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Old June 1st, 2003, 09:29 PM   #1
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Mixing 5.1 Audio from FCP for DVDSP- HW/SW??

I'm looking for a way to make a surround sound track for an upcoming DVD project.
I'd like to be able to mix the sound track on my Mac to produce the 5.1 audio for encoding with AC3.

Is anyone here doing this?

I'd like to know what hardware and software you're using to make this happen.

I'm considering an MOTU 828mkII or a PreSonus Firestation and something like Bias Deck. But I'd like to get an idea that this will really work.
Of course, since I'm more interested in building the sound on the Mac, I don't really need the 8 inputs of those two devices, so I'm trying to find out if something cheaper like the M-Audio Revolution 7.1 or Sonica Theatre will work.

Thanks,
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Old June 1st, 2003, 09:38 PM   #2
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I don't know of anyone here doing this (I hope someone proves me wrong). I would join Apple's DVD SP List and ask the same question. This was asked some time ago and would be in the list archives. MOTU is probably the way to go. I don't know about Deck however. Have you had good results using it?
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Old June 1st, 2003, 10:58 PM   #3
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Thanks Jeff.

I'm already on the DVDSP list, and the question has been posted there too.

I searched the archives here first, but didn't find the answer -- maybe I didn't do the search correctly...

The new MOTU 828mkII looks excellent, and I know it should have good software support. Same for the Firestation since it uses the mLan standard. The M-Audio products are a real wild-card; inexpensive, and good specs, but may be supported more by Game companies than Audio/Video.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 02:56 AM   #4
 
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I do this all the time. I consider it odd when I only mix for stereo or Pro Logic. 5.1 is the defacto standard. Sometimes I mix in Dolby Digital EX (back/rear surround channel added to the left and rights). I have been doing this for about 6 or 7 months, and I started doing this just so I could prove Jeff wrong on this very thread that I knew would pop up! :)

Anyway, what I do in Final Cut Pro (doesn't really matter what version) is to create A LOT of audio tracks. Depending on the complexity of your mix, you may be able to get away with just 12 tracks. Assign A1 and A2 to be the CENTER channel. A3 and A4 for the LEFT channel. So on and so forth for the RIGHT, LEFT SURROUND, RIGHT SURROUND, and SUBWOOFER channels. Mix and edit your sound. Now since the Mac cannot do realtime Dolby Digital output with Final Cut Pro you need to test it in a known, well tuned home theater (or real theater) environment. This is where DVD-RW comes in MEGA HANDY! Make sure only the CENTER channels are lit up in the FCP timeline and export as an AIFF audio file, 16-bit, 48000khz, MONO (very important). Reselect the other channels and keep exporting AIFFS until you have one sound file for each channel. Open A.Pack (comes with DVD Studio Pro) and drag and drop all of the appropriate files to their channels. Select 384 or 448kbps as your bitrate, go to the 3rd tab and select NONE for compression (default is FILM STANDARD COMPRESSION, which sucks ass). Encode. Burn to your DVD-RW (I usually use Toast after building the disc in DVDSP). Watch and listen in the home theater environment. Go back and make adjustments. Repeat. Burn to a real DVD when you are done.

Tips: Try to avoid making the surrounds and the sub too loud when you are mixing. People tend to think that the surrounds sound best loud so they crank them up when they set up their home theater system. Those people are morons. There are even other morons who think that the dialog should be simultaneously broadcast through ALL of the speakers in a surround system. They actually have their home systems set up that way and complain at movie theaters when they don't hear the voices coming from the surrounds. They complain that "the THX isn't working" or the "Side speakers are busted". Beware of these people.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 11:11 AM   #5
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Thanks Curtis,
This does help alot.

You do not then mix the sound in 5.1 BEFORE you burn to DVD ... i.e. you do not Preview the sound?
That's what I'm hoping to do. The project is 80 minutes long and the cycle time to burn and test a DVD will take too long. So I was hoping to get the audio straight before burning and testing on the DVD.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 11:42 AM   #6
 
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I do preview the sound as I indicated above with a DVD-RW.

You could buy eMagic, mixers, a fancy sound card and all that to do real time mixing. I knew a guy who did this and his Mac kept crashing literally every 2 to 5 minutes in OS X (which is supposed to be invincible according to its proponents). Avoid that eMagic stuff!
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 06:52 PM   #7
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I am working on my second DVD project with surround sound. All of my work is associated with the University of North Texas College of Music, a large and well-known music school. Both of the projects have been live performance classical music events -- one was large orchestra and chorus, the other wind ensemble and chorus. The first DVD was a trial-and-error affair with audio printed to digital multitrack tape, mixed, and printed back to FCP3. You don't want to know the hours that this one took!! The second was recorded on my G4 using MOTU 828 (not the mkII version) and Digital Performer 3. Everything was working against time code. We used a pro digital slate that was jam synced to time code. The 5 cameras took video of the slate running before the show started so that each video track could be synced during post. (Cameras could not be turned off until a preordained stopping point was reached.) Of course, Performer was also printing the same time code to audio on the G4. Performer is the real key, I think, to posting surround and printing it back to FCP. It has teriffic tools for manipulating and mixing the surround tracks so that you can work with the audio totally separate from the video. When you have your mix completed, you simply output your 5 (or 6, if you like) surround tracks as individual LRCLsRs audio files. Make note of the EXACT timecode where you surround mix export begins. Import these into FCP and position the beginning at the EXACT timecode reference that you noted in the Performer export.

When you get ready to go to A.Pack, export AIF files from FCP in pairs: L/R, C/Sw, Ls/Rs for the sake of efficiency. Drag onto the A.Pack layout, blah, blah, blah . . .

For long projects, you may need to adjust sync from time to time, but you can fairly easily do this by viewing waveforms of some of the audio tracks recorded by your in-camera mic versus your digital surround tracks (I usually pick one of each). If you select only these two to listen to, you can immediately hear any sync issues.

Sorry for the rambling. Just remember: the hardest part of this whole operation is using your ears and good taste to do the surround mix in Performer right.

If you want more detail, send me e-mail.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 08:10 PM   #8
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I have been searching for ways to mix and listen to the 5.1 mix on and off for 2 years now. (without costing way too much)
First I bought and RME digiPAD96/8 sound card almost 2 years ago and 5 months ago we were blessed with OSX drivers for it. I thought this is an 8Channel sound card with "optical out" so along with Cubase SX (it has suround sound mixing capabilites) I should be able to plug this directly into my Home Theatre Optical In and mix away easy and cheaply. But no! Apparently you also need an IO box to go between the card and the Amp. These things are $5000 Australian. Or If you want the Steinberg solution then just give them $10,000 Australian and you get an RME card made to Steinbergs Specs, an IO Box, and Nuendo.

So currently I mix in stereo thru the card into the Mackie mixer and out to the Fostex monitors. My 5.1 plan is to just do a rough mix in FCP (BTW my prayers for surround sound mixing within FCP weren't answered) and trial and error burning DVDs till I get the mix ok.

Phew I just had o get that off my chest.
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 09:00 PM   #9
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mixing 5.1

I ultimately failed to make this all work, but it seemed, in theory, to be possible.

OS X (required for multi-channel out - duh, my first oversight. OS 9 is only two channel out)
An M-Audio Delta 410 sound card with 8 analog (rca) outs
Powered 5.1 multimedia speakers (Klipsch Promedia 5.1 speakers which died after 4 months)
Bias Deck 3.5

Mine was a 20-minute video. The idea was to export the audio out of FCP as OMF files, then open the OMFs in Bias Deck. Version 3.5 has surround panners, so you're able to direct the sound fairly accurately. Unfortunately, the levels I tweaked in FCP are not included in the OMFs, and I had trouble exporting with transitions. I spent way too much time tweaking audio in FCP. All that tweaking was lost in the transfer to Deck. Then there's learning how to use Deck proficiently. Then my speakers died; I ran out of time, and ultimately had to export my audio from FCP in stereo pairs (out WAV) and send them off to a sound mixer - who was also able to author the whole DVD.

What did I learn from this? For one thing, having a fine-tuned listening environment is essential for real mixing. For as long as they lasted, the speakers were only adequate. That's what I get for shaving too close to the consumer edge. I do think this is possible, but I wasn't able to work out the wrinkles on my own. But that's another thing I learned; while money is always an object, collaboration with talented people is a joy. I think I'll budget for more of it on my next project.

LS-A
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Old June 2nd, 2003, 11:29 PM   #10
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Wow!

Admittidly, I am hoping to accomplish this on a "small" budget, and I know the big boys do it with big toys, but it seems like it should be possible without as much work as is currently necessary. The key of course, is to be able to better mix directly in FCP, but v4 won't have that feature...
The problem with Deck seems to be the fact that you have to use OMF. Protools doesn't support 48KHz... details, details.

Hardware is only part of the equation, but I've talked to the Marketing guy for Presonus. He tells me that they are about to do a seminar on surround sound using the Firestation. As they are in Baton Rouge, I'm hoping I can get some answers from them. I'll report back here if there's anything to report. Otherwise, this is a good thread and I'm learning a lot. Thanks.

Mic
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Old July 10th, 2003, 06:39 PM   #11
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A new development with a G5?

Reading email from Apple re the G5:

(Also new are Digital Audio In and Out ports. These let you connect your new Mac to decks, receivers, digital instruments, and 5.1 surround sound speakers.)

So does this mean we can now monitor 5.1 surround sound mixing in Cubase SX or BIAS Deck. then encode to AC3 for DVDSP projects and know exactly what you're gonna get?

If so would you still need an IO Box, a home theatre Amp or pre amp or just some sort of signal splitter to go to 5 monitor speakers and a sub?
maybe some budget priced PC type surround sound speaker system would suffice.
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Old July 10th, 2003, 08:06 PM   #12
 
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It is possible if the output somehow employs realtime AC3 encoding, which is quite possible (the Xbox game system does it all the time in 5.1). This could be programmed into the software but it may eat up some CPU cycles. Hardware would be preferred.
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Old July 10th, 2003, 11:07 PM   #13
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Andrew,
I may be very wrong, but I read Apple's statement as meaning that the digital output was only 2 channel, but would be capable of carrying an encoded signal from a DVD thru the digital output.

This is very good for a consumer, but doesn't help much if you want to mix 5.1 before encoding.
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Old July 11th, 2003, 03:37 AM   #14
 
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Actually it can still be done in the software, but it will eat up CPU time. Just as long as it is capable of outputting raw AC3 data, it shouldn't be an issue if someone were to program a real time AC3 encoder for playback. The G5 should be fast enough if the software to do this were properly programmed. Hell, my G4 dual 1ghz machine encodes 5.1 AC3 files between 3x and 4x realtime! So it is by all means 100% possible. I doubt this will happen, though. Most programmers don't pay attention to the few people who want to mix in 5.1, but hopefully that will change.
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Old July 15th, 2003, 03:41 AM   #15
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Thanks for the replies guys.

Seems like the ideal solution for mixing 5.1 sound (on a tight budget) is still to come.
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