By Barry Rudolph
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Mix Magazine "Compression And Compressors"
Defining The Structural Split
The Structural Split Section resides in the center of the plug-in's GUI with the Transient Effects and Tonal Effects processor sections above and below it respectively.
The Structural Split core engine of Fission uses a frequency and time domain "sieve" to filter sound not by frequency but by its intrinsic waveform shape. Sustaining audio that seems stable, predictable and whose waveforms have rounded and smooth curves is characterized as Tonal. On the other hand, audio that is unpredictable, has fast dynamic peaks and jagged rise times is characterized as Transient.
The deterministic process of tonal/transient separation begins by first selecting any of 13 different coarse algorithmic tunings called Source Types from a drop-down menu in Fission's Structural Split section. The incoming audio is then chopped into approximately 40ms frames and analyzed, frame-by-frame, to determine what portions of the audio stream are tonal leaving the rest as transient.
The 13 Source Types that pre-condition the splitting process are: Kick, Snare, Tom, Cymbal, Full Drum Set, Electronic Beat, Hand Drum, Percussion Set, Bass, Piano/Synth, Guitar, Vocal, and General--a general/default position.
Structural Split has two separate color-coded real-time waveform displays parading left to right that depict audio signals post Structural Split but before the effect sections. The transient component is blue with the tonal content shown in gray, and the tonal component is shown in green with the un-split original with transients depicted in gray.
I found setting up the Structural Split first for a particular source was the best way to begin using Fission. With the Transient and Tonal Effects sections switched off and their (always on) Output makeup gain controls set at unity, the Structural Split section's action can be heard, adjusted and used on its own if desired.
Eventide notes: "We wanted Structural Split to work on as many sound sources as possible, so we left the ranges of the splitting parameters as wide open as possible. This does mean that there can be splitting artifacts."
Splitting artifacts might include low-level flanging/phasing 'burbles' mostly noticeable on fading sustains--room ambience, reverb, or ring outs of the separated Transient audio. But I would add that as soon as you recombine nearly any amount of the Tonal back into the mix, these artifacts are not heard. Selecting a different Source Type, adjusting the Focus fader and/or the Smoothing and Trans Decay controls will minimize these artifacts.
The Focus fader crossfades the output of the Structural Split section to either the Transient or Tonal effect sections of Fission. I found the optimum Focus position was near or exactly in the middle of its range for equally splitting audio, in both time and frequency, into separate Transient and Tonal components.
The Smoothing control slows the fast, back-and-forth transitions in time and frequency between the Transient and Tonal audio streams. Additionally, turning up the Trans Decay control will constrain how quickly audio transitions from Transients to Tonal but not back again like Smoothing.
Transient and Tonal Effects Processors
The Transient Effects section has six processors selectable from a pull down menu. Transient Effects are: Delay with Warp on/off--with Warp on, changing delay time while audio is playing produces tape echo pitch gliding; Tap Delays (up to 32 taps); Dynamics (compressor/limiter and expander/gate); a 32-pole Phaser with both LFO and envelope modulation; a high-density Reverb with basic controls; and Gate + EQ, a gate followed by a three-band EQ designed to be easily overloaded.
The seven Tonal Effects section are more pitch-based effects. They are: Delay with the aforementioned Warp feature and voice chorusing modulation; Compressor/Limiter; a three-voice Pitch Shifter with a +/- one octave range and micro pitch chorusing/doubling; a multi-voice Chorus with randomized modulation; a low-density Reverb; Tremolo with both LFO and envelope modulation; and finally my favorite, a colorful three-band equalizer with a fully-parametric mid-range section.
Both the Transient and Tonal Effects sections have global controls for session tempo sync on/off, subdivision choices and modulation sources for the envelope follower and LFO. There are also an effect On/Off button (not mute), Output Gain controls with a -96 to +18dB range, Solo buttons, and Output meters that are post-effect and Gain.
In The Studio
To get started, Fission comes with 22 banks of presets listed by Instruments, Effects, Mixing, and Artists i.e. well-known performance and recording artists. After I would first optimize Structural Split on the particular instrument or voice, I liked the Source Lock feature so that Structural Split setup would not change while auditioning presets.
I started with frequency shifting a rack tom track down in pitch. I've done this before with frequency shifting plug-ins and hardware but the problem has always been that the attack--the sound at the moment the stick hits the drum is also shifted resulting in a 'flabby' overall sound.
So I pulled-down the Snare Source Type, used the gate section of the Gate + EQ processor in Transient Effects and the Pitch processor in Tonal. With Focus towards Tonal, the drum's attack transient hard-gated (in Transient) and the tom pitched a down a 4th (in Tonal), I got a deep, more natural tom sound.
I especially liked Fission's bowed instrument presets that will change a (normally) picked, struck or plucked instrument into a whole new expressive voice for my mixes. I've developed presets for piano, acoustic guitar and electric guitar.
On a bright acoustic guitar track while soloing the Tonal side and moving the Focus fader towards Transient, I could hear more and more of the transient component removed from the Tonal Effects processor.
The Transient and Tonal section's solo buttons are X-OR (Exclusive OR logic), non-latching--so it easy to audition, back and forth, between the two processors. (FYI: the solo button's state and over 100 of Fission's parameters are automatable and saved with a preset).
I used the Tonal compressor heavily with a medium release time, super fast attack and Smoothing was 0. With the Focus fader just above the center position towards Transient, I fine-tuned Trans Decay so that a finger picked acoustic guitar part sounded completely reversed--but this is just one of many variations possible. Electric guitars (depending on the part and original recording) can be made to sound like a pedal steel with perfect volume pedal swells.
As I have been experimenting with Fission, I've come to realize that this is an incredibly well thought-out processing system! Part sound design and part very musical audio processor, Eventide Audio's Fission offers a way to rebalance a sound source's fundamental nature and timbre with its facile manipulation of time, frequency and amplitude. Super-exciting and awesome and I'm highly recommending.
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