For the past few months at Mix, we have been completely immersed in Immersive Sound. If you haven’t been out to a high-end, refurbished theater lately to see a big film, Immersive Sound is the blanket term for “surround on steroids,” a more spherical approach to mix and playback that includes height channels, five across the screen, ceiling speakers, object-based audio, zones and beds and metadata, and seemingly unlimited creative possibilities. While the competing formats from Dolby (Atmos) and Auro Technologies (Auro-3D, licensed to Barco) are vying for position, recently joined by the DTS Multi-Dimensional Audio interoperable file format, plenty of people behind the scenes (including SMPTE Working Groups) are doing their best to avoid a format war that forces theater owners and post facilities to make a choice one way or the other.
In this issue, we asked longtime contributor Larry Blake, who was a Mix film sound columnist for more than a decade, to talk to the companies and break down the technologies for our readers. Larry, a re-recording mixer based out of New Orleans best known for his association with Steven Soderbergh, is a natural-born skeptic and is not fearful of expressing his opinion. To accompany his thorough analysis of the formats, he offers an op-ed piece of sorts, where he clearly states the reasons for his built-in bias. It’s a good read, whether you work in film sound or not.
We also take a look at the A-list scoring engineer/mixer Dennis Sands’ private Santa Barbara facility, which he completely refurbished to accommodate Atmos mixes. While he may seem ahead of his time, Sands has always been that way. And he has his reasons. Give it a read.
Finally, pictured on this month’s cover is the Holden Theatre at Sony Pictures Post Production. Originally built in 1996 as part of the 10-stage creative campus in Culver City, the Holden was down for three months in late 2013 while being re-outfitted for both Atmos and Auro-3D mixes, a rare hybrid approach. The first immersive film out of the stage was The Amazing Spiderman 2 in the spring of 2014.
Sony Pictures Post Production has actually been the bridge that has taken our discussions on Immersive Sound from the pages you hold in your hand to a special one-day event—Immersive Sound: From Production to Playback—that Mix will be presenting on September 6 at, you guessed it, Sony’s studios on the lot in Culver City.
Sony is the host sponsor and has graciously opened its doors to the expected 400-500 attendees. Event partners the Motion Picture Sound Editors guild and the Cinema Audio Society have encouraged their members to attend, and we have put together a comprehensive list of panelists and panels, focusing on both the creative and technical aspects of Immersive Sound.
The main three players—Dolby, Auro Technologies and DTS—along with Yamaha (Nuage) have all signed up as premium sponsors and will be hosting workshops and demos all day in private re-recording stages adjacent to the main editorial panels. There will also be playback demonstrations throughout the day in the facility featured on this month’s cover, the William Holden Theatre. Other sponsors include Avid, Meyer Sound, Harrison, RSPE Audio, Fairlight, GC Pro, Vintage King, Imax, Formosa Group and Picture Head.
Immersive Sound: From Production to Playback promises to be a one-of-a-kind event. While the technology is still in its infancy, its acceptance has been accelerating worldwide, among both creative and exhibitors. Come join us as we dive into the biggest advance in film sound of the last 25 years.