Cinematic Thunder isn’t really a new package; rather, it’s a 1.5 update to an existing one… but I’d actually call it a full overhaul, from what I’ve read. Vir2 took its older library and completely recut the samples, added a new GUI and some other goodies – effectively remaking version 1.5 into a new library altogether.
So, what is it, you may ask? Well, Cinematic Thunder is a library of toms; but not just any toms. These are orchestral toms and they are huge – they’re meant to underpin thematic action scores and trailers, where you need to really feel the intensity and excitement.
The library is offered as a Kontakt library and, in fact, ships with Kontakt Player (in Library mode). Of course, you’ll ultimately get more out of this package if you have the full version of Kontakt, but you can certainly use it as it comes. The download comes in at just under 5GB. After installing it, you have four instrument choices: Sticks, Mallets, Group Hits, and Group Big Hits. Each was sampled with up to 14 velocity layers. The sticks and mallets both function the same – the only difference is in how the instruments sound.
With the sticks, the sound is clear and punchy and loaded with detail. The mallets are softer, yet they become massive as the velocity increases. Groups Hits feature more hits plus double drum flams. The Group Big Hits are full-velocity flams and would make Thor shake in his boots.
The instruments included are surdo, 18″ tom, 16″ tom, 14″ tom, 12″ tom, and 10″ tom. Vir2 have included some performance strokes to help get your accents together. Aside from the left- and right-hand hits, there are flams, three-and five-stroke ruffs and rolls for each drum group.
Once you’ve selected your instrument, you’re presented with the first of three pages – the Mixing Page. Here, you’ll find everything you need to get those booming toms rolling. There are four faders on this page. The first fader is the Processed buss. It’s all of the other three faders combined and completely processed and massive.
The remaining three faders represent different mic positions that you’d typically expect to use to record orchestral instruments: Stage, Tree, and Room. When Processed is selected, the other three faders are turned off and vice versa. Of course, the three mic positions can be used in any combination and blended to taste.
One nice thing here is that, although these mic positions are on by default, turning any of them off purges that mic’s samples. This frees up RAM giving you more to work with – a very important detail, considering how much memory an orchestral score is likely to take. Below the faders are Mute and Solo buttons, as well as a routing option for recording each mic position (or processed samples) individually.
To the right of the faders is the Randomize section. This allows one to select the amount of pitch and velocity variation of the performance. Finally, there is a Master Fader for adjusting the overall volume.
The second page of Cinematic Thunder is the Effects page. I’ll come back to that in a bit, as I want to talk about a new feature in this update. So, moving on to the third page, we come to the new Sequencer page. While easy to use, the sequencer allows you to customise your performance and save quite a lot of time.
Simply turn on the sequencer switch, determine the number of steps (from two to 32) and time division (from 1/4 notes to 1/32 triplets) and you’re off. You also have the ability to draw in patterns with the click-and-drag interface.
The sequencer will do the rest. It can trigger either a left-hand or right-hand kit and selecting an additional note will sync that drum pattern to the original. There’s also a reset button, so you can start from scratch.
The second page is dedicated to Effects and there are six: reverb, delay, limiter, distortion, compression, and stereo width. There’s also a Transient Master and EQ controls for shaping your sound further. The reverb is a convolution type and can be changed by clicking the drop-down menu. The presets are: Medium Room, Big Room, Aggressive, Bright, Dark, and Wide. I’m certain any composer can find a use for each of these depending on the material that’s being written. It includes a pre-delay control and size control.
There’s also a mix control (send), so you can add in just the right amount of reverb. The delay is basic and adds enough movement to open up your drums even more. It includes time, feedback, pan and mix controls. The limiter features basic controls with input gain, release and output being the only things you can adjust; however, careful tweaking can really make these drums even bigger.
There’s a distortion unit on hand, if the production calls for it. Controls are Drive, Damping and Output. The compressor does the job of taming or enhancing these toms and Vir2 has given us lots of control over this particular effect with Threshold, Ratio, Attack, Release, Makeup, and Release. The Mix Control enables some serious parallel compression. The Stereo Width is the simplest of all. It features only one control – the amount.
Finally, the Transient Master affects the overall percussive nature of your sound. With input, attack, sustain, and output, you can sharpen or soften your percussion to make it sit just right within your composition. The EQ is the final ‘spit and polish’ for your percussive masterpiece. The controls are very basic: low, low-mid, high-mid, and high. The layout of the instruments makes a lot of sense. For the Sticks and Mallets, each octave covers an instrument; and the keys are laid out in a logical order. Every C key is a left-hand hit and every D is a right-hand hit.
Every F is a flam, G is a three-stroke ruff, A is a five-stroke ruff, and every B is a roll. Additionally, the octaves (beginning with C0) go from surdo to 18″ tom and on up. The highest octave (C6) contains Combo Hits – hits grouped in pairs of toms (10″ and 12″ toms together, 12″ and 14″ toms, 14″ and 16″ toms, and so on). For Group Hits, the layout is similar; however, there are only the hits and the flams.
Do I really need this?
There are many alternatives that offer loads of additional percussion elements for similar (or lower) pricing. Cinematic Thunder does offer beautiful high-impact toms and the price is reasonable enough, but the alternatives, with their extra percussion, make more sense to me; however, if you want a dedicated scoring toms library, this is certainly a nice collection and you could do worse.
Cinematic Thunder sounds excellent. If you need this type of percussion to round out an orchestral arsenal, this may be the one – everything sounds… well… cinematic and thunderous. The instrument groups are well thought-out and are easy to navigate.
The key mappings make it easy to focus on performance and the sequencer goes a long way to adding performance pizzazz. The samples are clean, well recorded, and denoised… with one small exception. I found the rolls in the mallets (specifically at B4 and B3) were very noisy. The hiss was very noticeable. I was surprised by this, as everything else is so well recorded. I’m currently waiting for a response from Vir2 in the hope I received a bad download.
This is no deal breaker, however. I’m perfectly capable of recording my own tom-roll performance using the clean samples – especially with up to 14 velocity layers – so I won’t need the roll sample: the whole purpose of that particular sample is to provide a quick way to insert a roll in the performance without any work.
Again, the overall quality of this library is excellent. There’s great flexibility in here and I could easily find a place for this in my orchestral productions. Cinematic Thunder is a high-quality tom library meant for orchestral compositions requiring high energy, massive impact, such as action trailers and movie scores – and in certain hybrid productions. Even with the little bit of noise in one or two samples, this is still an excellent library that could easily find a home in hobbyist, semi-pro, and pro composer’s libraries.