Beyond Stereo Beyond Analog
Have you ever mixed in Surround Sound? Ever experienced a film or song in 5.1 Surround Sound? Have you played games in Surround Sound? Going Beyond Stereo Beyond Analog encompasses where we are and where we are going with the audio industry. We can mix with 5 channels and higher in the digital domain to give the listener a more realistic, immersive experience. It’s exciting to see and hear the progression of tools to allow us to create other-worldly experiences for music, video, and games. We are going Beyond Stereo Beyond Analog!
We have all heard films in 5.1 surround sound, because the technology has been around for awhile. Many audio creators and engineers have NOT experienced the process of mixing in surround sound. It’s quite the ear-opening experience to break yourself out of the “left right” panning mentality that we’ve been accustomed to for decades. You don’t need a 5.1 speaker system to mix in surround sound either. All you need is a DAW with multiple outputs (which almost all of them do) and an application to create the illusion of a 5.1 monitoring system in your headphones. Apps like Waves NX are one of the many that allow us to simulate a 5.1 environment on stereo headphones.
VR (Virtual Reality) is really amazing!
VR allows us to be immersed in a world without boundaries. Everything from games to education is being explored though this technology and it is something I recommend everyone try! Check out this VR Audio Company that is creating tools for audio education! They put in you in a 3D studio environment so you can learn how to operate a console and patchbay! VR games can be used for entertainment but for productivity as well. SoundStage is a Virtual Reality application that allows you to create music with element floating in a virtual space.
Digital is amazing, yes. Although surround sound was first pioneered in the analog domain, the concepts and applications have been skyrocketed in the digital world. Do we miss anything from analog? If you have mixed in an analog environment you may recall things “feeling” different although you may not know how to convey WHY it felt different. The process when working on a console is very kinesthetic, meaning, there’s a physical connection with you an the engineer with the music. Yes we feel music, and that in and if itself makes us connect emotionally to it. Although the process of mixing and creating in the digital environment can be very disconnecting at times.
Is Digital Good or Bad for creativity?
It seems like an obvious answer. How could anything be bad when so many of the advantages are clear? It feels at times there are no limits to what we can do and that clearly is a plus for the creative mind. Let’s pick apart the most basic function within a mix. Moving a fader may be the most basic of function in a mix (balance). In the Analog world, on a console, you would reach out and touch a fader. In the Digital world, you reach for a mouse, find the mouse on the screen, move the mouse to the fader, then click and drag the fader to where you want it. You get it now?
Bringing Analog back
I’m not hear to preach about the nostalgia of analog or even the sound of analog. Many engineers understand the advantages and disadvantages to the workflow differences of analog vs digital. Companies like Slate Audio have created things like the Raven Console allowing their users to reach out and touch the DAW like a console. Control surfaces are another example of this and they have been around for over a decade. It’s the attempt to bring back the “reach out and touch” feeling that engineers get when working on analog consoles.
Now we do whatever we can imagine. It will only become easier as people develop new technologies to streamline old workflows into newer, more efficient ones. In the ideal situation, one would simply wave their hand through the air and the idea would come to fruition. How far away do you think we are from that type of reality?
Check out the podcast “Beyond Stereo Beyond Analog” Episode 10 Part 2:
Check out Part 1 to hear about where it all came from!