ANIMATE: Plugin Review
So let me get this straight… there’s an expander, a transient designer, a saturator, and an imager? And it’s all in one plugin? And they all have adjustable wet/dry filters? I’m sold. In fact, I’m so sold, I went ahead and made a custom drum kit inspired by and crafted with Mastering the Mix’s new plugin: ANIMATE.
ANIMATE first caught my eye on Mastering the Mix’s Instagram channel. The idea of a transient designer with a wet filter was enough to attract my attention. I absolutely love the Softube Transient Designer for its ability to shift focus to high or low frequencies, as well as its ability to tighten or widen the frequency range of the wet signal, and I found a similar ease of control with ANIMATE’s “Punch” module. In the visual example below, I bring out the meaty part of a hi-hat with “Punch”, and I actually automated the threshold a tiny bit to wiggle back and forth, giving a little motion to the overall groove of the hi-hat. I like keeping the wet/dry relatively tame (ANIMATE allows up to 300% wet signal!) and just getting the added bounce that’s needed. The threshold function of these modules is great for automating, but also for dialing in the perfect bounce”
The ability to choose the band which is affected by the “Punch” is huge! This allowed me to get the snap in the high frequencies of the hi-hat without burying the crispiness with tubbiness. Used in combination with the “Ignite” module, I was able to get my Hip Hop hi-hats sounding SUPER THICK! I found the end result to be similar to FabFilter’s Saturn, but with more transient emphasis. There’s something about ANIMATE’s “Punch” and “Ignite” that brings out the low frequencies of hats and snares- this might be my go-to transient designer for these instruments from now on!
Speaking of snares… There’s a fine line between a nice crunchy snare, and one that makes your ears bleed. By bringing out the mid frequencies in a subtle way, “Ignite” is a handy tool for thickening up a snare. I’ve been using two instances of ANIMATE and setting up two bands for “Ignite” to work with (maybe a multi-band ANIMATE should be on the docket for future projects!)
For the juicy mid-high frequencies of the snare, I’ve been using “Ignite” to bring out the SNAP sound. You can’t really tell in this poorly-timed screenshot of mine, but the threshold is set to activate near the peak of the signal. “Punch” and “Grow” are also enabled on this particular snare (Hey why don’t you download the whole pack for FREE?) to give the attack some more smack and not-so-subtle width.
For one of the hi-hats in the ANIMATE kit, I used “Grow” to give some more thickness to the top end of the hat. I don’t like mono hats, to be frank, but I also don’t like thin hats that lack power. With the Width knob set somewhere between 1-5ms, and the filter set to around 8khz+, it’s a matter of dialing in the sweet spot and using your ears to find a spot where the mono integrity of the hi-hat isn’t lost.
Hi-hats that sit will in mono is an integral part of Hip-Hop drums! Ronnie J’s hi-hats are obscenely massive to the point where they take over the mix. If you want to achieve that type of hi-hat, automating the threshold of the “Grow” module might help you avoid that monotonous, ear-splitting sound of the mainly-mono, super-saturated, ultra-transient hats!
As far as kicks and basses go, I’m not huge on this plugin. I can see synth-wash type basses being a fantastic pair with “Grow”, especially when automating that parameter, but I found that the threshold knob was a hindrance to the effectiveness of the plugin. With the custom samples I was creating, I wasn’t really vibing to the results I was getting from dialing in a threshold, and actually found it more effective on kick and bass to pull the threshold parameter all the way down, and go from there.
Using this strategy, I was able to achieve an absurdly powerful square bass, and some crunchy-but-thick kicks. I cheated a little bit and used a soft-clipper after ANIMATE for these, because I wasn’t fully satisfied with how they were coming out of the plugin natively.
Here’s my final verdict regarding ANIMATE from Mastering the Mix:
- Wet filter- The ability to easily choose which frequency band gets blended into the original signal is deceivingly powerful!
- Threshold- Great for adding subtle transients and very useful for unique automation.
- Mid-Side Modes- When working with melodies, mid-side control is highly useful. When working with drums, activating the Mid channel is probably the way to go!
- Variety- The all-in-one nature of the expander, transient designer, saturator and imager is very handy! I like how takes over in some sense (it’s a very powerful, dynamic plugin), but also leave you in total control! I hesitate to compare this to other plugins like Schepps Parallel Particles or Infected Mushroom Pusher, where there’s a lot of mystery going on behind the scenes, but there’s definitely a little bit of mystery going on with the “Ignite” module. I get a real Decapitator type vibe from the saturation/compression that’s going sometimes, but I do wish there were some more parameters to fiddle with other than attack and release.
- The “Grow” module is super simple, very effective, and in my opinion the most unique and useful of all the modules.
- Real purty (heatmap filter is really cool)
- Noticeably heavy on the CPU – I’ve had to forego using ANIMATE at the end of heavier sessions.
- The “%” knob can be annoying to grab- Sometimes it doesn’t register that I’m trying to click and drag the wet/dry knob.
Overall, I think this plugin is great, and I’ll surely continue to use it in future mixes and sound-design projects.
If you’d like to pick up this plugin for yourself, head over to Mastering the Mix! If you don’t have a go-to transient designer or saturator, this is a great choice!