Meeting Topic: Current trends in Audio for Visual Media
Moderator Name: Kerry J Haps
Speaker Name: Brian McCarty
Meeting Location: Niles, IL (Shure SN theater)
Current Trends in Audio for Visual Media — Brian McCarty (YouTube Video)
A total of thirty-three true audiophiles braved the elements of a cold December evening exactly one week after Plamen Ivanov gave his presentation in the S.N. Shure Theater.
Brian McCarty began his presentation by briefly explaining his background and how he currently resides between two continents: North America (Chicago) and Australia. He then showed a map of Australia, probably one of the best that I have seen, to give us a perspective of where he spends part of his time. His presentation was divided into five topics: Importance of Listening; New Cinema Audio Production Changes; 3D Picture & 3D Sound; Ultra High Definition TV; and Perceptual Coding.
Brian said that his hero, Thomas Edison, was known to be a great scientist but few knew that he was even a better marketer. Via marketing propaganda and even 'blind' listening demonstrations, Thomas Edison was able to convey and/or convince his target market how well his products 'seemed' to sound or perform. His marketing techniques are still used today by the biggest audio names in the industry. Brian has learned that 'you really need to listen' when auditioning, developing, or critiquing audio performance. He recommended listening to a live symphonic orchestra in order to 'get calibrated' to real music, resisting the influence of others in making up your own mind, and it is good practice to develop and maintain your own known audio references.
Cinema sound initially started in the 1920s with mono optical sound and progressed to digital optical sound in the 1980s. A lack of standard acoustical formats created chaos and both the AES (Audio Engineering Society) and SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) have recently attempted to 'clear the decks' and create scientifically supported standards. The desire has been to create one mix to service all of the market needs but the various mixes have had to be changed or modified in order to support the DVD/ancillary markets.
Brian observed that ever since the movie Avatar, "the sound guys were nervous that the 3D picture could now move but the audio could not move." New technologies and installations are being developed and tested in order to provide, or give the illusion, of multi-dimensional audio. Often a by-product or result of the new designs is that 'they are TFL or Too F#@% Loud'.
Standard committees are continuously reviewing proposals — from the films of yesterday to the video of today. Film is traditionally shot at 24 fps (feet per second) relative to frame rate. The push today is to increase the frame rates from 24 to 25, 30, 48, 50, 60, 100, and120! Sony and NHK are the primary proponents of UHDTV or Ultra High Definition Television. Essentially, increasing the frame rate or adding more 'dots to the screen' increased the amount of data that is generated or processed.
Perceptual coding (both audio and video) is used to move a quality signal over a pipe that is too small. Brian feels that a lot of listening has not been done effectively. Perceptual coders are supposed to be validated with subjective testing on humans whereas often times they are not done due to time constraints.
Brian concluded his presentation with a brief overview of what he called 'McCarty's Rules'. The primary rule that stood out, at least for me, was to Subjectively Test Everything...no amount of propaganda, marketing, or influence from others can replace your own human ears when making an audio buying or development decision.
The Chicago AES Section would like to extend a special thanks to Brian McCarty for presenting to our section on a cold winter evening the night before he was to get on a plane for the warmer climate waiting for him in Australia.
Mr. McCarty has a music and film recording career spanning over 60 Hollywood films, including as part of the team that was nominated for "Best Achievement in Sound" Oscars (Altered States, On Golden Pond, Dick Tracy). He is the owner of Coral Sea Studios in Cairns, Queensland Australia where he now lives after 23 years in Hollywood.
He is also chair of the AES Sound for Digital Cinema and Television Technical Committee, as well as the very successful "Sound for Picture" track at the last three AES Conventions (San Francisco, Rome, and New York)
Written By: Ken Platz