'Cars 2'

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson

AROUND THE TRACK, AROUND THE WORLD IN 7.1

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AVID, DOLBY, 7.1
It’s hard to predict right now just how the 7.1 rollout will take place on the playback side, either in the home or in theaters. Yes, it is part of the Blu-ray spec, and, yes, there are thousands of theaters equipped for it today. High-profile 3-D films are embracing the technology, and studios no doubt see dollar signs with the re-release of catalog material. But will consumers put in additional speakers and buy new hardware? Will they adapt and adopt to the new format as quickly and assuredly as they did 5.1 playback in the ’90s?

Dolby is betting they will, having shown a slew of new playback options at the recent NAB show, everything from mobile phones to optimized PC chip sets to consumer A/V devices and headphones. And, of course ,theatrical playback. DTS is also pushing the technology, having done very well in the still-early stages of Blu-ray authoring/encoding and with the limited titles in theatrical release. There will no doubt be many more options—from other manufacturers, too—and the broadcast industry will have to chime in eventually, as will the videogame industry.

Every new format introduction presents its own “chicken-egg” scenario: It’s hard to sell the systems if there isn’t content, and studios are loath to invest in the content without some indication that there will be a payback. But that sorts itself out in the marketplace and doesn’t really matter to the creatives, the sound editors and re-recording mixers who must deliver the 7.1 track. They just want the tools that allow them to push a more immersive audio experience.

It’s not surprising then that Avid and Dolby have informally partnered up on delivering the tools for creating and delivering 7.1 audio. Pro Tools is the dominant format in Hollywood, and Dolby maintains market share in encode/decode. In April, they announced Dolby Surround Tools for TDM systems, a new plug-in for 7.1 panning in Pro Tools 9 (pictured).

“As more and more of our customers have transitioned to mixing ‘in the box,’ the need for 7.1 panning support in Pro Tools has continued to grow,” says Max Gutnik, senior director of product management at Avid. “We began to implement 7.1 solutions into our workflows with Pro Tools|HD 9 and Complete Production Toolkit 2. At the same time, we updated the monitor section of our HD OMNI interface to include 7.1, and extended that support even further by updating several of our plug-ins to be compatible with the new format.”

Look for a lot more action in the 7.1 space, definitely from the creative side.
—Tom Kenny






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