Amongst all the flying bullets and Infected Mushroom madness on the Atmos show reel, the message delivered to the gathering at Avid’s Melbourne event space was ‘mixing for Atmos is possible.’
The message was tuned more to the actual mixing side. Walking through Dolby’s toolset, Avid’s APAC Audio Presales Manager, Daniel Lovell, demonstrated the basic ins and outs of object positioning and how it all neatly dovetails into the Pro Tools workflow.
The big caveat is that there’s still a hardware requirement involved. At the Avid space, that included a 5.1.4 array of impeccably-detailed Genelec ‘The Ones’ co-axial speakers, an Avid S6 console and MTRX converter, and, of course, Dolby’s own Mastering System on a custom Dell server Dolby calls the RMU. For now, you’re looking at a $10,000+ system for cinema deliverables.
However, if you’re not sending off mixes to your local cinema-plex, then there’s a much more affordable way to get started in Atmos. If you want to mix Atmos for streaming, home theatre Blu-Ray and VR applications, you can buy the Dolby Atmos Production Suite on the Avid store, which is sub-$500. It limits the monitor outputs to 22 instead of 64, and because it runs natively on your computer, will require a lot of freezing and committing tracks.
Tools aside, it definitely feels like Atmos is making ground in those other areas outside of movies. While movie soundtracks have made use of the format for the last four years, Netflix has also been developing its own titles with Atmos sound, and Atmos will feature on Amazon Prime starting September, 2018. You can also purchase sub-$1000 Atmos soundbars that bounce the overhead channels off your ceiling. On the live side, Dolby has begun pushing into the club scene, hand-picking artists to rework their material in Atmos.
Avid also hooked up an Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with a little demo. It wasn’t the highest resolution, but gave participants a look into the world of ambisonics and developing 360-degree sound.
Possible, probable, either way, immersive audio is definitely something mix engineers will need to get their head around some day, so kudos to Avid for hosting this introductory event.