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TECHNOLOGIES NEW UPMIXING Jon CHALLENGES AND Schorah STRATEGIES FOR AUDIO POST-PRODUCTION TODAY AND TOMORROW Following the successful introduction of Halo Upmix, NUGEN Audio’s new upmixing plugin, Creative Director and Co-Founder Jon Schorah reflects on the changing landscape and increasingly complex demands of the modern audio post-production environment. The audio post-production engineer survives in a demanding and complex world where time is at a premium; yet, these professionals are required to deliver results at the highest quality levels as a matter of routine. It’s essential to design concise and efficient workflows, and the production and delivery of surround mixes is no exception. Day-to-day TV programming is produced to a tight deadline and budget. While upmixing original stereo programming to surround has become routine, digital distribution is demanding an increasingly robust upmix for a number of reasons. This in turn adds new complexity and places additional demands upon a successful upmix process. First and foremost, the process must be able to provide a good upmix from the original source material. Of course, “good” is somewhat subjective, but one simple tenet holds true - the upmix must respect the original source material, providing a naturally extended panorama that “unfolds” the original into a surround context. This is very important when the original source is a broadcast mix that is being translated for broadcast in surround. Here creative decisions have been made, and these preferences need to be respected and represented in the resultant upmix. A strong relationship between the original source material and the upmix not only respects creative intent but also delivers a coherent experience to the consumer. Secondly, there is the issue of dialogue isolation. Most delivery specifications require a high degree of dialogue isolation into the centre channel for aesthetic purposes and consistency of delivery, but achieving this is not always a simple process. In many situations, separate stems are not available, and with archive restoration, the stems may not have existed in the first place. Historically, upmix processes have applied rather brute-force methods for achieving this end, resulting in unfortunate side effects for the mix as a whole. Recent increases in computing 58 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 109 JANUARY 2016 power, however, have led to great improvements in processes that facilitate this isolation. Techniques that go far beyond simple mid- side and frequency isolation are now possible, with minimal over-isolation and transparent transmission of directional content passed to the sides. A third requirement has recently come into play, largely as a result of digital distribution methods. An upmix must, in most cases, be highly downmix-compatible. This means that a downmixed version of the upmixed audio (i.e. the upmix collapsed back down to stereo) must still sound very close, if not identical, to the original for all intents and purposes. There are many processes that can be used to generate a full- sounding upmix, but some of these can cause serious downmix compatibility issues. For original TV production, the 5.1 downmix needs to correlate very closely to the original stereo source, since the consumer stereo version is commonly produced at the set- top box level as a downmix of the broadcast surround.