There are a lot of things in the window! Solera is basically four different plug-ins which can also be accessed separately if you have the Pure Series. If you keep this in mind and take your time to explore it you will soon be good friends with this bad boy. It is simply too extensive to cover every feature in detail so check out the pictures and the Flux website for more information.
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Flux claim that their plug—ins combine simplicity and sophistication, thanks to their unusual interface design and novel controls. Solera combines four separate dynamics processors into one plug—in. I came across French plug—in developers Flux almost simultaneously via two different routes. The first was finding their excellent free plug—in BitterSweet introduced in my feature on free utilities and plug—ins for Pro Tools in the February issue: www. The second was when I was hunting for a de—compression plug—in — no, not a cure for the bends from resurfacing too quickly after diving, but a plug—in that could reverse the effects of over—compression on audio.
Both Mac and Windows platforms are supported, and there are also non—native versions that run on the Pyramix DSP hardware. The Solera meters are unlabelled, and for some reason are referenced to —16dBfs. Solera, the flagship of the Flux plug—in range, represents a different approach to dynamics processing, far removed from the traditional 'three knob' dynamics device Flux say they have primarily designed it for mastering and remastering applications.
At first glance, the interface presents a lot to take in, and I found a number of things unclear, so I wasn't confident I knew what was going on all the time. My first problem is that none of the metering is labelled, so you have no idea what each of the nine bargraph displays is showing you. A study of the manual sheds some light on this area, but confusion can still arise.
The manual says that from left to right we have meters showing:. That is five items, but there are seven vertical bargraphs, so you might expect that the first two would be for input left and right and the next pair for output left and right, with the last three covering Resultant, Dynamic difference and Level difference, but the screen suggests that this can't be the case, as it displays a massive level difference between the two stereo channels.
Then there are the two horizontal meters under the seven vertical ones. The manual describes the orange one as a 'dynamic meter', and the blue one as representing the release variation in auto—release and advanced modes, with fast release on the left through to slow release on the right.
What does 'dynamic meter' mean? It looks very pretty in action, but what is it trying to tell me? The manual sheds no more light on this. Some labelling of the meters would be very helpful and would save confusion and delay in trying to interpret what is going on. Under the main display section are the controls for each of the four dynamic processors that go to make up Solera. These are relatively conventional in their format, and the dynamic curve display shows how your adjustments will change the response.
The side—chain EQ section, too, is relatively conventional. Each of the three bands can be either low cut, low shelf, high cut, high shelf or peaking, making it possible to set up complex side—chain equalisation to handle a variety of challenges. On the left—hand side of the plug—in are four rotary controls. As a result of this wide range I expected the sensitivity of these parameters to be compromised, but Flux have carefully designed their control law, so that problem doesn't seem to arise.
Flux claim that Angel's Share "literally opens the sound, increases the dynamic impression and keeps some crest by adjusting in real time the ratio of every dynamic processing section regarding both their current settings about ratio and the signal content mainly dynamic range ".
They advise that the best way to understand this control is to try it out with either a full mixed drum kit or a complete mix with punchy drums, and to set Solera to get near to a pumping sound. As they predicted, I did get the sense of a more open, less compressed sound with the Angel's Share control in action. Hysteresis allows compression and de—compression to be triggered by dynamic variations in the input signal rather than by its absolute level, as in a conventional compressor.
This setting doesn't affect the expander and the de—expander processing. In essence it stops the amount of compression applied being level—dependent, making the threshold control redundant. With a conventional compressor, once the audio goes below the threshold the compressor stops working, so it isn't possible to apply compression to the low—level content without hammering the loud sections.
But Hysteresis makes it possible to compress quiet and loud sounds alike. I found it quite hard to get my head round this, so I followed the guidance given in the manual. Sure enough, when the threshold was up at maximum and no compression was taking place, the content started to be compressed again once I wound in the Hysteresis, and continued no matter how much I reduced the input level.
Of course, it is possible to have both, so the best idea is to adjust the compressor in conventional mode to sit on the loud stuff nicely, then add Hysteresis to taste so that there's some non—level—dependent compression taking place as well. This has got to be an excellent tool for those vocal tracks where the singer has an enormous dynamic range. Tucked away on the left—hand side of the dynamic curve display is a Dry Mix control.
This enables you to mix in some unprocessed input signal with the processed signal. This technique is often called 'parallel compression' and is very useful for both compressing drum subgroups and classical music. If this is a new technique to you, take a trip round the Internet putting 'parallel compression' into your preferred search engine. Another unusual feature in the Flux plug—ins is the ability to morph between two completely different presets.
At first I wasn't convinced that this would be terribly useful, but after extensive experimentation with Solera, I came to appreciate the feature. The Morph control can be automated, but only at the expense of not being able to automate any other parameters — the Automation button lets you decide which you prefer. To enable two presets to be loaded into the one plug—in, Flux have had to add their own preset library in addition to the standard Pro Tools system, and presets saved in one library don't appear in the other, although it is possible to import them across from one to the other.
It is a shame that the preset library system couldn't be fully integrated. Down in the bottom right—hand corner is a button labelled Clipper. According to the manual, this activates a brickwall limiter limiting audio to —0.
It doesn't appear to be the last thing in the chain, as it is possible, even with the Clipper in circuit, to output signal in excess of 0dBfs from the plug—in. In addition, it took me quite a while to work out how to see when the Clipper was working. Eventually, I established that the top segment of the Resultant Envelope display lights up when limiting takes place. However, this whole process showed up another shortcoming: there are no peak level indicators anywhere in the plug—in. I would expect some indication somewhere in the plug—in to show that the signal level had exceeded maximum.
The input and output level meters are no help, as they are VU meters and so don't show peak level activity. Some of that may be attributable to me getting used to Solera's interface, but good results didn't land easily. As a rule, I was unable to manage enormous loudness improvements, although the sound quality was generally very good — but then I always had to err on the side of caution, as I couldn't be sure about peaks going over.
Overall, Solera is a comprehensive dynamics processor that is capable of excellent results, with a number of unique features that make it stand out from the crowd. However, the lack of clear, understandable metering makes it very difficult to get quick and effective results with it, and so, for me, Flux have not succeeded in their stated goal of combining "simplicity and sophistication" with this plug—in.
The Pure range comprises individual dynamics plug—ins based on the elements of Solera. The individual components of Solera are available as separate plug—ins within Flux's Pure range. Pure Compressor is a conventional compressor plug—in with Flux's unique Angel's Share and Hysteresis controls added. Having thought that the Hysteresis control would be an excellent tool for handling vocalists with a wide dynamic range, I dropped an instance of Flux's Pure Compressor onto a suitable track, and all I can say is that it is amazing.
The low—level compression from the Hysteresis mode gives the quiet sections density so that they sit well in the mix, and with around 50 percent Hysteresis dialled in, the level—dependent conventional compressor takes over and manages the loud sections well too.
Pure Compressor is an excellent, natural—sounding compressor, obviously compressing but doing it almost invisibly, which has to be the aim of any good compressor. I also tried it on a bass—guitar track and a great sound just fell into my ears. It was so easy to set up.
My only criticism applies to the graphical interface: as you can see, the plug—in is narrower than the Pro Tools plug—in 'header' section, so losing screen space on each side of the plug—in window, and for me the Dynamics Curve display is too small to be really useful. I would suggest changing this plug—in window layout from portrait to landscape and increasing the size of the dynamic curve section. Pure DCompressor is designed for upward expansion, where the dynamic range of signal above a threshold value is increased.
Pure DCompressor is designed to help restore the original dynamics of a sound that has been over—compressed, and is one of the reasons I came across these plug—ins. A while back I was asked to improve a covert recording that had been made of two people talking.
The problem was that the wanted audio was almost at the same level as the background atmosphere, as it was recorded in a cafe with loads of chatter and noise. At the time I didn't have a good de—compressor, by which I mean a dynamics unit that is the opposite of a compressor, in that it increases the dynamic range of everything above the threshold. So I pulled up the Session from my backup drives and dropped DCompressor onto the track to see if it would help.
Sure enough, with some careful adjustment of the Threshold, Ratio and Range controls, I was able to significantly improve the intelligibility of the audio. However, I became aware that I could probably improve it even more if I applied some downwards expansion as well, so I swapped DCompressor for Solera, set up the DCompression section as I had it on the DCompressor plug—in, and then added some downwards expansion using the Expander section.
That did indeed help to push down the background atmosphere and further improve the intelligibility. I could have used the Expander plug—in as a separate plug—in in addition to DCompressor, but I preferred having both in one window, as it made it easier to manage their interaction.
Overall, this has got to be the best decompression plug—in I have found. Because it is designed to work exactly like a compressor, except in reverse, it is excellent not only for forensic work, but also for breathing life into over—processed audio. Pure Expander is a true downward expander. The expander section is also available as a plug—in in its own right. Pure Expander is designed to produce a wide range of expansion processes, from subtle expansion to hard noise-gating.
Its interface continues the form and layout of the other dynamics processors in the Pure range, with the same drawbacks. I was very quickly able to clean up some spillage issues on a live recording session using this plug—in as a soft downward expander. I also tried it on a drum kit and, again, was very quickly able to tidy up spillage. Pure DExpander is a low—level compressor that reduces the dynamic range of signals below a threshold value.
Pure DExpander, meanwhile, is designed to enhance the low—level information in your signal and so make your sound more 'compact'. For me this plug—in is much more useful as a low—level compressor than as a tool for undoing the excesses of low—level expansion, although of course it can do that.
There are times when I want to be able to reduce the dynamic range of low—level content while leaving the loud elements more or less untouched. I tried this plug—in on some vocal tracks and was very quickly able to increase the density of the softer vocals, so that they sat more firmly in the mix, and then use a conventional compressor to handle the louder sections.
The only issue I encountered was that this treatment tended to emphasise the breaths. Designed for mastering applications, Pure Limited is a single—band brick—wall limiter.
Finally, Pure Limiter has been designed to be the very last stage of your audio processing chain. Flux claim it uses their exclusive technologies to generate a release envelope that adds no artifacts to the processed sound.
An automatic mode allows quick setup, but Manual and Advanced modes allow you to take greater control of the processing. Pure Limiter features two display modes. When Mode A is engaged, both original and limited waveforms are displayed. Mode B displays the limited waveform, the limiter action and the histogram of the Release value, which they suggest is especially useful when running in Advanced mode.
Protoolerblog Review:Flux Solera & Pure Series
Solera v3 is a comprehensive full band dynamics processor combining the power of a compressor, expander, de-compressor and de-expander, all four processing in parallel, designed to provide powerful dynamics processing for any challenging situation and still preserve, or recover, the true natural quality of the audio material without adding any artifacts. Solera Comprehensive full band dynamics processing, powerful natural dynamics processing, preserve or recover the natural quality of the audio material without adding artifacts. Buy now. Click here to apply. To perform the most detailed analysis of the material possible, a side chain section featuring a three-band equalizer for generating true frequency sensitive processing, as well as input options for an external sidechain signal, is provided.
Flux claim that their plug—ins combine simplicity and sophistication, thanks to their unusual interface design and novel controls. Solera combines four separate dynamics processors into one plug—in. I came across French plug—in developers Flux almost simultaneously via two different routes. The first was finding their excellent free plug—in BitterSweet introduced in my feature on free utilities and plug—ins for Pro Tools in the February issue: www.