Movement by Output
This effect will not only add movement to your sounds, but also turn them into something totally fresh, unexpected and surprising, especially when used live.
by A. Arsov, July 2016
As Output explains on their web site, Movement is “an exciting FX plugin that adds powerful rhythms to any input in real time”, and as an old friend commented: ”Oh, not again – another modulator.” If we put aside all the PR (since Movement is a bit more than just a machine that adds powerful rhythms), and if we also skip all prejudice (since Output is definitively a firm that is not capable of making something that would be “just another” ho-hum effect), it is true that they mixed just six effects together that can modulate your sound. These effects are reverb, compressor, equalizer, delay, filter and tube distortion. But when you start browsing through three hundred presets, you will see that this is far more than just another modulator.
There is an old trick on how to make a hit. Use very basic chords for the main harmony, but make them sound unusual and unique, and you’ll have a great foundation for success. It is easy to make a good vocal melody if you use proven, simple chords, but it will still sound unique and fresh. There are countless hit songs that use shamefully basic chords, but you don’t recognize them as such immediately because they are processed or use effects or incorporate strange sounding instruments. And what does all this have in common with Movement? All I can say is this: just try it with your guitar. I use Movement in at least on one or even two tracks in every new song that I make – mainly on guitars. It is really impressive what some of those evolving sounds can do starting with just a simple riff or chord progression. Of course it comes handy on every sound source, be it a drum loop, a synth pad or even a vocal line. It is anything but just another modulator. I have had some so-called “modulators” in the past, but Output has made something special by using those basic six effects in combination with LFO, step sequencer, randomizer, sidechain and/or additional macros, blending all together in a really inspired set of presets that purr, bark and pulsate in all colors and rhythmical variations.
The whole Movement engine is built around two independent parts where every part contains two rhythm engines and up to four FX slots. So, let’s start with rhythm engines that can use three basic modulation sources. The first one is a step sequencer in which you can choose between various shapes for steps, note rate, number of steps or even a random function along with an applied swing function. In the rate section we can choose between triplet, dotted or normal notes in all durations up to eight full bars. You can also set an amount for every step inside the step sequencer window. If your brain reaches data overflow reading about all these details, I should warn you, this is only the beginning. But don’t panic. Everything is logically ordered. It is intuitive and it is quite easy to navigate through the whole thing. So, we are still in the step sequencer. Under the Step window is a gray button for entering the Pattern window. Here you can find a number of patterns arranged in three directories: Simple, Complex and Tripled.
The next thing that you can use inside any rhythm engine is the LFO for which you can set rate – the same as in step sequencer. You can select a point where a phase will start and even apply a Chaos function. The basis for all that is a shape browser with which you can chose an LFO shape ranging from basic to quite mad and unusual ones. The last thing that can affect the rhythm engine is the sidechain where a modulation curve is controlled by an external signal. You can choose whether the sidechain input signal will boost parameters or decrease them (ducking the parameter that is affected with the sidechain). The more rhythmical the input signal is, the better the results will be. We can adjust gain, attack, release and offset for input signal along with setting an option that the signal will be applied in a full range or a reduced range (this is especially noticeable when the sidechain controls the panning).
Flux is a function that can be switched on for each of the three different modulation sources. With this function you can control the rate of the second rhythm engine with the rate of the first rhythm engine inside the same part (remember that we have two different parts with two rhythm engines for each part and up to four effects for each part – just in case I’ve lost you). I know it has become a bit complicated now, but tweak-and-try is the best way to figure how this thing actually works.
The next very cool addition to Movement is a big XY pad with which we can control elements from both parts, using Y for the first part and X for the second. You just need to right click on any parameter or controller and set it to work with the XY pad. Of course you can set more than one parameter to be controlled on every part. It is great for controlling the filter of the affected source or for adding any other element like increasing distortion or reverb, or doing some kind of rhythmical sweep in real time.
So, let us return now to the effects, those that were mentioned in the first part of this article. Adding an effect is quite an easy task. Press the + sign inside the empty effect slot, chose the desired one and off you go. Depending by which effect is chosen, we can tweak some additional parameters. All effects have in common a global Wet/Dry mix and Output level, which adjusts the amount of output gain for the final output signal. There are also Volume and Pan knobs available for every individual part.
As to effects, take delay for example. For delay we find Type, Time, Feedback and HP/LP parameters. Not to go into great detail for the other effects, just know that each of them offers their own set of specific controllers that are commonly supplied for that kind of effect.
There are quite a few more details and options, but most of the time you will probably just browse through a long list of fantastic effect presets, perhaps tweaking some additional parameters here and there for adapting the end result to your personal need. It is actually quite easy to start from scratch, but Output did its job very well, and I quite enjoyed browsing through various types of presets, since we can choose between different sound categories which allows for more focused search results. I frequently find some unexpected combinations that I would never thought up on my own. I know that Output didn’t make this effect especially for the guitar, but it has absolutely become my favorite guitar effect. It brings quite a new dimension to my guitar – to any live instrument, actually. Sax or flute passages or loops transmute into something that preserves the live character but that sounds like some unknown instrument. I have learned that we should always add some movement to our mixes and arrangements to make our songs more alive. And here we have it, a Movement. Omen est nomen.
All you need is a good compressor, an equalizer and Movement. Me like! A lot!
For a price of a typical virtual instrument, $149 USD, you will get an effect that will turn even the cheesiest sounding synthesizer or live instrument into something that is quite unique, a constantly evolving audio beast.