Review – Lumina by Project SAM
Lumina is not a standard orchestral library, but if you make music for media and want to give it a try, you may easily find that it is worth every penny you pay for it.
by A. Arsov, Sept. 2013
Lumina is not a standard orchestral library. It actually offers all those sounds that we usually miss in our standard orchestral packs. The typical string orchestra is just a string orchestra. You can write perfect action music for all battle occasions with such an orchestra library, the same for all big scenes where orchestral music shines, but somehow all those orchestral libraries are a bit short for all those magical romantic moments, those lyrical, mystical cinematic scenes. They simply do not provide enough color to our music.
It is a pretty expensive library, but when you start toying with it, you can easily find that it is worth every penny you pay for it. OK, let’s face it, it is not aimed for rock – pop – electro musicians, but if you make music for media (or even for a stock libraries), then this is a good deal for you.
The quality of ProjectSAM’s material has never been questionable, and this library is not an exception. All instruments sound rich, vivid and realistic. The content is also finely compiled: A few instruments are pretty unique and are rarely seen in such libraries. The whole library is totally to-the-point, as they claim in their advertising – a true storytelling. For all TV, video or game composers Lumina is almost a must-have. The combination of orchestral pads and rich choirs, combined with some stunning legato woodwind instruments, along with an impressive soprano opera voice, bring some new emotions and colors to your orchestral collections. There are also plenty of building elements and orchestral phrases, along with some cartoon sounds. There is a ton of essential sounds combined with a few odd, “you never know, maybe you will need it” combinations, which I’m thankful are here, as those cartoon sounds are really not easy to find. I need them only once in two years, but when I need them, there is always a problem in getting them. So, I’m not the right person to complain regarding that.
The whole library starts with so-called “Stories”. It is a purpose-oriented combination of instruments and ensembles layered in a group of octaves over the keyboard, a nice solution for making something in advance without searching for appropriate combinations that could go with our desired instruments. The specter of stories goes from the scary moments to the most lyric gentle ones. Names of the stories could be misleading sometimes, but overall there are eight combinations, beyond just interesting, that could be easily used on various occasion, very versatile and useful. There are also a lot of interesting orchestral effects along the instruments. In one story you can even hear the bowed string downfall almost identical to the scary bowed guitar riff effect from the live Whole Lotta Love version of Led Zeppelin.
The next sample folder is called “Textures and Gestures,” buffed with plenty of magical orchestral drones, phrases, effects. cartoon-related sounds and some melodic phrases. Most of them sound really great, only here and there do I miss a bit wider range for some sounds or presets, whatever they are called. Other than that, you really find almost anything in this folder: Some nice brass strong end notes, woodwind ups and falls, harp phrases. The whole library offers you plenty of musical shortcuts with some prerecorded solutions which come in handy, saving you from hours of additional programming just to add some special cinematic effects. We can’t call that cheating as some specific orchestral things that we hear in many movies are almost impossible to recreate just with pure sound presets. Maybe not so interesting for ordinary pop musicians, but it could be a nice lifesaver for all soundmedia composers. At the end of this directory we can even find some tin-flute phrases which give us a strong impression that the whole library is really made especially for the “Hobbit” sort of movies. It is not far from the truth, as Hobbit is a pretty typical fantasy story, and Project SAM claims that Lumina is a specialized library for making fantasy, mystery and animation soundtracks. It is a pure truth.
Playable instruments is the next folder, where we can find a solid number of nicely complied collections of instrument that are necessary for making such sort of music: Harp chords, various percussion, some chamber instruments. I wish that double bass was a bit more velocity sensitive, but OK, we can’t have it all.
My favourite folder in this library is Legato Soloist with soprano voice, oboe, flute, clarinet and basson, trumpet and two or three more instruments. Soprano voice is a more-than-welcome addition to any soundtrack arrangement, and it works perfectly with a combination of orchestra and other instruments from that folder. Some of those instruments have nice, clever programming, where soft notes are legato while hard are staccato. After few minutes of practice you can play nicely varying melodies in real time without sounding artificial.
Two final directories contain various sounds from ProjectSAM Dystropia, a collection of various cinematic scary sounds, some of them sounding pretty epic, especially some heavy reverbed drums, or scary pads and drones. Definitely very useful, and in the case of the last directory for that folder, we find some vintage, melotrone-like orchestral instruments, very charming.
The last folder contains some time-stretched prerecorded phrases. Some of them are orchestral, some cartoon-oriented. A bit odd, but it can come handy when you need some special sounds or phrases for spicing up a video.
For All Control Freaks
The whole library is Kontakt-player-based, and every sound or preset comes with a more-than-satisfying number of controllers sorted into three main menus: Global, elements and advanced. All sounds are recorded with three basic microphone positions, ambient, direct and wide. So, in those menus you can fine-tune almost everything, from equalizing the preset, to adding the reverb amount, to switching on and off some articulations, to adjusting attack and release, plus a few more that are preset-specific. The only thing that I’m missing is an additional keyboard velocity controller for some of the presets, but OK, that could be fixed directly on most keyboards nowadays.
All in all: A very specialized library, and a good choice for any movie, soundtrack or stock library composer, especially if you already have some string orchestra library, as Lumina offers the whole spectrum of instruments and sounds that you will need to cover all movie genres and really unmissable if your aim is to compose some music for a fantasy or mystery movie. Those genres will be always popular, so I’m sure that ProjectSAM will not go out of a business. The overall quality is top-notch, the same as comes with all ProjectSAM products, so the only dilemma that you could have regarding this library is: Do you need those specific libraries compiled for those specific niches or not? It is up to you.
Stories that Lumina can tell us are affordable for €849 EUR or $1099 USD (not for every pocket, I know) and will eat up 39 GB of your hard disk. Available through the ProjectSAM home page or through the Bestservice.de.
P.S. Two days before the release date of our issue I got a free Lumina update with 7 GB of additional material. There’s a new Stories “chapter”, now 16 in a total. The update includes an option to split the instruments into various groups inside the textures, so now we can use only string, choir or any other section inside any texture. There are also some new textures added. All in all, excellent library has become even better. Nice one, Project SAM.