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Warsaw’s Dreamsound develops new spin on Dolby Atmos

This Poland-based studio offers full-service post and a newly installed Atmos mix stage.

By Mel Lambert

Back in 2012, when the owners of Warsaw, Poland-based Dreamsound Studios were contemplating a new re-recording stage, they were invited to Dolby’s European headquarters in Wootton Bassett in England to evaluate the Atmos immersive sound system, which they hoped to install. “But we also decided to conduct our own studies into the correlation between Atmos panning and the localization of phantom sound sources,” recalls Dreamsound co-partner Marcin Kasiński.

Using various samples of filtered pink noise directed at experienced listeners from nine targeted locations around a central seating area, Kasiński and his partner Kacper Habisiak — both graduates from The Frederic Chopin University of Music’s sound engineering department, and experienced editors and re-recording mixers as well as accomplished musicians — discovered that their test audience could more easily identify sound coming from the front quadrant and rear corners and less easily from the sides.

Marcin Kasinski (left) and Kacper Habisiak, flanking Pavel Stverak, sound consultant with Dolby.

During a workshop at the recent AES Convention in Warsaw, Kasiński and Habisiak presented a paper on their findings, reporting that the implications for immersive sound mixing are immediately obvious, with localization of height information being enhanced at high rather than low frequencies.

Their follow-up tests will be with real sound samples rather than tones, and in addition to the correlation between Atmos objects and on-screen images, Kasiński says they plan to test dynamic sounds that move from one loudspeaker channel to another. They also want to open up their evaluation sessions to include non-trained listeners, which will more closely mimic an average movie-going audience.

Editorial & Re-Recording
In addition to their now-up-and-running large Dolby-certified Atmos stage, Dreamsound comprises a quartet of 5.1-channel sound editing rooms, one of which serves as a pre-mix and broadcast-mix area and features a 24-fader Avid ICON D-Command console. “We also have a 1,100-square-foot Foley stage, which is also used for ADR and walla recording,” says Kasiński. The new Atmos re-recording stage features a 32-fader Avid ICON D-Control ES console connecting to a trio of JBL ScreenArray cabinets located behind the screen and multiple SC12/SC eight surround loudspeakers mounted on the ceiling, side and rear walls, plus model 4632 18-inch subwoofers. Crown DSi and XLS Series amplifiers power the 32-speaker system.

“Because JBL speakers are the standard in Polish cinemas, and they match perfectly with Crown amplifiers, they were a logical choice of playback components in our Dolby Atmos screening room,” Habisiak says. “Equally important, the performance of these speakers and amplifiers meet Dolby’s licensing requirements, which are extremely stringent regarding specifications that include sound pressure levels, frequency response, coverage relative to room size and other parameters.”

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Video playback is handled by a Christie CP2220 2K DCI projector and a 19-foot wide Harkness mini-perforated projection screen. The room also includes three Avid Pro Tools HD playback/record machines, a Lexicon 960L 5.1 reverb unit, Cedar DNS One noise-reduction system and a wide range of Pro Tools plug-ins.

Background, Philosophy & Work
“During our studies [at Frederic Chopin University] we started to work in sound post production. We also got to work on feature film projects,” explains Kasiński. “Since Warsaw is the center of the Polish film industry, we wanted to create a company that could provide the best possible sound services.”

The partners point out that along with some innovative technology, Dreamsound is at its core a creative team of film enthusiasts. “We have managed to gather together a great group of sound editors, Foley artists and mixers,” shares Kasiński.

During the past six years Dreamsound has worked with many acclaimed Polish directors, including Malgorzata Szumowska, Agnieszka Holland, Jerzy Hoffman and Wladyslaw Pasikowski. Last year they won a MPSE Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing in a Feature Documentary for Powstanie Warszawskie [Warsaw Uprising], directed by Jan Komasa.

This year, Dreamsound expects to work on six feature films and two TV series — one for Polish TV and one for Polish HBO — in addition to handling re-recording for other supervising sound editors. “While we specialize in Polish-language productions, we have also worked on some foreign films, including one in half-Mandarin and half-English,” reports Kasiński.

Foley

Dreamsound prides itself on being a full-service audio post house, offering post sound editing, Foley, theatrical mix and broadcast deliverables. “We have also fully adopted an American workflow for sound post,” explains Kasiński. “So we follow the same standards and speak the same language as our friends abroad. For example, we recently recorded Foley for a French film studio and handled a remote ADR session for a Japanese studio — there was always fluent and creative collaboration.”

All of that aside, the co-owners readily concede that it may be too early to talk about the success of the new Atmos stage. “Although we haven’t mixed any movies in Atmos yet, there are some productions on the horizon,” says Kasiński. We are waiting for more Polish cinemas to install Atmos systems. Immersive sound has opened a new chapter for movie soundtracks. We only have to wait until DCI or SMPTE establishes an open-standard for immersive audio. Time will tell. For sure, we don’t want to rest on our laurels. We are ready to provide the best possible sound services for clients from around the world.”

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