We're nearing the end of the decade and the last few years have seen the pro audio industry move through a massive transformation and it isn't letting up.
The word on the lips? Immersive audio.
We're entering a time when what would normally usually be released on the big screen is now being premiered on the small home screen and early this year, one of the visual streaming service, Netflix announced that they are rolling out Dolby Atmos compatibility and increase the bitrate of audio to comply with the format's requirements.
Take any phone of a decent specification in 2019 and you'll find that they too also come with Dolby Atmos. What is this Atmos and why is it any different to surround sound?
Dolby have attempted to remove the installation of speakers above the listening position by projecting sound towards the ceiling which then reflects back down into the listening position. With audio being directed from in front of you as well, what this supposedly will give you is a “bubble” of sound that you are immersed in. Once this bubble is created, sound can be manipulation within the bubble. Unlike surround sound, this plays with depth perception.
It sounds exciting but why does any of this matter to the way you work?
Pro goes Immersive
Westlake Pro recently introduced Atmos-ready systems into over 150 studios around the world including Capitol Records and Abbey Road Studio. With the Universal Music Groups announcement earlier this year that they are remastering past released for Dolby Atmos Music format, we are likely to see this stem into the future releases too.
It isn't a surprise that we're seeing more and more topics and products on VR and AR in pro audio. The consumer market is taking a lead on trend setting and it is only a matter of time before we really see the impact.
That being said, tools are already on the market, such as DearVR, to enable engineers to work towards their immersive audio skillset. Learn now and stand out from the crowd.
Calibration. A dirty word?
The development of DSP has brought a lot of attention of calibration - the method of ensuring an accurate monitoring environment after treatment. It's the arms race nobody wanted but every needs.
Imagine spending thousands on acoustic treatment having had a consultation with an acoustician and four weeks later you bring in a new sofa and you place it along a different wall. The frequency response of the room has suddenly changed. Bring in a new desk and, again, your monitoring environment has changed. You will constantly be battling with measurements and acousticians (not to mention your wallet) while you're changing your studio.
Enter: calibration. After each of the above changes, it is possible to bring back the tonal quality of your monitors in 20 minutes. Quite a feat!
The issue with translation
Whilst it is possible to calibrate monitors and headphones in our market, the end-game is having consumers appreciate our work as engineers and artists. Sonarworks have been working on their True-Fi product to ensure that they deliver accurate sound to consumers through their mobile app.
Recently, Sonarworks CEO, Helmuts Bems just won a professional car audio competition armed with just Sonarworks Reference 4 and cheap car audio gear. He blew away the competition with the highest points scored despite the thousands avid car enthusiasts spend.
Could it be true that we're nearing the day when we don't have to worry about how our mixes translate because as we hear them in the studio will be as we hear them elsewhere? I certainly hope so!
I am sure that as the weeks and months go by, we will see even more unfold.
What is your prediction and vision for pro audio in 2020?