A rendering of the entrance to a music production program building.

Creative Surround Mixing Tips For 7.1 & 8.2 | Greg Gordon

 HP Welcome Center Mockup

Recently Pyramind Studios was put to the test by our friends at emotion studios to use our ingenuity and facilities to build an 8.2 surround mix designed for a custom video wall installation at Hewlett Packard’s new Customer Welcome Center in Palo Alto, CA.

Anyone reading this is probably a sound geek and might be asking what is 8.2 and does it really exist? I know I certainly did and after some exploration found that this is a custom set-up for a circular video wall installation. Imagine three curved video walls in a 360 degree presentation each made up of 4×4 curved HD monitors capable of 16 K per section off of one 4K signal. The 8.2 sound system amounted to three stereo images for each of the three video walls with a rear stereo image to complete the 360 degree experience. The two subs, making up the .2, were directly below each of the flanking video walls.

The challenge: How to use Pyramind’s 7.1 cinema surround mix room to simulate and create the ten channels of audio required for the 8.2 playback.  The playback system being used to synchronize the video walls and audio playback was a 7th Sense Delta Media Server and the delivery requirement was three sets of ten Wave files for three different videos.

If this was really just four stereo mixes with two subs it would have been pretty straight forward but the challenge was to create motion between all four sets of speakers to make the listener feel like they were truly immersed in the experience. To do this we first established an approximation of the on-site 8.2 mix, by creating a “6.1” mix where we simulated the 3 screens of the installation.

 AudioSetupPrinciple-Imaging AudioSetupPrinciple-Imaging

Front Screen = L/R (4/3)

Left Screen = Lsr/Ls (6/5)

Right Screen = Rs/Rsr (2/1)

“Bass 1/Bass 2” = Lfe (duplicate Lfe channels for final delivery for the “.2”)

This allowed us to quickly send and monitor discreet elements that are tied directly to any of the individual screens. To better estimate the width of the Left and Right screens onsite, we muted two of the side surrounds on each side of our 7.1 array. We also temporarily recalibrated the surrounds to maintain more equal volume across the array.

This configuration allowed us to monitor any elements that needed to pan smoothly between screens by using what we called a 7.1 overlay. We were able to pan those elements as needed, print them to their own tracks and then print those into the master mix files.

 HP 8.2 Mix Routing Schematic HP 8.2 Mix Routing Schematic

Once satisfied with the balance of the “6.1” or three screen mix, we were able to monitor a mono downmix of the left and right screen feeds onto the Ls/Rs channels of the 7.1array, freeing up the Lsr/Rsr for an approximation of the rear floating surrounds (channels 7/8 on the diagram). To maintain focus on the main screens, these channels contained a bit of dry music feed combined with some reverb to increase the depth in the space.

The folks at emotion studios were concerned that the mix might not translate and that we would need to do a mix pass on site at the installation. I’m very happy to report that the mix worked beautifully and no additional tweaks were needed! Special thanks to Joel Raabe and the whole team at Pyramind Studios who contributed to making the sessions run smoothly and without a hitch!

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