AUDIO IN A 360 WORLD

Robert Margouleff
Jan 26, 2018 · 6 min read

(Part 4 of 5)

by Robert Margouleff

Technology Drives the Art

Technology makes innovation and creativity possible. If art — to be art — needs an element of originality, new technology can inspire new ideas. My introduction to the brand-new technology of the synthesizer while I was making a movie, was the event that determined my career. From that moment on, it influenced everything I did, including the 100s of records and soundtracks I would go on to be a part of.

When Stevie Wonder heard about our synthesizer, TONTO, through a glowing review in Rolling Stone magazine about our totally electronic album ZERO TIME, he came to the studio one evening with our album under his arm to meet with Malcolm and me, and he never left. Stevie wanted what we had. We would work with him for the next five years, co-producing, engineering, mixing, and programming all the electronica on Innervisions, Music of my Mind, Talking Book and Fulfillingness First Finale.

Left to right: Malcolm Cecil, Stevie Wonder, and Robert Margouleff at Record Plant Studios

My first experience in understanding the power of surround was a multi-channel recording of “Superstition” that Malcolm Cecil and I recorded and co-produced with Stevie Wonder at the Record Plant Studio B. As a matter of fact, those records we did with Stevie were monitored in surround (Quad) during the recording process, which enabled Stevie to occupy the same space as the music, not just having it in front of him. This recording process is one of the reasons that these recordings sound so present even in stereo. It’s power stays with me to this day. The Quad recordings never saw the light of day because we could not store the discrete info on vinyl successfully. But today, thanks to HEAR360, it is possible for music to be heard in a fully immersive way.

I have become a time traveler in Electronica: I know that immersive audio will bring a fantastic new freedom to the world of recorded media, especially if the composer/ creative is able to control the entire process on his own terms. In mixing and rendering for headphone surround and soon beamed audio on speakers, the recording studio will evolve as you will still have to be able to mix your material in discrete multi-channel surround. Well-designed studios and control rooms will become more essential. Artists need a place to perform together and occupy the same space as the music. For commercial and home studio owners who now work exclusively in stereo, considering space and surround placement will be a very powerful creative experience. Fortunately for us, with “mixing in the box” now in place, adapting the recording technology and virtual monitoring will not be a problem.

Durga McBroom, Julian Shah Tayler, and Robert Margouleff at Julian Shah Tayler’s home studio tracking for The Singularity Project

The audio post world understands that space and placement is a big part of any film soundtrack and music score. As a matter of fact, with the introduction of Dolby Atmos’ “object oriented” mix regime, big has only gotten bigger and has brought theatrical audio to a higher level for the moviegoer. Now, think about watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster on your mobile device, iPad, smart phone, etc. Right now, you hear a down-mixed, emasculated stereo mix of the sound track, not the painstaking and emotional surround version produced for the cinema. With headphone surround and beamforming speakers, you will be able to hear the full mix in all its glory unfolding in your head.

DIY Immersive Audio with HEAR360

Over the last several years, I have been working in immersive audio with the team at HEAR360.io who have delivered a high quality, easy to use, end to end solution for immersive audio. Starting with their new Omni-Binaural microphone the 8ball.The H360 plugins work in Pro Tools (AAX). It provides a Pro Tools session template that explains the post process. The tools include an encoder that allows you to merge your mixes with video for Samsung Gear VR, Unity (with the H360 Unity plugin), a H360 Web Player, and H360 iOS app. The Pro Tools template includes a dual workflow so you can create both H360 native mixes and also Facebook 360 mixes using the HEAR360 tools simultaneously. There are other systems available that make surround in headphones a reality, but not with the simplicity and clarity of H360, in my humble opinion!

With high bit rates and superior resolution, streaming delivery, and total portability, composing becomes a whole new ball game. It’s only going to get bigger because the technology has become smaller. We have always thought about recording as a tool of reportage: that is, that the recording is a sonic photograph, an objective image of a real-time event. Listen to a recording three minutes long, and the listener believes that it was all played together in real time, not believing that it was recorded serially.

We invented echo, delay, and EFX just to create the notion of space and depth in a 2-dimensional space. Now the apps themselves have become musical instruments! Once again creators and composers of all genres will be able to return to composing in a more natural way, to write music that can come from anywhere. Now that our laptops have become our new folk instruments, we are able to compose with surround in mind, and create a very powerful subjective emotional experience, just as the composers did before the invention of electricity and recording. After all, we listen to our whole live world in surround.

8ball mounted in 2018 Toyota Camry during filming

I believe that immersion and space should be an essential part of music composition. Now we can deliver that subjectivity for every man or to quote my fellow surround aficionado Dr. Mark Waldrep, the UBER HUMAN, it is a very personal and cost effective way to work creatively in the new media.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Margouleff — Grammy Winning Music Producer Photo: Mark Sandstorm

Robert Margouleff is a Grammy Award winning American Record producer, recording engineer, electronic music pioneer, audio expert, and film producer. Margouleff’s work has always been on the innovative edge of art and technology. Most noted for his work with electronic music synthesizer programming for Stevie Wonder, he produced four of the music sensation’s albums.

In 2004 Margouleff realized that surround sound for the home theatre was different than theatrical surround. He advanced the theory of “near-field” surround mixing and mastering and formed Mi Casa Multimedia, a unique complex of sound studios located in an old Hollywood mansion. In these studios, which emulate the home environment, Mi Casa’s engineers remastered for Home Theater audio for over 100 top-selling titles, including New Line’s entire Lord of The Rings cycle, MGM’s James Bond Collection and Fox’s X-Men: The Last Stand.

Now Margouleff is committed to the next big disruptor in audio — fully immersive audio technology for music, games, VR and AR. He joins HEAR360in their quest to make VR sound incredible

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