Meyer Sound’s Steve Ellison is set to take what they know from Constellation into a live sound context.
Interview:/ Christopher Holder
In most regards Meyer is way ahead of the immersive audio tech curve. Constellation does something truly amazing — combining dozens of measurement microphones that ‘sample’ the space, feeding the monumentally powerful (288×288) D-Mitri DSP that matrixes tricked-up audio to (sometimes) hundreds of installed loudspeakers. The result is the ability to turn an average acoustic space into a world beater.
Meyer Sound has for many years been the vendor of choice when it comes to tricky multi-channel productions and events. Cirque du Soleil has some hugely complex audio productions in some, sometimes, oddball acoustic environments. Meyer’s state-of-the-art hardware to the rescue.
In these cases Meyer’s SpaceMap acts as the panning UI and cueing architecture. But to this point SpaceMap hasn’t been optimised for working in a live sound environment so much as for set ’n’ forget installs like theme parks and the Cirque.
SPACE MAP CADET
Steve Ellison is Meyer Sounds’ Director, Spatial Sound. He’s been charged with the job of heading up Meyer’s immersive audio offerings.
His history with immersive audio dates back to six months he spent in Canberra as a fresh-out-of-college grad when he donated spare time to a music art project that distributed 16 loudspeakers within a dome. “I was sitting in the dome trying to figure out how to efficiently adjust the amplitudes,” recalls Steve. “That was the genesis of the idea of SpaceMap.”
SpaceMap became commercially available from 1993. In fact, it was first used commercially in Vegas for a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller skating spectacle Starlight Express. Meyer bought SpaceMap and incorporated features of the algorithm into D-Mitri.
Steve’s been with Meyer for years, but only recently adopted the title of Applications Director, Digital Products: “It’s interesting for me to get back into immersive audio — especially how to make it more approachable for live sound,” commented Steve. “The increased interest makes sense because the loudspeaker systems are more compact and easier to deploy — it’s easier to hang surround systems now than it was years ago. What’s more, Meyer has its amplification built in, which makes it even easier — plug it in and give it sound… good to go.”
LOOKING TO CONSTELLATION
But what has Meyer’s years of experience with Constellation taught it about 3D mixing and immersive audio?
“We’ve learnt a lot,” observed Steve. “We’ve developed guidelines regarding minimum quantities of loudspeakers to ensure overlap — if we’re using this model of loudspeaker, this dispersion pattern and this elevation, then you need them at this density.
“Constellation is all about sound in all directions, mimicking real-world acoustics. From a live sound point of view, it’s not that way, but getting information from all directions, including overhead can be very effective.”
Meyer has partnered with MoogFest with a small-scale immersive audio rig. As is the Meyer MO, the hook-up is heavy on pushing limits, both cerebral and artistic.
“We’re so science driven at Meyer, so it’s refreshing to test our systems artistically,” observed Steve. “How far can you stretch live sound 3D/surround mixing? We had congas mixed to the rear surrounds. Do you delay those congas? Then do you delay those elements out to match the perception of where the artist is on stage? What’s your perspective when there’s percussion behind you. Some of this we’re learning.”
And immersive stage monitoring?
“With SpaceMap we were able to set up a quad stage monitoring system at MoogFest,” said Steve. “It meant the performers were able to experience some of what was going on spatially — we folded the surround channels to loudspeakers on stage.”
There seems a genuine sense of excitement and anticipation within Meyer Sound ranks regarding its immersive future. Steve again:
“It really feels like the production world is ready to push forward with surround, and Meyer is well placed.”