Field Report: iZotope Iris

September 1, 2012

Radio production suites are environments that foster creativity. They are the places where the audible image of the station or network is born, and where advertisements come to life. The production engineer is faced with the daily task of keeping creative material current and relevant to listeners and advertisers. Often however, the daily doldrums of production are relegated to using beds and effects from the trusty elements library. What happens when the flash and flare of the elements library dries up? What happens when a client or general manager wants original, cutting-edge audio? Developers at iZotope have the solution. Iris is a groundbreaking plug-in or standalone program for PC and Mac. It is built on iZotope's spectral selection technology. Users can effectively "draw" frequency-specific nuances on an audio sample, and it is essentially amazing.

iZotope Iris

Draw your sound?

Using a visual drawing engine, Iris is a sampler and resynthesizer that allows the user to import audio samples and patches from a 4GB iZotope library, or import his or her own WAV or AIFF files. In doing so, the sample is displayed in waveform view, spectrogram view, or both. Most NLE software provides a spectral view, so Iris' spectrogram is not terribly foreign as it behaves much the same way. Familiar tools such as lassos, magic wands, erasers, paint brushes and select boxes facilitate free-hand manipulation of frequency, amplitude and time within the workspace. The sound created by a paint brush visually highlighting frequencies anywhere from 20Hz to 20kHz is fascinating. Then, imagine using the brush to additionally paint over and highlight more frequencies at any point on the sample. Or, add to the fun by using the frequency selection box to select a horizontal group of frequencies. The possibilities are endless at this point for augmenting the sound of an audio sample or sound effect, and we haven't even discussed the mix view.

Mix it all up

As previously mentioned, Iris provides radical control of frequency-specific sound design using the spectrogram and iZotope's spectral selection technology. In the event that a sound designer needed to recreate a drone or pad, add a new twist to a transition effect or apply an amazing sweep to a voiceover sample, the visual drawing engine makes it happen. However, Iris is designed to stack three samples and a sub waveform into one patch. The control of the four mixed samples playing simultaneously is in mix view. Three different samples can be played at once with endless differing effects. The sub waveform is a sample that stays relatively constant by way of pulling the entire patch together. A low-frequency saw tooth waveform, as an example, may be put in the sub sample to keep things flowing. With that idea in mind, any sample can be fine-tuned to match the pitch and tempo of other samples. If your sub waveform plays out in the key of B-flat, the other samples can be tuned to match, as it were. iZotope's Radius RT is a real-time pitch shifter that transparently preserves timing while accurately changing pitches.

Performance at a glance
■ Spectrogram or wave display
■ VST, VST 3 plugin capability works with nearly all NLEs
■ 4GB of preloaded sound samples and patches available from iZotope
■ Synthesizer-type control of every sound sample parameter
■ Creative frequency control of any audio sample

Samples 1, 2, 3 and sub each have their own mixer-like layout in mix view. An entire manual would be needed to detail this view. However, each sample contains features such as pitch control, gain, pan and an amp envelope. This is where Iris lends itself to synthesizer-type control of each sample within the patch. Parameters including attack, decay, sustain and release are controls in amp envelope. Send effects route each sample to the distortion, chorus, delay and reverb channels. These effects each have multiple parameters for critical crafting and artistic design of the sound of each sample.

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iZotope Iris

Additionally, each sample has a low frequency oscillator used to control amplitude, pitch and pan. LFO utilization involves intense knowledge of waveform manipulation and requires considerable practice and know-how. Iris can be interfaced into a MIDI environment, which opens up a musician's world involving keyboard control of samples and patches. While MIDI keyboards are rare in radio production, an adept musician/production engineer can make great use of Iris' synthesizer-type controls. MIDI Learn assigns MIDI controllers to Iris' parameters.

As is usual with most mixing consoles, Mix View contains a master section for sample mixes, LFO and effects. Filters allow the user to shape the sound of the overall mix envelopes influenced by the sound of analog predecessors. Retro and warm synth, among others, add characteristics that give more flexibility to the overall sound of the patch.

Where to start

Whether from the iZotope library or otherwise, audio samples are imported into Iris by using the full sample browser, patch browser, or by simply dragging and dropping from folders. Iris sound libraries such as wood, glass, and food offer hundreds of pre-produced sound samples with which crafting and sound design can begin. Iris patches such as vocal, bass and retro combine effects for even more creativity.


Iris windows and views are dockable anywhere in the workspace. Workflow is seamless, and Iris can be used as a standalone application or as a plugin with many NLEs. The frequency-specific augmentation of any audio sample is endless when using Iris. New life will be breathed into any production environment when Iris is put to work.

Wygal is the programmer and engineer for Victory FM at Liberty University, Lynchburg, VA.

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