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Topic: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

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  1. #1

    Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Hello!

    Since there is not a general area for this question, I hope you all don't mind my asking it here.

    My question: given the slew of hardware and software available, what's the cheapest way to put together a setup which will deliver results worthy of being on the air? To put this another way, imagine you had no gear whatsoever, and you were suddenly contracted to score a commercial or TV show. If you were pinching pennies, how would you do it?

    This is a difficult question to answer, because if you check on any company's website they're likely to tell you their stuff is the best. It also doesn't necessarily help to know what the top pros use, (like, say, the top 5 film composers in America) because their equipment is likely better than a barebones rig. Obviously there are a range of products, and the more you pay the better it gets. What I want to know is, though, where do you draw the line, and say "on this side is for typical (but not top 5) professional composers of TV and film, on that side is for amateurs"? Again, forgive the posting here, but I honestly don't know if the answer involves hardware, or software samplers etc. like Gigastudio.

    Many thanks,

    Elf

  2. #2

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elf
    Hello!

    Since there is not a general area for this question, I hope you all don't mind my asking it here.

    My question: given the slew of hardware and software available, what's the cheapest way to put together a setup which will deliver results worthy of being on the air? To put this another way, imagine you had no gear whatsoever, and you were suddenly contracted to score a commercial or TV show. If you were pinching pennies, how would you do it?

    This is a difficult question to answer, because if you check on any company's website they're likely to tell you their stuff is the best. It also doesn't necessarily help to know what the top pros use, (like, say, the top 5 film composers in America) because their equipment is likely better than a barebones rig. Obviously there are a range of products, and the more you pay the better it gets. What I want to know is, though, where do you draw the line, and say "on this side is for typical (but not top 5) professional composers of TV and film, on that side is for amateurs"? Again, forgive the posting here, but I honestly don't know if the answer involves hardware, or software samplers etc. like Gigastudio.

    Many thanks,

    Elf
    It really doesn't make any difference. The only way someone would contact an unpoven composer that has no equipment to do a commercial project would be if something besides success was operative. The composer would have to be a friend. Given that it's not a business decision they deserve whatever they get.

    That said I'll give you my newby answer, subject to revision by the more knowledgable members of the group:

    This is the equivalent of deciding your are going to do automotive repair and asking what tools you need. The simplest answer would be, for starters, to go to Sears or Sam's club and pick up their biggest tool box, then add tools as needed. The audio equivalent would be to get a basic soundcard (M-Audio 2496 or equiv), recording software (Sonar or equiv) and Colossus. I presume you have the miscellaneous support hardware - monitors, amp, keyboard etc. The computer needs to be the fastest one possible with two drives that you can fit in your budget.

    Basic audio quality is damn good these days even with cheap soundcards so that's not a problem. It's a matter of having a computer that is powerful enough to handle the effects and a decent size palette of quality softsynths.

    You should probably also look into mastering software but that's not an area where I could make suggestions.

    After that, it's a question of skill and ears. Unfortunately, you can't buy experience.

    Ernie

  3. #3

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    In order to give any help, we need to know a budget and what sort of music you write.

    D

  4. #4

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Just thinking about this I have to wonder.

    Could one drop down to a fully loaded Roland XV-5080 as the "foundation" sound generator and still get at least semi-pro results (by modern standards)?

    That would cut the computer a LOT of slack and one could always add softsynths.

    (I've got the 5050 with the "World" SRX card but I've never looked at it as anything besides a gigging tool)

    Ernie

  5. #5

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Daryl:
    My question was a bit hypothetical, so please forgive the bluntness and lack of specifics. To answer your question, I'd say "electronic non-live music in a variety of popular genres" for a budget of "whatever it takes (but no more) to achieve professional quality." Regarding the budget: I assume that it will not go below a certain point because below that point the quality wouldn't be good enough. Regarding sounds/styles, I would say that I would guess, though I could be wrong, that the sounds have to all be stellar: synth pads and leads, great pianos, drums, guitars, etc., and effects-- but not necessarily the best money can buy. I know the better the stuff, the better the sound-- but where does one draw the line?

    Perhaps my original question could be put into a fill-in-the-blank: "Nowadays, _every_ professional TV/film composer uses, at the least, ____________ or ___________, though if money were no object, ______________ would be preferable. However, nobody who is taken seriously uses ___________." (I don't know if the answers in the blanks are software or hardware.. probably both).

    I know it takes more than a $100 Casio and a tape recorder. I also know it doesn't _require_ every single item in, say, John Williams' (whoever) own studio. What's in the middle?

    Ernie:
    I realize that the question doesn't exactly describe a typical career track from the bottom to the top, but thanks Why don't I rephrase that part of my question to "What is the least you'd have to spend to get a setup good enough to make an absolutely top-grade demo?"

    And to address your example, I'd say that, maybe, the answer is _not_ to buy the best that Sears has.. maybe that's for pros who need extra things too. Maybe the answer is to get any one of the top 5 things at Sears, all of which are meant for pros, and add x and y. (sorry, I honestly don't mean to be cocky-- I just want to illustrate my point).

    Thanks, everyone!

    Elf

  6. #6

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elf
    Daryl:
    My question was a bit hypothetical, so please forgive the bluntness and lack of specifics. To answer your question, I'd say "electronic non-live music in a variety of popular genres" for a budget of "whatever it takes (but no more) to achieve professional quality." Regarding the budget: I assume that it will not go below a certain point because below that point the quality wouldn't be good enough. Regarding sounds/styles, I would say that I would guess, though I could be wrong, that the sounds have to all be stellar: synth pads and leads, great pianos, drums, guitars, etc., and effects-- but not necessarily the best money can buy. I know the better the stuff, the better the sound-- but where does one draw the line?

    Perhaps my original question could be put into a fill-in-the-blank: "Nowadays, _every_ professional TV/film composer uses, at the least, ____________ or ___________, though if money were no object, ______________ would be preferable. However, nobody who is taken seriously uses ___________." (I don't know if the answers in the blanks are software or hardware.. probably both).

    I know it takes more than a $100 Casio and a tape recorder. I also know it doesn't _require_ every single item in, say, John Williams' (whoever) own studio. What's in the middle?

    Thanks, everyone!

    Elf
    No problem.........Unfortunately your question still has many holes!!!!! However, I'll get the ball rolling.

    Firstly you need to decide on Mac vs PC. Forget MacIntel for a while, as you're likely to fall into the non-compatibility trap in the short term. I use PC, as for the same budget they are much faster and there is much more choice of software. However, if you like OSX then that answers that question.
    The next point is sequencer, of which I can only name the main contenders, as I haven't used them all.

    For PC have a look at Cubase/Nuendo and Sonar, for Mac look at Cubase/Nuendo and Digital Performer. You could also look at ProTools, but do remember that the MIDI side is rather "dinosaur" compared with the other sequencers and, unless you buy the full version, I believe that the number of tracks is limited to 16 stereos (unlike the others where you could happily be using 60 or so). There are some nice plug-ins available that only work with PT, but equally there are others that are just as good.

    Regarding soundcards, I have used mainly RME and find them to be very good.

    Keyboards, many to choose from, so it's all down to personal choice. There has been a thread recently about CME, which are very cheap, so do read it.

    Monitors and mixers, again loads of choice, so you need to do your research. Again there has recently been a thread about a few choices, so do read it.

    As far as sounds are concerned I can't really give you any advice on the electronic side, as there are others who have far more knowledge. However, if you are looking for orchestral sounds then there are many threads to choose from.

    Regarding being taken seriously, it doesn't matter what gear you have; only how your music sounds, so I would suggest that you start with a modest budget, get some good tracks going and then see where you are lacking.

    I hope that I haven't been too unhelpful, but you're really asking "how long is a piece of string".

    D

  7. #7

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    HI,
    for scoring to film:

    assuming a real one not some low budget "c" movie.

    you will find the pros will have

    a main DAW EG: Dual G5, Dual Xeon or the best DUal Opteron (or Dual Core Duals)

    then connected to that will be 3-6 Giga/Kontakt/EW "samples" boxes.

    they can be connected via Audio (lightpipe,AES or Analog) or VST system link or FX teleport/Gigaport. (midi over lan)

    to get by, you would need at least 1 main daw and 1 samples box minimum.

    Scott
    ADK

  8. #8

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Elf
    "What is the least you'd have to spend to get a setup good enough to make an absolutely top-grade demo?"
    You are implying that the tools themselves define the quality of the demo. I find that disturbing. The tools need to match your composing experience. What's important is they don't limit you.

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were guys on this forum who could produce an "absolutely top-grade demo" with a loaded XV-5080. Whether you or I could do it is another question. You don't want to be limited by your tools but at the same time it makes no sense to emulate the gal at our local folk club that can't play anything beyond basic chords on any of the half dozen Taylor's she owns.

    If I sound challenging it is both because it is my nature and because in my experience people involved with a task generally know what tools they need, even if they can't afford them. I doubt that early composers asked how many instruments they needed to match the quality of other composers or "wow" the audience and instead, looking at what they just composed, said "Damnit, I'll need two more violas to make this sound right".

    I think the system I suggested would give you a basic toolbox that you would add tools to as your compositions required. If you want a more definitive answer you'll have to ask a more definitive question.

    Ernie

  9. #9

    Exclamation Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    [Dons his flame-retardant suit]



    Sorry for the flame bait - but your question doesn't recocile against reality on its face, and no matter what answer someone offers, it's always going to play one side of your question against the other. That's the fault of the question - not the answer.

    Do you want cheap?

    Do you want pro quality?

    If you can find a balance of tools that will help you land and keep gigs within your budget limitation, then good for you, but it's not something that's easy to do without a lot of trial-and-error through the filter of your own preferences.

    Start small with a good computer, sound card, and speaker monitors. Some cards will offer bundled applications that will get you going. Then, you need to set aside a budget where you will be continually investing in your studio setup with upgrades, crossgrades, plug-ins and new hardware. That's the way it always has been - and always will be. The good news is that it's cheaper than ever to get in the door (and a lot of good free-ware on KVRAudio.com) - but it's not cheap to stay in the room and run with the big boys - especially in the world of sampling where so much is still system dependent.

    Good luck.

    [Turns off auto-notification for this thread so as to not be bombarded with arguing and re-vectored questions.]
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  10. #10

    Re: Cheapest layout for "pro quality setup"?

    These days there are three main approaches to making music on the PC:

    * Live recording
    * MIDI
    * Loops

    The fastest way to slam things together is to use loops. They sound very professional, but, unless you really chop them up, they can sound generic. Get ACID for loop building.

    The best way to do true electronica and any other sounds for which you don't own the instruments is MIDI. Get a synth for electronica, or a sampler for "real" sounds. You will also need a sequencer. Note that ACID Pro 6 will have true MIDI sequencing soon. We will see if it matches Sonar, Logic, et al.

    The most honest way to make music is to record yourself playing stuff. Get good mics and a good soundcard. All of the top sequencers support live recording. A good recording space helps.

    And the truly skilled use all of the techniques above to get the desired results as fast as possible with the required quality.

    But the fastest, cheapest way to make pro sounding music? Loops, for shure. Little kids can make pro soudning stuff with ACID loops.

    -JF

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