“That even 27 Mackie PA speakers could be used so effectively to communicate these systems in such a compromised space is a testament to how well these systems work,” commented attendee Lynn Fuston. [Photo courtesy of Lynn Fuston]
Nashville, TN (May 21, 2015)—On May 5, Harrison Consoles hosted a presentation of Dolby’s Atmos and Barco’s Auro-3D “immersive sound” technologies. The standing room only crowd of AES members and guests met at the Harrison Audio factory in Nashville, TN, to listen to a 27-speaker immersive sound playback system that was assembled by Harrison just for the event.
Presenting demos of each system, David Gould (Dolby Atmos) and Sven Mevissen (Barco Auro 3D) explained their respective technologies, presenting the respective strengths of each. Ben Loftis of Harrison provided workflow examples and live-panning of signals in 5.1, 7.1, and immersive formats, also highlighting how they deal with 3D panning for height (Z-axis) on a 2D computer screen. Harrison’s motorized, touch-sensitive joysticks can dynamically pan signals and adapt between the different output requirements of the very different immersive formats. Implementations of elevation modes, size/divergence and “snap” are all new aspects of mixing for immersive format presentation. New workflow solutions, such as assignable “Food Groups,” (such as Dialogue, Creatures, BG Music, Score, Foley, Ambience, SFX) help mixers subdivide and manage discretely-panned objects and prepare them for alternative "print" mixes for foreign-language dubbing.
Event attendee and AES member Lynn Fuston noted that he was very impressed by not only the sound but the differences between these two dissimilar formats. "I've dreamed of having the ability to add height channels to a recording for two decades. Now that capability is finally here. The Dolby Atmos system is amazing for film work, where things need to be actively flying around in space and overhead to conform to picture. Plus having Atmos's 118 discrete sound "objects" with panning encoded in metadata and being able to recreate that on any system by scaling for different loudspeaker positions and playback systems is amazing. But the highlight of the evening for me was an organ recording played back in Auro 3D, recorded with nine mics. We listened in standard 5.1 plus the four additional height channels up in the four corners and the sense of "being there" was just overwhelming, even in a non-tuned non-ideal listening environment. Then when Mevissen (of Auro) switched off the height channels during playback, it was shocking how flat and two-dimensional everything sounded. The difference sonically was like switching from stereo to mono. When the height channels went away, I immediately thought "Oh, bring them back! Now!" I expected the difference comparing with/without the height speakers to be noticeable but subtle, but it certainly was not. Even in a room packed with other listeners, the music in Auro 3D was so involving that I just closed my eyes and was transported to the cathedral where it was recorded. It was amazing."
Harrison has been a supporter of these new immersive sound technologies. Harrison motion picture film (MPC) consoles are available with both Atmos and Auro 3D interfaces and software; and the same mixing information (3D panning and so on) can generate mixes in these immersive formats as well as traditional surround formats; this allows Harrison-equipped facilities to deliver multiple formats with less effort and more artistic freedom.
Extended demonstrations of each format continued until everyone had a chance to sit in the very large "sweet spot" which was not small, accommodating 32 listeners in the immersive field.