If you’re wondering what you’re going to do for your fix of music, film and photography tech in the lull between Musikmesse & NAB, fear not, because it’s time for the Technofile Awards, which celebrate the very best products that were available to buy new in 2016 (regardless of when they were originally announced or released)…and this year’s awards are so epic that by time you finish reading through them, it will be NAB!
Best Old Skool DAW:
Pro Tools’ combination of pristine audio quality, usability, and an extensive range of the very best built in and third party plug-ins makes it the DAW of choice for every top pro we know…and now that the days of it requiring expensive proprietary hardware are well and truly behind it, Pro Tools is a DAW for all. Currently it is available in three flavours – the all singing all dancing ‘Pro Tools | HD’; the it does most things that Pro Tools HD does for far less money ‘Pro Tools’, and the very cut down but nevertheless good introduction to the Avid universe ‘Pro Tools | First’. Which is right for you depends upon your needs. If you’re an audio or post production professional who needs maximum track counts, surround sound mixing and HDX interface support, Pro Tools HD is perfect. If you’re a musician who is doing occasional or no sound to picture work and who doesn’t need to record orchestras in surround sound, Pro Tools offers everything you need and more at a price that is not just competitive with other major DAWs, but a bit of a bargain. Here at The Technofile we’re running the former, but would probably recommend the latter to many of our readers. That’s why we’re giving Pro Tools | HD & Pro Tools a joint award for Best Old Skool DAW.
Best Nu Skool DAW:
Winner – Gold: Ableton Live 9 Suite
Live remains almost unique in the way that it works with audio. Its legendary intuitiveness and flexibility make it the first and last word in loop based composition and production in the studio and the perfect tool for performers and DJs in a live setting. But it’s not just about loops. Live 9 Suite is a fully featured DAW that includes a multitude of virtual instruments, effects, and sample libraries. Max for Live takes it to the next level by letting you build your own instruments, effects and tools for use in Live, download and edit third party devices from the large community of artists and builders who share theirs, or simply use the twenty pre built Max for Live Devices that are included. Furthermore Ableton’s forward looking approach ensures tight integration with other highly desirable third party products, including the literally just released Korg Gadget for Mac edition. On its own Live is peerless, paired with Push, Live is exceptional.
Best Control Surface:
Winner – Gold: Ableton Push 2
Push 2 takes Live to a whole new level of immediacy and interactivity by unlocking what’s ‘in the box’ and transforming it into the ultimate live performance and remixing tool. What’s more, because it’s unconstrained by a keyboard paradigm, Push helps to democratise music creation. Whether you use Live in the studio, or for live performance, Push is the ultimate accompaniment.
Best Analogue Poly Synth:
Winner – Gold: Sequential Prophet 6
If you want to buy a true analogue poly synth, one with VCOs rather than DCOs, your choice is pretty limited. There’s the DSI Sequential Prophet 6, the DSI OB6…and that’s about it really. As much as we love the OB6, to our ears the Prophet 6 can do almost everything the OB6 can, plus a whole lot more. Dave Smith describes it as “vintage with a modern twist.” The Technofile wholeheartedly agrees. With the Prophet 6 Dave Smith has managed to create an instrument that has all the character of the Prophet 5, but with even greater sound shaping options and The Technofile salutes him for this! In fact, we’d go so far as to say that in the future the Prophet 6 may be seen as even more of a classic than its legendary predecessor! As for the Sequential badge, that’s the icing on the cake.
Best Digital Poly Synth:
Winner – Gold: Roland System 8
We thought that the JD-XA was an excellent synth that was released (arguably years) too late and eclipsed by the Prophet 6; and we still hope (against hope) that Roland will find it their hearts to re-release the Jupiter 8, or the Juno 106, or both. However, having heard how well the System 8 recreates the sounds of those timeless classics we suspect that will never happen (even when sales of the Behringer Deep Mind 12 explode). With its faultless recreations of the aforementioned and the ability to load other Roland plug-ins (or as Roland likes to call them ‘plug-outs’) the System 8 offers a vast palette of tones. However the JD-XA is not limited to just vintage recreations. The all new System 8 engine sounds as modern as its plug-outs sound vintage and whichever engine you use (or combine) it couldn’t be easier or more intuitive to programme (especially if you’ve ever used a Roland synth before). Of course we’d love to see a version of the System 8 with a longer keyboard, that includes emulations of every keyboard/module that Roland have ever made (including their samplers…with modelled converters), more effects, and perhaps even the JD-XA’s analogue board to route it all through, but in the meantime we’d be more than happy, nay delighted, to have a System 8 in our rig.
Best Mono Synth:
Winner – Gold: Moog Mini Moog Model D
There are four reasons why the Mini Moog Model D wins our award for Best Mono Synth: It’s a Mini Moog. Its brand new. It has an extra LFO. It’s a Mini Moog! What else do you need to know? It was the first ever mono synth. It changed everything. It has been used by everyone from Kraftwerk to Funkadelic. It is arguably the most important instrument in the entire history of electronic music… and one of the most desirable too.
Winner – Gold: Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP-16
Perhaps best described as the bastard love child of a Roland TR drum machine and an Akai MPC sampler, the Pioneer DJ Toraiz SP16 is co-designed by synth guru, Dave Smith (of Prophet fame) and includes real analogue low and high pass filters by the very same. Made for DJs who want to take their productions and live performances to the next level, it is just the right size to slot nicely into any DJing setup. The Toraiz ships with a built in sample library by Loopmasters that runs the gamut of dance sub genres. A handy top mounted USB port lets you import samples direct from a stick or other USB device and because the Toraiz SP16 is a real sampler, you can plug in audio sources to create your own. Samples can be edited, looped, reversed and have effects applied using the colour touchscreen, which is just the right size for the job, and with the Toraiz’s six parameter knobs. Samples can also be auto-sliced to the 16 velocity sensitive pads, at the touch of a button (and fine tuned with the aforementioned controls). Patterns and songs can be recorded in real time via the pads, or in step time by using the 16 step time buttons. Performance controls include a touch strip with preset and user definable parameters, drive, low & high pass filter knobs. Naturally the Toraiz SP16 can be integrated with other Pioneer DJ kit, via the ‘Pro DJ Link’ socket, and with a computer via the rear USB socket. Other i/o includes 8 individual outputs, a headphone socket and a pair of 5 pin din MIDI sockets. As for how it sounds…it’s made by Dave Smith and Pioneer DJ…what more do you need to know?! If you’re a DJ who needs a hardware sampler, this is the best one that money can buy.
Best Audio Accessory:
Winner – Gold: Pace iLok3
The fact that every piece of audio software mentioned in these awards that requires a dongle for copy protection (with one exception) uses an iLok, tells you all you need to know about its ubiquity. At just 1.5 inches x 0.5 inches, the new, all metal iLok 3 is a tiny shiny wonder that can hold up to 1500 licenses (which is three time the number that its predecessor could hold), works on USB3/USB2 and is backwardly compatible with previous versions. Transferring licenses to the iLok 3 is easily accomplished using the iLok License Manager software and once you have done so, you can use your software on any computer that you plug it into. Although it’s silver, we’re awarding it gold.
Best Old Skool Soft Synth Collection:
Winner – Gold: Arturia V Collection 5
Just when you thought Arturia V Collection couldn’t get any better, Arturia have bested themselves once again by improving the sound engines and tweaking the interfaces of some of the instruments in V Collection 4 and upping the total count of vintage instruments to 17. V Collection 5 still includes all of the amazing synths/keyboards found in V Collection 4, namely the Matrix-12 V, Solina V, Vox Continental V, Mini V, Modular V, CS-80V, ARP 2600 V, Prophet-V & Prophet VS, Jup-8V, Oberheim SEM V, Wurli-V and Analog Lab (which houses all 6000 plus patches from these synths/keyboards and enables you to quickly sort, filter & combine them). New in V collection 5 are Farfisa V, Stage 73 V, B3 V & Piano V. The headline of this release though is undoubtedly the Synclavier V…as ported from the original code and modernised by no less a luminary than co-inventor and software programmer of the original Synclavier, Cameron Jones! The only sacrifice is Arturia’s drum production software, Spark 2, which is no longer included in this bundle, though it is still available separately. Buying the hardware equivalent of just one of the classics in this bundle would set you back many times more than the cost of V Collection 5…and that’s before you even start to think about the cost of maintenance, making it both excellent sounding and excellent value for money…which is The Technofile’s favourite combination.
Winner – Silver: UVI Vintage Vault
If there’s one thing the French have never been short of, it’s philosophies. Whilst French company Arturia’s V Collection philosophy is to meticulously model everything, French company UVI’s converse Vintage Vault philosophy is to meticulously sample everything. Although there is some crossover between the instruments on offer in both, each bundle offers instruments not available in the other and we say vive la difference…and get us a bottle of absynth! Vintage vault offers a simply astounding 36 instruments and 80+ drum machines that run the gamut from the melotron to the Fairlight ii via 70s string synths, legendary 80s analogue mono and poly synths, PPG wavetable synths, vector synths such as the Prophet VS, FM synths including the Yamaha DX1, E-Mu’s Emulator I & II, and more classic drum machines than you can shake a rhythm stick at. Vintage Vault’s massive 63 GB of samples (encoded as FLAC lossless from 116GB of WAVs) and over 5000 presets can be hosted in either the free UVI Workstation or the paid for UVI Falcon, in which they open within their own tweakable interfaces that are reminiscent of the originals. Our favourite is the ‘Darklight IIx’. Can you make a fair guess about the classic 80s sampler upon which it is based? BTW that was a Page Rhetorical question (don’t blame us, we didn’t start the puns). Vintage Vault is as authentic as it is extensive and a fine vintage indeed.
Best Old Skool Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: Arturia Synclavier V
Arturia’s Synclavier V is unquestionably one of the most authentic vintage synth emulations of all time. Perhaps that’s unsurprising considering that the Synclavier was a computer driven digital synth and that its original programmer, Cameron Jones, personally ported and updated its code for Arturia’s version, which benefits from a modern interface that makes sound creation far easier than did the original. Unfortunately the Synclavier’s sampling and resynthesis functionality did not make it into this release. We would love to see an enhanced version of these functions in a future release. However, even without them, its extensive array of sound design possibilities will keep you busy for quite some time. In our opinion Arturia’s Synclavier V is a truly outstanding achievement. Nothing can Beat It.
Winner – Silver: TAL U-NO-LX
Many people think of Juno 106 as the MILF they’d like to take to a club, without realising that her older sister, Juno 60, is far more desirable. Not only does she look better, but in the right hands you should hear the noises that she makes… So what’s a boy to do if he wants Juno 60? Tal’s U-No-LX (‘U-No’…see what they did there?) does a great job of modelling the Juno 60 and offers twice the polyphony to boot. If you need any more convincing about Juno 60’s desirability, Vince Clarke and John Foxx both used her back in the day.
Best Nu Skool Soft Synth Collection:
Winner – Gold: Rob Papen eXplorer 4
If it was Propellerhead’s Rebirth that let us see the possibilities of plug-ins, it was Rob Papen’s Albino 3 that brought us to the astonishing revelation that soft synths could be not just as good as, but even better sounding than their hardware counterparts. Although Albino 3 is sadly discontinued, everything else in the Rob Papen soft synth and effects sonic artillery is included in eXplorer 4. From the phat analogue synthesis of ‘Predator 2’, to the floor shaking ‘SubBoomBass’, the cross-fusion synthesis of ‘Blue-II’, and the distorted sounds of EDM synthesizer ‘RAW’, eXplorer 4 has a synth for every occasion, plus a bucket brigade load of fantastic FX and a pair of drum synths that pack a real Punch. Rob Papen’s plug-ins are world class and eXplorer 4’s will take you from the sublime to the ridonkulous.
Best Nu Skool Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: iZotope Iris 2
Tempted as we are to give Iris 2 this award just for including a preset entitled ‘Chewbacca on Acid’, we’re actually giving Iris 2 this award for its outstanding sonic possibilities. Many companies claim to make plug-ins that enable you to create sounds that have never been heard before. iZotope 2 actually delivers on this promise by combining a multi layerable sample-based synthesizer with complex (but not complicated) spectral filtering, a multitude of modulation possibilities, FX that include a distortion module based upon iZotope’s excellent Trash 2, and eight assignable macro controls that add instant performance dynamics. The included 11GB library of factory presets and samples offers everything from lush pads, to cinematic ambiences, via bases that would put the Prodigy to shame and the ability to load your own samples significantly increases the sonic possibilities. That’s why we think that Iris 2 is a sound designer’s dream.
Winner – Silver: UVI Falcon
Whether you want to use UVI Falcon as a host for UVI Vintage Vault, or as a synthesizer in its own right, Falcon is all that and a bag of silicon chips, offering, pretty much every form of synthesis and sampling you can think of including virtual analogue, FM, phase distortion, wavetable, physical modelling, sample playback with stretching, granular manipulation and the provision to automatically chop drum samples and map them to the keyboard. Falcon’s extensive choice of filters includes virtual analogue, digital, morphing vowel and UVI’s own novel ones. The modulation options are comprehensive with simple and complex envelopes (with up to 128 steps) and the ability to draw your own LFO waveforms. The effects are most effective. Up to 8 layers of sounds can be stacked in the sidebar to the left of the main window and mixed in a dedicated page. There’s a versatile arpeggiator, a micro tuner with its own presets and Scala file support, configurable macros, a script processor (that offers LUA programming for advanced geeks) and even a MIDI file player. There are also a wealth of fantastic sounding presets that demonstrate the depth of this synth. We think that Falcon is an amazing synthesizer in its own right. Combining it with UVI’s Vintage Vault takes it to a whole new level.
Best Bass Soft Synth:
Winner: IK Multimedia Modo Bass
Remember those slap bass samples that were cool for about 5 minutes in the 80s before becoming one of the worst cliches of all time? Well now you can finally forget them because IK Multimedia has created a plug-in that offers phenomenally convincing electric bass emulations, by physically modelling not only every element that defines the sound of a bass guitar, but also the tonal effects of their interactions with each other. Twelve iconic bass models are included. These can be customised with one of twenty pickups whose location can be freely moved around the pickup area and switched from passive to active; and by changing the string gauge, age, scale, action and tuning. Strings can be picked, fingered, slapped and muted and these playing styles, along with mute, vibrato and bend, can be automated via MIDI. Finally, a valve amp with a 1×15″ cab or a solid state amp with a 4×10″ cab, and up to four stomp boxes from a choice of chorus, compressor, delay, distortion, envelope filter, graphic equaliser and octaver, can be inserted into the signal chain. We’ll admit that when we first heard about Modo, we were initially a little sceptical, but having played it, we are not just convinced, we’re blown away.
Winner – Silver: Audiorealism ABL3
Everyone needs a 303, right? Perhaps not so much nowadays, but for those who still want one, Audiorealism’s ABL3 is the finest emulation of the legendary acieeed machine that we’ve heard. Although its interface is not an exact facsimile of the Roland TR-303, all of the important sound shaping and sequencing controls are present. It even includes a file full of “famous” patterns to jack and move your ABL3 to. There’s not a lot that can be said about the 303 that hasn’t already be said elsewhere, so we’ll simply say that if you want a 303 buy ABL3, it’s a far better option than spending a couple of grand on a TR-303, unless you have more money than sense.
Best FM Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: G-Sonique FM Wave XR7
G-Sonique’s FM Wave XR7 is not your daddy’s DX7. For a start there are no algorithms. Instead it has three oscillators (each with a multi stage envelope sporting pitch & amplitude modulation knobs) and FM modulation knobs. Waves can be loaded to/saved from these oscillators or can be hand drawn in real time. That’s the ‘Front Panel’ screen. A second screen termed the…wait for it…’Back Panel’, includes two serially connected filters – a vintage style analogue low pass filter and a multi mode filter with models of 8 DSP chips. There is also a waveshaper, the ‘D-Monizer’ (a sort of octaver) and a ping pong delay which makes every preset sound like ‘Pump Up The Jam’. Although FM Wave XR7 sounds like an FM synth, it feels/programs like an analogue synth, making it very useable. Its presets include some very 80s sounding fare and a bucket load of psy trance noises. We’re not convinced that these aptly demonstrate its abilities. By loading the additional waves that are included in the download but oddly require a separate installation, we were able to program some far more interesting sounds. Unfortunately FM Wave XR7 is a PC only plug-in at this time. We hope that will change in the future, as FM Wave XR7 is a really fresh take on FM that deserves a wider platform.
Best Concept Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: Tracktion BioTek
Created by Wolfram Franke (Waldorf Largo, PPG Wave 2.V and 3.V) and sound designer Taiho Yamaha (Alesis QuadraSynth, QS Series, A6 Andromeda, Ion and Micron) BioTek’s heritage is impeccable. Tracktion describe BioTek as “a new generation of software synth that combines the sounds of nature with a complex synthesis engine to create weird and wonderful organic soundscapes.” We say BioTek is mad, pad and dangerous to know. It’s brilliant for creating strange, unusual and haunting soundscapes, atmospheres and textures, making it perfect for film/TV scoring, sound design and ambient music. However, it’s also capable of creating more conventional, in yer face sounds, as evidenced by presets for, amongst other things, dubstep and trap. Although BioTek’s interface is deep, it’s also clearly laid out and welcoming, making it a sound designer’s dream.
Best Semi-Modular Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: KV331 SynthMaster
If you want a soft synth that really does do it all and sounds fantastic doing it, look no further than KV331 SynthMaster. This semi-modular beast features a multitude of synthesis methods including Virtual Analogue, Additive, Wavetable, Wavescanning, FM, AM, Physical Modelling & SFZ Sample Playback synthesis; great sounding analogue modelled and digital filters, 11 high quality effects, and a modulation matrix with 95 sources and a jaw dropping 650+ targets. The included 1250 factory presets do an excellent job of demonstrating its possibilities, which really do run the gamut. We think that KV331 SynthMaster sounds superb, offers excellent value for money and is a plug-in that you’ll find yourself using again and again.
Winner – Silver: Sugar Bytes Factory
Factory is a mighty morphing semi modular that’s like no other. Its dual oscillators offer 10 different engines including VA-Sync, FM, Transformer, 6 flavours of Wavetable, Waveguide & Fractal Synthesis; its Morph Crossfader allows morphing of all continuous parameters; and each connection in its mad modulation matrix can be set to an individual positive or negative intensity and then modulated in their entirety by an LFO. Other synths have factory sounds. Factory has Factory sounds…which sound very…Factory. Sugar Bytes describe Factory as “Bearded basslines go fishing for diamonds in a lake full of frogs.” We say you’ve got to fish a few frogs before you find a diamond. Sugar Bytes Factory is a diamond, one that can be as rough or as polished as you want.
Best Modular Soft Synth:
Winner – Gold: Softube Modular
Created in close collaboration with Eurorack inventors, Doepfer, Softube Modular is not just a plug-in, but a whole new modular ecosystem that features authorized emulations of well known Eurorack modules. The basic system includes six Doepfer modules (A-110-1 VCO, A-108 VCF, A-132-3 Dual VCA, A-140 ADSR, A-118 Noise/Random, A-147 VCLFO) and over 20 utility modules (including MIDI to CV/gate, mixers, slew, sample & hold, switches, multiples, delay, offset, sequencers, clock dividers, logic and signal tools, and a Polyphonic MIDI to CV/gate module) all modelled component by component from their hardware counterparts. You can add instrument and EQ modules from Softube’s drum synth Heartbeat (if you already own/purchase it) and a range of additional modules are available separately from Intellijel. You can also expect many more modules to be released as this ecosystem expands. Because its workflow is very similar to a physical Eurorack system, Modular is as excellent a learning tool for Eurorack newbies as it is a serious sound design tool for advanced sythesists. What’s more, its ability to send note data via its MIDI to CV/Gate Converter, step sequencers, or your DAW, ensures that it can be used in whichever way suits your setup. SoftTube Modular is a brilliant innovation with a bright future and one to which we look forward.
Winner – Silver: KarmaFX Synth Modular
Unlike SoftTube Modular, KarmaFX Synth Modular is a self contained modular synthesizer. Its extensive selection of modules includes a dual oscillator with sync & ring modulation, a sampler that imports WAV/SF2/SFZ files, additive and pad modules that let you draw your own waveforms, a noise generator, 2/4 pole multimode, SVF, Zolzer, Moog, 303-like, formant, comb, allpass, parametric and shelving filters, ADSR & multipoint envelope generators with linear, exponential, hermite and cubic curves, an envelope follower, ten different modulators, 31-band virtual analogue & 10-band digital graphic equalizers, a compressor, delay, reverb, phaser, chorus/flanger, pitch shifter, ‘BitShuffler’ & distortion effects, a step sequencer, 5 controllers, and an an input generator that enables you to use your patches as insert effects. It’s possible to have up to 49 modules running simultaneously and their knobs and sliders can be animated, whilst 128 user-assignable automation controls with MIDI learn ensure maximum tweakability from an external controller. Despite the many modules on offer, KarmaFX Synth Modular is incredibly easy to patch, thanks in part to the minimal skeuomorphism. Modules appears as easily understandable building blocks reminiscent of Max or Quartz Composer and there are over 1300 presets to get you started. If you want a self contained modular soft synth that’s easy to use, has extensive sonic possibilities and sounds fantastic, Karma FX Synth Modular is an excellent choice.
Best Old Skool Drum Machine Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Audiorealism ADM
If you’re making dance music and don’t need emulations of every drum machine in existence, but just need the classics i.e. the Roland TR-808 & Roland TR-909 (with a side serving of TR-606), then this is the drum machine for you. It sounds authentic, works similarly to the originals and can be programmed in step time using the classic Roland layout. However, it’s not just an 808/909 clone and three things that raise the bar are its ability to import samples, 909 sysex data and Rebirth patterns. Used on its own Audiorealism ADM is the bomb. Used in conjunction with Audiorealism ABL3, ADM is the bomb the bass.
Best Hybrid Drum Machine Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Arturia Spark 2
Spark 2 combines the TAE analogue synthesis used in Arturia’s legendarily good emulations of classic synths and keyboards, with physical modelling, and multi-layered samples, to offer an astounding 1900+ instruments and over 180 kits. These range from Nu Skool EDM, Dubstep, Hip Hop, RnB and experimental electronic, to old skool emulations of classic beat boxes, and include acoustic kits, making Spark 2 the most comprehensive hybrid drum machine plug-in we’ve used. Included are the ubiquitous Roland TR-808 & TR-909 and the less overused but equally important TR-606, TR-727, R-8, Simmons SDS-V, Linn Drum, Sequential Circuits Drumtraks, Oberheim DMX, E-Mu Drumulator, Roland CR-78, Korg Mini Pops 7, Ace Tone FR-2L, Yamaha MR 10, Maestro Rhythm King MRK2, Boss DR-55, E-mu SP-12, Casio VL-Tone & SK-1. Performance controls in the main screen include a filter, slicer, roller, instrument pitch attack & decay and shuffle. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find separate pages for the 64 step sequencer, mixer, and full on modular drum synth editor! Whether you want to go retro or create up to the minute sounds, Spark 2 has it covered.
Best Nu Skool Drum Machine Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: FXPansion Tremor
Tremor is a virtual analogue drum machine that combines FXPansion’s DCAM (Discrete Component Analogue Modelling) synthesis, with their TransMod modulation system, and a brilliantly simple and well designed polyrhythmic sequencer. Although it’s a virtual analogue and includes the obligatory 808 and 909 kits, it would be wrong to think of it as retro, as Tremor is one of the freshest, punchiest, most contemporary sounding drum machines we’ve heard. What’s more, it’s a real joy to programme. An elegant interface makes its extensive sound design options easily understandable and its excellent library of kits makes it instantly useable. Tremor sounds tremendous and is a drum machine you’ll want to use again and again.
Best Drum Synth Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: AudioSpillage DrumSpillage 2
DrumSpillage is an electronic drum and percussion synthesizer par excellence. Think of this AU plug-in for macOS as an Akai MPC that swaps the sampling and sequencer for a sound engine with 12 algorithms, each of which uses virtual analogue, physical modelling or FM synthesis to make a particular type of electronic drum or electronic percussive effect. Throw in two screens – one with 16 large pads (and basic performance parameters) that just scream “hit me,” the other which offers a well laid out and unified editing environment for the sound engine, with its manifold modulation options and effects, and you’ll start to get the paradigm. Whether you want booming bass drums, piercing percussion, or weird FX, DrumSpillage delivers every time and is a pleasure to program.
Best Kick Drum Synth Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Vengeance Producer Suite Metrum
With 330 kick drum presets, over 1800 attack samples, 150 sine oscillator presets, the ability to import your own samples, a huge modulation matrix, six effects, three drive distortion models, two filters per layer, a two band parametric equaliser, and an output limiter, Vengeance Producer Suite Metrum is as comprehensively spec’d as it is straightforward to use. More importantly though, it sounds fantastic. Although Metrum’s Forte is room shaking kicks, it can be subverted to produce all manner of weird percussion and the randomise function is as fun as it is useful. There’s also a stack of expansion packs available as separate purchases that span pretty much every current sub genre of dance music you care to mention, making Metrum a go to kick drum synthesizer for contemporary dance music production.
Winner – Silver: Sonic Academy Kick 2
Although Kick 2 does not have as extensive a feature set as Metrum, it benefits from an incredibly user friendly interface that makes programming and tweaking sounds a breeze. Drum & Bass, House, Progressive House, Psy Trance, Techno, Trance and Trap are all well catered for by its 230 kick presets, which include snares, toms, percussion and bass; and by its 180 click samples. If that’s not enough, you can load your own click samples, making it much more than just a kick drum synth, and we love its ability to export finished sounds for use in other apps. Sonic Academy Kick 2 is easy to use, produces fantastic sounds and is great value for money.
Best Effects Suite Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Eventide Anthology X
Eventide’s hardware is as legendary and iconic as the artists who have recorded with it and used it in their live rigs over the last 40 plus years. Eventide’s Anthology X combines faithful recreations of the most famous and best loved of those pieces of hardware, with what they rightfully describe as ‘future classics’. Included in this bundle of 17 mixing, mastering and multi-effect plug-ins are versions of the H910 Harmonizer – the first commercially available digital audio effects unit ever made, as used by Tony Visconti on some of David Bowie’s recordings; the Omnipressor – Eventide’s 1971 combination of compressor, expander, limiter, and dynamic reverser used by Queen’s Brain May; ‘Instant Phaser’ – the World’s first phaser, as used by Led Zeppelin; the H949 harmonizer; H300 Factory – a modular (no less) version of the ubiquitous H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer multi effects unit; H3000 Band Delays – a separate plug-in based upon the H3000’s Band Delays algorithm; UltraChannel – an all-in-one channel strip for vocals and instruments, Octavox – an 8 voice diatonic pitch shifter, and UltraReverb, all of which use technology from Eventide’s flagship H8000 studio effects processor. The plug-ins in this bundle are easy to use and sound every bit as superlative as one would expect from something bearing the name Eventide. Whether you want to sprinkle a little fairy dust on your mix or completely mangle your sounds Eventide Anthology X is unbeatable.
Winner – Silver: Soundtoys 5.1
We love Soundtoys’ collection of 19 individual plug-ins (20 as of the recent 5.2 update) and the ability to combine and re-order them in a virtual rack. The headline plug-in for us is EchoBoy, which offers tones modelled upon 30 vintage delays including the EchoPlex, Space Echo, Memory Man, DM-2, TelRay oil can delay, and an Ampex ATR-102 based tape delay. We also love Decapitator’s vintage style saturation, compression and distortion; FilterFreak’s subtle to extreme filter freakiness; and PhaseMistress, which rates as one of the sweetest sounding phasers we’ve ever heard. In fact we love everything in this collection. Soundtoys plug-ins are elegantly designed, easy to use and sound fantastic. You’ll want to use them on everything.
Best Reverb Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Slate Digital VerbSuite Classics
“Why have only one reverb when you can have them all?” ask Slate Digital. The answer is that whilst VerbSuite Classics does not provide you with every reverb ever created, it does give you eight of the most revered reverbs of all time, courtesy of LiquidSonics’ Fusion-IR technology, which uses multisampled Impulse Responses to create far more detailed and accurate emulations of these classics than could be accomplished using the static Impulse Responses upon which many other reverbs rely. The eight reverbs featured in VerbSuite Classics are the ubiquitous Lexicon 480 (thee 80s reverb), EMT 250 (the world’s first digital reverb), AMS Neve RMX-16, Eventide SP2016, Quantec Room Simulator, Sony DRE 2000, TC Electronic TC6000 and Bricasti M7, which are presented in one of the clearest and easiest to use interfaces we’ve ever seen. Whilst there are reverbs out there with more parameters, we have yet to hear a dedicated reverb plug-in that sounds as good as the connoisseur’s combination of classics in this one. If you need reverb (and who doesn’t) VerbSuite Classics is a no brainer.
Best Delay Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Slate Digital Repeater
Made in conjunction with D16, Slate Digital’s Repeater models 23 classic delay units from the last 70 years. Exactly which ones is something that both companies are being incredibly coy about. All they are saying is that Repeater includes everything from “classic oil cans and plates to the most famous digital designs.” Not that it really matters as all of the delays in Repeater are outstanding. We love the fact that although Repeater models a multitude of delays, like Slate Digital’s VerbSuite Classics, it presents them in a clear unified interface, which makes it incredibly easy to find the right sound. Most of all though we love how right that sound is. If you want delay, get Slate Digital Repeater without delay.
Best Alternative Effect Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Nomad Factory Garbage LSD
When it comes to creating really messed up sounds, the aptly named Garbage LSD takes some beating…and dishes one out too. Although to some extent it crosses over into iZotope Trash 2’s sonic territory, it is not intended as a distortion plug-in per se and offers facilities not found in Trash such as a ring modulator and a dual modulation matrix. There are also 6 filter types, 3 distortion modes, convolution reverb, transistor radio style EQ, compression, bit depth and sample rate reduction, a noise source, dual LFOs and excellent presets. By the way, in case you’re wondering, apparently LSD stands for Lethal Sound Designer, though we think that if you use Garbage Factory to its extremes, you might think that LSD stands for something else. We had great fun playing with LSD and we’re sure you will too, as long as you use it in sensible dosages.
Best Pitch Correction Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Antares Autotune 8
Ever since Cher expressed her belief in 1998, ‘Autotune’ has become such a pervasive term that we imagine there are undiscovered tribes in the depths of the Brazilian rainforests who regularly mention it in polite conversation (in between taking selfies). There’s a good reason for this. Like Adobe with Photoshop and Hoover with the Vacuum cleaner, Antares created a whole new paradigm with Autotune and whilst other pitch correction plug-ins are available, Autotune is the original and the best. Of particular note in this latest version is Antares’ new ‘Flex-Tune Natural Pitch Correction Technology’, which, when enabled, only corrects pitch as a vocalist approaches a scale note, thus ensuring that the rest of their vocal acrobatics remain unaltered, giving far more natural sounding results. The threshold above which this kicks in can be changed, and when switched off, Autotune works as in previous versions. There’s also a new ultra low latency mode which lets vocalists monitor their performance without delay when tracking or performing live. The best just got better.
Best Music Production Suite Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: iZotope Music Production Bundle 2
This collection of mixing, mastering, vocal production, audio repair, and metering plug-ins features seven of iZotope’s most lauded tools. Neutron Advanced combines an Equalizer, two compressors, an exciter and a transient shaper, with intelligent metering and analysis. Hit the optional Track Assistant button and it will intelligently analyse your audio, turn on/off and adjust these dynamics effects, providing you with either a great staring point for further tweaking, or a great finishing point for each individual track. Nectar 2 Production Suite is a one stop shop for vocal production that includes pitch correction, compression, gating, EQ, de-essing, a four part harmonizer, reverb, delay, saturation and limiting. Its 150 plus presets incorporate everything from classical, jazz and folk, to rap, RnB, voice over and dialogue. For a more synthetic vocal alternative, iZotope’s VocalSynth sports a vocoder, talkbox, glitched up speech synthesizer and formantised pitch shifter that can be mixed together and sent to up to 5 vocal effects simultaneously, traversing everything from mild enhancement to really warped. And talking of really warped, Trash 2 Expanded is simply the best distortion plug-in ever made, it stomps all over stomp boxes and eats their mangled carcasses for breakfast! Ozone 7 Advanced is a suite of 11 very fine mastering tools that can be freely configured in one unified interface or used as individual plug-ins. Included are an eclectic mix of vintage and modern processors, plus ‘Codec Preview’, which as the name suggests, enables you to preview how your master will sound when rendered with industry standard codecs, and an exporter that enables you to export your master mix to a variety of formats, using various sample and bit rates. Insight provides just that with its extensive set of audio analysis and metering tools which allow you to visually monitor your material whilst mixing and mastering in mono, stereo, or surround. Rounding things off nicely is RX Plug-in Pack, which borrows 4 key plug-ins from RX 5 Audio Editor – iZotope’s professional audio restoration and enhancement suite. iZotope Music Production Bundle 2 is a comprehensive, well designed, and incredibly useful suite of tools that will address your production, mixing and mastering needs and enable you to achieve fantastic sounding results.
Best Audio Utility Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Audio Vitamins Contra
They say the simplest ideas are the best and Audio Vitamins Contra is a case in point. When you want to compare plug-ins Contra lets you load up to 8 into it and then audition them as desired. Simple. Brilliant. We found it worked seamlessly in Pro Tools, but experienced some issues in Ableton Live. Nevertheless we’re giving it this award as we understand that normal service in Live will be resumed shortly.
Best Ableton Live Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: Max For Cats Bengal
Ever since Yamaha famously put the F into FM, Frequency Modulation synthesis has had a bad rep. But just because the DX7 killed electronic music, analogue synthesis and synth programming almost dead overnight, is no reason to write off what is actually an incredibly powerful and versatile form of synthesis. Perhaps FM’s biggest stumbling block is that it has always been a form of synthesis in search of an interface. We think that Max For Cats Bengal is that interface, as, remarkably, it actually makes FM synthesis friendly, understandable, and as easy to program as an analogue synth. Things we love about this Max for Live instrument are that each of its 4 operators offers a choice of multiple waveforms and samples, it is semi-modular, it has a classic analogue style 8 note step sequencer (we’d have preferred 16), there are waveforms & oscilloscopes galore, and above all it has no presets, so if you a want it to make a sound, you have to make it make a sound. That’s why Max For Cats Bengal is our number choice of FM soft synth plug-in for Ableton Live.
Winner – Gold: Gretsch Streamliner
What could be better than a Gretsch guitar? A Gretsch guitar you can afford! And at under £400, even struggling musicians can afford one of Gretsch’s brand new Streamliner range. The jury’s still out on which of this brand new for 2016 range of three models (and variations thereof) is our favourite…we think that the G2622T sounds the best but that the G2420T in Golddust finish is the most beautiful. If only the G2622T were available in Golddust… Exactly which of this range is right for you depends upon the sound that you want and your style of playing, but whichever Streamliner you pick, you’ll be delighted with your purchase.
Best Guitar FX Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: IK Multimedia Amplitube Max
AmpliTube Max recreates the entire guitar/bass signal chain with such realism and usability, that you’ll be left wondering why you need a physical amp and stomp boxes. Not only are there a multitude of amp and cabinet models on offer, but you can also customise the speakers in your cabinet, change mic selection and placement and even choose the room in which the cabinet is located. Effects are equally well catered for with a wide range of both stomp boxes and rack effects included. There is also a tuner, looper, acoustic guitar simulator, optional 8 track min DAW and the entire signal chain is customisable. Amplitube Max has over 300 models (80 amplifiers, 92 cabinets, 88 stompbox effects, 24 rack effects, 19 mics). The fact that these include officially certified models from, amongst others, MESA/Boogie, Fender, Ampeg, Orange, Soldano, Carvin, Engl, Wampler Pedals, T-Rex, Seymour Duncan, Morley, Z-Vex, Dr. Z Amplification, Fulltone, and Groove Tubes, should tell you all you need to know about its authenticity. That’s why Amplitube Max is our plug-in of choice for recording guitars and basses.
Best DJ Deck:
Winner – Gold: Pioneer CDJ-2000NXS2
Often imitated, never equalled, Pioneer’s CDJ series have been an industry standard for years. It’s easy to see why – these decks are brilliantly designed, built like tanks, feel fantastic to use and offer hardcore functionality including integrated FLAC/ALAC/WAV/MP3 playback from sticks/hard drives in up to 96 kHz/24-bit resolution, a 7″ full colour touchscreen, and direct timecoded discless USB control of Serato DJ, Scratch Live and Traktor Pro2. Unless you’re using vinyl…or cassette(?!) these are the only decks you’ll ever need.
Best DJ Mixer:
Winner – Gold: Pioneer DJM-2000NXS
Pioneer’s range of excellent DJM Mixers covers most budgets and requirements. However, for the second year running, the Technofile Award for Best DJ Mixer goes to Pioneer’s flagship DJM-2000NXS. Pioneer call it “futurology fulfilled.” The Technofile agrees. Offering an extensive range of functionality including advanced connectivity, beat slicing, quantized beat effects, ‘side chain remix’ (borrowed from the Pioneer RMX1000), ‘Frequency Remix’ (offering a 7 band touch cross fader), MIDI control, and a USB/audio interface, this mega mixer perfectly compliments Pioneer’s Technofile Award winning CDJ-2000NXS2 decks.
Best DJ Software:
Winner – Gold: Algoriddim djay Pro
With djay Pro, Algoriddim have taken the ‘it just works’ mantra and applied it to DJing in a manner that puts other far more expensive DJing software to shame. Within ten minutes of playing with djay Pro for the first time and without reference to a manual or any tutorials, we knew exactly where everything was and how to use it; and every time we asked ourselves ”yeah, but it can it do this?’ the answer was a resounding yes! Everything you would expect to find in a professional DJing app is included..as are some things that you wouldn’t. There’s turntable, waveform & 4 deck mixing with sophisticated yet simple to use BPM sync, beat matching and key matching, multiple loop and cue points, a sampler, integrated effects (with the option to purchase additional one by Sugar Bytes for a modest fee), support for AU effects, deep integration with iTunes and Spotify Premium, extensive support for third party controllers, udio recording & export of your sessions. There’s even a VJing mode that includes visualisers, VFX, transitions, titling and image overlays. We loved everything about this app and the ability to access Spotify’s library of 20 million songs was the icing on the cake. So say sayonara to Serato and not interested to Native Instruments, dJay Pro is the most fun we’ve ever had DJing and what’s more it’s a bargain.
Best VJ Hardware:
Winner – Gold: Roland V-1HD
Between Pioneer discontinuing their legendary DVJ decks & SVM A/V mixer, the corresponding increase in laptop usage, and an industry wide switch to HD and higher resolutions, there was a gaping hole in the market for a small, affordable HD A/V mixer with HDMI inputs. Roland spectacularly filled this in 2015 with their V-1HD, which includes 4 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs and a 12 channel audio mixer. Although there’s still no version with a crossfader, The Technofile is not complaining, as the Roland V-1HD works like a dream and is peerless.
Best VJ Software:
Winner – Gold: Resolume Avenue 4
Resolume Avenue is to VJing what Ableton Live is to DJing. Its intuitive interface lets you mix, scratch, blend, cut, edit, scale, position and apply effects to multiple layers of HD video in real time; synchronize them with audio, apply audio effects (including VSTs), and add live camera feeds and generative content made in Flash and Quartz Composer. Furthermore, it is GPU accelerated and offers support for Blackmagic hardware. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Resolume Avenue is probably the most popular VJing software on the planet and rightly so in our opinion.
Winner – Silver: ArKaos GrandVJ
Way back when, Arkaos made the software that enabled Jean Michel Jarre to run his son et lumière spectaculars. Since then they have developed GrandVJ, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, is very much focussed on live audio visual performance. Although playback of audio clips is basic, GrandVJ has extensive MIDI integration, including support for a wide range of pre mapped MIDI controllers, and ‘ArKaos Connect’ – a VST which enables it to receive sound and MIDI from any VST compatible sequencer. Consequently it is a superb option for musicians who want to add visuals to their shows and for AV artists. An extensive array of visual effects are included, many of which are Quartz Compositions and if you’re handy with Quartz you can add your own. GrandVJ is as easy as it is fun to use and, as the name implies, works in such a way that when you start to play it (as opposed to play with it) you can generate all sorts of chaos (in the best way possible). C’est formidable.
Winner – Bronze: GarageCUBE Modul8
Modul8 may look like it was created on a Sinclair Spectrum, but it is far more powerful than its old school interface initially indicates. In fact it offers much of the same functionality as Resolume and Grand VJ. Up to ten layers of audio reactive visuals can be mixed together simultaneously and sets of up to ten layers crossfaded between. 2D graphics can be transformed into manipulable 3D objects, and there is a basic particle generator built in. MIDI mapping is included (albeit without any pre mapped hardware) and an OSC module (and other modules) can be downloaded from the Garage Cube Online Module Library directly from within Modul8. Also, unlike Resolume & Arkaos who charge a premium for the DMX and multi projection enabled versions of their software, GarageCUBE has some of this functionality built in, making it a good all rounder.
Best Projection Software:
Winner – Gold: Resolume Arena 5
Resolume Arena is essentially Resolume Avenue with added functionality for shows with more complex requirements. This extra functionality includes the ability to control Arena from a lighting desk with DMX, send colours to DMX fixtures and sync them to your visuals, configure complex projection mapping on almost any surface, and blend multiple projectors to create seamless panoramas of up to 360 degrees. Consequently Resolume Arena 5 is perfectly suited to arenas, festivals, installations and complex projection mapping scenarios.
Winner – Silver: Arkaos GrandVJ XT
GrandVJ XT is an “extended” version of GrandVJ which adds a Video Mapper extension that allows single or multiple clips to be scaled, deformed, and mapped onto multiple surfaces from a single projector. It also offers advanced management options for multiple displays. Naturally it includes all of GrandVJ’s functions, making it a great option for musicians and AV artists who require this extra functionality.
Best Video Camera:
Winner – Gold: Sony PMW PXW-FS7
Although Sony released the Sony FS7 II in January 2017 (making it ineligible for these awards) confusingly it was not an FS7 Mk II, but an enhanced and more expensive version of the FS7, which remains in their line up. Consequently if you don’t need the FS7 II’s strengthened lens mount and locking collar (because you’re not using heavy duty cinema glass with a follow focus), electronic variable ND (because you find the FS7’s mechanical ND perfectly adequate), or optional Rec. 2020 colour space, the FS7 remains a highly desirable camera that is excellent value for money. In the FS7, Sony has designed a camera that combines their excellence in sensor design and manufacture and their experience in 4K, with the sort of feline ergonomics that make sense for ‘run and gun’ style documentary shooting. However, it is not just limited to docs. With the advent of an ever growing third party sector in affordable high quality cinema zooms and primes, we think that E-Mount is also the future of low budget short and feature film production, making the FS7 a great all rounder and our camera of choice in a multitude of scenarios.
Best Video Microphone:
Winner – Gold: RØDE VideoMic Pro
The RØDE VideoMic Pro is a compact, ultra lightweight, broadcast quality shotgun microphone designed for use with camcorders, DSLRs and field recorders. Its built in shock mount provides isolation from unwanted handling noise and its standard shoe mount, which has a 3/8″ thread in the base, allows it to be mounted directly to a camera’s hot/cold shoe or to a boom pole. A selectable 80Hz high-pass filter cuts out low noise from sources such as air conditioners and traffic, and a -10dB/+20dB PAD switch enables the mic to be attenuated to suit the sound source/recorder. It can record for over 70 hours from a single 9V battery and is covered by RØDE’s 10 year warranty. Add to this RØDE’s renowned audio quality and a fantastic price and its not surprising that the RØDE VideoMic Pro is the go to microphone for numerous filmmakers and productions.
Winner – Gold: Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Unlike some NLEs that depend upon proprietary CODECs and consequently can require you to spend days transcoding footage, Premiere Pro will natively edit pretty much anything you care to throw at it, from smartphone clips to 8K video. However, that’s just the start. Deep integration of SpeedGrade’s Lumetri colour engine puts colour at the heart of Premiere Pro CC, by enabling footage to be graded direct from the timeline. The Warp Stabiliser and tracking and masking options (taken from After Effects) confer greater flexibility and productivity upon editors. Optical flow and pixel estimation technology is great for time remapping and frame-rate conversions, and the Mercury Playback Engine provides GPU acceleration galore. Support for Microsoft Surface Pro, Windows tablets and Apple trackpads allows you to use touch and gestures to perform a wide range of editing tasks, which coupled with support for DNxHR, HEVC (H.265), OpenEXR & HDR means that Premiere Pro continues to stay ahead of the curve. Add into the mix tight integration and round tripping with other key Adobe applications such as After Effects, SpeedGrade & Audition and the fact that it gets even better with every update and it’s easy to see why Premiere Pro is unbeatable.
Best Video Plug-in Collection:
Winner – Gold: Boris FX BCC 10 For Adobe
It’s not surprising that Boris FX boasts over a million users including many major UK & US networks. With over 250 filters and tools for creating professional motion graphics, visual effects, and finishing, Boris Continuum Complete offers a breathtaking array of things to do to your footage. However, version 10 considerably raises the stakes, thanks to Boris FX’s purchase of Imagineer – the company that makes Academy Award winning tracking software Mocha. As a result of this purchase, Mocha’s planar tracking and masking engine has been integrated into the BCC 10 PixelChooser, allowing much more to be done from your NLE’s timeline. Tasks such as blurring faces, isolating filters & correcting footage are simplified and time spent masking & manually keyframing is significantly reduced. Mocha data can be used to track lens flares, corner pins, titles & graphics, whilst unlimited mask layers let you do everything from simple effect isolation to full blown rotoscoping. BCC 10’s Beauty Studio skin retouching tool also uses Mocha technology, in conjunction with a keying algorithm that isolates skin tones, to give advanced skin smoothing whilst retaining natural sharpness and contrast. Title Studio lets you create 2D/3D broadcast titles and motion graphics at any resolution, and there are a multitude of image restoration tools, transitions and effects including light leaks and our favourite – beat synced glitches! From image creation to image destruction, BCC 10 is the one.
Best Motion Graphics/Post Production Software:
Winner – Gold: Adobe After Effects CC
Used extensively for animation, motion graphics and post production, After Effects is the Swiss army knife of video software. Not only does it excel at all of these things and more, but its tight integration with other key Adobe Creative Cloud applications such as Premiere Pro, Photoshop and Illustrator makes it a no brainer for video professionals and what’s more it continues to get better with every new release. Like Photoshop its power and flexibility is as much about the plug-ins it can host as the programme itself and boy can it host some plug-ins, but even without any plug-ins, Adobe After Effects is as awesome as it is essential.
Best Colour Correction/Finishing Suite:
Winner – Gold: Red Giant Magic Bullet Suite 13
Red Giant Magic Bullet suite has been a perennial favourite of practically everyone we know for about as long as we can remember. It’s easy to see why, as this suite of seven apps enables you to quickly and easily create a multitude of looks and clean/dirty up your footage. Magic Bullet Colorista IV is the most sophisticated of these apps, providing, as it does, a professional colour grading environment that integrates with Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. But it’s Magic Bullet Looks that many will see as the headline app, thanks to its 200 presets which are child’s play to apply and customise and which give outstanding results every time. Magic Bullet Mojo II offers 14 customisable presets based upon the looks of 14 Hollywood blockbusters. Magic Bullet Cosmo II offers fast and simple cosmetic clean up of your talent. Magic Bullet Denoiser III does what it says on the tin, whilst Magic Bullet Renoiser conversely lets you add cinematic texture and grain. This is all rounded off nicely with Magic Bullet Film which enables you to emulate the entire photochemical process and mix and match 22 negative and print stocks. The go-to suite for productions too numerous to mention, Magic Bullet Suite 13’s combination of power and ease of use makes it…well…a magic bullet (sue us).
Best 3D Animation Software:
Winner – Gold: Reallusion iClone 6
For years 3D animation software was notoriously difficult to master and required huge amounts of time and processing power just to render work offline. Reallusion changes that with their easy to use real-time 3D animation software, iClone, which brings 3D animation to the masses. iClone lets you create, customise and stylise 3D characters (with optional photo-to-3D-actor creation), animate them bodily and facially (with automatic lip sync), create entire virtual worlds for them to inhabit using a building block system, light and shoot them using multiple camera setups, add VFX including smoke, fire & explosions, with a real time particle emitter, and add realism with material dynamics and physics simulation. There’s also a massive online library containing hundreds of thousands of characters, motions, props and textures, with a try-before-you-buy system. The optional 3DXchange pipeline enables iClone to work with industry heavyweights such as Maya & 3D Studio Max and there is even a plug-in available for motion capture. Although iClone’s early incarnations had limitations, each successive release has seen significant gains in its abilities and iClone 6 has evolved into a powerful real-time 3D animation system that’s genuinely easy to learn. The even more powerful iClone 7 is already on the horizon and if you pre order it, Reallusion will give you iClone6 to use in the interim…can’t say fairer than that. We think that iClone is the future of 3D animation.
Best Scriptwriting Software:
Winner – Gold: Final Draft 10
If you’ve ever tried to write a script on a standard word processor, you’ll know how laborious and creative flow destroying it can be. Final Draft solves this problem by automating the formatting process. Simply pick an industry standard template for your movie, stage play, sitcom or TV drama and move between its pre-formatted script ‘elements’ (dialogue, character names and scene headings) using the ‘tab’ and ‘enter’ keys. As you write, Final Draft formats your text, simple as. What’s more, it’s packed full of writing aids and its .fdx format offers tight integration with third party production programs. No wonder it’s the number one selling script writing application and one that we heartily recommend.
Best Storyboard Software:
Winner – Gold: Storyboard Quick Studio 6
Love ’em or hate ’em, storyboards play an essential part in many productions and if you need to create one but cannot draw (or even if you can) Storyboard Quick Studio makes the process quick and easy. First select you storyboard frame from a comprehensive range of common aspect ratios (that cover everything from 2.39:1 CinemaScope to web formats, via SD & HD); next add an interior/ exterior location from one of the many on offer or import your own photos as backgrounds with alpha channels and mask tools; then pose your cast of customisable vector art characters in a variety of actions, angles and elevations; finally, add props ranging from cars to cats. Storyboards can be created from scratch or you can import a script from Final Draft, Screenwriter, Word, et al and build your storyboard around it. The included artwork can be augmented with optional libraries, and if you have drawing skills you can create your own artwork using Storyboard Quick’s vector drawing tools (which include speech bubbles and 3D Directors arrows). If that seems like too much work, Storyboard Quick Studio’s Automatic Shot Creator lets you select your characters and shot type, pick a location…et voilà! There’s also an ‘Overview’ that shows you your entire storyboard and allows you rearrange shots, delete frames, insert missing shots and ‘Jump To’ frames for fast editing. When you’re done you can print, export to the web, or export a flash movie. There’s also a ‘print to sketch’ option that renders storyboards as black and white hand drawn illustrations, which we love.
Best Previz Software:
Winner – Gold: Storyboard Artist Studio 7
For those who need to go beyond simple storyboarding, into the realms of pre visualisation, Storyboard Artist Studio is Storyboard Quick Studio on steroids. Designed for ‘presentation’ storyboarding, when you need to sell your ideas to clients/producers, Storyboard Artist Studio 7 takes Storyboard Quick Studio 6 and adds a timeline with sixteen tracks of audio, camera, filter and shot effects (including ‘the Ken Burns effect’), onion skinning, pen tablet support, over 10GB of additional artwork assets including 3D models, the ability to design your own layouts, and export to key video editing apps such as Adobe Premiere and Avid Media Composer. If you want a complete solution for all your previz and storyboarding needs, Storyboard Artist Studio 7 is it.
Best Film Scheduling Software:
Winner – Gold: Jungle Software Gorilla 6 Scheduling
Scheduling a film can involve both rocket science and brain surgery…if it’s an alien brain swap comedy…and even if it’s not, it’s no easy task. Scheduling involves breaking down a script on a microscopic level to determine every element that is required for a shoot, from cast and crew to props & locations, then scheduling and managing every one of those elements. Fortunately Gorilla 6 makes this task considerably easier, by importing a script from Final Draft/Movie Magic Screenwriter/Celtx as breakdown sheets with characters as actors (assuming the script has been properly tagged) then provides the tools you need to add elements such as props and costumes. There’s a useful option to view your screenplay whilst doing so and if the script changes during pre production/production Gorilla’s ‘sync screenplay’ function allows you to import only the changes, keeping the rest of your schedule intact. The ‘shoot day’ module lets you schedule shoot days, off days, and travel days with cast and crew call times, and add vehicles, equipment & daily production reports. Gorilla’s script board, which can be displayed in the classical vertical style, or, far more sensibly, horizontally, lets you rearrange any number of strips simultaneously by simply dragging and dropping. You can even design the appearance of strips and how they will be printed then save them as templates for other schedules. There are two contact managers – one for actors, crew & agents, the other for companies. The former allows you to add actors’ headshots, stats & representation, and keep track of crew’s shoot days and call times, blackout dates & rates. The latter is a simpler affair. The location module allows you to store all of your location information, including photos and has Google Maps built in. There’s even a storyboard module which allows you to create storyboards from Gorilla’s shot library or by importing your own images. Finally, there are 50 videos that provide training in every aspect of using this software and its fellow primate Gorilla 6 Budgeting. To say that Gorilla 6 Scheduling is comprehensive is understating the case. It’s the full schmear and we’re not sure how any production can function without it.
Best Film Budgeting Software:
Winner – Gold: Jungle Software Gorilla 6 Budgeting
Gorilla 6 Budgeting is to film budgeting what Gorilla 6 scheduling is to film scheduling… indispensable. It enables you to manage your production’s budget and to keep track of your expenses. Any element, such as actors and locations, can be imported directly from your Gorilla 6 Schedule, or entered manually. Budget sheets can be as simple or as complex as your production demands and can cover every stage of it from pre to post. Rates can be entered manually or with the aid of the separately purchasable Gorilla Ratebook add on (which includes the rates listed by all major international unions) and powerful but straightforward calculation tools remove the need to enter spreadsheet style formulae. Gorilla 6 budgeting and scheduling are unquestionably at their very best when used in conjunction with each other, so we would recommend buying the ‘Combo Pack’, which includes both.
Best Full Frame Digital Camera:
Winner – Gold: Sony A7rII
When Sony released the original A7 & A7r, they got a lot right and some things wrong…and there was no shortage of people pointing out the latter. To their credit, not only did Sony listen to this feedback with good grace, they addressed it full on with the A7rII, which quantum leapfrogs over its predecessors and its competitors by packing in unprecedented amounts of improvements and innovative new technologies. Headline features include a 42.4 mega pixel back-illuminated, copper wired, 35mm full-frame CMOS image sensor, sensitivity of up to ISO 102,400, 5-axis image stabilization, and 4K video recording in XAVC S at 100 Mbps. Both still and video image quality are excellent and the addition (thanks to user demand) of a 14 bit uncompressed RAW option for photos allows you to squeeze every last bit of information out of your files. Consequently the Sony A7rII is one of the most forward looking, technologically advanced, innovative cameras ever made and as such represents mirrorless’ coming of age. That’s why it wins our award for Best Full Frame Digital Camera for the second year running.
Best APS-C Digital Camera:
Winner – Gold: Fuji XT-2
The combination of classic ergonomics, superb lenses, compactness, affordability, and, of course, excellent image quality, makes the Fuji XT-2 an irresistible proposition for anyone who grew up with manual film cameras and/or who doesn’t need a full frame camera. In fact, The Technofile would go so far as to say that the Fuji XT-2 is one of the few digital cameras that feels like a real camera, which makes it both fun and a pleasure to shoot with.
Best Bridge Camera:
Winner – Gold: Sony RX10 II
Sony rewrote the sensor design rule book when they released the RX10 II (and RX100 IV). Featuring the world’s first 1” back side illuminated (BSI) stacked sensor with advanced signal processing and attached DRAM memory chip, the RX10 II offers all of the benefits you would expect from a BSI sensor, plus dramatically faster read-out speed and processing, resulting in a maximum burst shooting rate of up to 14 fps, a maximum electronic shutter speed of 1/32000 sec and slow motion video capture at up to 960fps. Add to this a 24-200mm equivalent ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T lens with a constant f2.8 aperture and an aperture ring, ‘Fast Intelligent AF’ at a quoted minimum speed of 0.09 sec, a high contrast XGA electronic viewfinder, a maximum ISO of 12,800, dust and moisture sealing, Wi-Fi, NFC, focus peaking/magnification, and internal 4K video recording in XAVC S and The Technofile’s verdict is that the Sony RX10 II is the best bridge camera ever built.
Best Compact Camera:
Winner – Gold: Sony RX100 V
Last year, when we gave this award to the Sony RX100 IV, we called it “a miniature marvel.” Since then Sony has raised the bar yet again with the RX100 V. Compared to the RX100 IV, the V has not just faster autofocus, but phase detection autofocus (that covers 65 per cent of the sensor) and a new AF-S mode that automatically switches between continuous autofocus mode (AF-C) if a subject is moving and single autofocus mode (AF-S) if a subject is stationary. Burst shooting has been increased to an astonishing 24 FPS for 150 RAWs/JPEGs at full 20.1 megapixel resolution; 1000 FPS slowmo can now be recorded for up to 8 seconds; and high ISO shooting has been improved. All of the other things that were fantastic about the RX100 IV remain in the RX100 V, including the ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T 24-70mm F1.8-2.8 lens and pop up EVF. If you think the best camera you have is the one in your phone, think again, the Sony RX100 V kills all known camera phones dead and is without doubt the best compact digital camera ever made.
Best Photography Accessory:
Winner – Gold: X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo
Providing three photographic targets in one conveniently camera bag sized protective case, this absolutely essential piece of hardware is deceptively clever. In addition to offering a white balance target, its boasts an industry standard 24 patch colour chart, that can be used on its own for simple colour correction, or together with the included calibration software, to create custom DNG profiles. It also features a ‘Creative Enhancement Target’ which, used in conjunction with Lightroom, makes precise, repeatable, creative control of colour and contrast, as simple as a click. Brilliant!
Best Photo Editing Software:
Winner – Gold: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC
When it comes to digital photography, The Technofile’s mantra is simple…shoot RAW, process in Lightroom. Built from the ground up to fulfil the needs of the modern digital photographer, Lightroom is to Photoshop what Live is to Logic and each new release somehow manages to add important functionality without compromising usability. That’s why The Technofile has long maintained that Lightroom is the best thing to ever happen to digital photo processing.
Best Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Plug-in:
Winner – Gold: PortraitPro Studio 15
When it comes to beauty retouching, this unique piece of software lets you do in seconds what takes minutes in Lightroom and hours in Photoshop. However, its intelligent algorithms go much further than a simple skin peel and make up job, offering facial reconstruction of a calibre that puts some of the best plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills to shame…and all with just a few simple clicks! For beauty, fashion and portrait retouching nothing else even comes close to PortraitPro Studio 15.
Best Illustration Software:
Winner – Gold: Adobe Illustrator CC
Illustrator is peerless in its own right and tight integration between it and other programs within Adobe’s Creative Suite, such as Photoshop and After Effects, take it to a whole new level, making it standard across many creative industries from design to post production. For any kind of illustration work, Adobe Illustrator CC is an absolute essential.
Best Web Design Software:
Winner – Gold: Adobe Dreamweaver CC
Dreamweaver is the gold standard in web design software and has been for almost as long as there has been a web. As internet technologies continue to develop and evolve, so does it, whilst somehow managing to get more usable with every version. That’s why Dreamweaver is our go-to app for web design.
Best Virtualisation Software:
Winner – Gold: Parallels Desktop 12 For Mac Pro Edition
Although the vast majority of programs are cross platform nowadays, the chances are that if you’re using a Mac, at some point you’ll encounter a piece of software that you really want to use, only to discover it’s PC only. Enter Parallels, which lets you install Windows on a virtual PC, within your Mac, and securely run PC software on that virtual PC. If that sounds like a scary proposition, there’s no need to worry, as you can keep your virtual machine completely sandboxed, making it immune to viruses, or you can optionally share files, folders, internet connections and hardware permanently or ad hoc. If you’re asking “why not just use Boot Camp?” the answer is that unlike Boot Camp, which must be booted into at startup, giving you a choice between running either PC or macOS applications but not both simultaneously, Parallels Desktop runs from within MacOS, enabling you to launch PC applications direct from your Mac desktop and run them side by side with you Mac apps. There is one caveat, which is that whilst the majority of PC apps will happily run on Parallels, there are a handful that are unsuitable for virtualisation, iClone 6 irritatingly being one of them, so if you’re thinking of buying Parallels Desktop 12 to run a specific piece of software, we’d recommend first checking for compatibility. That said, in practice Parallels Desktop 12 works seamlessly with MacOS and is highly recommended for anyone who needs to run PC software on a Mac.
Best Voice Software:
Best Productivity Software:
Dragon has always been our go-to software for speech recognition. With each version it has promised and steadily delivered more. However, v15 is next level excellent, in terms of its next-generation speech engine, which leverages Deep Learning technology, its interface, which, feels fresh, contemporary & streamlined, and its ability to seamlessly integrate with pretty much everything on our PC & Mac, from high end commercial programs to open source office software. As ever it is at its best on a powerful machine with a high quality, properly positioned mic. With these things its good to go out of the box without even the necessity for training, resulting in a massive boost to productivity. That’s why we’re giving it this double award.
Best Contact Management Software:
Winner – Gold: Act! Pro V18
Nowadays, being a master of your creative discipline(s) is not enough. If you really want to succeed, you also need to be your own business, marketing and social media manager. Doing this effectively means managing your contacts and interactions with them. Act excels at this, enabling you to keep contact information, associated notes, history, activities, documents, opportunities, social media profiles and more in one organised place. Tight integration with key third party applications means that you can sync your Act contacts and calendar with Outlook and Google, then easily access them from either application; write an Outlook email from within Act and have this automatically recorded in your contact’s record; and view popular social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook from within Act itself. There are even integrated analytics for times when you want to generate reports and really drill down to the nitty gritty. In other words, Act! Pro V18 will help you organise your business and your life.
Best Utility Software:
Winner – Gold: Norton Security Premium 2016
When it comes to anti virus software, one name is synonymous…Norton. In the past, anti virus software has meant compromises in system performance that have proven particularly problematic for time dependent audio and video applications. Thankfully though, systems have become so powerful and Norton so evolved and proactive, that this is no longer an issue. Of course, as computing has evolved, so have devices and nowadays we all have lots of them, all of which require protection. That’s why Norton can now be used across multiple PCs, Macs, Android and iOS devices, by multiple members of your family, making it excellent value for money and The Technofile’s continued top tip for protection.
Well that’s it for The Technofile Awards 2016. Keep an eye out for the Technofile Awards 2017, which will drop in 2018.
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