The New Year’s Concert 2021 in AURO-3D
Despite the second hard lockdown in Austria starting before the Christmas holidays 2020 and lasting until at least January 18, 2021, the traditional New Year’s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic in the famous “Goldene Saal” of the Musikverein took place as planned, conducted for the 6th time by Italian Maestro Riccardo Muti (see Fig.1). Well, not exactly as planned, of course, as there was no audience allowed. We spoke to Florian Camerer, head of audio post production at ORF TV, about the special situation as well as his ongoing experience with providing an AURO-3D soundtrack for the Bluray release.
Figure1: Riccardo Muti conducting the Vienna Philharmonic at the New Year’s Concert 2021
Q: Florian, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the AURO-3D format last year. When did you first encounter this immersive sound system?
A: I remember that I was in the lecture hall at the AES convention 2006 in Paris when Wilfried van Baelen introduced the format “Aurophony” together with a few others on stage. Two things struck me in the very beginning: the protagonists thought that there was no word for “3D Audio” yet, and the fact that they had combined the Latin word “aurum” with the Greek word “phonē”. Regarding the first issue, the term “periphony” exists since the early days of Ambisonics, coined by Michael Gerzon in the 1970’s; and I found it a bit odd that with the 100% Greek terms “monophony” and “stereophony” the next evolutionary step would be a mixture of Latin and Greek… But then again, Ambisonics has a similar issue, only the other way round (Greek and Latin)
Q: Well, that sounds like a bumpy start in your relationship with Aurophony…
A: You could say that, yes. But that concerns the nomenclature only. During the same AES convention I listened to the first examples in this format, and that got me interested.
Q: In which way, what were your impressions?
A: I didn’t listen for any flashy effects, although such use is obvious (fly-overs, rain, discrete instruments placed in the height channels etc.). I was much more interested in the subtle things like the portrayal of the room, the feeling of “being there” and especially the timbre, the sound color. The latter was the one attribute that convinced me. I found (and still find) the effect of the height channels on the timbre very positive, it brings the sound of especially acoustic instruments another step closer to our expectations and experiences of a live concert. The longer I listen to AURO-3D, the more I like this aspect of the format, first it is subtle, but after some time you don’t want to switch back to “plain” 2D surround sound.
Q: When was the decision made for the first time to produce the New Year’s Concert in AURO-3D?
A: It was one of those guerilla-decisions basically, I had become friends with Wilfried within a few years after the introduction of the format and thought at one point that the obvious showcase would be this concert. It’s the biggest production of the ORF Culture department, and as I had been doing the surround sound post-production since its inception in 2003 I took a leap and expanded it to AURO-3D in 2014. It was very much down to me asking my colleagues to rig additional height microphones and using those after principal post-production to generate a convincing 3D mix.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the microphone arrangement and the philosophy behind it.
A: It’s probably best to show pictures with all the mic positions (Fig 2+3):
Figure 2: New Year’s Concert 2021 Microphone positions base layer
Figure 3: New Year’s Concert 2021 Microphone positions height layer
We use the Decca Tree as the main mic since the beginning of time and of course, many spot mics, as we have to be able to get more texture when the video guys do these extreme close-ups (which they love!). It is important that the mix is good in 5.0 surround sound and of course in 2.0 stereo. The live mixer (my colleague Martin Gamperl from the OB van sound department) mainly listens to the stereo signal as this is what the majority of consumers hear. The height microphone positions have evolved over the years. In the beginning, I had the front height mics positioned directly over the woodwinds, also because at the first concert I did in AURO-3D there was the Vienna Boys’ Choir singing on the organ balcony which led to this closer placement. When there is no choir (the usual case) the front height mics are now positioned above the Decca Tree. The distance is not great, as vertical decorrelation is by far not so effective as horizontal one (as has been investigated thoroughly be Hyunkook Lee at the university of Huddersfield in the UK). And then there is the practical aspect – we use steel wires to hang most of the mics, and it is not easy at all to have mics hanging down from the ceiling… The back height microphones are roughly halfway between the four mics of the Hamasaki-square. All height microphones are cardioids facing upwards. The height signals really must be additional signals that are not necessary to have a good planar surround mix. Downward compatibility is a big issue.
Q: In which way did the fact that there was no audience in the hall influence the programme and the sound?
A: There was a lot of discussion going on behind the scenes if e.g. there could at least be a choir present that would sit in the audience when not singing. But in the end, nobody except the musicians was allowed in the hall. There was also a strict testing regime in place, with every member of the production team being tested every single day (as well as also the musicians!). Eventually, the programme was executed without any alteration, except for second and third encore, the “Blue Danube Waltz” and the “Radetzky Marsch”. Usually, the audience interrupts the beginning of the “Blue Danube” (the pianissimo tremolo of the violins) with applause, and then the conductor addresses the world with his New Year’s wishes. Not this time. Maestro Muti delivered a compelling speech, in my opinion, stressing the importance of culture and music – and then the tremolo began in total silence, a dream for us in post-production! And when asked about the ubiquitous rhythmic clapping of the audience during the Radetzky Marsch, Muti replied “Well, you will be surprised to learn that it has been composed without audience participation in mind!”. It was intriguing to hear all the nuances of this piece that usually get drowned by the clapping.
Q: Speaking of clapping, there were a few instances where applause could actually be heard, albeit played via loudspeakers and originating from mobile phones…
A: Yes, that was the case. There was a lot of discussion going on in the weeks and months before the concert what could be done to “compensate” the lack of audience. Finally, it was agreed to have applause via smartphones from people all over the world. One could sign up on a special app that was specifically developed by the Austrian company POET Audio, and on the day of the concert, you could applaud at three specific instances, at the end of the first part, of the second part before the encores and at the very end. 7000 people signed up, and the signals were compiled and mixed before being played into the hall via loudspeakers and routed to the OB van for the live mix. What was heard during the transmission was mainly the treated signal mixed in the OB van. As the empty hall has a considerably longer reverb time (about 2,5 sec compared to 1,7 sec with a full hall), the smartphone applause was also mixed with reverb. Despite the rather nice gesture, we were not very happy with the audio quality of the applause, as the signals were necessarily heavily data-reduced…
Q: What are the specific advantages for you of the AURO-3D format and workflow for a production like the New Year’s Concert?
A: I do like the fact that the height speakers are not too high, and that they are positioned above the respective base layer loudspeakers. I think this is a quite natural extension of the 5-channel surround format into three dimensions. Regarding the workflow after the 9-channel master has been finished, I also like that the Auro-Codec works in the PCM domain; you get the robustness of a WAV-File, and if something gets screwed up in the lowest bits, there is still the 5-channel signal available. This is a big bonus in my opinion. During the encoding, I always insist on using the lowest possible level for the height channels in the 5-channel signals in order to minimize the influence of the height channels into the 5-channel PCM master.
Q: What’s the time frame for the release of all the media after the live concert?
A: The first finished master is always the CD version. This is done completely separately, since many years by the company Teldex. These guys start editing the concert right after the last bar of the concert! And on the same day (January 1st) they already do the QC with the conductor. Quite amazing. For the DVD and Bluray, we do video and sound editing at ORF headquarters between January 2nd and 5th, and then we generate several different versions like e.g. for a rerun of the concert at ORF on January 6th, for the production company of the Vienna Philharmonic, for the “House of Music” in Vienna etc. When I have finished the 5-channel files I do the AURO-3D mastering (usually on January 4th in the evening). I always do some EQing of the height channels, like boosting the low end a bit and taking out midrange to get rid of some nasal frequencies. We have one audio post pro studio at ORF which I could modify to be able to listen to the 9-channel signal, so that is the studio I work in. Once the AURO-3D master is ready, I send the files to Galaxy Studios where the guys do the AURO encoding as well as the dts HD Master Audio file which can be directly used by the Bluray authoring house.
Q: You always speak of 9.0 and 5.0, don’t you use the LFE channel?
A: Fortunately, there never has been a volcano eruption during the New Year’s Concert, so there is no need whatsoever to use the additional headroom of the LFE…
– Jos Boerland –
Jos Boerland owner of Aliud Records, a classical record label founded in 2005 sat down with us to discuss celebrating 15 years of his label with the World Premiere recording of Canto Ostinato, three unique orchestral recordings from the Dutch composer Simeon ten Holt performed by the Dutch Noord Nederlands Orkest. Jos, is a born musician, having studied percussion at the Concervatory of Groningen, The Netherlands. At just 17 he started his own recording studio, then going on to work in mastering before becoming involved in the publishing side of the industry, as well as having recorded and produced over 2500 albums himself.
1) How did you come to start Aliud Records and what was the mission behind the label?
2005 was the year I changed things in my life and reignited the label “Aliud Records” which I used to have before working with The Haske Publications. With all the experience I had in classical, Jazz and Brass music the label became quickly well known and I am happy to say we have been going now for 15 years!
Aliud Records is mainly a classical label in High Resolution Audio, innovating in sound quality, recording techniques, music styles and compositions and innovative ways to bring music to the consumer in the best way possible to give the consumer the excitement of “experiencing” music. So when I heard at the first “Classical Next” in Munich about 2-2-2+ listening possibilities and later on in 2008 experienced at the Galaxy studios about 3D Audio I knew this had to be the next generation in experiencing music! French Oboe Sonatas (2008) was the first album I recorded in 3D Audio, nowadays called “Immersive Sound”, and since then I recorded all albums for Aliud Records this way. Now more than 100 albums to date.
When I started recording in Immersive Sound in 2008 I decided to make them available in Immersive Sound and to re-release them in AURO-3D. I don’t think consumers nowadays want only the physical product. Downloads and streaming are increasingly popular and useful at home and I think it will be the way to get your music easily and comfortably the moment you want it. As listeners are choosing the music they want to listen to in new ways from what we are used to it gives artists new possibilities; more freedom in programming, more variety in the listening experience. An opportunity for young composers to experiment, communicating more directly and composing with the listener in mind. This makes it possible to create a much more interactive and creative experience for the listener and the composition, the musical idea itself. Composing music will not be the same again. I am very much looking forward to experiencing the AURO-3D streaming technology which will bring this experience to home over IP in the same audio quality as we are used to hear from a Blu-ray or Pure Audio Blu-ray disc.
2) Tell us about your new album – Canto Ostinato –recently released in AURO-3D
As I do many recordings for the “Noord Nederlands Orkest” I recorded 3 pieces by the Dutch contemporary classical composer Simeon ten Holt. One of his best known pieces called Canto Ostinato has been orchestrated by Anthony Fiumara for the Dutch orchestra the Residentie Orchestra in The Hague and for the first time recorded by the Noord Nederlands Orkest! Three very special pieces as a world premiere recording in a live setting and now available to experience as if you are in the concert hall itself! Innovative music recorded in a special way and now available in AURO-3D. How much innovation in music do you need. Listening to this music in AURO-3D is an innovation itself! Have a listen to “Une Musique Blanche for orchestra”, with several orchestras all around in the concert hall on several height levels will give you the ultimate experience of being part of the thoughts of the composer.
3) When did you decide to release this album in AURO-3D?
As the first recordings of this album were already made in 2014 I had no idea in releasing in Immersive sound in any way because there was simply no market for it and even in 2016 when I recorded “Une Musique Blanche for orchestra” in 3D Audio the idea was still to make an SACD. Finally recording the Canto Ostinato in 2017 I was sure this had to be different. So finally in 2020 I decided to bring the album with music by Simeon ten Holt in Immersive Sound based on the AURO-3D platform which I already knew since 2008! To me the best sounding and most easy to use platform available, AURO-3D.
4) Have you already released any other albums in AURO-3D? Any upcoming AURO-3D releases planned that you can tell us about?
There are many plans for next year and after to make new albums. Next year there will be a third album by the young Colori Ensemble in conjunction with the Frisian Music Archive, A Bach album on marimba played by the very talented young musician Arjan Jongsma, a vocal album by the Trigon Ensemble, Margot Kalse, a clarinet album by Eddy Vanoosthuyse, Joris Van den Hauwe will come with a very special album on Oboe and the Brussels Philharmonic, an album with Isobel Daws winner of the SwissTbone competition for young trombone players and many more.
Please check our website https://aliudrecords.com for all the latest releases and up to date information.
5) Where can people buy all your albums?
Our albums are of course available in your local record store or at many e-commerce sites such as amazon etc. download and streaming platforms and of course on our own web-shop https://aliudrecords.com.
6) Do you want to share anything else with our readers?
Enjoying music is more then just listening to it. Music enchants you, it is inspiring and is a way to communicate emotions as no other sense can. Lets take the chance to experience this in the best way possible, AURO-3D.
On Wednesday 28th October, AURO Technologies in conjunction with WOWOW conducted an Advanced Audio Distribution Experiment from Hakuju Hall in Tomigaya with great success. This was the world’s first attempt to hold a piano and drum duo concert by Mayo Nakano and Takanobu Baba, and to live-stream the video and sound using the AURO-3D high-quality immersive audio coding technology AURO-Codec.
This event is another milestone AURO-3D can add to its impressive list of “first-ever” achievements, it is also another milestone in the history of the audio industry. The world famous Japanese journalist Reiji Asakura wrote in Yahoo Japan; “This experiment is groundbreaking in that it can capture a place and bring the concert hall itself into the home, and I think it is a revolution in the way Edison’s ‘Mary’s Sheep’ was recorded on a gramophone”.
With more than 1 million homes already with AURO-3D compatible receivers by more than 60 different AV Receiver models in the market means there is no need for any software or hardware upgrade, this solution is backwards compatible with even the first-ever AV Receivers sold with AURO-3D. Due to updated regulations around the Covid-19 outbreak, measures were taken meaning attendance was by invite only with very limited numbers possible.
The recording and mixing carried out by renowned Japanese sound engineer and executive creator at WOWOW, Hideo Irimajiri brought the whole experience together receiving incredibly positive feedback from those who experienced the live concert in the hall as well as the playback in the foyer that provided such a “remarkably natural immersive sound experience”. Reiji Asakura wrote in the Japanese magazine Stereo Sound ONLINE: “I experienced the sound of streaming in the foyer before I heard the live performance in the hall, and I could feel the softly enveloping sound field, the sharp piano sound and the powerful drum bass. It felt as if I was in the hall. The Hakuju Hall has a very high ceiling, and the sound can spread unhindered, but I could even perceive this “height” in the playback”.
Kimio Hamasaki Director Business Affairs and Business Development Japan; Standardisation Officer said of the event “I remember the launch of AURO-3D at the AES Spatial Conference that I organized in October 2010 in Tokyo, it is amazing that 10 years later, this natural immersive experience and its audio quality can now be streamed over IP to everyone, even if they don’t have an AURO-3D setup because then the 5.1 or Stereo version will be heard in the way it was intended by the creators. Wilfried presented his ideas of AURO-3D in my workshop ‘Surround Sound with Height’ at AES Paris and San Francisco Conventions in 2006 and he introduced the end-to-end solution of Immersive Sound by AURO-3D at the AES 40th International Conference on Spatial Audio in 2010 chaired by myself.”
We have reached Mr. BJ Hwang, President of Sound Mirror Korea, and asked him several questions around AURO-3D usage in the latest movie Steel Rain 2
1) Where and when did you experience AURO-3D for the first time? How was it?
Mr. BJ Hwang: In 2016, I was mixing the Notre-dame de Paris movie at the AuroTorium, the mixing stage of Galaxy Studios in which the HQ of Auro Technologies are located. Also, I had chances to hear various AURO-3D sounds in a small listening room, and the scoring stage at Galaxy Studios. I was very impressed by all three spaces. In particular, I was surprised that the mixing stage of Galaxy Studios sounded way superior to what I previously heard in one of the best theatres in Korea that has the same speakers with different immersive sound setups. I also liked AURO-3D sound from the small living room environment. Before that, I had been working on surround sound for over 10 years, and I was able to discover more creative possibilities with AURO-3D.
2) Why did you choose the AURO-3D format for the movie Steel Rain 2?
Mr. BJ Hwang: Even in audio shows, I was always looking for the best sound experience while listening to Surround or Immersive Sound. Needless to say, I heard the best immersive sound at Auro Technologies HQ (Galaxy Studios) and installed AURO-3D, 9.1 CH at Sound Mirror studio in Seoul, and continued recording music using AURO-3D format after visiting Auro Technologies HQ since 2016. This time, I was asked to mix the music with Immersive Sound for Steel Rain 2, and of course, AURO-3D was my first choice because I was fully convinced that AURO-3D Immersive Sound is much better than any other immersive formats because it feels much more natural, a higher immersive impact and as such a higher emotional experience when watching a movie or listening to music only.
3) Any creative possibilities that you especially like by working in AURO-3D?
Mr. BJ Hwang: In the case of music, especially the enveloping sound on the channel base is needed, and the vertical channel is a great help in this part. For this reason, I believe that AURO-3D is not only very convenient to implement this, but also is the best in terms of sound quality. You can use height channels for some real spatial feeling or some effect elements like church bells, choir (like angels singing from up above) in music including its main 3D natural reflections of the source sounds of those objects. To immerse yourself in the storytelling of the movie, you can arrange music elements by avoiding the dialogue channels, so you can finish the work much faster even in the final stage of the mix, which is very popular with many professionals in the film industry. And most theatres still have 5.1 channels, but when mixing with AURO-3D, it is very convenient because it has 100% backwards compatibility with the 5.1 Surround install which is not the case with their main competitor’s format.
4) What about the workflow you used? Did you mix first in Surround Sound 5.1 (or 7.1) format and later in AURO-3D or did you start with AURO-3D and simultaneously worked on the 5.1 Surround version?
Mr. BJ Hwang: I mixed AURO-3D and 5.1 simultaneously. The workflow of AURO-3D makes it easily possible to mix in both formats simultaneously. The AMS-NEVE DFC-3D which is installed at Galaxy’s AuroTorium has AURO-3D on board. But even for studios which don’t have such a mixing console, the AURO-3D Creative Tool Suite can deliver the same flexibility to mix both formats simultaneously, this is the way I do it at Sound Mirror for music productions in Immersive Sound.
5) What about the music, was the music already mixed in AURO-3D upfront? Or stems delivered in AURO-3D?
Mr. BJ Hwang: Yes, The music was done with Mixing AURO-3D in mind from the start. It has mainly advantages for the acoustic part of the recordings because a more natural result can be achieved if the microphones can capture the original 3D reflections which can be played back in the AURO-3D format. This brings the listener subconsciously closer to the performance of the musicians and results in a heightened emotional experience.
6) Immersive Sound is becoming the new standard in cinema. How do you envision the future of cinema sound?
Mr. BJ Hwang: These days, for a while now mobile and streaming have become the standard for personal music listening and movie watching based on Stereo. Unlike this trend, however, high-end sounds such as AURO-3D are difficult to experience at home, so entertainment industries such as movies and music are inevitably developed, allowing new immersive experiences through large systems such as cinemas and theatres. And from what I’ve experienced so far, I’m sure that AURO-3D gives you the best sense of immersion.
7) What do you believe are the main strengths of the AURO-3D format versus other Immersive Sound formats in the market?
Mr. BJ Hwang: Above all, AURO-3D has a natural sense of sound field and presence. It is much closer to the real live sound than the Object-based Immersive Sound formats. If the recording to mixing is carried out properly in the AURO-3D format, the actual speakers disappear, and the sound is pouring out from the entire walls of the listening room.
Furthermore, In the production stage, working time is significantly reduced due to the perfect compatibility with 5.1 channel systems. When downmixed to 5.1 or stereo, the sound quality is preserved so well that it cannot be compared with other Immersive Sound formats.
8) Are there any other things that you want to share about the movie, your experience or other to the readers regarding this interview?
Mr. BJ Hwang: Probably it is the first AURO-3D mix for a film soundtrack produced in Korea.
During a recent interview with Grobi TV, we inadvertently cause confusion about the timing of future enhancements to our popular Auro-Matic® upmixer.
Along with our valued partner Denon and Marantz, we are always striving to provide the best in class audio experience. We are constantly innovating and constantly looking for ways to deliver the highest quality audio experience possible.
And while we have received outstanding feedback about Auro-Matic®, like all innovative companies we are looking for ways to enhance our offering. We will be working closely with Denon and Marantz on the timing and delivery aspects of any new enhancements, and will make an announcement to the market when we have further details.
We apologize for any confusion arising from the recent interview and we will strive to keep everyone updated via our Facebook and Twitter feeds.
With the Auro-3D® format being picked up all over the world, we felt it was time to thank our supporters out there and show them how we appreciate their continuous support.
Our gratitude goes out towards all of you and we promise to strive in delivering you the Auro-3D® Experience Everywhere!
We were glad to see the article about Auro-3D® appear in no. 14 – July 2015 of The Heritage Post (www.theheritagepost.com).
With so many consumers already convinced about the immersive sound capabilities of the Auro-3D® format, we are proud to see this in written form as well.
We’re incredibly proud that American Sniper, mixed in Auro 11.1, has walked away from the Academy Awards last night with the Oscar for best sound editing. The sound editing for the movie was by Academy Award winners Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman – whilst sound mixers John T Reitz, Gregg Rudloff, and Walt Martin were also nominated for their work in the sound mixing category. Congratulations to both winners and nominees! (more…)
Instead of telling you how great Auro-3D® is, we thought we would let others do it for a change! So here are a few highlights of the reactions to Auro-3D® at the International CES 2015 in Las Vegas earlier this month.
There has been a lot of excitement about the release of our high-end processors / receivers, and the feedback from clients who have experienced the power of Auro-3D® has been incredibly positive. Lately, I’ve also had a lot of people asking me when Auro-3D® will be available in established receiver brands for home cinema consumers as well. Well, today, I’m pleased to confirm that Auro-3D® will be available as an upgrade for selected Denon and Marantz receivers, bringing immersive sound within the reach of many more people! Denon have announced that their AVR-X5200W and AVR-X4100W AV receivers will feature Auro-3D. Marantz have also confirmed that their SR7009 and AV7702 receiver and pre-amp / processor will be upgradeable to Auro-3D.