It has long been clear that immersive audio is upon us with regards to sound design and mixing. After noting that many popular platforms including Netflix, Facebook, Apple TV, Amazon Prime and many more were moving beyond 5.1 as a delivery format, we decided to make the move to immersive on the main mixing stage.
With many formats to choose from, we decided to go with Dolby Atmos both for its scalability and its ubiquity in the TV and film industry, though the system we’ve designed is capable of supporting a variety of other immersive formats as well.
The first course of action was to contact the folks at Meyer Sound, as well as our architect Francis Manzella of FM Design. In collaboration with the two entities, we produced drawings and a proposal to present to Dolby that would allow Dallas Audio Post to be commissioned for both theatrical and home theater Atmos mixing on our main stage.
The redesign of the stage was incredibly intensive – requiring us to take down our fabric walls which would expose the underlying frame and sound treatment, reconstruct the speaker boxes in new locations, and hang the additional height speakers from trusses that would be suspended beneath the acoustic tiling in the ceiling (while staying out of the path of the projector). After reviewing the proposal, Dolby suggested the additional modification of the upper soffit to allow for a fourth row of height speakers behind the mix position.
The final speaker array on the main stage now consists of:
- 3 screen channels (LCR)
- 12 surround speakers
- 8 height speakers
- 2 surround subs
- 4 LFE subs
Construction is always stressful – especially when you’re taking apart a perfectly functional room. The first step was to label and remove all of the existing wood slats in such a way that they can be put back up after the reconfiguration.
The fabric walls were then removed, and the new speaker boxes were constructed and installed.
Next the soffit was modified to accommodate the new trussing that would hold the height speakers.
All new fabric was installed throughout, and the truss was flown.
Finally all of the new speakers were installed, powered and connected.
Equally as intensive as the construction was the system design. A great initial resource was a presentation that Marti Humphrey from The Dub Stage gave outlining his complete immersive setup. After some study of the system requirements and a little more consultation with Marti, owner and facility engineer Roy Machado had an entire infrastructure upgrade specified and ordered. The challenge was actually getting the equipment delivered in time for the room commission.
The heart of the new system is the Avid MTRX for I/O and the DAD SPQ speaker processing card for speaker control. Both components were ordered well in advance, but with construction already underway, neither piece had been delivered yet. It turned out that the manufacturer was badly backordered on both parts, and a lot of arm twisting and persuasion was required to get the brains of the system in the building in time for the actual commissioning.
With everything installed and passing signal, it was time for Dolby and Meyer sound to come in for commissioning. For five days Miles Rogers of Meyer sound and Bryan Pennington of Dolby labs tested, tweaked, and calibrated the new system using arrays of mics and proprietary software. They created and stored calibration profiles for a wide variety of formats including:
- Dolby Theatrical Atmos
- Dolby Home Theater Atmos
After all of this work the stage met the Dolby spec, but both Miles and Bryan felt that the subwoofers could use more headroom. They played back some mixes that had the LFE maxed out, and found the subs to be working very hard to reproduce those sounds. On this recommendation, 2 additional Meyer X800 C subwoofers were ordered and installed – bringing the total in the room to 4 giant subwoofers to power the low end.
Calibrations were updated and the room was off and running.
It was a long journey to get here, but the additional capability and flexibility will serve us and our clients for a long time to come. If you’re interested in mixing in immersive formats for your own works, drop us a line and schedule a time to come by for a demonstration.