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Avid ready for exciting immersive audio future [Pt.1]

Posted on: Wednesday 9th of January 2019

The rise of Next Generation Audio (NGA) technologies and IP-based workflows mean that audio vendors are working harder than ever to keep pace with changing times. Rob D’Amico, director, market solutions pro audio at Avid, ponders the way forward in conversation with DAVID DAVIES

 

To what extent is the rise of immersive audio now impacting audio systems design at Avid?
Great question! I would say that over the last five years the demand from customers needing to deliver immersive mixes has grown exponentially. This is something that we have been very conscious of accommodating, for example with the native integration of Dolby Atmos in Pro Tools. We worked very hard with Dolby to make sure that editing and mixing in this format is easy to operate in Pro Tools, and also enable fluid operation with our control surfaces. We don’t think of a ‘single product solution’; rather we want to make the experience as efficient as possible to deliver immersive audio mixes through the integration of all our products, providing the end user with a solution of products working together – for example control surfaces (Pro Tools | S6, Pro Tools | S3), DSP (Pro Tools | HDX), IO interfaces (Pro Tools | MTRX, Pro Tools | OMNI) and Pro Tools software. As a result Avid delivers an integrated solution that makes it possible to easily mix films in Dolby Atmos with significant time-saving capabilities.

 

Can you talk us through some of your solutions with support for immersive audio production?
The Pro Tools | S6 [control surface] in combination with our Pro Tools | MTRX interface really constitutes a ‘soup to nuts’ solution for immersive audio in Dolby Atmos for both monitoring and mixing purposes. There is also support for Ambisonics, enabling audio production for VR (Virtual Reality), which is another hugely exciting area of development.

I would also highlight last year’s release of capabilities that allow users to work in the first, second and third generation of Ambisonics, enabling audio editors and mixers to deliver an immersive audio production. In addition, we have been taking further steps with regard to bringing capabilities of immersive audio productions into the live sound environment, hence our partnerships with companies such as d&b audiotechnik and L-Acoustics.

There are very obvious benefits for live audio, where the sound of the production has historically changed fairly drastically depending on where you are sitting. But by implementing immersive audio capabilities in live sound mixing it becomes possible to create a mix across the different areas of the venue that leaves everyone feeling like they are situated front-of-house. That ability for each person to benefit from an optimum mix, no matter where they are located, is a pretty powerful experience.

 

So is it live audio where you see the greatest adoption of immersive and other NGA technologies taking place over the next few years?
In fact, we see rapid adoption in all of the main areas one could mention, including broadcast and music studios too. In terms of live, yes, I think we are seeing some very exciting projects there as it offers such a huge potential benefit to the overall experience, so we are continuing to look for new ways to deliver the technology to those markets and are collaborating with partners there.

In terms of broadcast and TV we see companies like Netflix. along with other online content providers, as being at the forefront of delivering immersive audio content, and hence we see that Dolby Atmos is now a viable format delivered to people’s homes. That is obviously going to help with the pace of adoption. And of course, sales of soundbars – which we expect to be the primary way in which most consumers experience this type of content – are continuing to rise steadily.

But I would also highlight another aspect of immersive audio deliverables, which is personalisation. Not only will you be able to select from different languages of sports, and programmes being broadcast, it will also be possible to pick commentaries – for example, between different teams for a football match – and adjust the levels of ambience versus dialogue. From a domestic perspective these kinds of features will add considerably to the home immersive audio experience.

Finally, can you share a few of your predictions for 2019?
I expect that consumer adoption will increase as more people realise that you don’t need to put speakers in your ceiling, but you can still get a great experience with a soundbar or headphones. And the more content that is delivered – for example, through Netflix and other delivery mechanisms – the more compelling it will be for consumers to want to experience immersive audio. Coupled with the fact that we also expect more venues to address their immersive capability, and the potential that has to revolutionise the experience of live performance, and I think it’s evident that the outlook for 2019 is very exciting.



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