It was a jam-packed ‘who’s who’ of the media and entertainment industry on July 11 at the state-of-the-art Dolby Cinema in San Francisco. Avid teamed with audio pioneer Dolby and media systems integrator Cutting Edge for an exclusive audio event to highlight Avid Pro Tools’ integration with the Dolby Atmos® immersive audio format.
We each had our own perspective on the event. For Cutting Edge, the focus was on community building and knowledge sharing as much as the technology. “This is a tight-knit industry,” says Cutting Edge’s Larry Shenosky. “Events that build collaboration and a sense of community are key, and personal relationships often drive decisions among early adopters.”
A room made for the occasion
The industry was out in force, with representatives from Sony and Pixar to Netflix and Apple. And there couldn’t have been a more perfect venue for the event than the Dolby Cinema, which sits atop the Bay Area’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system and offers the very best audio and video technology available today.
The theater is suspended by large cables and air gapped from the rest of the building. You move through an air vestibule to get into the theater, resulting in a negative space where there’s no opportunity for sound or vibration to permeate. Avid’s Ozzie Sutherland calls it “one of the greatest rooms ever built for its acoustics and video quality,” adding with a smile, “we’re ruined now.”
Explosive sound editing
The evening got all the more interesting when preeminent sound effects designer Harry Cohen gave the more than 150 event attendees insights from his experience creating rich and dramatic sounds for the film Deepwater Horizon released last year.
For Cohen, the film was “the perfect canvas” to use Dolby Atmos. He stressed the creativity and control it gave his mixing with Pro Tools and how it became an important part of the design process. He could easily pan over and over again and use samplers differently and more extensively than ever before. “I’ve always used samplers but this is the first show that I decided to do it for every endeavor,” he explains. “It helped speed up the audition process dramatically. Is this the correct sound? Does it work? Do I need to create something else?”
It also created more opportunities for spatial placement of sound, for realistic sound that comes from above – like a helicopter descending – or below – like the rich tones and reverberations gurgling up to the surface in the film’s underwater scenes. The effect is hypnotic, drawing audiences in through a far richer and immersive experience.
Sound in three dimensions
The Pro Tools Dolby Atmos integration allows sound designers to work more efficiently and creatively. As Sutherland explains it, “Sound designers have been working in this format for a few years but there have been slow downs and challenges. This integration is all about improving workflow – making it more efficient, with more creative tools and a more comprehensive integration that extends to the Pro Tools | S6.”
“Immersive audio is key differentiator today for content creators,” adds Shenosky. He points to technology’s ability to move sound in three-dimensional space so it flows around you and you feel like you’re part of the action. “Audio production quality can’t be an afterthought,” he says. “Sound, video and metadata are what it’s all about. Avid has led the path with Pro Tools —they’re the gold standard of digital audio workstations.”
While the use of Pro Tools and Dolby Atmos has been primarily for cinema up to now, there are obvious applications for immersive audio beyond the theatrical. The gaming community is increasingly looking at immersive sound for virtual reality and 360-degree video. And who knows what Apple could have up its sleeve.
No matter where you sit in the industry, the event demonstrated the power and fidelity of the program in a way that surpassed our expectations. In a fitting moment, just before the last Deepwater Horizon clip was shown, the audience demanded that we ‘turn it up’ (to nearly deafening decibels) and cheered when hearing—and seeing— the platform explosion sequence. A good night was had by all.
Visit Avid to learn how Avid Pro Tools integration with the Dolby Atmos can bring immersive audio to your next project.