Should sounds be part of a closed format that may not last? What happens if the format and platform that once were trusted by musicians and sound designers ceased to be? That’s the hard lesson learned by users of a popular sampling “standard” – but for once, the news is good.

GigaSampler has been a huge part of the sampling landscape since its introduction a decade ago, and users have massive investments in Giga sound libraries. As I noted over the summer, however, Tascam ceased development on the aging Giga platform, leaving users without an important tool – and some powerful technologies without a home.

Today, news has leaked out that Garritan, developer of some popular sample libraries and (with Plogue) the sophisticated, cross-platform ARIA Engine, has purchased all of the technology assets related to Giga from Tascam (TEAC). That includes GigaStudio, Gigasampler, GVI, Gigapulse, and everything that goes with it.

This is huge news for compatibility, interoperability, and the future evolution of sampling. I spoke with Garritan chief Gary Garritan himself to chat about some of the possibilities.

The most obvious potential benefit is native file compatibility with Giga sample libraries, so that that sound content isn’t stranded in an abandoned, closed format. Gary says native file reading and writing is high on the priority list – which should also be a big coup, I think, for his ARIA platform.

There are some technologies worth saving in Giga, too, though, not just the sample format. Some of the jewels in Giga include the DEF high-quality filtering algorithms, spectral morphing, and convolution capabilities.

“There’s a treasure trove of great technology and we want to make it available to as many musicians as possible,” says Garritan. “We just have our work cut out for us.”

The process of assimilating Giga’s technology is likely to take time, Garritan says:


What this means is that we have this great technology and we can do stuff with it. But we don’t have the original Giga team – and we have two million lines of source code to go through. Some of that code is fifteen years old. I want to examine the code … and I want to consult with the user base, and chart a direction.

There’s potential to merge technologies, so that future versions of ARIA benefit from Giga technology. “We have a really efficient engine ourselves,” says Garritan. “It’ll probably be using the best of both ARIA and Giga.”

Gary emphasized that this process is really open to input: “We need to consult with the user base and ask the users what they want – ask our users what they want.”

We’ve certainly seen how not to acquire technologies in the past. I’ll bet money that someone brings up the acquisition of music software developer Opcode by Gibson, which turned an entire platform into abandonware.

Far from that, what Gary is describing is really the opposite: an opportunity to embrace open standards, and perhaps to even avoid the kind of closed platform Giga originally represented. Ironically, the open source Linux Sampler Project, while its own codebase is entirely open source, relies on the closed Giga format for storing samples.

Happily, Giga digital samples will not be going the way of the reel-to-reel.  Photo (CC) Nicolas M. Fuentes.

“On our ARIA Player we use an open source format, SFZ,” says Garritan. “We’re for promoting open standards.” Working with Cakewalk, Plogue, and others, Garritan says he hopes to encourage more openness. SFZ could even become the kind of common format that Giga (and other proprietary formats) have been in the past – only without being the sole domain of one vendor. “I think sampling technologies and formats should be open – they shouldn’t be closed and proprietary.”

This is also, incidentally, good news for Linux. I know there’s talk of SFZ in Linux Sampler, as well. And for those who want a friendlier interface, ARIA already works in WINE, with a native version in the works. Gary says ARIA works beautifully on netbooks. That means you could have a sampler running on the netbook, then do your production in, say, SONAR on your Windows machine at home.

I should clarify that ARIA itself is a proprietary player – and, honestly, I expect commercial developers to continue to develop proprietary technology and use that to sell their wares; it’s a system that works. But on the other hand, with a common, open standard file format, you could benefit from both the commercial-proprietary and open/free ecosystems. For many of us, we might even use both on the same machine. Right now, you have the opposite: a common file format that had been closed and proprietary (and not entirely supported), an open source sampler built on that proprietary format, and limited cross-platform support. It looks to me like we’re moving toward resolving all of those issues.

Composers and sound designers are deeply connected to sound libraries, investing time and money into purchasing or designing libraries, and in using them in their work. Happily, the days in which that investment could be gone forever because a vendor lost interest may finally be coming to a close. As I noted in July, simply open sourcing Giga wasn’t a real option: there’s too much work to do to navigate the code base and modernize the format, and we’d still be stuck with a dated, closed format. So to me, this is about the best thing that could happen: get Giga into knowledgeable hands, and really try to move the best of it into modern, open formats.

That is, open source alone is never a panacea. In this case, you need a commercial developer that can put work into maintaining the technologies, but you also need a common format for commercial and free software developers alike – because, really, it’s what the musicians, composers, and sound designers need.

Because this is sure to be a long process, we’ll be watching as it unfolds. But in the meantime, Gary has posted some FAQs and invites Giga and Garritan users to talk about what they need and want. So, don’t be silent: this is a chance to have someone actually listen and respond, rather than just “wishing” for something to happen.

Northern Sounds Forum [Garritan community]

http://gigastudio.com/ [New Garritan Giga site with press release, FAQ]

  • CPRoth

    FANTASTIC Peter! Thank you!

    I was hoping someone would pick the GIGA flag up (as an owner of the original Vienna PRO library). I've konverted most of my GIGA stuff to Kontakt, with mostly good results, tho obviously can't figure out how to do the scripting that'd ape the Performance Tool.

    Garritan is a WAY cool company. I've called them twice and both times, Gary himself answered the phone! You just gotta love that. Please keep us informed. LOVE what you're doing here dude!

  • Chad

    What is special about Gigasampler that is not available in other technologies, such as Kontakt, etc.? What are the unique characteristic of the Giga format?

    - c

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  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, what's special about it in part is that people own a bunch of sample libraries in Giga that are hard to bring into other environments. That's part of why I think some kind of standard like SFZ makes sense — even if it's not used for everything, just to have it there.

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  • http://techie.shoutpost.com Michael Williams

    I agree. Garritan is indeed a brilliant company. I highly recommend the giga sampler to anyone.

  • http://www.myspace.com/signal_automatique Kassen

    "Happily, Giga digital samples will not be going the way of the reel-to-reel."

    Hmmmm, maybe I'm weird but I'm happy reel-to-reel didn't go the way of Giga Sampler; I record to tape and never had any compatibility issues with that.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Kassen: Touche. The advantage of analog over binary. (Good thing reel-to-reel didn't have DRM.)

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  • Armando

    Whoa Peter good post man! This is huge!

  • http://www.chickensys.com Garth Hjelte

    Someone mentioned that "people own a bunch of sample libraries in Giga that are hard to bring into other environments" – this isn't true.

    Kontakt covers practically all of the features Giga brings to the table. There really isn't anything Giga can do that Kontakt can't do. And Kontakts import facility provides full access to Giga libraries, imports them fine.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Garth, I think the other issue is interchange, which would require native file write capability. But yes, absolutely, the rest of the sampling world has moved on. ARIA is a sophisticated sampling engine, too, and yet Gary obviously feels there's something to be gained from going through all of this code. Guess we'll find out if he's right.

    But yes, that's not to take away from Kontakt, and if the import is working for you, by all means have at it … that's not something I've been able to test; I just don't have a lot of soundware.

    As I said, I still like the idea of having a common-denominator format like sfz so you aren't reliant on anything. ;)

  • CPRoth

    @ Garth & Peter…

    Agreed on the feature set of Kontakt. I'm a happy Kontakt/NI user for a long time. And there were things about GIGA that were truly frustrating for me. But there's a lot more 'under the hood' stuff going on in GIGA that I don't even pretend to understand but can see the difference in using the Kontakt conversions of the same instruments (and I'm not even getting into the "Performance" sets).

    I could load up my turnkey PC (XP, 2GB RAM) in a GIGA performance with 16-24 MIDI channels of Vienna instruments and GIGA would just keep cruising. I've made up a 16ch 'basic' 4 section string Multi in Kontakt from converted Vienna strings and no matter what I try to do with the memory load/voices in Kontakt, the PC still chokes a bit from lack of memory and sometimes screws up the samples themselves (like holding down a sustaining note, and hearing it's pitch shift about 2 secs into the sample). Just saying there was more to GIGA then what the end user had access to (which wasn't a whole lot to begin with!).

    That's why this is such welcome news, and IMHO, I think of all the major players in the sampling world, this is the right guy for the right job.

    best

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Well, and for that reason, you really want to build a Kontakt library if you're building a library for Kontakt. ;)

    I really don't envy the JOB of going through this code, but yes, I think it's a big deal.

  • quantize
  • aj washington

    What is so good about Giga ? Well there's a heap of features that work brilliantly..Like the kernal streaming and the mixer .The mix environment in G3 Orchestra is phenomenal ! ajw

  • http://www.soundlib.com Bernard Chavonnet

    If you are on Mac, then you should check G-Player at http://www.soundlib.com/gplayer . This is native GigaStudio file player with a brand new audio engine based on the Giga format. No conversion required and very low CPU and RAM usage. G-Player can even play and streams Giga files with compressed samples (most big pianos). For example the 880 MB Bosendorfer 275, if you want to play it in Kontakt, you need to convert it and that will take 1.7 GB of additional hard disk space. G-Player plays it directly and therefore will use half the streaming of any other converted solution, leaving your computer with more resources for your project.