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    Listen Up! Immersive Sound at HPA Symposium

    October 21, 2014
    Moderated by post/production executive Sara Duran-Singer, The Sound Man Dennis Baxter, mixer David Fluhr, Fraunhofer Institute's Hanne Stenzel, and Technicolor's Ben Wilkins discussed immersive sound at the HPA day-long symposium that kicked off SMPTE 2014. Duran-Singer started by asking Fluhr about his workflow process; he revealed that he mixes in Atmos through the entire process. "We wouldn't be able to do Atmos if it added time," he says. "We made it work with our workflow so it's added very little time to our mix schedule. Our goal is to make it as transparent as possible to filmmakers." He reports that 5.1 ignited an enthusiasm for surround sound, and that his team is "bringing forward" the lessons learned in mixing to Atmos. Wilkins noted that it is often an economic decision as to whether or not to do an Atmos mix. "It's a balance between art and commerce," he admits. "It's the decision to record in Atmos and another day on the dub stage, so it adds up." Still, he says, he's never had a client who mixed in Atmos and wanted to "go back" to a less immersive mix. He pointed out that the next market for immersive sound is home theatre systems. Whereas 5.1 or 7.1 might have seemed unthinkable in a home environmentn only a few years ago, Atmos in the home is on the market for Christmas. Mixing commercials in Atmos is still an iffy proposition, he says. "The first 5.1 digital commercial was similar," he says. "This is still the infancy. Until the workflow was streamlined, it was tough." With regard to the TV industry, Baxter made it clear that "if you're going to do immersive sound for TV, it's completely different than immersive sound for film." The transition has been "very rocky," What will make the difference? "I think my generation will have to pass away," jokes Baxter.He praised Fraunhofer Institute for working with immersive sound for TV in a way that isn't a repurposing of theatrical sound. What will be the game-changer? From Baxter's point of view, the three Is are interactive, immersive, and intelligence. At Fraunhofer, Stenzel reports, there is research being conducted on immersive sound for live TV, the so-called MPEG-H standard to transmit 3D audio to the home. "On live TV, anything that's miked is easier than any sound that is produced later," she notes. She played a demo in which she could easily switch between languages, among other features. "This is how we envision TV in three or four years time," says Stenzel, who notes that Fraunhofer is currently in contact with manufacturers. What does the future hold? Wilkins predicted we'll be seeing multi-channel microphones for live TV capture of immersive sound. "Think of how quickly TVs have changed," he says. "Not long ago a 40-inch TV was considered amazing. Now everyone has a 70-inch TV. Sound is trying to keep up with that."
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    SMPTE Staff

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