Surround / quadraphonic sound techniques? Anyone?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
tomperson
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Surround / quadraphonic sound techniques? Anyone?

Post by tomperson » Tue Feb 13, 2007 2:17 pm

Hi,
It seems most people is still doing stereo, while i feel that we should be pushing forward, so I wonder, is anyone using live on a quadraphonic or 5.1 setup? How? What have been your experiences?

What books/sites do you recommed to grasp more technique regarding surround sound (speaker placement, technical issues, microphone techniques)?

I feel like there's a whole world to discover, yet, it seems like it has only caught on film audio production, or the academia, with quite arid and "mathematical/technical" approach, but what about us, electronic musicians?

Thanks.
Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now.

John Sweet
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Post by John Sweet » Tue Feb 13, 2007 3:51 pm

Hambone1's the O.G. of quadraphonic performance around here. He does it kinda home-theater style, with extra FX in the back of the house.

I'm trying to figure out a 4-speaker in the round style now, where each stereo channel breaks out to the front and the back. Individual voices would be panned with X-Y controls so you can visualize the placement of each track in space. Pre-cuing & effective monitoring & how to control that effectively has been the lamest part so far.

tomperson
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Post by tomperson » Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:21 pm

But how do you pan it with x/y control in live, if you have no possibility of doing real surround control with it? I mean, you could have 4 busses, each going to a different surround channel, and control how much of each channel goes to each channel with sends, but not much more than that, am i right?
Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now.

hambone1
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Post by hambone1 » Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:29 pm

I kinda made up my own quad setup.

I use multiple busses, with a BCR2000 controlling levels to the front and rear of the room. I've got BCR knobs controlling levels to Deck A, Loop A1, Loop A2, Deck B, Loop B1, Loop B2, and live percussion to both the front of the room (second row of BCR knobs) and the back of the room (third row of BCR knobs). I can send the two decks, four loops, and live percussion to the front or rear of the room, or anywhere in between.

I also have a library of dummy clips designed to "preset" the various bus level positions. For example, one Faderfox button sends an equal amount of the two decks to the front and back of the room (used most of the time). Another button sends the decks to the front of the room, and live percussion to the back. One button will send Deck A to the front, and Deck B to the back, so a beatmatched cross-fade starts at the front, and ends at the rear. Mashups can come from both ends of the room, too. Another button runs some LFO-style volumes to sweep a sound in sync around the room.

I know it ain't real surround sound, but it works.

Michael-SW
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Post by Michael-SW » Tue Feb 13, 2007 7:52 pm

"Real" surround (placing sound sources in the room) is damn hard. You probably need a host that can handle it like Cubase SX or Nuendo. Both has support for quad channel (or more) audio busses with X/Y-pan.

Just think about something (deceptively) simple like a reverb. How are you going to handle that in surround if you only have a stereo reverb?

On the other hand, if you are doing music that people are supposed to dance to or equivalent there isn't much use for real surround. Just send you stereo mix L and R or possibly reverse the back channels and steal some of Hambones tricks...

tomperson
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Post by tomperson » Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:57 pm

Thanks guys. So, it seems there's still a lot to be done in that respect, and for now all we have are workarounds...

Michael-SW:
I don't think dance music is supposed to be "simple" or "obvious", all the contrary, we should be thinking how to take it forward. In that respect, i feel there's lot to be experimented with regards to spatial placement of sound...I mean, electronic music is that, isn't it? Exploration.
Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now.

YILA
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Post by YILA » Wed Feb 14, 2007 11:08 pm

hey

im working on a 4.1 piece at the moment...i just finished a quad sound installtion as well.

watch out for phase cancellation and flashy pans just for the sake of it...

i rewire live into cubase to facilitate its graphical panners...you can also use stereo reverbs, you just have to use two and route properly...cubase's built in reverb works in surround anyway.....you can manually fade in surround pretty easy....some people prefer this

look into electro/acoustic music...bob jardoc/plaid for more electronica based stuff...or me very soon!
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Michael-SW
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Post by Michael-SW » Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:13 am

tomperson wrote:Thanks guys. So, it seems there's still a lot to be done in that respect, and for now all we have are workarounds...

Michael-SW:
I don't think dance music is supposed to be "simple" or "obvious", all the contrary, we should be thinking how to take it forward. In that respect, i feel there's lot to be experimented with regards to spatial placement of sound...I mean, electronic music is that, isn't it? Exploration.
I didn't say that dance music is "simple". You are totally missing the point. But there are some very obvious differences between a dance floor and a concert situation.

Dance music needs to be effective. People are there to dance, not to appreciate the subtlety of your arrangement. People who dance move around. They certainly don't stand still in the sweet spot. They need to hear the track regardless of where they are in the room. Volume is high, the room is busy. There is a reason many club systems are in mono.

hambone1
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Post by hambone1 » Thu Feb 15, 2007 11:43 am

Live quadraphonic sound is challenging, unless everyone stands on top of each other on the 'sweet spot!'

Every venue is different, and even within that venue the movement of the crowd is different. It's dynamic, and that's why I change various balance/pan settings on the fly. Instant dummy clip presets of various surround settings works well. One button can 'place' a track anywhere in the room. And the dummy clips can be sequenced into the track, so the dynamic movements happen automatically (I've got one that does the sweep-around-the-room thing using a combination of send levels and balance).

Sound movement around the room can be really effective, though, and dance music especially lends itself to it. I like to see the crowd reaction when they hear something different coming from the back of the room (loops, sound effects, live percussion, etc), while the main track is playing from the front. But I don't leave it like that for long, as the folks in the back of the room wouldn't be hearing enough of the main mix.

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Post by subbasshead » Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:58 pm

Whats with the 'dance music' thing?

he didnt even mention dance music in his original post
why presume electronic = dance music?

i always find it odd when people want to set limits for others....
i mean even if you were solely discussing dance music it seems
pretty obvious you arent going to pan the entire mix around the room,
the sub & low end is gonna stay where the subwoofers are ie the front
so whats the problem with wanting to pan elements or effects in quad?

& unless you have the ability to experiment with it then you will never know
how effective it can be...

the thing is, films have been mixed in surround for 30+ years
& not everyone sits in the exact middle/sweet spot of the theatre,
but an approach has evolved through time & experience
which informs which elements (& when) sounds can be
significantly not from the front speakers...

Its a little different with film as you have to be very careful of
distracting an audience from the front ie the screen so in most
cases (not all) dialog is very rarely panned into the surround...
a reverb of it definitely is, so as to put the audience in a vitual
space, but dialog is crucial to story telling & it cannot be risked
to pan it solely to surrounds & for the audience to potentially no
longer be able to understand the story... this would relate to music
& not losing the primary melodic or rhythmic elements from the front
UNLESS you aim to momentarily disorient the audience...

As far as ambience in films, some constant elements are almost always
sent to the rear, again to incldue the audience in an environment...
& sound effects are often either placed in surrounds or moved,
and it is often the movement that the entire audience will notice,
which is why I'll stop this rant now & say, please ableton
we need automatable quad and/or 5.1 panners & a multichannel
output/bus structure to make this easy to do...

please

Michael-SW
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Post by Michael-SW » Fri Feb 16, 2007 10:52 am

subbasshead wrote:Whats with the 'dance music' thing?

he didnt even mention dance music in his original post
why presume electronic = dance music?
You shoudl try reading the whole thread before you post.

I said that "real" surround is damn hard. Eg correct spatial reverberation is extremely complex, it requires specialized and expensive tools. It is a very interesting subject but also quite complex and requires a lot of effort. Live can't cut it for those kinds of tasks.

But if thompersson was thinking about a dance floor/club environment he don't need that kind of stuff. No one would notice, and it might even be detrimental to the experience. The requirements are very different. Then I pointed at Hambones tips that undoubtedly are very effective but doesn't have anything to do with trying to simulate real spatial placement in a physical environment.

So, different goals, different tools.

(I do electronic music, nothing else. Mostly the non dance kind, but that has happened too. I've done a "fake" 4 channel piece in Live (really 2.1, with the back channels reversed and slightly filtered) and experimented with real spatialized audio in 8 channels using ProTools and custom written Max/MSP patches.)

tomperson
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Post by tomperson » Fri Feb 16, 2007 1:04 pm

Thanks for sharing your points of view.

As subasshead correctly presumed, i don't think electronic music = dance music. Dance music certainly is just an aspect of a wide spectrum of electronic musical manifestations.

On the other hand, just to clarify my intentions...I do NOT pretend to do an academic/formal study of quadraphonic/surround sound. It's well beyond my knowledge, and, frankly, i find the academic approach a bit dry. I had the marvelous opportunity of being at a john chowning quadraphonic concert last year, and i'd like to be able to play with some of the concepts. I won't go into recreating a Lissajous curve in space, for example.

My idea is like, hey, this is another possibility for expression, why not explore it? We all like to be too anal about sound and sweet spots and technical issues...but that tends to make us enter into a stall state, not doing because we are not doing it perfect.

Take film for instance. There's many people nowadays experimenting with cheap video from photographic cameras and cell phones, opening up the possibilities with new textures, new languages due to the limitations of the tools, etc. If they were into "perfect" image, do you think they would do it? NO. I want to take the same approach. Experiment, try, learn in the process. And why not try with 4 speakers? Ok, pseudo surround, whatever. Why not? You say people won't bother...have you tried?

And regarding dance floors, I believe there's a place for "experimental" dance floors too, both in the music proposal as well as the ambiental one. If it weren't for "experimental" dance floors, thinner (the netlabel) wouldn't even exist...
Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now.

Michael-SW
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Post by Michael-SW » Fri Feb 16, 2007 1:40 pm

For gods sake, can people please try to stop from misunderstanding me.

I'm just trying to say: Real spatialization needs expensive tools, is quite complex and might not even be noticed unless you have people sitting silently in chairs in a concert hall or walking around a quiet gallery space.

"Fake" surround can be quite effective in other environments, can be done in Live, try stealing some of Hambone's well tested tricks, but don't forget the ultimate purpose of what you are trying to achieve.

tomperson
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Post by tomperson » Fri Feb 16, 2007 1:57 pm

The purpose is to experience something new both to me as a performer and the audience as public. And have fun. And learn as much as possible from that. :D
Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it's all about. Total control now.

Michael-SW
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Post by Michael-SW » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:27 pm

Now, to start contributing something useful to this thread again:

Ambisonics ("B-format") is an intriguing sound format that actually encodes the *position* of each sound source in the audio file. That audio file can then be decoded and played on any speaker setup. Of course you will get no/limited spatial effect in mono or on a stereo setup, but the interesting thing is that the same file can be played on a 8-channel system with no additional effort.

Ambisonics audio can either be recorded with a special mic or generated synthetically.

Read more here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambisonic

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