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With the latest generation of home assistants, headsets, speaker arrays and mobile devices all sporting some version of immersive sound, the range of projects that are going to require an Atmos mix – everything from mobile games up to virtual reality content for OTT providers – is about to grow exponentially. So, as 2020 shapes up to be the year immersive audio goes mainstream, we asked our team: what do you need to do to get ready?
Earlier this year, Apple estimated that they would sell around 75 million units of iPhone 11. Since its launch, demand has been so great that they’ve had to order eight million additional devices. And with iPhone 11 bringing Dolby Atmos Mobile to the Apple lineup, that means the number of devices capable of playing back immersive audio has gone up buy 83 million this year alone.
It’s not just the iPhone – Apple TV 4K can be plugged directly into an Atmos sound bar, and Amazon are looking to compete with Sonos sound systems with a new Atmos-capable Echo Studio. Headsets for Xbox One and PC gaming are now shipping with Atmos licences. Customers are seeing their Dolby rooms booked out before they’re even complete.
Luckily, there are more options than ever when it comes to capturing, monitoring and delivering Dolby Atmos content.
So far, most VR projects and 360 video experiences have relied on Ambisonics, as it gives a smoother sense of movement than other 3D sound formats and can be tracked to any speaker array. It’s important to note that we don’t think this is going to change: there’s a thriving marketplace for that content, and Ambisonics capture and playback is widely supported by a range of fantastic solutions. But as Atmos gains traction in all areas of home entertainment, and OTT providers like Amazon begin to leverage VR as a differentiator, you may find yourself getting asked for both deliverables, or needing to pay more attention to how your Ambisonics mix translates to a 7.1.4 setup when you’re QCing.
There are existing A-format to B-format convertors that will help you set up your B-format material as an Atmos mix: the ever-reliable Røde have their SoundField convertor, a free plugin that lets you set up mixes for a number of common speaker arrays (including 5.1 and 7.1.4) as well as custom speaker arrays – great for anyone who’s balancing more mainstream projects with more niche work that’s designed for a specific client’s space.
If you’re a Sennheiser AMBEO fan (and who among us isn’t?) you’ll be pleased to know they have an AMBEO partner programme dedicated to making sure you have plenty of options for scenarios such as this. One of our favourites is Solid State Logic’s 360 transcoder, which is built into their S500, S300 and TCR System T broadcast mixing consoles. It works with Sennheiser’s own free A-B conversion plugin (also native to the consoles) to convert B-format material into a broad range of output formats and loudspeaker arrangements, ranging from 4.0. to 5.1.4 and 7.1.4, without the need for any processing hardware beyond that included in your console.
While our guide to priming your Dolby Atmos rooms is still reliable, there have been one or two changes since that have significantly lowered the cost of entry when it comes to playing back and QCing your Atmos mixes.
The first is that the Dolby Atmos Rendering Suite, which could previously only be run on a high-cost Dell server or a high-spec Mac Pro, can now run on the latest generation of Mac mini. Yes, you need a specific configuration and you don’t get the MADI option that PC/Dell users do, but being able to run all the necessary channels from Pro Tools or Nuendo to Mac mini over Dante is a far more affordable way to render out an Atmos mix than was previously available.
The range of Atmos-friendly speaker options available has also expanded. Of particular note are the Focal 300 Custom Install Series and the PMC Wafer Series, both of which have very shallow profiles. If you have a smaller studio space and have been struggling to get the necessary clearance for your ceiling-mounted speakers, you may well be able to avoid the cost of remodelling by using one of these flatter monitor ranges – both of which still offer excellent sound quality.
Our team have extensive experience of installing and calibrating Dolby Atmos certified rooms, and can provide hardware, software and hands-on support to make sure your room is up to scratch. As a Dolby Mastering Suite dealer, we can help you install and configure Dolby’s Mastering Suite software on Dolby-approved hardware (standalone PC or Apple Mac workstation) with MADI or Dante connectivity to create a complete Dolby Atmos Home Entertainment Rendering and Mastering workstation (HT-RMU) plus installation into the customer’s workflow and onsite training. We also supply a range of solutions for audio capture, conversion and routing. Get in touch on the details below to find out more.
Want to know more about immersive audio? To get in touch, fill in the form below, call the team on 03332 400 888 or email audio@Jigsaw24.com. For the latest news, follow us on LinkedIn, Facebookand Twitter.
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