Sound in the New Year 


It may seem late in the year to sound it as new but the Chinese version was only celebrated on 28 January. Over the past year in the sound design and film industry there were many new technologies and formats changing how we look at the world of audio. While advances were not celebrated as universally as say new televisions, the market is still large, and growing. Screen Africa caught up with a couple of industry experts to discuss sound trends in 2017.

“On the one hand vinyl is outselling CD, and on the other companies are developing UHQ 32 bit wireless speakers. So it’s old versus new,” says sound engineer Louis Enslin, the owner of Produce Sound in Johannesburg. “From a post-production point of view, I think immersive audio will continue to become more prevalent in 2017,” he believes that will be the case too for VR.

“We foresee a steady increase in immersive formats like Dolby Atmos™ and Auro 3D with a trend towards these becoming mainstream,” says sound engineer Stephen Webster, the founding director of TheWorkRoom Audio Post in Johannesburg. Webster explains that the implementation of these technologies arose in SA cinemas with four around the country last year.

“We expect to see a vast increase in the already introduced VR content, as personal VR devices become mainstream and industry VR workflows stabilise and become more readily accessible,” says Webster. Enslin agrees that enhancements in VR are definitely on the cards and says Adobe is set to introduce a game changer.

“Over the last couple of years, Audio over IP is coming of age with many more people seriously considering utilising an audio interface using this connectivity. Brands like Focusrite, RedNet and DigiGrid have been working hard to get studios to consider using ethernet for moving audio around the studio. I would expect to see AoIP take even more market share in 2017,” says Webster.

On the wish list we asked what they hoped would be coming out in 2017. “Native Pro Tools support for immersive formats like Dolby Atmos™ and spatial audio formats like Ambisonics (including B-Format)” says Webster. “Affordable home theatre systems for all. TV set sound is generally bad,” adds Enslin.

While Enslin says the sound of 2017 is organic, Webster says “Immersive audio formats bring a new experience to the listener, with Dolby Atmos™ fast becoming the international standard. There is a change in the way we experience sound with the focus moving away from the kind of sounds you will hear but rather how you hear them and their spatial existence.”

On a favourite quote or best piece of advice on sound: “There’s no right or wrong. There is preferred and not. If it sounds good turned to 11, then so be it. Trust your ears,” says Enslin. “Sound should be experienced and not heard,” says Webster.

On a favourite piece of equipment: “Our favorite piece (or set) of equipment currently is our Dolby Atmos™ set up. This allows us more creative freedom, giving unprecedented freedom of the placement and movement of sound within the movie theatre. The speakers completely envelop the audience on the sides and overhead to give new dimensions to the soundtrack, which in turn gives the audience the most exciting sonic experience possible,” says Webster.

“Wow, there’s so many,” says Enslin. “My Manley Vox box pre amp and Manly reference mic, because it makes even me sound good,” he concludes.

In November 2016, Adobe unveiled Project VoCo, which is being called the Photoshop for audio because it could do what Photoshop does for images, allow you to rearrange and change elements of an audio recording, and add elements that weren’t there to begin with. In San Diego, Project VoCo was shown at Adobe MAX and while these technologies are not yet part of Creative Cloud, many sneak peeks shown at previous years were later incorporated.

Project VoCo has caught the attention of the industry for a variety of controversial reasons. When recording voiceovers, dialogue, and narration, with this tool you will have the option to edit or insert a few words without recreating the recording environment or bringing the voiceover artist in for another session. Along with VoCo they gave a look at the Syncmaster, a tool which notes that music is an integral part of video, evoking emotion and mood. Syncmaster can help video editors and motion designers to sync a key moment in a video to the perfect moment in a song. These were just previews of future technologies from Adobe’s research lab and may or may not be released as a product or product feature.

Trends this year are not slowing down, from virtual reality to the growing theme of authenticity in the stock music industry, advances in noise-cancelling and truly wireless headphones, and the 4K-video content of the audio world with the introduction of high res audio files.

Realism and authenticity will be the theme of 2017. Old is in and the futuristic impressions from the past are here with VR, immersive setups and tools that are changing the sound of the future.

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Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.


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