CIRCLES: Modern Drama Film Scoring Review
Pros: 20 construction kits developed for adding to mood, texture and transition for producers and composers working in film, documentary, television, news, game, audio-drama and podcasting.
Cons: None that I could find.
What I like most about the entire collection is the variety within each kit. You can use the entire kit, as intended, or you can take certain elements from a kit to develop your own themes and underscores. By design, the collection never skews too far left or right of its target. It never gets too dark or too upbeat. This makes the collection a good value as I can foresee using it extensively across a broad swath of projects.
Sample Factory has earned a reputation for developing high quality loops and samples. Together, with Big Fish Audio, the team has a series of titles covering a broad range of musical styles and genres for both very specific and general audience loop consumers. Their recent collaboration, Circles Modern Drama Scoring is a noteworthy addition to this powerful creative team’s long list of credits.
This team is responsible for some of the strongest material this reviewer has encountered with titles like Trapture: Trap & Hip Hop, Billboard Modern Pop and many other highly praised titles. No wonder this team has earned a reputation for turning out top quality loop kits and professional level control options for the discriminating producer.
Whether you’re scoring a major motion picture project, producing a podcast or news piece or just looking for a little inspiration, Circles Modern Drama Scoring may be a good place to start. There are 20 construction kits, labeled in such a way, that even a novice producer can build an effective musical component to meet the needs of the project.
But before I dive headlong into the nuts and bolts of this collection, let’s pause for a moment to discuss the concept of “scoring.” Who hasn’t heard the sad strings swell when a movie’s love interest gets left behind at a train station? …or noticed the bold brass section signal triumph when the couple reunites near the film’s end? It’s this power of music that we associate with “scoring.” But scoring isn’t always this clear cut.
Music conveys a certain kind of emotional information that can amplify, contrast, enhance and sustain the primary scene or segment. Adding a musical element to picture or spoken word can greatly impact the power and meaning of the moment. But how does this pertain to Circles Modern Drama Scoring? Let’s say you’ve produced a news segment and you really want to stress the human angle to the story. For example, recovering from addiction, developing a scientific breakthrough or suffering a life-changing illness. These “emotional cues” are moments of human drama where an underscore or theme can take the story from just average to remarkable in just a few bars. And while it’s not the purpose of this review to illustrate the broad premise of scoring, it’s wise to have some context for when this particular collection might come in handy.
Scoring a dramatic moment can be very effective in documentary style work, regardless of the medium. This particular collection lends itself very well to almost any kind of dramatic cue, from pensive passages to positive resolution. The instruments used within these kits are mostly modern (think synths, keys, guitars, strings…), as its name suggests, but the producers have wisely included Midi files so you can easily change the instrumentation (ie; woodwinds and other orchestration) to suit your specific needs.
What I like most about the entire collection is the variety within each kit. You can use the entire kit, as intended, or you can take certain elements from a kit to develop your own themes and underscores. Tempos range from 60 to 138 beats per minute. Another plus is that, by design, the collection never skews too far left or right of its target. It never gets too dark or too upbeat. This makes the collection a good value as I can foresee using it extensively across a broad swath of projects.
Offered in both Multi-Format and Kontakt instrument’s KLI versions, Circles Modern Drama Scoring offers plenty of ready to use scores, underscores and elements to help you achieve dramatic perfection.
Briefly stated, using the multi-format version offers access to Acidized Wav files, Apple Loops or Rex files. Each kit is packaged in a folder labeled by Kit Number, Tempo and Key Signature – making navigation and search a very simple process.
Each folder contains the demo mix of the entire kit, the individual instrument loops (labeled so you can easily determine their order within the kit) and any additional loops like alternative percussion and drum tracks – which are in folders labeled Hits (percussion) and Tracks (drums) and finally a folder labeled MIDI where all the corresponding MIDI files live.
Apple Loop Browser users take note: Even though loops are formatted for Apple Loops, Logic’s loop browser will only add them under “untagged loops” because the included MIDI files confuse the Logic Pro browser system.
Whether you choose the Multi-format or KLI version, you can’t go wrong. In this particular case, I would recommend the multi-version since that includes MIDI files. That said, there’s no right or wrong way to work with traditional loops versus the KLI version. It simply boils down to your comfort level and workflow. If you’re familiar with Big Fish Audio’s KLI versions, you probably recognize the layout and navigation so, I’ll just skim through the KLI layout to give you a feel for this.
Each KLI series includes a DEMO.nki file. This is where all the fully mixed versions reside. From the Demo menu, you can preview each track as well as gather track info like the construction kit’s key signature and tempo. You can also see which key on your keyboard the demo track is mapped to. It’s a little difficult to see in this version, due to the black and white color scheme and small font used, but if you’re among the more “senior producers,” just put on your reading glasses. I’ll wait while you look for them...
Moving on to kits, you’ll see each kit folder contains 2 .nki instruments and a folder. One .nki file contains BPM in the title. This indicates it’s the drum track, while the other .nki file is the main construction kit instrument. Navigating to the folder labeled SLICED LOOPS you’ll find individual .nki files for each element within the construction kit.
The general rule of thumb is; green keys indicate the current pitch position, the red keys shift pitch and the white key resets everything. This is also true of the BPM .nkis and sliced loops, too. This makes pitch changes easy with no noticeable audio artifacts.
In the main construction kit instrument, you can access FX like reverbs, dynamics and other processing to further customize your mix. The Sliced loops allow for more interesting manipulation, such as changing playback speeds, changing loop trigger points and forward or reverse playback.
So, is Circles Modern Drama Scoring a good value for you? Only you can decide if you’ll actually use these loops and kits in your productions. The folks at Sample Factory and Big Fish Audio have provided excellent demos and tutorials to help you get a strong impression of what’s contained within these kits and how to utilize the features of the library. I strongly encourage you to explore all the demos and resources to determine if this is money well spent for you.
In summary, I found Circles Modern Drama Scoring to be a strong library. It contains 20 kits, all well suited to dramatic interludes. The best values (for me) are the MIDI files and scoring elements within each kit. I feel like I can get a lot of mileage out of this set. Even though Circles Modern Drama Scoring is the title, there’s no need to go in circles over the decision to buy this set. There may be some drama when my wife finds out I’ve acquired yet another library, though!
You must have the FULL version of Kontakt (version 5.8.0 or greater) to use the KLI version of this product! Circles Modern Drama Scoring downloads as a compressed file weighted at 3.89 GB. Fully expanded, this version occupies 4.76GB of space on your hard drive and offers 774 Kontakt patches.
The Multi-Format version comes in four flavors: REX, RMX, Apple Loops and Acidized Wav files. REX is the lightest, clocking in at just 1.82 GB with a total of 810 files. Apple and Wav versions are nearly tied for file size with Apple edging out Wav files with a svelte 4.57 GB files compared to the wav version which comes in at 4.63 GB for the same 764 files.