Dolby Atmos

Are there any future plans to include Dolby Atmos into the mastering environment of Wavelab? It seems that most Atmos production software is focused on TV or cinematic releases, but there’s a ton of mastering engineers that need traditional mastering tools for this format.

I don’t know yet.

For various reasons, I agree the Dolby Atmos is likely to continue to develop as a deliverable for mastering engineers. I can say that Nuendo (which I have) incorporates a complete Dolby Atmos tool set. I think you’re on OSX? If you have PT Ultimate, there’s some solutions there as well for macs only.

It is spelled DOLBY not DLOBY FWIW and I have yet to have any clients even mention it so…

Here’s a great podcast interview with fellow mastering engineer and WaveLab user, Michael Romanowski:

He talks about some of the challenges he and other immersive mastering engineers face due to the lack of assembly tools for that format.

This is something that WaveLab is in position to not only do, but be the first. Yes, there are very few standards in place for this format but with guys like Michael and Pete Lyman who currently do a lot of immersive/Atmos work and are WaveLab users, that’s a great resource to potentially tap and get it sorted out sooner than later.

Michael made some interesting comments about things like how hard (or impossible) it currently is to do gapless album masters for ATMOS because for the time during that crossfade, the already high number of channels/objects is doubled.

He also commented how the ATMOS version has to be within a certain degree of sameness as far as song spacing compared to the official release. Something WaveLab’s Reference Tracks would be very useful for dialing in easily and quickly.

Even though I have yet to hear a music album that sounds so good in Dolby Atmos that I want to hear it again in Dolby Atmos on Apple’s AirPods Pro and/or AirPods Max which is probably the upper end of what the average consumer will hear it on right now, and even though I have had ZERO clients ask me about doing an ATMOS master for their project, and have more stereo mastering work than I can currently handle, I do think that some consideration for Atmos must be had.

In fact, my thoughts on Atmos is that it usually sounds weird, weak, and not as exciting or direct as stereo. I have yet to sit in a nice Atmos room and hear something which I’m sure is more compelling but how many end users will? Soundbars, consumer setups, and headphones can only do so much and I’m not convinced it’s going to make the format essential for the musical working class, which is the majority of my client base.

There is definitely work in Atmos for those who want it right now. Lots of back catalog work for major artists, and current upper mid level and top level artists seem to be doing Atmos “just because” with varying degrees of success but I have yet to hear any normal people mention its existence, let alone say it’s great, or even good. Only time will tell if it becomes the norm.

Atmos might be more useful for video/film/TV/movies and gaming which I’m sure some people would like to do the final audio touches for in WaveLab.

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Maybe WL will be missing a trick here - Dolby Atmos already promised to Cubase very soon.

Steinberg marketing on Cubase 12 ‘new features’ page of website…
### Dolby Atmos® music creation [coming soon]

Dolby Atmos is taking the music industry by storm and, in Cubase 12, you can now produce immersive music for Dolby Atmos completely “in the box”. Assign bed and objects from tracks in existing projects or create entirely new Dolby Atmos projects from scratch. Featuring native integration of the Dolby Atmos Renderer, Cubase 12 allows you to author, mix, and deliver Dolby Atmos compliant immersive source files and, at the same time, the final stems in different surround configurations.

I believe the implementation will be the one currently found in Nuendo.

There’s already the post-processing ‘open/edit in external editor’ (WL) capability from Cubase’s Audio Export dialog - maybe in future more will be needed from PG’s side, to keep the workflow between the two solid in this regard.

EDIT:- thanks for that article/podcast @Justin_Perkins

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I have at least two labels that have asked me … and according to my sources Apple Music have advised certain labels and artists that they will not be ‘promoting’ their releases unless they include a Dolby Atmos version as part of the uploads.

I know of NO ONE in my town that has DOLBY ATMOS. I have a 5.1 system that I use for watching movies. I have NOT been asked about any ATMOS projects, of course I am not in the same league as some on this board.

IMHO it is just another way for companies to force people to go out and purchase more media and a new “surround system”. I heard the same “stuff” about 3D TVs, about Quad, about 7.1 and the list is endless.

I suggest that if WAVELAB is going to “implement” this it be a seperate program as not everyone wants it. FWIW

Atmos is interesting, and I think that specific workflow things very well might be necessary. But, I’m really not convinced on the format as a whole.

First, the workflow things…

Based on interviews with some of the very few people doing atmos mastering, it seems like the stumbling point is about how to control it. You can’t really process objects individually (because that’s just mixing) and with the whole format being defined by not being tied to a particular speaker arrangement it seems like the “ideal” would be something like:

  1. automatically/programmatically insert a mono version of your plugin chain on every object and across any bed tracks.
  2. automatically set up side-chains from the stereo bed mix to any nonlinear plugins with channels based only on side of the room (e.g., as an object moves further left, it’s side chain inputs come more from the left side of the stereo render or bed).
  3. create “ganged” controls for everything (think a unified interface kinda similar to bx_masterdesk or MasterRig, but that actually controls all of the instances).

That would basically give you one interface for things like “it needs to be brighter” that looks like a couple normal EQ knobs but is actually affecting all the objects and the bed mixes separately. And similar for everything else that gets integrated (still just eq, compression, and limiting…I don’t think any kind of distortion is ever going to work right with atmos unless it’s done earlier in the process).

That’s the closest I can imagine to a mastering workflow with all the flexibility required by the Dolby Renderer.

That’s something I would buy if I needed to do Atmos work, at least based on my current understanding…if I ever get convinced of widespread adoption of immersive audio (which Dolby has basically already won).

Now, as for why I don’t think it’s a good idea…

I’ve never heard Atmos actually sound good.

Outside of it perhaps being quietly installed in movie theaters, the first time I heard it was several years ago in a HiFi shop after Klipsch came out with those dinky little mini-speakers that sat on top of your 5.1 speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling. All it did was make everything sound messy. But, it was a crummy room, and I’ve never like Klipsch speakers anyway.

Since then, I’ve heard it in several movie theaters…and even for film, I think that the immersive-ness of it is overblown. Okay, it’s kind of cool when it sounds like a helicopter is coming from above you or something…but it’s literally fractions of a second where it seems to matter before the camera tilts up or the helicopter is in front of you. And just like normal surround sound, what seems like the best applications for that immersive-ness to me are things like startling you with something behind/above you in a horror move. Except that as soon as you turn your head to look, you can’t see anything relevant, and it kind of breaks the spell of watching a movie.

First person view would be different…so…gaming.

Standing in the middle of an atmos rig wearing a VR headset seems like it would be great. Except they’re already doing spatial audio things, and there’s no real mastering workflow for the game audio itself, only the soundtrack…and who really cares if that’s immersive as long as the rest of the game is?

And, while I like a couple binaural → stereo HRTF plugins, none of the immersive ones even come close to working for me (Atmos Binaural Renderer, Apple Spatial Audio, and whatever my friend’s VR gaming setup used)…they all literally sound like bad still-binaural panning with obvious filtering artifacts to me. And most end users/consumers don’t even know that’s a thing. They just happily listen to their earbuds or headphones.

And considering that I still haven’t heard a soundbar that sounds decent, that < 1/10 home 5.1 setups I’ve seen IRL even have the sub in a halfway-acceptable location, and that well over half of the home stereo setups I’ve seen IRL don’t even create a real phantom center let alone a realistic sound stage…

I’m not convinced that anyone is ever going to hear Atmos even remotely correctly outside of movie theaters, binaural renders, and mixing rooms.

I’m willing to be proven wrong, but I just don’t think that FOR MUSIC it’s much more than a marketing gimmick at this point. So, it’s really down to a question of whether it’s worth investing that much time & energy into developing an application for a really limited use case, especially when Nuendo, PT, and Logic are already so far ahead and entry level monitoring is about on par with high-end stereo monitoring.

Or, I could be totally and completely wrong.

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So does the Dolby software allow you to do buss processing on each ADM file, like a traditional mastering set up, or do you need to tweak each and every stem?
If someone provides an ADM file, can it be opened in something like Nuendo, have buss effects applied and re-saved, whilst keeping all the original metadata in tact ?

There are no buses in Atmos.

The format can contain bed mixes for stereo, 5.1, etc, which can be processed that way. But, that’s not the point of it.

The whole point is individual objects being placed in a virtual 3D space which are rendered to the playback system on output.

E.g., an object placed up and right of the listener will play mostly out of the right speaker on 2.0 or 2.1, out of the right front and right rear on 5.1, out of the right side on 7.1 and out of some combination of the right side, upper front, and upper rear on 7.4.1, with different filtering and delays for each to try and put it in a 3d space.

That’s also why every “approved” Atmos room has something like a Trinnov…it’s just about the only way to actually align everything so that the filtering tricks work.

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It just seems to me that there’s a handful of guys ‘mastering’ immersive audio at present. I’m just trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. If they receive 10 songs to master, what’s the actual ‘mastering’ process if they can’t treat a buss? Are they literally having to EQ each and every objsect/stem?

For me, it’s really looking like it’s an extension of the mixer’s role. At the ‘big end of town’ it seems to be the mix engineers providing the ADM. In my locale, there’s one post studio managed by a friend of mine that sees it as an add on (they already have the one room set up for it).

It’s def not ‘traditional’. I don’t have enough experience with it at this stage to comment constructively.

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Ha ha you’re probably correct. Cynics might be tempted to say it’s a strategy by Ap*le to sell headphones. The Quadraphonic of the 2020’s maybe.

The upcoming AES Mastering Academy 2 has a section on Immersive Mastering that might be of interest:

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Brilliant as always JP . Many thanks.