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Review: British Drama Toolkit by Spitfire Audio

British Drama Toolkit is a unique and well-conceived library from Spitfire Audio designed in collaboration with composer Samuel Sim. It features a small string and woodwind ensemble and “presents a unique way of interacting with the players” that sets it apart from other Spitfire instruments.

My first interactions with it were surprisingly satisfying and I was creating lush well-balanced textures almost immediately using the Main setting. The underlying premise is velocity-driven orchestration in which one note may trigger various instruments or a blend of sounds based on the velocity range.

The player is able to quickly produce a cue with flowing variations in emotion potentially in one pass, making it a perfect tool for projects demanding a lot of material with tight deadlines. It’s as if the instrument is capable of orchestrating on-the-fly based on the harmony, melody and dynamics the composer creates in real time.

Organization

The instruments are divided by individual instruments and articulations, as well as being grouped in several ensemble configurations. The Accented category contains sounds which start off loud and then subside into the texture. Beside the usual long and short variety, there are some interesting and usable textural effects such as Chatter, sort of randomized chirping that works nicely with winds especially, and Chiffs, which are short bursts of air specific to the flute and piccolo. Articulations are programmable and key switchable.

Those familiar with other Spitfire libraries will notice significant changes in the GUI that reflect the velocity-based approach. The Velocity Layer view can range from Loud to Soft to Texture, and notes are visualized as you play. The visual feedback definitely enhances the experience and helps you to quickly grasp the effect of velocity for a given instrument configuration.

The General Overview window provides basic mic mix settings (close and “Decca” tree), reverb, CC information and expression settings.

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The Expert View gives you additional control over stereo width, panning, round robin settings, and transposition.

Many of the settings you’ll find under the hood mirror those in the other Spitfire products I’ve reviewed in the past such as:

Although other Spitfire libraries may be more feature-rich or comprehensive, the British Drama Toolkit is unique in terms of the ease and speed at which you can generate well balanced orchestrated textures. The visually intuitive interface and velocity-based design make it an extremely playable device that keeps you thinking about the music and emotional impact, rather than wrestling with the technology.

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Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione

Philip Mantione is a composer, synthesist, guitarist, educator and sound artist active in the LA experimental music scene. His music has been presented in festivals, museums and galleries worldwide. His current project is TriAngular Bent, an electroacoustic trio featuring Don Preston (founding member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and circuit bending virtuoso, Jeff Boynton. Details at philipmantione.com

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