Bauer Studios Embraces Immersive Audio with Pro Tools

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing

It could easily be argued that professional audio is in its most exciting period since the transition from analog to digital began in earnest. Two primary developments – the adoption of networked audio workflows and the emergence of next-generation audio technologies like immersive audio – have opened the door to new sound experiences in line with today’s evolving media formats.

For historic Bauer Studios Ludwigsburg, Germany’s oldest privately-owned recording studio complex, the opportunities of three-dimensional sound were the driving force for a major studio upgrade. The facility has hosted everything from jazz and rock to orchestral sessions over the last 70 years, providing services to some of music’s most influential artists including Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis and Keith Jarrett.

Bauer Studios engineer and CEO Michael Thumm, who researched the upgrade in conjunction with fellow in-house engineer Daniel Keinath, recalls their approach to the new technology.  “We wanted to be able to accommodate Dolby Atmos mixing for immersive audio projects,” says Michael. “In general, it’s still early days for immersive, but the film world has definitely made a lot of progress there and our engineers have been experimenting with Dolby Atmos for music recording. We want to support this need as demand increases, and in the meantime show our customers what can be achieved with Dolby Atmos and immersive audio production.”

Bauer Studios engineer and CEO Michael Thumm

In one of the complex’s two state-of-the-art studios, Avid Pro Tools | Ultimate was augmented with Pro Tools | HDX, Pro Tools | MTRX and Pro Tools | S6 for immersive capability as well as even more power and speed. “The addition of the S6 was really important because we wanted to make it easier for our engineers to undertake larger Pro Tools sessions and Dolby Atmos mixing,” says Daniel. “A number of the engineers were already very familiar with the S6, but now the entire team has had a chance to experience its feature set. In particular, the layout-building capability has earned a lot of positive feedback. The layouts mean that users can have extremely fast access to the tracks or groups of tracks they want to grab.”

The console is supported by Pro Tools | HDX for more powerful, high-quality sound mixing across a variety of projects, regardless of size and scope. The Pro Tools | MTRX audio interface provides the highest quality I/O with a modular design, and delivers flexible routing and integrated monitoring control for Dolby Atmos.

The first large-scale Dolby Atmos sessions at Bauer Studios are expected to take place later this year and will extend the reach of a studio that has long been one of Germany’s most respected. Although still primarily a music recording facility, Bauer also operates a busy mastering suite and supplies multiple mobile recording systems. It’s also been increasingly active in film and television post-production – a development that demands the kind of flexibility delivered by the recent Avid additions to Studio 2.

Fellow in-house engineer Daniel Keinath

“Music is at the core of our business,” confirms Michael, “but in order to keep up with industry trends and demand, we’ve broadened our services to cater to specialized audio projects in the film and television sector. Of course, with these new projects come new challenges.”

Studio 2 is now more than ready to face them after its recent upgrade, which took place over four months last summer. Early in the planning phase Daniel and Michael knew they wanted to incorporate a permanent Pro Tools control surface. Integrated with Dolby Atmos, Pro Tools | S6 was the logical choice due to the team’s familiarity with the surface and its compatibility with immersive audio projects.

This capacity for fast and flexible working has already proven its worth since the fit-out, including for those extensive projects that need to move between studios as determined by Bauer’s overall workload. Michael cites a recent choral recording that started in Studio 1 before transferring to Studio 2 for editing and mixing. “This was a very complex project with brass, strings, and between 140 and 150 tracks. The S6 made it so much easier to automate tasks during the mixing process.”

“The advantage of the modular design of the S6 is expandability, so we can start with a small console with less knob modules and can upgrade it whenever it might be necessary.”

—Bettina Bertók, Sound Engineer

Looking ahead, the S6’s suitability for immersive audio – and the many forms and formats that may entail – will only increase its value to the Bauer operation. “There could be several different approaches to immersive audio projects,” says Daniel. “For example, we might want to mix natively in Dolby Atmos and then downmix to 7.1 to 5.1 to stereo. With music projects we might also need to start with the stereo mix first.”

Whatever the future might bring, the Bauer team has the tools necessary to make the most of the opportunities. As Michael observes, “our new Pro Tools solutions will allow us to work in whatever way the client prefers. No one can be quite sure of the future for immersive audio, but there’s no doubt that it holds some tremendously exciting possibilities. Over time we expect the appeal of Dolby Atmos to grow in various markets, and thanks to this new installation we’ll be ready to make the most of it.”

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