Avid ready for exciting immersive audio future [Pt.2]
Posted on: Thursday 31st 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
With IP-based workflows now commonplace, and immersive and object-based audio production on the rise, the onus is on audio vendors to think smarter than ever before about ways in which they can ease the increasingly frenetic working lives of sound mixers and supervisors. In particular, the advent of over-the-top services is adding significantly to the already substantial roll-call of platforms to which technical providers must cater, leading to a very obvious risk of over-complexity that must be avoided whenever possible.
As Avid’s Director of Market Solutions for Pro Audio, Rob D’Amico has much been preoccupied with these issues since he rejoined the company in January 2017. During the late early part of the millennium he served in various roles with Avid, latterly as product manager for the Media Composer product family. After departing Avid in 2014 he spent a couple of years as product management director at iZotope, as well as continuing to undertake his own freelance post-production editing and mixing interests under the auspices of his PostMaster Studios operation, which remains active today.
Since returning to the Avid fold last year he has “continued to work closely with creative artists across the media industries in order to provide them with innovative solutions for the work they do every day to be successful and creative,” says D’Amico, whose primary responsibilities include determining business opportunities and market strategy, metrics and agenda for the Creative Artists segment, which is comprised of the sub-segments Independent Pro Audio, Independent Pro Video, Aspiring Artists, Students and Teachers.
This extensive remit makes D’Amico an ideal candidate to offer up the long view on the technologies informing the system design of today and tomorrow. In a conversation that also touched on the current status of, and outlook for, IP audio implementation, D’Amico began by considering the present state of play for NGA technologies and the impact they are having on Avid’s design and development processes…
What are your expectations for NGA in the music world? We are starting to see some classic albums being remixed and reissued in Dolby Atmos…
Yes, REM recently did a 25th anniversary of their Automatic for the People album that involved the use of Avid solutions and was very well-received, and although I cannot reveal details at the moment I am aware of other reissues that will be coming out in the near-future with a Dolby Atmos component. There is definitely a lot of activity around remixing and reissuing in Dolby Atmos, and the potential for some very exciting mixes is pretty awesome.
Do you think NGA production is going to experience mass adoption in music, or will it only ever be a niche activity? After all, 5.1 never quite took off as hoped…
I do think it’s a bit different this time as with Dolby Atmos it is very easy to deliver derivatives of that mix, such as the 5.1 and stereo. It’s a relatively quick and straightforward process. What also makes it feel different this time around are the technologies available in consumer headphones making it possible to replicate the immersive experience. And it’s not the case that you will need to have different headphones to be able to enjoy this experience; regular headphones are able to decode immersive mixes. So it seems to me that a lot of the elements that will make it possible for these technologies to cross over in a major way are already in place.
How do you see NGA developing from a format perspective – in other words, do you think there will be a need to support different immersive/object-based formats on an open-ended basis?
It’s an interesting question, and I think what we would essentially like to do is be able to be agnostic format-wise and make sure that we can deliver immersive capabilities to the market in a way that supports people working the way they would like to. Of course, it’s relatively early days and it is still to be determined how the market will develop, although it is clear that Dolby Atmos is at the forefront of developments and we perceive that continuing to be the case.
Turning to another hot topic, how do you evaluate the current state of play with regard to the adoption of IP-based workflows?
I think that we are at a very advanced stage of progress, and that was highlighted at IBC 2018, where we had a display of our IP workflows that suit a wide variety of applications, ranging from live sound to production studios and beyond. There is no doubt that IP-based audio workflows are absolutely a key requirement of most new studios being built today.
Not only does it make a great deal of sense from a cost perspective, there is also the potential for increased flexibility to grow and expand a current facility. It’s something we see with the adoption of technologies such as AVB and Dante.
We continue to develop new solutions that support demanding IP-based workflows. For example, consider our MTRX box, which has 8 card slots in the back that allow the user to mix and match between different I/O formats, mic pres, etc. And we will soon be releasing a Dante card that makes it possible to split up to 128 channels of audio over IP per card, so if you want to turn your matrix into a complete router you can actually have more than 1000 channels of IP audio at your disposal. That’s powerful and it’s that kind of flexibility and capability we see as being a requirement going forward for a lot of studios.
Finally, can you share a few of your predictions for 2019?
I think we will see the developments that we have discussed here continuing and becoming more prominent; in particular, I think we will see a lot more music being mastered for Dolby Atmos as well as more immersive audio mixing for broadcast. We already see a lot of cinemas with Dolby Atmos capability, but 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 Netflixand other delivery mechanisms – the more compelling it will be for consumers to want to experience immersive audio.