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Something other than Preamps and Summing busses...

Discussion in 'Preamps / Channel Strips' started by Zilla, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. Zilla

    Zilla Active Member

    My experience with 5.1 thru 10.2 has been mostly disappointing. So, has anybody here played around with Ambisonics? Does anybody enjoy listening to Beethoven straddling an acoustic divider?
  2. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    I've played with/toyed with the Soundfield systems and while they were interesting and sounded okay, I certainly wouldn't call them great. I think of them as toys - okay to have fun with, but nothing serious should come from them. It's a damn shame since they cost so friggin much.

    Also, I'm leary of any system that uses a bunch of proprietary stuff that most consumers don't have. (I know, the bitter irony of my previous statement coming from the biggest proponent of SACD on the boards.)

    In general, I would tend to agree that I've had ups and downs creating surround mixes (particularly since my monitoring system is not properly set up for it.) I've found 2 approaches to work -

    1. It's easy to create the 3 front channels - for the rear, I have bused a little artificial reverb out to the rear channels and had minor success.

    2. Still keep the same 3 channel approach for the fronts and simply use 2 very high outriggers (20 feet or so) that are slightly (9-12 feet) removed from the front array.

    I'm still trying to convince myself that surround has any place in classical music - it's a hard sale. At the very best, I believe only a tad bit of ambience or the occassional antiphonal music should really come from anywhere other than the front array of speakers.

    There are a few Telarc discs on SACD with surround that I find to be quite effective and they do just what I mentioned. Also, the SFSO has put out several SACDs, of which I own 2 of their Mahler recordings (Symphony no 1 and no 3) both are awesome and use surrounds correctly.

    I digress though - in general, nah, I've stayed away from those toys until I can be convinced that the market is ready to accept things like that.

  3. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    I LOVE surround. It's great. it's fun, and it sounds spectacular when done correctly. What's not to like? If we're in the business of capturing sound accurately as it happens, we certainly can't ignore it. Stereo is just as "gimmicky" and "wrong" as 5.1 is. No one really hears it that way live, we just tune it out the rear sounds around us with what we see in front of us.

    Having said that....where is the Hi end audience? Seriously, it's an uphill struggle, even now. I've been recording in multitrack with an extra pair (rear) with an eye towards surround mixes for the last five years now. Gradually, it's gone from puzzled stares to people now beginning to understand what this would be useful for. Many projects have never made it to the 5.1 mix and stayed at just stereo, but I'm ready if/when someone wants to do more with their archives in the future.

    Consider this: The bottom has fallen out of the movie theater market for a lot of reasons, many of them parallel to what happened in the CD (music) industry over the last 5-10 years. File sharing, crappy remakes, (Bewitched!?!?!) bad concepts and downright thievery aside, people now have quite good (some even fantastic) flat panel and plasma screens with 5.1 sound systems (including subs) to deliver the goods in their very own living rooms. Check the latest Hollywood figures; they are staying home in droves and the theaters are really hurting this year. The trend is not new.

    For less than the price of two or three tickets and some overpriced popcorn, people can BUY the darn thing and simply stay at home and watch it in the comfort of their own space. (God knows "I" do....) The concept of going out to a movie is getting less and less attractive, between the price of snacks (so the theater owners can offset their meager cut on the ticket prices), the galling COMMERCIALS that are now running before movies, and the insufferable behavior of most of the movie-going public these days.

    With all these 5.1 systems quickly popping up in everyone's living room, it's a format that is gaining more acceptance daily. Before you flame me over the cheap PB systems that are being sold for $350 at Best Buy and Circuit City, remember that these are "Starter" systems and could be seen as simply sowing the seeds for people who will want more. At least the very concept of 5.1 is hardly foreign now to most home theater and music fans.

    For many of my friends with standard "off the shelf" 5.1 spkr systems, they know there are better options out there, and it's more than just a pipe dream for them to upgrade sooner than later. I'm convinced 5.1 is here to stay, whether or not hi-end surround systems ever take ove isn't the issue for me.

    I did a large antiphonal choir (75 voices) and pipe organ recording this past June, and the conductor immediately thought of the possibilities of a 5.1 mix on DVD-A of the concert, as well as the standard CD. (it's his idea, not mine!) We plan to release a dual-disc version for the concert for those who want the extra option, in the early fall. The conductor feels their suburban audience is upscale enough to buy either or both versions. Time will tell.

    I'm also involved with the post production of a multiple camera shoot/hi end audio recording of an all-Vivaldi production that will be available on CD, DVD-A and DVD 5.1 audio (Dolby AC3) on the DVD. I'm taking a break from mixing the audio as I write this, and it sounds fantastic no matter how it'll be delivered - they each have their good points.

    I'm sure many do not agree, but for me Dolby AC3 5.1 is terrific when done properly (as a sound track for picture.) I maintain that there's enough going on in front of you, with the picture (assuming it's done properly) that you wont notice the less than stellar data-lossy rear channel speakers.)

    I don't believe in flying solo flutes, violins or diva's around the soundfield (and I rarely use the center channel for anything but dialog), so it all seems to work beautifully for me - no need for any gimmicky stuff. Only certain concerts (like pipe organ in the rear, choir in the front, etc.) really need the fully matched, 5 hi-end speakers and a sub. There are many that can get by with substandard compontents - at least for now.

    For the truly hi end 5.1 recordings, we put a disclaimer on it about dynamic range and the need for a true all-equal speaker system. But in the end, people will listen the way they want to, and we simply hope they'll enjoy the ride enough to want to buy another one.

    Yeah, I'm a big fan. It's a lot of extra work, but it's too much fun to ignore.
  4. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Well Zilla - between me and Joe, this question has escalated more into a surround vs stereo war than just a question about Ambisonics. So, that being said, I'll weigh in fully on the surround thing and my opinions of it, more than just the whacky Ambisonics concept.

    Joe, I think you're absolutely right in many cases. However, you have to admit there are a lot of bad surround recordings out there.

    Case in point, I recently heard a DVD-A where the perspective was that "you're in the orchestra." This was just terrible -
    The violins were coming at me from the front left and the oboes, trumpets, horns, perc, etc. were coming from behind. Which is really confusing, cuz when I'm sitting in the orchestra, the violins are coming at me from the right - not the left.

    In all, I actually got a little sick from the sound- seriously. It was messing with my head.

    I'll agree whole-heartedly that more and more people on a regular basis are picking up surround sound systems. And I'll even go as far as to say that some of the HTIB (Home Theater in a Box) systems aren't that bad. (Hell, they sound better than Bose stuff). These systems are the ones that are of particular interest to me.

    When a consumer goes and purchases a DVD player capable of SACD or DVD-A (or hell even both), they rarely actually buy the 6 extra cables necessary to hook these features up. However, the HTIB systems often come integrated with these features in them. If more people start to hear DVD-A or SACD (no debates now on which we find to be better - or if Dave S or Nika are watching - if these even *are* better) with their crappy little HTIBs and then they upgrade, maybe they'll actually want to keep these cool features.

    Frankly, I would love to start doing more surround stuff in general, it's just that my clients haven't even shown the slightest interest in it yet.

  5. FifthCircle

    FifthCircle Well-Known Member

    Bringing things back towards the topic-

    I've heard of Ambisonics, but I really don't know anything about it. I'm sure I'm not the only one here that is the same... Can you describe the concept behind it and how it works?

  6. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Ambisonics refers mostly to work done by the brilliant British mathematician, Michael Gerzon. It refers to sampling a soundfield at a single point with four time aligned cardioid capsules and resolving these components into a number of useful channels for playback and further conversion.

    The most usual resolution is called B-Format, which is 3 figure 8's and an omni, essentially three MS pairs all orthogonal to each other allowing for fantastic post processing and steering of sonic result into stereo or 5.1.

    We have used the soundfield mic and its processors and to me, it is the only surround that makes sonic sense, because it respects coherance between all the loudspeakers, not just the front pair.

    We rejected buying one due to the noisey capsules and the lack of interest in true coherant surround for any of our work. Stereo rules OK.

    More info here.
  7. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jeremy; I absolutely agree there are some TERRIBLE surround recordings out there. (just because one can doesn't mean one should!)

    And, I'm not at all interested in being put INSIDE of an ensemble. That's just silly, IMHO. I never mix anything that way. It might be nice/interesting for instructional playback, or perhaps with blue-ray or HD DVDs you could dial in a few different "locations" from which to sit and experience the performance. (Front row, middle, back of auditorium, etc...) Maybe someday there will even be an interactive capability for user selection.....Nah!!! :twisted:

    No "war" here at all.....what I enjoy about the classical/concert/acoustic surround capability is to create the concert hall experience for the first few rows; that means, for me, to put the orchestra/ensemble across the front (Where they belong, IMHO) and the sound of the hall, for the most part, across the rear. This would include audience applause, reactions, etc. etc.

    I don't see a real conflict at the core of it all, just an enhanced experience for the end-users with exceptionally good (and not so good) systems - esp the folks who go the extra mile with the six discrete cables for DVDA and SACD - instead of the digital coax, single cable for Dolby AC3 5.1 movie soundtracks.
  8. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    This is why I like a Blumlein pr or omni pr for the mains in a live concert recording. I like hearing the audience and hall noises. While coughs can be annoying, I would be very reluctant to employ renoVator or similar to remove all "other" noises and life from a live recording. Its the atmosphere and air that makes it special.

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