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Pixelogic’s Higgins on Growing Demand for Smaller Immersive Sound Production Spaces

Among the many changes resulting from the explosion of streaming services and direct-to-cable programming is a trend toward smaller mixing and editing rooms.

“A significant quantity of high-end, first run content is platform-based, going straight to TV, rather than through the traditional theatrical pipeline,” relates Doug Higgins, Pixelogic’s VP of Worldwide Dubbing and Audio Services. “That content is never delivered to large theaters, and many non-theatrical projects don’t necessarily require a large team simultaneously working in the same room. Smaller rooms are increasingly more capable of meeting the overall technical and physical requirements of OTT platform content.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean larger mix rooms rooms are going away. “A theatrical release still has minimum requirements for a theatrical mix environment,” says Higgins. “And there are non-theatrical productions that require a large group of people, including directors, producers, sound editors, etc. A lot of high end TV and digital platform work is still mixed in larger theatrically sized rooms, not necessarily because of technical requirements, but because of the backfield and how many people need to be present in the room at the same time. We still need large theatrical rooms but we no longer need as many.”

Going smaller doesn’t reduce quality if the design, buildout and implementation is done right. “Sometimes small rooms are actually more appropriate for the content we’re creating, and they can produce an equal or even better outcome,” Higgins suggests. “A lot of high end, high quality Dolby Atmos work does not require a larger theatrical stage. And with our Avid workflows and equipment, there’s not much of a core equipment adjustment going from a large room to a small room.”

Utilizing smaller rooms can also have significant financial advantages. “A smaller room decreases some complexities and allows us to increase the quantity,” Higgins confirms. “If we can fit ten rooms in a building, instead of five rooms, that increases our capacity significantly. And we can bring up a small room for significantly less money because of the differences in logistics and overall room finishing costs required to make it a world class mix or editorial room.”

Higgins notes that the ability to do high-end work in smaller spaces makes it possible to mix and edit outside of traditional post facilities—if it’s done properly. “Anybody that plans with the right experts involved, puts the appropriate capital behind it and focuses on quality, can do this,” he allows. “There are a lot of opportunities and fewer limitations for non-theatrical work outside of traditional post houses. But it still takes a significant commitment to create a capable and best-in-class room.”

With Pixelogic planning to add more mix/edit rooms, Higgins is taking a close look at the new Avid Pro Tools | MTRX Studio audio interface. “Our next phase for additional rooms is a little bit down the road,” he clarifies. “It could be by the end of this year but it’s not going to be next week. But MTRX Studio will be a significant benefit for Atmos editorial and mixing in smaller rooms. I’ve been asking for a product similar to this for quite some time. We’ve had two limitations—one was the monitor tuning, and the second was the configuration of inputs and outputs that we need in addition to Pro Tools. I think the game changer is that MTRX Studio has the monitor controller and EQ that we need for some of our smaller setups, as well as significant I/O capabilities, all integrated.”

Sound That Moves

Dolby Atmos is transforming the way you experience sound. And Pro Tools is transforming the way you create it. Dive into the most powerful end to end toolset for immersive mixing.




What Dolby Atmos® Software is Right for You?

Mixing in Dolby Atmos

Dolby’s David Gould gives us the lowdown on what Renderer application you need to start mixing in Atmos

In many presentations you will hear me (and others) talk about the Dolby Atmos Renderer and how it is the brain of any Dolby Atmos mixing setup.  We also discuss the “Renderer application”, “Dolby Atmos Production Suite”, “Dolby Atmos Mastering Suite”, and “RMU” (Rendering and Mastering Unit). In this post, I hope to clarify what all of these things are and who needs what to get started working in Dolby Atmos.

 

Nothing is Atmos without the Dolby Atmos Renderer application

The Renderer application is where all the Dolby Atmos magic happens. It has 128 inputs that can be either beds or objects (we’ll discuss the differences later), and uses the Dolby Atmos rendering technology to output your Atmos mix to speakers, headphones, and/or a master-file for delivery to encoding. The hardware you decide to run the Renderer application on and how you connect audio in and out of it is very much dependant on your creative and workflow needs.

Start small and grow

The great thing about Dolby Atmos mixing is the ability to get started at a very affordable price. You could easily buy the Dolby Atmos Renderer application direct from the Avid store as part of a product we call the Dolby Atmos Production Suite (DAPS). This “suite” also contains the Dolby Audio Bridge – a virtual core audio device that allows Pro Tools to send audio to the renderer.  This combined with Pro Tools | Ultimate gives you everything you need to dip your toe into the immersive world of Dolby Atmos. Download and install the Renderer, enable connection from Pro Tools via peripherals, load one of the supplied Dolby Audio Bridge templates and i/o files and you are ready to go. Import some audio into the template, set the headphone output to binaural in the renderer and with the Pro Tools surround panner (or freely available Dolby Atmos Music panner, more on that later) audio outputting to the Renderer via the Dolby Audio Bridge you are hearing your first Atmos mix!

Ok, so “mix” may be a little bit of an exaggeration, but I think you can see that it’s only a matter of adding audio to your session, import that song mix you’ve been meaning to finish for a few years and start panning.

Beds and Objects

As I mentioned earlier inputs to the Renderer application can be assigned as beds or objects. If you are familiar with the concept of 5.1 audio, either as a theatrical film mixer on a large soundstage or at home watching Netflix on your 5.1 surround set up (or anything in-between) then you are familiar with the concept of beds. Audio can be placed directly in a speaker or panned somewhere between speakers, and with Dolby Atmos we support bed widths up to 7.1.2 (seven surround channels, one LFE channel and two overhead channels – left and right over head being spread over however many overhead speakers you have).  However, an Object is an audio source that can be placed anywhere in the room with pinpoint accuracy and uses metadata to describe where that audio should play back.  There’s even the ability to control the perceived size of audio objects, giving you even more control over the sound. The default setup of inputs for the renderer is one 7.1.2 bed, plus 118 of these audio objects. However, this can be configured how you wish and the choice of what is a bed or an object, or how many beds to use, is entirely up to you.

Wired for surround:

Because people rarely spend all their time listening to music and watching films with headphones on you may wish to add some additional speakers to your Atmos mix room. These can be set up in a variety of configurations including 5.1.4, 7.1.4, or 9.1.6 depending on your room size and budget, but 7.1.4 tends to be the most common configuration for Dolby Atmos nearfield mixing rooms. The beauty of Dolby Atmos, and audio objects, is that you can be confident that an object placed in a position in an 9.1.6 room will be reproduced as accurately as possible when listened back in a 5.1.4 room, or anything in-between. Of course, adding speakers means adding wires and more importantly adding hardware. Any multichannel external hardware can be used to feed the speakers, as long as it has more than 10 outputs. If you are working with the Dolby Atmos Production Suite, the Avid Pro Tools | MTRX Studio makes a great choice – built-in speaker tuning means you can start benefiting from an excellently tuned room with ease. Simply adjust the room setup on the Renderer software to match your physical configuration and get mixing.

 

Power on demand

Is a simple in-the-box setup all you need to submit mixes to Netflix? Yes. But as you know, a large Pro Tools session with all your source audio, Atmos Beds and Objects, and plugins outputting (and subsequently recording) 128 channels of audio can get quite power hungry, and this, combined with running the Renderer on the same system can begin to be in need a little extra help. Enter the Dolby Atmos Mastering Suite. The software suite includes the ability to run the Renderer application on a separate Mac or Windows machine (also known in the industry as a rendering and mastering workstation or RMU). The software is then controlled locally with the included Dolby Atmos Renderer Remote application, allowing full control from your main workstation, but with all the rendering processing offloaded to a separate machine freeing your main workstation up to just concentrate on running Pro Tools. Audio connection can be via MADI or Dante, and so when running with the Mastering Suite, Avid Pro Tools | MTRX makes a great choice to get from Pro Tools into your rendering and mastering workstation. With a full 128 channel MADI or Dante system recording live re-renders back into your Pro Tools system is also possible, allowing you to deliver all the requested stems, and M&E deliverables in one single recording pass. This setup also includes the ability to support multi-system source and record workflows, for more complex mixing workflows, as well as support for speaker array processing for when you need to outfit a larger mix room. The Dolby Atmos Mastering Suite and minimum spec hardware is available from your local Dolby Atmos dealer (list of dealers available here).

Check out this chart comparing the capabilities of the Dolby Atmos Production Suite and Dolby Atmos Mastering Suite.

 

Other software:

There are two other software packages that are freely available that may be useful to you, depending on your workflow.  First of all, the Dolby Atmos Conversion Tool is a free utility software that allows for converting files between the various master file formats, performing basic editing functions (topping/tailing etc.), and frame rate conversion.  You can download that here (and watch out for some exciting updates to the Conversion Tool, coming soon!).  Secondly is the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in, available for free download here.  The Music Panner is specifically designed for panning objects in music production workflows, allowing you to easily create dynamic, tempo-synced panning sequences and positions, and it can work alongside the Pro Tools | Ultimate surround panner for ultimate flexibility.

You’re ready to mix!

I hope I’ve begun to demystify a lot of terminology around Dolby Atmos and it now seems more accessible!  You are only restricted by your imagination – if you want to get started right away, you can download a fully functional trial version of the Dolby Atmos Production Suite here.  You can also get more support and information on getting started at the Dolby KnowledgeBase, and forums.

Sound That Moves

Dolby Atmos is transforming the way you experience sound. And Pro Tools is transforming the way you create it. Dive into the most powerful end to end toolset for immersive mixing.

Dolby Atmos Production Suite

The Dolby Atmos Production Suite gives you a complete mixing, editing, and sound design solution for episodic TV and film pre-production.




Leapwing’s DynOne AAX Plugin Offers a Different Perspective on Compression

At Leapwing, we’re here to take you on a parallel compression journey with DynOne, the ultimate parallel smart multi-band dynamics compressor. First, a few compression and dynamics basics, then we will show you how DynOne can be used to enhance your music with precision dynamics to set it apart.

DynOne 3 fully open, inserted on a Pro Tools track

Downwards Compression

One of the most common forms of compression is downwards compression, designed to control the peaks of your audio. The compression is achieved by lowering loud sounds above a certain threshold while leaving the quiet sounds unaffected, reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal. In essence, it makes the loud signals quieter. A limiter is an extreme type of downward compression. These compressors can also give character to your program material. Classic compressors have contributed a unique sound and have been used to distinguish countless recordings.

 

Parallel Compression

Parallel compression reduces the dynamic range of an audio signal but does it in a different way. Where downward compressors work by reducing the peaks in the program material, parallel compression, is designed to act as a form of upward compression. Reducing the dynamic range of an audio signal is achieved by mixing an unprocessed ‘dry’ signal with a heavily compressed version of the same signal. Rather than lowering the highest peaks, it reduces the dynamic range by raising the softer sounds, adding audible detail. In essence, it brings up the quieter parts of a signal while retaining its transients.

Robin Reumers (author) is Director of Product Development at Leapwing

Dynamic Processing with DynOne

DynOne was conceived with the idea of creating the most natural and transparent sounding dynamics processor, which allows you to raise low-level details in your recorded material while being able to change the timbre or tonality subsequently. Later on, it ended up being used in many other applications. One of the unique features of DynOne is that it consists of variable attack and release times. This provides more control over how the attack and release curves behave, playing a significant role in the overall sound of the compressor. However, since DynOne uses the Crest Factor, which indicates the ratio between average and peak level, the attack and release times are not constant. Where fixed times make the compression more audible to the human ear, the variations based on the Crest Factor makes DynOne sound much more transparent than most other compressors.

 

Tonalization with Multi-band

Tonalization refers to changing the timbre or tonality of your program material. During mixing the engineer might want to make the sound a bit brighter, more in-your-face, darker or even less exciting. This is where multi-band parallel compression does the trick for you, by blending the program material with a compressed version and giving level control up to 5 bands. Add high-frequency band gain to get more top-end or get more body by adding some of the low-mid frequency band gains.

Maria Elisa Ayerbe shows off DynOne 3 in her tutorial videos on the Leapwing Audio YouTube channel

Multi-band parallel compression can be a vital tool when used correctly. Fortunately, Pro Tools has a very intuitive interface that allows you to add one or more DynOne plugins into any session. The new DynOne 3 boasts major enhancements.  First, our crossover filters have been custom designed to interact with each other, in order to avoid phase alignment issues between bands, something you do have with traditional multi-band compressors. In DynOne 3 we even made them variable so you can tweak them fully.  Another key feature is adaptive attack/release timing.  we felt that having traditional attack and release times didn’t really give you the best sounding result. When you’re working with transients vs sustained sounds, you often want to have different attack and release times. This is why we use min and max attack/release times.

DynOne 3 offers an easy-to-use and intuitive GUI.  We aim to build plugins that sound good from the moment you start using them, not having to waste precious creative time. We spent countless hours of R&D time to look at the best ways of visualizing all the bands so you can tweak everything intuitively.    We want you to check out DynOne 3 and our other offerings on Avid Marketplace and use them to deliver some of your best audio yet!

 

GET IT NOW!

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




For Independent Artists, the Release Is Just the Beginning

After you get your music on streaming services around the world using AvidPlay, it’s time to do the most important thing to make sure your music captures a growing audience—promoting. In this blog, I’m going to give you four tips to help make sure your music doesn’t sit on streaming services unnoticed, and what the best methods are to start growing your fanbase.

 

Tip one: Get by with a little help from your friends… and family

Utilizing your inner social circles is an easy step to start getting your music some plays. Even if you don’t have a following of die-hard fans, your close friends and family can be huge when it comes to getting your music off the ground.

Have your friends and family add your music into the playlists that they routinely listen to, have them follow you on streaming services that support that feature, such as Spotify, and let them know that they are directly supporting you by listening to your music.

AvidPlay makes getting your friends and family to your music simple with the ability to share Smart Links. To use Smart Links, go to your Releases tab, select the Share dropdown, and select Copy URL. This will create a custom webpage for you to share that gives anyone you want to listen to your music the option to listen on whichever service they would like.

Tip two: Find a place where your music fits in

With the initial boost from your friends and family, it’s time to start digging around for a playlist or community where your music fits in. In my situation in particular, I was looking for places based around cinematic and orchestral music—a fairly niche, but growing group. I approached this in three ways:

  1. Searching for user-generated playlists on Spotify that had email addresses or contact information for the creator of the playlist that I could reach out to in order to see if they would be interested in adding my music to their playlist. Landing in some of these playlists was by far the largest boost to my stream count and led to my music being added to their listeners personal libraries.
  2. Finding a community to share, converse, and give feedback. Places like Reddit, forums, and Twitch are great places to foster a community and become known by people who love the same kind of music you’re creating. Make yourself known, make friends, but most of all, show a willingness to be involved in these communities beyond just self-promoting. For me, VI-Control was a great community where I could stay up to date on all things orchestral/cinematic while engaging in conversations that directly impacted the music I make and listen to.
  3. Creating your own community. A new endeavor that I have taken on is to try and create a Twitch channel where people can watch me write the music that I’ll eventually release. This is a great way to create a dedicated following who you know will be there to support and listen to your next release.

 

Tip three: Your music is important, but so are you

Promoting yourself as an artist is just as important as promoting your latest release. Don’t be shy about sharing your creative process, engaging with the companies of the products you use to make your music, or utilizing all of your social channels. In the studio to do some recording? Start up a livestream on Instagram and let people tune in. Working on some album artwork for the next release? Get some feedback on what your followers like. The more you engage with your followers, the more they’ll be engaged with you.

With so many different channels to promote yourself, it’s important to include all of the places where your fans can find you.

Add in your social channels wherever possible and make it easy for people to follow you. If you’re a member of the Avid Link community, you can add social channels and websites to your profile so people can easily access all of your channels. If you released your music to Spotify, utilize Spotify for Artists and add your social links to your profile there as well.

 

Tip 4: Utilize new technologies to get anyone to your music, anywhere.

Promoting yourself face-to-face is never simple. It’s not easy to get someone to your music at a gig or during a conversation, especially now that CDs are irrelevant. Luckily, AvidPlay has a clever solution to this, through the use of QR codes. These codes create a direct link to Smart Links, allowing you to put them on anything from posters to business cards in order to get people to your music by simply having them point their camera at the code. To get your QR code, you want to go to the same Share dropdown mentioned earlier and click on QR code. This will automatically generate a QR code for you to use however you want, for free. Give it a shot:

What’s the goal here?

In the end, all of these tips are geared towards creating organic growth for your music. You want to get to a place where people find your music, without you having to show it to them. By utilizing these tips and getting a good basis of plays, you’re setting your music up to be picked up by streaming service algorithms. For instance, the more followers you get on Spotify, the more listener’s Release Radar playlist you will end up in when you put out a new release.

Best of luck out there!

Distribute music with AvidPlay

Distribute your music on Spotify, Apple Music, Anghami, and dozens of other major streaming services around the world. Plus, keep 100% of your rights and earnings.




Defenders of the Audio Realm — Catching up with Mach1’s Founder Dražen Bošnjak

In my work with audio developers over the past 24 years, I’ve rarely encountered an organization that so passionately lives and breathes its mission every day as Mach1 does. Founders Jaqueline and Dražen Bošnjak, a pair of geniuses from New York City, along with their Technical Director Dylan Marcus develop and market the Mach1 Spatial System, Mach1 Spatial (format) and Mach1 Spatial SDK whose flexibility and streamlined workflow are increasingly making it a must-have tool for professionals delivering surround and spatial audio content including app and game developers.

In the Bošnjak’s words: “We are not just looking to the masters of the past but connecting and expanding on their core values and motivations, making sure that we bring ourselves, as craftsmen, into emerging and new mediums. A Renaissance of sound is happening as sound quality is critical for maintaining immersion and our openness to this fundamental change should not create footholds that undermine the craft in service of the technical.” 

We had the chance to sit down with Dražen Bošnjak, Co-Founder of Mach1, who shared the company’s thoughts about the products and future direction of the company and its groundbreaking products.

Ed Gray:  What is the mission of Mach 1 and what’s the story of its founding?

Dražen Bošnjak: Necessity is the Mother of Invention. Early on I started working with a few key directors like Guy Shelmedine, Marco Brambilla, Sam Esmail and Robert Stromberg who started directing VR projects. I wanted the ability to bring cinematic quality and craft into this new medium. My expectations were informed by epic movie soundtracks and soundscapes as well as great music recordings.  I was not satisfied with the options that were available. The crappy “HRTF (filtered) to death” sound and the naked game engine approach were unacceptable. Mach1 was born working on these projects where the director demanded high quality spatial sound as well as complete creative control. The same standards expected in film.

 

EG:  What is the main problem that your solution solves?

DB:  The problem was the lack of a transparent audio format and tools for authoring spatial sound mixes that was easy and intuitive to use as well as the difficulty in creating truly transparent volumetric sound recordings that can be deployed on VR platforms and game engines. Director Robert Stromberg famously said while we collaborated on The Martian VR for 20TH Century Fox that working in VR was equivalent to building an airplane while flying it. Mach1 was born out of the need to do our work on a level that we’d come accustom to in film. Mach1 is a VVB (Virtual Vector based panning system) that preserves professional audio standards and best practices in a medium where quality of sound is critical for maintaining immersion. Mach1 Spatial is a Virtual Vector Based Panning (VVBP) system contained into a single multichannel deliverable through already existing audio containers and codecs, leveraging & preserving traditional audio best practices while enabling full 3DOF interactive spatial sound as well as 6DOF when integrated into a 3D Game Engine. It does not require any audio library or media engine and can function fully on top of any existing audio system/engine. The Mach1 system takes all traditional post-production practices and allows them to be deployed for interactive mediums such as VR, AR, MR and installations. Whether roomscale (6DOF) or 360 videos/cinematic VR (3D0F), the format shares a single vector space that is infinitely scalable and solves creative limits caused by alternatives such as ambisonics or game object audio implementation.

EG: How does the solution interact with Pro Tools?

DB: Mach1 Spatial System supports the AAX plugin format and seamlessly integrates with Pro Tools by taking over 7.1 channel and using it as 8 channel Mach1 Spatial. Using the simple model of a plugin for inputting/panning and a plugin for playingback/monitoring Audio Professionals can design how they want to mix to and from Mach1 Spatial at their own discretion and are free to use this in tandem with any other solution without compromise.

 

EG: How is the solution used together with comparable solutions from other vendors?

DB: The Mach1 Spatial System was carefully developed by/for audio engineers and professionals to simplify spatial and multichannel audio creative control. The plugins themselves have familiar design aspects to traditional stereo and surround mixing practices and expectations, avoiding all the new paradigms and abstract concepts such as spherical harmonics and proprietary effect processes seen in other spatial audio solutions. Once the Mach1 Spatial mix or mixes are made they can be safely distributed in any codec or file container that supports at least mono audio, and can also have support built into any app or project that at a bare minimum supports playing back a mono audio file. This is to ensure that Mach1 Spatial is a tool that can safely be added anywhere and will never prohibit the use of any other audio technology or solution since it does not rely on any proprietary metadata or codec. Agnostic in every respect, lightweight and safe to integrate. Mach1 Spatial acts as a “perfect delivery format”, an audio framework to unify the handling of multichannel  and spatial audio formats/configurations and conversions between them, as well as ability to decode them to stereo (with or without device/head tracking) with full down mix and up mix control without any abstract layers of “encoders” and “decoders”. The framework simplifies spatial/multichannel audio to allow the development of custom multichannel configurations allowing backend development control to speaker configurations and futureproofing any audio needs for consumers in the future and giving anyone control over custom audio pipelines and modernizing post production audio and deliverables as new mediums emerge.

 

EG: How do you see the solution evolving?

DB: Through our work and collaboration with VR/AR and immersive sound producers we have identified new opportunities and features that we will be adding to our software. We are at the very beginning of the spatial sound revolution and this is just a start.

EG: I heard about Avid’s visit to  Mach1 Studio in Tribeca New York.  How did that go?

DB: One of my favorite moments happened when Avid’s Robert Miller and Ozzie Sutherland (who is now at Netflix) brought their “Golden Ears” to demo our Mach1 spatial format. In fact this encapsulates what is great about Avid. They had already brought their Senior Product Designer at the time, Connor Sexton, to vet our software. Sexton commented that we’d created “The most elegant solution for spatial audio” but for Avid the true test were the ‘Golden Ears’. A couple of weeks later seven time Grammy winner, Frank Filipetti a lauded producer, engineer and mixer walked into Mach1 studios. Frank began his career working with Foreigner, KISS, James Taylor, Carly Simon, The Bangles and 10,000 Maniacs and continues working a variety of artists including Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, Madonna, Elton John, Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney, to name a few. Frank sat down ready to listen to the Mach1 Spatial demo. He put on a pair of headphones with our proprietary IMU duct-taped to the frame and I pushed play on Pro Tools sending our Mach1 Spatial mix through the Mach1 Monitor plugin- controlled in real time by Frank’s head position. I looked over to Frank, he closed his eyes and became very still. He then slowly turned his head around and a huge wide grin came over his face…right then I realized that I might have just experienced my best professional moment ever.

Now, Mach1 has their goodness available for Pro Tools users on Avid Marketplace.  Mach1 Spatial System allows easy to understand spatial & surround mixing utilizing traditional vector panning instead of spherical harmonic or meta object orientated mixing, bringing studio mixing into newer emerging mediums and allowing users to design and control their own audio mixing pipelines.  It offers a power pack of features, including the Mach1 Monitor, Mach1 Panner, and Mach1 Transcoder.  Operating as an AAX plugin suite Mach1 Spatial System works seamlessly to support Mono, Stereo, Quad, LCRS, AFormat Ambisonics, First Order Ambisonics ACNSN3D, and First Order Ambisonics FuMa. The system also offers the Mach1 Video Player that syncs directly to Pro Tools and makes it easier to mix spatial content. Take a deep dive with this Mach1 product overview.

At Avid, we’re honored to work with Jaqueline and Dražen Bošnjak and we can’t wait to see what they bring us next.  In the meantime, the Mach1 Spatial  System deserves to be an automatic purchase for professional immersive content creators and app developers from everywhere. Come to Avid Marketplace and pick up yours!

 

Mach1 Spatial System

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Folder Tracks for Music Production

The addition of Folder Tracks to Pro Tools, brings even more powerful workflows and possibilities for music production and creation. In this blog, I will share some initial ideas and workflows, using Folder Tracks.  These only scratch the surface of what is possible with Folder Tracks.

 

Some basics: Open and Close Folders

If you are working on a project with a large number of tracks, you can use folder tracks to organize your session into folders and sub folders. You can put all of your tracks into a master folder which can be a very useful way to work, as you will see later. You can start by placing all the drums, guitars, vocals etc into separate Routing Folders.

Now you can use the shortcut Shift + F, to open or close the selected folder. If you have a EUCON surface, such as an S1, you can assign your user keys on the surface to this shortcut to quickly open or close your folders.

One level of folders may not be enough for more complex projects. For example, you might have a session with separate tracks for background vocals for the verse, bridge and chorus, other tracks for vocal ad libs, single line harmonies etc. You could create folders for each of these elements and then create an overall Background Vocals folder that contains all of these sub-folders and can be closed to hide everything away. Don’t forget to make use of Routing Folders to take care of audio routing, as well as track organization.

Once these nested folders are created, you can Option/Alt + click on the folder icon on the track to open all the folders that are on the same level. Using the example of background vocals, you could click on the main Background Vocal folder icon to open it up and then Option/Alt + click on the folder icon of one of the sub-folders to open all of them. A great way to keep track of all of this is to keep the Tracks List open to clearly see the folder hierarchy.

 

Commit and Freeze Folders

Track Freeze is a great feature which frees up CPU resources by temporarily rendering your plug-ins or virtual instruments to audio and you can use this feature on a Routing Folder. Simply click on the Freeze button on the Routing Folder track and it will render the audio that’s being routed through the track. Then simply select the members of the track, right-click and choose Make Inactive in order to free up the CPU processing.

Commit is similar to Freeze but instead of temporarily rendering the audio to the same track, it creates a new track. Using Commit on a Routing Folder is a quick way to print your stems and mixes in a single operation.

Track Presets

Track Presets is something that I use all the time and the ability to use it with Folder Tracks makes it even more powerful!  As an example, say you have a virtual instrument preset which can be recalled that is saved with the multi-output of each sound of the VI, and routed to an Aux Input in Pro Tools. These tracks are now moved to a Basic Folder and saved it as a new Track Preset!  That folder is now available to use in any new session and will it’s already organised and ready to go when recalled or brought in from the Workspace. For example, if you are using a maschine you would tend to have 16 Aux tracks and an instrument track which becomes very time consuming when you are creating, whereas now if you place all 17 racks in a basic folder and then save this as a track preset, you can pull up your maschine routing any time you need it.

Creating a MIDI Grid Editor for Programming Drums

One of our product designers came up with the idea to use Folder Tracks to organise a MIDI grid editor for drum programming. You set it up by creating a MIDI Track for each drum and setting each MIDI Track to Single Note mode by right-clicking on the small keyboard to the right of the track name. The note that you set it to depends on the drum VI that you are using but typically you would set kick to C1, snare to D1 etc. Now set the Grid to 1/16 and you can use the pencil tool to create your drum pattern.

To route MIDI to your VI then insert the VI on an Aux Input and set the output of the MIDI Tracks to the VI. Finally, select all the tracks and place them in a Basic Folder and save this as a Track Preset. Now whenever you need to use the grid editor it is easily accessible in the Workspace.

 

DOWNLOAD GRID EDITOR PRESET

Editing

One amazing feature of Folder Tracks is the ability to edit on a folder track and the edits will apply to all the members of the folder, whether audio tracks or MIDI tracks, including folders within the folder. I’ve started using this for arranging. If you enclose your whole session into one folder you can use delete, cut, copy and paste to quickly get the arrangement to where you want it to be. The possibilities are endless.

You can even use this to create multiple versions of the mix on the timeline. I’m often asked to create new edits of the mix. I can simply copy and paste the entire song to a new track by duplicating my master folder, without affecting the original version and without having to create a new session so that you can always refer to the original version.

As mentioned earlier, these ideas and workflows provide just a sampling of how Folder Tracks can be used in your own music creation and production.  Try it out for yourself and I’m sure you’ll discover your own secrets, tips, and tricks with Folder Tracks in Pro Tools 2020!

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Folder Tracks in Audio Post

In this blog I want to look at a few ways we might utilize Folder Tracks in audio post production workflows to help better manage and simplify the increasingly large and complex sessions.

The areas I want to have a first look at are dealing with sessions with higher track counts and clear sections or type of audio, then using folder tracks to speed up sound design and finally dealing with the large amounts of incoming media and versions.

Before we jump into the examples, I wanted to very quickly mention as we develop a new feature, we work hard take advice from a variety of Pro Tools users across all areas of the industry.

This is partly the reason for the two folder track types Basic and Routing– but it’s also why we allow users to route the audio without restriction in the methods they are familiar with – even while using folders.

This is important because in audio post production, for instance a source or auxiliary bus may feed multiple mix versions, frequently including music and effect mixes.
Another great example of this might be in a session for Atmos where you have many object tracks which have their own output, but you would like to group those objects together.

Folders have no restrictions that prevent their use in these cases – which makes them super powerful organizational tools.

In this Dolby Atmos session even with Micro Track Height it's not possible to see all the tracks without scrolling but with folder tracks we have an overview and can open folders as needed

An obvious use for folders would be to sort your session into more manageable sections. Existing sessions can be updated easily using the Convert Aux to Routing Folder function.

 

Converting Auxiliaries to Folders

Often engineers will be working from a well establish template, but they can get large and complex, so let’s look at how would go about converting a session or template to add the folder functionality to simplify operation.

In the following example, the session has been split into Narration, Dialog, Music, Atmospheres, Foley, Effects for mixing. However, by organizing them in these folders it makes even larger sessions easier to see all at once and allow you to focus on the section you are working on at any given time.

To convert what was an auxiliary into a folder, simply right click and select “Convert Aux to Routing Folder”. This will change the Aux to a Routing folder but retain all the bussing, plugins and other track properties. You can then take the associated tracks and simply drop them into that folder. Additionally, you can use the reverse bus interrogation feature “show only assignments to” which will then display only the tracks already assigned to that Aux. This is very powerful when you’re modifying an existing template or updating an existing session.

Right Click on an Auxiliary to convert to a Routing Folder

Repeating this for all the main Auxiliaries in the session gives us a much cleaner overview of the session.

Session before and after converting the Auxiliaries to Routing Folders and placing associated tracks in the folders

Given that routing folders have the same functionality as an Auxiliary, you can still easily freeze, commit and use as bounce sources when providing stems.

Using Folder tracks to keep your Audio Building blocks

In Sound design use, you might keep a more complex arrangement of effects or building blocks in a folder. This way the whole arrangement can be moved, copied and pasted together, but the folder can also be opened to tweak levels or timing of individual elements as required.

In this way it makes it easy to select a group of sounds and place it later in the timeline for a repeating graphic effect or visual. In this example I have a small piece of sound design I made for an Avid Logo. Rather than simply placing the audio on tracks labelled ‘SFX’ for example as I might have previously keeping the specific tracks in a folder, I can see the individual items from the folder overview.

By using the shortcut or clicking on the folder Icon I can see the folder contents and make small timing and level adjustments as needed.

Duplicating and nudging a basic arrangement of SFX using a folder

Using Folder Tracks to organize material

In audio post production you often get updates to pictures and AAF files. Being able to keep these files in named folders and have a single control to mute them allows you to keep a record of changes as you work through your session in a compact but easily recallable way.

As Video tracks can also be added to folders, a nice idea might to be keep previous picture versions safely tucked away in a basic folder in case you need to refer to them again at a later stage.

You can import an AAF or other material into a specific folder by selecting it before import. The tracks will import into that selected folder.

AAFs stored in muted Basic Folder closed

AAFs Stored in muted Basic Folder open

Once in a folder I have very quick controls to mute, solo, delete and make inactive for example if required, a group of information that I might only need occasionally.

These are just a few ideas as I thought about how I would apply this new feature to my work, attempting to make my workflow in audio post production more efficient. I hope you find this new addition to Pro Tools as helpful as I do.

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Folder Tracks Overview

Pro Tools 2020 introduces folder tracks. Folders will transform the way you work with Pro Tools.  This blog concentrates on folder track basics so you can get up and running quickly.

Folder tracks can perform a simple organizational function or can be part of your session routing infrastructure. With that in mind, there are two types of folder tracks: Basic Folder Tracks and Routing Folder Tracks. Basic Folder Tracks are simply for organizational purposes and allow you to quickly collapse your tracks and tidy them out of the way. Routing Folders combine the organizational aspect of a Basic Folder with the ability to route audio through the folder as you would an Aux Input. You can immediately see the difference in the Mix Window or Edit Window as a Routing Folder has audio functions on the track such as inserts, sends and so on while a Basic Folder does not.

Folder Creation

There are a number of ways to create a folder. You can choose to create the Folder Track first and add tracks to it or you can create a folder based on your track selection.

To create an empty Folder Track just use the New Tracks dialogue where you will be presented with the option to create either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder.

Once the folder is created, there are a number of ways to move tracks into it. You can drag tracks onto the folder and you can see that the yellow box in the UI helps you to see which folder you are dragging on to. You can do this in the Edit Window, the Mix Windows and even the Tracks List. Alternatively, you can right-click on a track or group of tracks and select the “Move to…” option. Here you can choose to move the tracks to an existing folder. Here we can also move tracks back out of a folder using the “Top Level” option.

If you select some tracks in the session, right click on them and choose Move To… you will also see the option to create a New Folder based on track selection and you can then choose whether to you want a Basic Folder or Routing Folder. If you choose Routing Folder, then you have an option to automatically route tracks through the new folder. This creates a new bus, which has the same name as the folder, and routes all the tracks in the new folder to the bus. An even easier way to create a folder from a track selection is to use the Command + Shift + N shortcut. Finally, if you are working on a session that has come from a previous version of Pro Tools then you might have already set up your routing through Aux Inputs. In this case you can right-click on the Aux Track and choose to convert it to a Routing Folder track. Then just put the tracks that were being routed to that Aux Input into the new Routing Folder and you’re done. You can use Pro Tools’ bus interrogation feature to make this even easier. Simply right-click on the output path on the track and choose the option ‘Show Only Assignments to…’.

If a folder is open and you create new tracks directly under that folder then the new tracks will be added to the folder. If that’s not what you want to do then make sure that you close the folder before creating new tracks.

Of course, you can create folders within folders and create a complex nested folder structure. The Tracks List is a great way to keep an eye on this as it’s very easy to see what’s going on.

Opening and Closing Folder Tracks

Once the folder tracks have been created, opening and closing them is simply a case of clicking on the Folder icon by the track name, either in the Mix Window or the Edit Window or by clicking on the triangle next to the name in the Tracks View. Alternatively, there is a keyboard shortcut. Shift + f will open or close the selected folder track or tracks.

 

Metering

You will notice that both folder track types have signal indicators These are simply to show any activity that is going on with any tracks that are in the folder: green for audio and yellow for MIDI. Of course, a Routing Folder has regular track meters that are used to meter the audio going through the folder but those meters will only reflect audio that has been specifically routed through it, whereas the signal indicator will show if there is any audio on any track in the folder.

Solo and Mute

Soloing and Muting logic differs between Basic Folders and Routing Folders.

When you solo either a Basic Folder or a Routing Folder track, the members are not muted. Soloing a member of Basic Folder is the same as if you pressed solo on that track and it wasn’t in a folder However, a Routing Folder behaves differently as there is audio going through the track. If you solo a member of a Routing Folder its folder is not muted.  This allows you to solo member tracks without having to worry about solo-safe.

Muting a Basic Folder will mute all of its members. However, muting a Routing Folder simply mutes the audio output of that folder. This is an important distinction as if you have tracks in a Routing Folder that are being routed elsewhere then the audio from those tracks will persist even though the Routing Folder is muted.

 

Editing

A very cool feature of folder tracks is the ability to perform editing commands on tracks that are in a closed folder. For example, if you make a selection on the closed Folder Track you can copy it and paste elsewhere on the timeline. This will be explored in other articles looking at workflows for music and post.

Conclusion

I hope that this has been a useful introduction to folder tracks and how they are implemented in Pro Tools. Dive in and try it for yourself and see how much neater your sessions look!

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




George Massenburg Reprises his Groundbreaking Hi-Res EQ for Pro Tools

In his own words: “I perceive myself as being constantly motivated to relearn and rethink new possibilities — technical, artistic and strategic.” The contributions that George Massenburg has made to audio production and to Avid could fill pages on pages. The list begins with his career as a legendary audio engineer and producer and, to the benefit of thousands of Pro Tools users,  the creator of the legendary MDW Hi-Res EQ, now available in a Sixth-generation version, complete with AAX DSP support, on the Avid Store. It comes with some nice surprises that build on its current stature as an automatic purchase for any serious audio professional, and at a highly affordable price—keep reading!  Before I get into that, though, I can’t wait to tell you what a powerful force George has been and remains to all of us.

George Massenburg, Audio Legend and Invaluable Friend of Avid

At age 15, George was already building his audio career, working for both a recording studio and an electronics lab. He went on to study electrical engineering at Johns Hopkins university, then left for Europe to broaden his perspective.  By age 25, he was Chief engineer of Europa Sonar Studios in Paris, and in that same year, he invented the world’s first parametric equalizer, a fundamental advance in modern audio production. Ten years later, he founded George Massenburg Labs, who have given us an extensive range of innovative console automation devices, analog signal processors, microphone preamps and power supplies, all based on his original designs. George has also designed, built and managed several recording studios, including ITI Studios in Huntsville, Maryland and The Complex in Los Angeles. He has contributed acoustical and architectural designs to many other facilities, including Skywalker Sound and The Site in Marin County. Perhaps his most famous room design is at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studios. Using computer modeling and an elaborate system of wall diffusers, his remarkable room has helped establish the studio as a world class facility.

Blackbird Studios houses one of Massenburg's most spectacular creations

Massenburg’s unparalleled production and engineering credits include  more than two hundred albums with renowned artists including Billy Joel, Dixie Chicks, Earth, Wind and Fire, Lyle Lovett, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Randy Newman, Little Feat, Journey, Toto, Weather Report, Kenny Loggins, Herbie Hancock, Aaron Neville, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.  This tireless and extraordinary work has earned him four GRAMMY® and numerous TEC awards.  An Associate Professor at Montreal’s McGill University, George’s expertise has seen him lecture at UCLA and USC in Los Angeles; Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington; the University of Memphis and MTSU in Tennessee; and at the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. In 2009, he received an honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music. As if all of this is not enough, George chairs the AES Technical Council on Studio Practices, serves as a member of the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress and  as Technical Director of META (the Music Engineering Technical Alliance), a strategic union of music producers and engineers pursuing the highest standards of audio and delivery of music.

Fortunately for Avid, George has been a mentor, advisor and inspiration to our leaders and employees from the very beginnings of Digidesign to the present day.  As one of the first to delve into the new field of AAX DSP development for the hardware-accelerated platform of Pro Tools, George’s MDW Hi-Res EQ continues to set the standard in this category. The EQ boasts unprecedented clarity, smoothness, and excellent high-frequency response that will help you achieve optimal audio definition in your mixes. Version 6 delivers an updated interface and new functionality including:

 

  • Lo and Hi Shelf HiQ on each band
  • EQ display that corresponds to PT’s EQ Curve Display on mixer window
  • Spectrum Display and real time Analyzer Resolution – under preferences, users can select how many data points to use to analyze the audio data. More points = more CPU processing
  • New Band One with 18dB/octave and 24dB/octave high and low pass filters

A Completely New User Interface for MDW Hi-Res EQ Version 6

Here are some videos and tutorial from George showing the MDW Hi-Res EQ Version 6 in action:

Last but not least, the new version is available at a new price that makes it an extraordinary value. Previously $595, the MDW Hi-Res EQ6 is offered as both an AAX DSP and AAX Native version together for $299, with a special upgrade price for owners of MDW Hi-Res EQ5 available from the MDW website. Get it now and let the legendary expertise of George Massenburg power your mix!

 

GET IT NOW!

Make your mark with Pro Tools

Create music or sound for film/TV and connect with a premier network of artists, producers, and mixers around the world.




Using MasterCheck to Prepare Music for AvidPlay

About a year ago I wrote a blog for Avid called MasterCheck: How Dynamic is Too Dynamic?. Since then, Avid has announced AvidPlay, a new music distribution platform. Let’s take a look at 3 key points paraphrased from last year’s piece, and consider these observations in the context of AvidPlay (or even other distribution services, for that matter!).

1. Revenue from music streaming now exceeds that of downloads, CDs and vinyl combined. So it makes sense to optimise your mixes and masters accordingly.

Not only does it make sense to optimise your mixes and masters, it also makes sense to ensure that you’re happy with your choice of distribution service! Different platforms offer different annual and lifetime rates, which vary depending on the number of artist profiles, number of releases and so on. It is also worth noting that some of the services with cheaper rates will take a larger cut of royalties, so you should weigh up your own circumstances (are you uploading ten albums of niche experimental music under multiple different monikers with a tiny audience, or one album which is likely to be streamed heavily?). For what it’s worth, AvidPlay’s royalty retention rate is 0%.

 

2. A track mastered at -10 LUFS for CD will be turned down by 3dB to reach YouTube’s -13 LUFS target, 4dB for Spotify and 6dB for Apple Music. This means up to 6dB of unused headroom!

When distributing music through a platform like AvidPlay, it’s not as though you can upload separate masters for each individual streaming service, so is it even worth paying attention to their loudness standards? Well, yes and no. Regardless of how loudly or quietly you master a track, the fact is that some loudness processing will happen before playout on some streaming services, no matter what. But submitting a master which sits close enough to a few of the services is probably a better approach than uploading a -10 LUFS “commercial” master. Many engineers have grown accustomed to mastering at that level for CDs, but even on a comparatively loud service like YouTube, you’ll still be losing 3dB of headroom. And headroom is important, because…

 

3. In a playlist where every track is normalised, a song which takes advantage of all available headroom (i.e. the track with the widest dynamic range!) might seem to “pop” more.

The received wisdom is that the loudness war was the result of every artist and label wanting their music to “pop” more than everyone else’s. Starting a “dynamics war” might be similarly daft, but at least we wouldn’t suffer the same loss of transient detail, and increase in listener fatigue! Clever manipulation of macro dynamics can also be used to create very loud sections in an otherwise quiet track – keep an eye on MasterCheck’s short-term loudness measurements to take advantage of this neat trick.

If you find yourself mixing or mastering music for streaming services, for a limited time you can take advantage of 50% off NUGEN Audio’s MasterCheck plug-in. This offer is exclusive to the Avid store.