PANO (Procedural Ambient Noise Orchestra

12-28-2014 02:01 PM

We mentioned PANO in last week’s Sunday Sound Effects Round Up and so instead of the round up, we thought it would be worth taking a closer look.

From the early stages, Virtual Reality applications used to focus on graphics rendering to create realistic immersive 3D scenes. However, combining multi-modal aspects of our environment increases the sensation of immersion and in particular, the auditory modality brings complementary information to the vision. Sound design by synthesis methods made crucial progress throughout the recent years, providing efficient tools to generate high quality sounds either from models (physical- based or signal-based) or from the analysis of natural sounds.
What is PANO?

PANO is a realtime multi channel synthesizer from Noise Makers capable of generating realistic dynamic ambient noises and it does so based on a hybrid approach using sampled grains and loops combined with purely synthesized elements. The application is made up of two parts:

  • PanoComposer - working in standalone mode exclusively - that’s where the overall creation and composition of sounds and presets takes place.
  • PanoPlayer - the plug-in version of PANO (VST, AU, AAX). This is loaded inside a DAW for reading presets, automate parameters, add spatialisation and more.

PANO Features

To generate ambient noises, PanoComposer works with three different types of synthesis: granular, additive and subtractive. Additionally a loop player is available to add further sound elements.

Two granular modules allow for the loading of sound grains from a predefined grain collection - 15 packs organised in categories such as bubbles, drops, crackles and leaves come with the current version of PANO. Noisemakers tell us that additional packs may become available with future releases of PANO. Each of the two grain modules offers a number of controls such as gain, rate, comp, turbulence and speed to manipulate the sound to your hearts content and create a strong sense of realism.
Backgrounds 1 & 2

The background noise modules use absolutely zero samples, only sinsuoids and noise. The first module of this section (aptly labeled Background 1) is based on additive synthesis and offers individual control of the amplitudes of 32 sub-bands as well as controls for gain and randomisation, while the second noise module (Background 2) includes four filters to generate the desired background textures.
Loop Player

Lastly, a simple looper with four loadable slots and ancillary controls for gain and speed, allows for loading and control of any WAV files (mono or stereo) that could potentially serve as elements of an ambience composition.
Bringing Them Together

A simple spectrum display provides visual feedback during the process of layering and shaping.

Now, the x/y morph pad is where things start to become really interesting when creating dynamically changing and evolving noise-scapes. With the morpher in edit-mode nine fields (A to I) become available to store parameter snapshots. In morph-mode the user can freely interpolate in realtime between these nine parameter-states and shape and mould the noise / ambience composition in any desired way. Of course flexibility and variety depend on what’s been stored as textures beforehand.
Output the Sound

Once a satisfying ambience/noise composition is in place and various parameter snapshots have been saved as textures in the morpher, either an audio file can be recorded directly from within PanoComposer, or it can be saved as a preset. Presets are conveniently loaded, stored and exported directly from the GUI without having to go through the file menu. Alternatively the composition can be exported as texture for use with PanoPlayer within a DAW, but be aware that PanoPlayer and PanoComposer use different preset formats.

  • PanoPlayer presets must have a .texture extension
  • PanoComposer presets have a .json extension.
  • PanoPlayer presets can be loaded by the player only, not by the composer.
  • It needs to be kept in mind to save .json presets as well if one wants to reload them in PanoComposer for further editing.


PanoPlayer, available in AAX, AU & VST formats, is the plug-in version of PANO for use within a DAW such as Pro Tools. PanoPlayer is instantiated on an instrument track, then any desired Pano preset loaded to dynamically alter the sound either by using the X/Y Pad in realtime and recording the resulting audio onto an audio track, or by manually drawing automation or riding assigned faders on the controller of your choice. Five parameters are controllable by automation within a DAW: master bypass, X and Y axis of the morph pad as well as width and angle controlling the spatial behaviour and distribution of the sound and PANO does work in stereo and 5.1 surround.

Using PANO

Personally I found PANO very easy to use. PanoComposer is the place to start when creating new soundscapes and a number of presets supplied with the app can serve as inspiration and starting points for a little reverse engineering in case someone wants to inspect the innards of a particular ambience/noise model.
Detailed knowledge of sound synthesis theory is absolutely not necessary for achieving very satisfying results. The synthesis types in place are chosen wisely for what PANO is designed for, and a wide variety of ambient noises can be produced with some imagination and a bit of fiddling with not too many controls and I found that the available controls are plentiful but not overwhelming.
Think of winds and storm, rain, crackles, fire … add some loops such as insects, birds or perhaps some Walla, use the morpher to it’s full capacity and the missing atmos for a film or video project, for example, can be taken care of very efficiently without having to wade through sound libraries in the eternal quest for the perfect sound.
More on PANO From Noise Makers

For further information visit the website of Noise Makers and give the application a go. Once you move past it’s simplicity on the surface, you might well be surprised of how capable and useful this application can be.