite lesser model car here…)

To boldly mix metaphors where no metaphors have been mixed before, I think you will agree that this Maybach of a Superhero will be an essential part of your game audio scoring toolbox.

LINKS and FURTHER READING

Metropolis Ark Official Trailer

Metropolis Ark I on Orchestral Tools Website

References

[1] Flow – Wikipedia

Review by Dale Crowley with special thanks to Lawson Madlener and Michael Sweet for suggestions and editorial assistance.

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