FXpansion: BFD2 – Rockin’ All Over The World
So here we are and here we go headlong into our halcyon age of virtual studio technology where FXpansion’s BFD2 is confidently nested as one of the most exciting and inspirational acoustic drum modules available. In the context of pure drum production the wealth of technical detail BFD2 supplies is like an ocean of learning; the deeper you dive – the more hidden treasures there are to discover:
That BFD Sound: FXpansion truly rocked the world of music production when they released the BFD drum production workstation back in 2005. The impact of BFD was immediate and the (now legendary) software quickly developed a formidable reputation for delivering drum kits with an unparalled degree of realism. Recently updated to version 2.3 BFD2 continues to deliver pristine audio quality using FXpansion’s impeccably recorded multi-velocity drum samples. The authenticity of BFD2 is attributable to the fact that each definable kit piece articulation, or ‘Hit Type,’ in the BFD2 core library contains between 48, 96 and 128 multi-velocity layers. Each drum component is recorded to the highest quality using the very best of vintage and modern gear, including: Neve’s AIR Montserrat preamps (Studio 1 – AIR Studios London UK), API preamps, Summit MPC 100A preamps, AKG C-12 mics.
Drum Production Workstation: Straight out of the box BFD2 houses a hyper-detailed sample library of historic and famous kits, such as: The Ludwig Spiral’ Vistalite, the Blue Oyster Ludwig within a rich DAW based feature set, fully customisable, with enough parameter detail to enthuse the most eccentric of beat producers out there. As a drum production workstation BFD2 is structured into 5 primary production pages accessed via a Control Bar at the top of the software’s GUI. Each primary page of the main interface delivers the dedicated tools and parameters associated with BFD2′s commonly used production tasks:
1. The Kit page for building and tweaking the kit, with switchable kit sizes from 10 piece, 18 and 32 pieces.
2. The Mixer page with features that include: Advanced mic manipulation, high quality studio processors and effects and the highly regarded DCAM channel and bus compressors. Flexible channel routing with the capability to insert Aux channels, create Sends, side chain and route audio out of 32 channels.
3. The Grooves Page advanced drum sequencing environment is a DAW based groove editor with humanising effects and a drum track sequencing lane for creating a whole track of grooves. BFD2 ships with 1000′s of quality preset grooves constructed into genre specific Groove Pallettes. It is also possible to import MIDI drum patterns into BFD2′s groove editor.
4. The Mapping page provides all the MIDI mapping options to create custom keymaps for playing the sounds and automating parameters.
5. The Preferences page for customising BFD2 to your needs using the detailed list of user options available.
BFD2 also includes a Status Bar as a footer in the GUI. The status bar reflects performance related stats in real time as a series of indicators for: Audio streaming, MIDI streaming, RAM usage, CPU and hard disk performance. There is a dedicated set of Transport controls to be used in conjunction with BFD’s groove engine and a Context Info Display which provides information about the control currently under the mouse cursor.
The BFD2 Audio Engine: The audio engine in BFD2 is regarded as the heart of the drum module and FXpansion have developed a very effective disk streaming multi-channel playback engine which helps to defeat system latency by caching a short segment of every BFD2 sound to system memory. The BFD2 streaming engine provides a buffer size management system which provides the user with many customisable options to adjust the RAM buffer and streaming buffer sizes to increase system performance at lower latency levels. For those who have a computer with large amounts of RAM there are also options to ‘Load All To RAM’ which loads the entire BFD2 kit to RAM and no data is streamed from disk. Conversely, for producers using smaller amounts of RAM, there are options to load kits in 16bit mode thereby halving BFD2′s memory footprint. The maximum number of disk streaming buffers cached in RAM can be adjusted as well as the maximum number of voices BFD2 can play simultaneously and the amount of multi-velocity layers used by BFD2 can be adjusted also.
Creating Kits: A huge part of the fun when working with BFD2 is using the software’s impressive kit building features. BFD2 provides a massive amount of flexibility and control which allows custom kits to be constructed up to a maximum of 32 pieces per kit. Each of BFD2′s kit piece instruments contain a variety of ‘Hit Types’ which can be shaped, tuned and processed to create different percussive timbres. Using a combination of the highly detailed parameters found in the Kit Piece Inspector columns while adjusting and mixing the Direct, Overheads, Room & Ambience mics of BFD2′s Mini-Mixer, will provide a vast amount of variation with regard to the envelope, space, stereo width and the tone colour relationship of an articulation.
Layering: In BFD2 it is possible to layer and stack kit pieces by first selecting the ‘Link’ icon on the left hand sidebar of the main interface, then, by holding the ‘source’ kit piece simply drag and drop it on to another kit piece to link and layer them. Once the two kit pieces are layered they will be triggered simultaneously as one percussive sound. Using the power of BFD2′s processors and effects to shape and blend their pitch and timbral qualties together forges new percussive treatments, sounds and instruments. Once a drum kit, a layered kit piece or an individual kit piece has been tweaked or newly created they can be saved by using the multiple saving options available in BFD2′s Control Bar ‘Save’ menu.
Sample Import: BFD2 has another really cool feature which sets it apart from the competition. It allows external samples to be imported and used as sound sources when creating new BFD2 instruments and new percussive elements. Through the BFD2 Sample Import Panel multi-velocity samples can be imported too. So, if you have a favourite kit in your external library that is sampled in multi-velocity layers you can easily reconstruct the kit in BFD2, here’s how:
i) Begin by importing the samples into BFD2 on a per instrument basis using the Add Velocity Layers in the Sample Import Panel. It is important to position the lowest velocities at the top of the list.
ii) name the instrument and assign it to the BFD2 reference library by choosing a kit piece category e.g. kick, snare, hats,e.t.c.
iii) You could load an image for the instrument if need be (32bit TGA or PNG file 150H x 180W px) before saving the instrument.
When the kit has been fully constructed you could move on to create and save a Keymap for it in the MIDImapping page, create your grooves and save them as a Groove Pallette then process the kit using BFD2′s mixer tools. By importing samples and processing them with BFD2′s excellent on-board processors you have the ways and means, within a highly creative platform, for creating a wide and varied collection of fully customised and superb sounding drum kits. The ability to import samples into BFD2 is a terrific feature which opens the door to a sound stage that is as wide and as far reaching as you wish to make it.
Owing to the fact that BFD2 is such a powerhouse it should be duly noted that this overview in no way represents the software’s full capability. In truth, it barely scratches the surface. As discussed from the outset, BFD2 is so rich in its feature set that it will take numerous posts to completely cover the dynamics of this truly outstanding drum module. More to follow…
Brought to you courtesy of Soundwrx Digital