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Old August 25th, 2004, 11:10 AM   #1
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Surround question or is there any point?

OK, once again my audio ignorance rises to the surface. Before I invest in a set of surround sound speakers for editing I thought it'd be a good idea to ask if, in my case, playing around with Vegas 5's film surround was worth the time and money. I did not shoot for surround. What I did was shoot at least two sep. feeds at all times (boom and wireless, boom and camera mounted, etc.), but only with the desire to have options in post for using whichever sounded best (or mixing between them). That said, with only two channels, is there anything to be gained in playing around with it in surround? I have various wildlife and nature sounds (birds, creek flowing, waterfalls) that I could conceiveably bring up on a seperate speaker, but still. Money and time are in short supply. I'm game to learning and trying anything that will potentially improve the quality, but there comes a point where it's a bit of a waste of time, ya know?

Thoughts?
Marcia

P.S. If I do get speakers (there are several diff sets at Best Buy near us), what do I look out for?
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Old August 25th, 2004, 11:59 AM   #2
 
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Marcia,
There isn't much in the way of "recording for surround" in most instances. Surround is built as part of sound design, and generally created from raw audio. Components of a scene that can be separated, are separated in surround.
Using environments, subtle stingers for dialog, bringing sounds from back to front and vice versa, are not recorded, but rather created.
For instance, since you're in the woods...maybe you've panned across a creek. Water sound could move from back to front.
Maybe you shot some high views of canyons, trees, etc. So, airy wind sounds floating behind and moving to one side or the other.
Either way... it's done creatively rather than in production.
In terms of cost, you can start with systems as low-cost as the M-Audio LX4's with the expanders, or as much as you'd like. Can't help much with how much time it will take, as a shot list/scene list are required to determine how sound design should affect your project.
Before making a surround decision, sit down with a sheet of paper and determine whether ambience is all you can provide in surround or not. If you can do more than ambience, I'd say it's worth it. If you can't...I'd save the effort for a project that will benefit more from surround.
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Old August 25th, 2004, 01:42 PM   #3
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I finally understand what Vegas (or any other) surround is! You always make stuff understandable, Spot. Great food for thought, too. Will make some lists as you say. I have a lot of hours to bring in still (so far I've been researching stuff like this while the other computer captures).

Btw, I'm still waiting for that Vegas 5 book of yours to actually be on the shelf, but think I'll pick up the Sound Forge one which you mentioned in another thread. If only the surround version was available. I could use it. :-)
Thanks again,
Marcia

P.S. I sort of "understood" as I sat in on a final re-mix on a friend's feature, but I wondered if it was different somehow in the DV world, and with our software options. Makes sense that it wouldn't be when I think about it further, of course. But when I was in that room, listening in as the editors argued about whose moment it was, music or effects, or panning an airplane overhead, I had to be silent and I always left with a million questions. Man, those guys are amazing, though. Coming out of "picture," sound has just always seemed like this mystical, magical world that everyone else "got" while I was clueless. But these boards help a lot.
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Old August 27th, 2004, 01:29 AM   #4
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I've begun fooling around with surround sound as it relates to my documentary shooting. My VX2000 has two Sony stereo mics mounted fore and aft, with the rear mic feeding a Minidisc unit.

I've shot several choir tour documentaries now, and am just getting into the editing of the most recent one dating from mid-July. This was the first to be shot in surround. From what I can hear so far on some of my clips, surround opens up the environment in a remarkable way. It's not quite the same degree as going from mono to stereo, but it's significant. The choir performs, and you can hear the acoustics of the Mozart hall; when they finish you hear the audience applauding all around you; a horse-drawn carriage clipclops past in Salzburg, and you can hear the sound shift to the rear. I can see, however, that you don't want to call attention to the new effects--better to make it a bit subtle.

As for surround speakers, I have a set bought early this year made by Creative for about $100. Various web sites have written very positive reviews about this set, and say that for the money they are a great value. Their only major shortcoming is deep bass, which is fine by me--you don't hear too many 30Hz notes outside. I selected a Santa Cruz audio card because it had decent specs and also contains a 10-band equalizer that I've used to flatten out my editing room.

So my suggestion is to jump right in--Vegas makes it very easy to experiment with surround.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 12:35 AM   #5
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Much of the surround effects you hear in films are often "created" as Doug said. However, natural (surround) sound should be recorded in the field using a surround mic setup.

Just as you wouldn't use two separate tracks to try to "create" a stereo image of an environment, you wouldn't do it for surround either. The important distinction between effects and nat sound is coherency. When you hear audio in all channels that actually happened at the same time, but from different directions, it will be coherent and sound natural. If you try to "create" it by using front and rear audio tracks from different times, it will sound like it. There will be no common audio, no coherency.

Stereo audio as well as surround also must have all tracks recorded using the same microphones so the tonal balance is equalized.

You can however, use a variety of devices or plug-ins to simulate surround from a stereo track if you have it.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 09:14 AM   #6
 
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There's a tremendous amount of truth to what Marty says, excepting that calibrated surround microphones are incredibly expensive unless you buy one of these cheap, consumer oriented mics setups.
The average listener will never know you've created an environmental ambience using audio captured with a stereo mic, or audio from a sound library if it's managed correctly in the mix process. Is it absolutely ideal? No. Do most folks have the $$ to have the ideal setup?
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Old September 1st, 2004, 10:24 AM   #7
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Yes, Calibrated mics are expensive. However, using run of the mill mics set up in a surround configuration can yield quite acceptable results. Will they absolutely match in sensitivity, frequency response and directivity? No better than two mics set up for XY stereo, but that's done every day.

If you use the same model mic, if the mics are within reasonable tolerances of each other (some inexpensive mics are considered to be within spec if they are +,- 6db of each other - a 12 dB spread!), and they are set up in a stanadardized surround configuration, they should give you a very realistic environmental recording.

Five of any good quality mic is an expensive prospect, and a 5.1 mount is usually required, so it is much cheaper to "create" the surround audio in post. But if reality audio is important, it's easier to capture it than create it.
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Old September 1st, 2004, 03:17 PM   #8
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i suppose the most important question to ask is, is it neccessary to have 5.1 surround sound given the content of your video project. i don't have HDTV so i've not paid attention to discovery/PBS broadcasting nature shows in either 5.1 or stereo. i mean for modern feature films 5.1 is minimum requirement... but for documentaries... i don't know. was farenheit 9/11 in 5.1?
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 02:15 AM   #9
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Yi, good point. Haven't seen 9/11 yet (or much of anything else for that matter... too busy), but I doubt it was. Roger and Me certainly wasn't. I did see most of the nominated docs from last years Academy run, and if memory serves, they weren't either.

One less thing to worry about at this stage...
Marcia
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 08:29 AM   #10
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Quite right. not all material warrants surround. Your example, F-9/11 is a political message piece, though presented in an entertaining way, surround sound would have added very little if anything to the message. But many doc's are envirnmental in nature (no pun intended), and if immersing your audience in the "environment" adds to the experience of watching the film, then surround would be something to seriously consider.

Then, surround sound is something you would want to plan for in advance of shooting, rather than try to cobble together after the fact. Even if you plan to "create" it in post, there will probably be elements you'll want to capture specifically for it.
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Old September 3rd, 2004, 10:50 AM   #11
 
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9/11 ISN'T in 5.1, but my understanding is the DVD release this month will be. How they're gonna exactly do that, I don't know.
There are some sweet things you can do to captured 2 channel recordings to widen tweak, and niche into place, but it's not the same as planned-for audio. You need to plan in advance, even if it's just the kind of mics you use for a wider source, capturing environment separate from the dialog.
Dialog is mono anyway. What does that mean? means you need a multitrack source to record with onsite, if you're gonna pre-produce for surround. And you don't want to get caught up in the giggly consumer world of 12 bit/32K audio on a camcorder, either. Especially not Sony's new "surround" recording system on a palm cam. I met a guy who bought this consumer system and is running it next to his JVC500 to capture surround. Uh...
Lots of movies are not captured as 4 channel plus dialog, but environments MUST be captured separately if you want a realistic sound at post.
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