A look at Avid’s S6, Dolby Atmos and more
By Simon Ray
Head of Operations & Engineering
Sound day started a bit later than picture day, but it was the day we got to look at the new S6 console from Avid. I booked an afternoon appointment to make sure my judgment was not clouded by an HHB sponsored hangover. We were met by the usual suspects and given an excellent demo by Dave Tyler, which was nowhere near long enough, but there was still time to get an overview of the hardware and its integration with Pro Tools.
So, hardware first. The S6 is a modular system with two depths of frame that allow for a wide variety of configurations to match budget and requirement. The modules come in 8 ‘channel’ wide sections and include a faders module, a knob module, a process module and display module. My first impression was that this was still a controller and not an inline console replacement. A very nice looking controller however.
The integration with Pro Tools looked slick. The displays on the console give you proper desk meters with clear metering (which follow the meter selection on that track in the Pro Tools software) and some waveform rendering to help you see what audio is coming up. There were also some nice touches like track colours from the software being reflected back on the S6 surface both on the knobs and on the displays.
One big disappointment – you cannot spill VCA groups to faders! When it does, we will buy (at least) one! I was assured that although this function will not be in the release code, it should be in one of the first revisions. I know this will be the first feature our mixers ask for. Other than that, I think this looked like a good solution that will be an improvement on mixing on the ICON and the other ‘Eucon’ series of controllers.
The Avid stand was as usual large, with a great theatre area. Eddie Hamilton, who edited Kick Ass 2, was doing an interesting and very well attended presentation on using Media Composer. The S6 console was easy to see on the public stand and the private demo room was effective for a more in depth demo. Half star lost for our demo being too short and half a star for no free drinks. Stand rating ****.
After the S6 demo, we had an interesting chat with Stuart Bowling from Dolby about Dolby Atmos. Dolby Atmos is a new format for cinema sound. After having a demo from Dolby in London last week, we are considering installing in our soon to be completely rebuilt dubbing stage on Dean Street. This new theatre is going to be our biggest and best so it would make sense to seriously consider putting a speaker system that can mix in this new format. That said, it is quite a serious additional investment in the speaker system to do this. Also, as the format is still so new, I would imaging that there are a fair number of technical challenges to overcome whilst mixing an Atmos soundtrack before it is as smooth as the current 5.1/7.1 workflow. Dolby had a medium-sized stand which looked as professional as ever, products and technology was clearly displayed. Marks are lost as when I employed the IBC equivalent of playing “Stairway to Heaven” in an electric guitar shop to attract some help (exaggerated moving of any fader, pot, dial, ball etc. on display) no one came and scanned my badge. Stand rating ***1/2
I did more wandering today and less meetings, which gave me a chance to see how vast the show really is. I seemed to somehow always find myself walking past JVC though, which is weird as there was nothing there I wanted to look at. JVC stand rating **** (Additional star as I did have nice 20 minutes catching up with an old friend who works for JVC who I have not seen for ages.)
Last quick one. Flanders Scientific do a 50-inch monitor for under $8K.