Meeting Topic: Immersive Music Production Techniques: 9.1 Surround with Height Recordings
Moderator Name: Ulrike Schwarz Anderson
Speaker Name: Paul Geluso, NYU
Meeting Location: NYU's Dolan Recording Studio, 6th floor, 35 West 4th St
NYU Music Technology professor Paul Geluso and his students shared their experimental immersive sound recordings of various musicians, captured during a recent trip to Prague, CZ. The meeting was held in the Dolan Recording Studio at NYU's Steinhardt School, and drew 25 attendees. The student presenters included Charles Craig Jr, Hai Li, Michael Ikonomidis, Christal Jerez, Jason Rostkowski, Xuzhou Ye, and Jake Zacharia.
Paul began with an overview of his mic arrays, contrasting them to a more common tetrahedral configuration. Paul explained how conventional studio-grade microphones of various polar patterns could be purposed for immersive sound recordings. Some of these configurations are: coincident Z, in which four spaced omni microphones are each paired with a coincident bidirectional microphone to capture the height channel; double MSZ, in which a mid-side pair faces the performer to collect front, left, and right spaces, and a 2nd pair captures rear and height channels; Hamasaki square, in which four bi-directional microphones are mounted in a large square with the microphone nulls facing the sound source; Bowles Array (named after engineer David Bowles), which utilizes four spaced omnis and four spaced cardioids; Twins Square, which utilizes four dual-channel Sennheiser MKH Twins arranged in a spaced square. The group's microphone choices wowed the audience, with models ranging from ribbon to condenser to dynamic, and pieces dating back to the pre-World War II designs.
Paul and his students opened our 9.1 listening session with a piano-string quartet-vocal trio, followed by a solo violin, a didgeridoo performance, and a modern blues band. The presenters explained the use of the height channels, the psychoacoustic effects of the added sources, and the art behind blending the main surround array with spot and boundary mics. Interesting observations were made, such as the additional clarity and brightness that the height channels provide. Important production tips were raised, including checking stereo pairs for phase issues, and listening to a mix throughout the control room to ensure that the arrangement is pleasing to listeners who aren't sitting in the sweet spot.
Paul noted that immersive recordings open a new frontier for audio engineers. With added dynamic range courtesy of a larger speaker array, mixers can apply less compression and become more creative with panning. There are challenges, including the inevitable variability of speaker placement and the current lack of off-the-shelf monitoring & level control solutions. Also, the ability to maintain phase coherency when downmixing to 5.1, stereo, or mono is questionable. Still, we are hopeful that new delivery standards and technological advancements will allow producers and engineers to offer listeners a more realistic and enveloping experience.
The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development is devoted to providing its students with a world-class education in the heart of Manhattan. Programs in Music Performance, Business, Education, and Technology are offered. Learn more at www.nyu.edu .
Written By: Colin Pfund, NBC