Interview with Mr. BJ Hwang, President of Sound Mirror Korea

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.