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Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

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Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby hokenpoke » Sun Feb 02, 2020 7:52 pm

I recently downloaded the Rode Soundfield plugin and some of their demo files and started experimenting with using it for 5.1 sound design. I hope to put together enough cash to get one of the NT-SF1 ambisonic mics eventually but for the time being, I’m learning what’s what.

The first issue I had was getting the plugin into the FX rack on to the channel. Initially, I could only get it to load on Master but I eventually learned that if you imported the file into the track first, it was the possible to load the plugin into the channel.

The plugin is pretty easy to use and seems quite intuitive with helpful visualizations BUT some things that I found while using it have me seriously confused.

First thing is about my setup for the experiements: When I mix surround, I use my home theater system for monitoring. HDMI from the MBP goes to a Denon receiver. To map audio correctly, the setup in Audio MIDI Setup calls for ITU channel config - in order that is L,R,C,LFE,Ls,Rs. In Logic/Preferences/Audio/IO Assignments, I click the initialize for ITU to get the same mapping and everything comes out the right way.

When first using the Soundfield plugin, I quickly realized that it I was hearing the channels mapped to Logic’s ‘Default’ config: L,R,Ls,Rs,C,LFE. By clicking the Default button in IO Assignments, all went to the correct place but here is where the confusion come in.

First thing is that the metering is now all wonky - to look at the channel and Master meters, the mapping is C,L,Ls,R,LFE,Rs!

The second thing is that I’m suddenly not sure I understand how output mapping for surround works at all. Previously, to make things come out right for my monitoring situation, both Logic and Audio Midi Setup had to be in ITU mapping to get stuff to come out right.

Now with the Soundfield plugin, A/M Setup is in ITU, Logic is in default and the metering says something else altogether. Can anyone shed some light on this?
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby blinddrew » Sun Feb 02, 2020 8:44 pm

Concertina Chap is the person who knows about this, I'm sure he'll be along shortly.
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby ConcertinaChap » Sun Feb 02, 2020 11:46 pm

I wrote an article about using the NT-SF1 (beautiful mic, BTW) and Soundfield by Rode with Logic X and you'll find it here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... onic-audio

It was published June last year so should be visible to you if you've not got a subscription. If you've got further questions raise them here. I can't promise to answer but I'll try :)

CC

PS the bug described in the article was fixed in Logic 10.5.
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby desmond » Mon Feb 03, 2020 12:07 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:PS the bug described in the article was fixed in Logic 10.5.

Probably *10.4.5*, as 10.5 isn't out in the wild yet.... :thumbup:
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Mon Feb 03, 2020 1:51 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:I wrote an article about using the NT-SF1 (beautiful mic, BTW) and Soundfield by Rode with Logic X and you'll find it here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques ... onic-audio

It was published June last year so should be visible to you if you've not got a subscription. If you've got further questions raise them here. I can't promise to answer but I'll try :)

CC

Chris Timson wrote: You need third‑party plug‑ins to produce true binaural output from Ambisonic data, and these all cost money so as yet I haven't tried any.


Hey CC, have you tried out the Waves Nx plugin? I've been setting up a surround / ambisonics monitoring system here just recently* with that and their bluetooth headtracker and it's a helluva deal.

*Now that was quite a bit of fun (not fun) to accomplish given everything I could find to school me was based on Mac workflows and were fairly outdated WRT even that platform currently, and of course I'm on W10. And Ableton Live, which doesn't support multichannel audio formats.

I may post some form of screed / rant / howto at some point, if there's much interest in That Sort Of Thing.
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby ConcertinaChap » Mon Feb 03, 2020 8:26 am

desmond wrote:Probably *10.4.5*, as 10.5 isn't out in the wild yet.... :thumbup:

I stand corrected :)

n o i s e f l e ur wrote:Hey CC, have you tried out the Waves Nx plugin? I've been setting up a surround / ambisonics monitoring system here just recently* with that and their bluetooth headtracker and it's a helluva deal.

No, but I have tried the Dear Reality DearVR Ambi Micro plugin which converts ambisonic output to binaural and is free. I was sufficiently impressed with that to do a review here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/de ... ambi-micro

They produce something called Spatial Connect which can be used with Ambi Micro and their other software to do head tracking.

n o i s e f l e ur wrote:I may post some form of screed / rant / howto at some point, if there's much interest in That Sort Of Thing.

Excellent idea!

CC
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Mon Feb 03, 2020 6:37 pm

Ah right, the DearVR stuff. Does that have any sort of headtracking? What I found is, the whole surround / ambisonics thing is almost completely worthless without it . . . sure, it works - it just doesn't convince (not even slightly) me I'm in any sort of 3D space with localised sound sources in that space - rather a deep stereo field.

If you have a fast enough computer to try the Nx demo with camera tracking give it a go, you'll be ordering your head tracker same day ;).
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue Feb 04, 2020 12:38 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:They produce something called Spatial Connect which can be used with Ambi Micro and their other software to do head tracking.
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:46 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:
n o i s e f l e ur wrote:I may post some form of screed / rant / howto at some point, if there's much interest in That Sort Of Thing.

Excellent idea!

CC

It might prove useful to someone, if I can put it together clearly in writing. As I'm in the middle of final setup of my humble ummmm . . . setup, it may take a while to organise - but yeah. It's been interesting!

I shall flee the scene and let you guys get back to the original topic, as my interest doesn't involve recording of ambisonics with mics, I just saw an opportunity to bring up the subject of monitoring as I've recently been mired in navigating various tradeoffs involved in plumbing this into an Ableton Live 10 / Windows 10 workflow such that I can properly take advantage of the Waves Nx system on that platform / DAW combo.

The exact solution I employ would be 100% compatible with MacOS, so hopefully this won't be seen as too much of an intrusion here in the Mac Music forum - so if I do a HowTo I'll drop a link in here to whatever section it ends up in.

I should really grab some ambisonic recordings made with soundfield mics and have a listen. Bound to be interesting!
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:56 am

ConcertinaChap wrote:
ConcertinaChap wrote:They produce something called Spatial Connect which can be used with Ambi Micro and their other software to do head tracking.

Yep, I've looked at the system with interest for a while actually - nearly bought the DearVR Pro soft for a pittance recently when it was on sale but as I've already got the Nx kit I thought I'd revist my interest at a later date in concert with a good VR setup to really explore the concept.

I guess my question should have been "do you use a head tracking system?" as opposed to asking if you used the same kit as me.

My next question would then have been . . . have you used the same kit as me and how do they compare, in your opinion? :D I've been fascinated by this stuuff since the SOS review of the Smyth Realiser many moons ago (along with their reviews of competing products).
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby ConcertinaChap » Tue Feb 04, 2020 8:52 am

Thanks for the clarification. No, I don't use head tracking. My interest in Ambisonics has been driven by using the mics for recording and the possibilities it offers me during mixdown to stereo. Binaural is not something I use seriously although I like to listen to my own and other Ambisonic recordings in binaural because I like the sense of immersion in the music it generates.

I look forward to the howto.

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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby The Korff » Tue Feb 04, 2020 9:03 am

I've used the Nx Headtracker! It was a bit fussy with my PC (uses Bluetooth 4.0 so I had to get a USB BT receiver, which may have been the cause of the gremlins), but it's much happier on my Mac. What's amazing is how quickly you forget you're wearing headphones...
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Tue Feb 04, 2020 4:59 pm

Yeah, the bluetooth is probably the only sticking point in the whole system as the connection needs to be reestablished frequently after any idle period on my machine. I'm certain this is an artifact of circumstances (ie: it won't go idle in serious use, but setting up means lots of taking the phones off to do something else so the tracker sleeps and the bluetooth drops).

I think forgetting you're wearing phones depends on the weight and comfort of the phones, but I definitely take your point. The illusion is compelling . . . in my case, due to the weight etc, it's more like "these phones do absolutely bloody nothing to block . . . oh wait!".
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Feb 04, 2020 5:31 pm

I would completely agree that a (good) head-tracking system really brings binaural surround recordings to life and makes them genuinely believable. I think it's because we naturally and instinctively move our heads to help improve the localisation of sound sources around us. If we move our heads and the source position moves with it the brain dismisses the effect as unreal.

But if the systems includes signal processing to manipulate the binaural sound stage based on data from a head tracker, then sound sources appear to remain in a fixed point in space regardless of where the head is pointed -- just like in real life -- and that makes all the difference.

Of course, this involves a lot of heavy-duty data processing and a very good head-tracking system... but the tech is already way better than it was a decade ago.
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Re: Rode Soundfield plugin, channel mapping and metering in LPX - I am very confused!

Postby n o i s e f l e ur » Tue Feb 04, 2020 6:53 pm

Without a doubt Hugh - and IMHO the Nx system is at the very least a "good enough" solution to head tracking, and just as importantly it's relatively cheap. Waves' almost perma-sale means the system is usually available for round the €150 mark to get one started, and once hooked they do multipacks of the headtracker which bring the price down considerably on a per-unit basis.

Further to what you say about moving your head to localise sources, I'd contend that without the ability to do that there's really isn't much if any 3D illusion at all, it just sounds like better stereo. Since I've started using the Nx I've actually been able to perceive pseudo-3D in stereo recordings played back sans-Nx which I've attributed to stereo spatialisation effects inadvertently (or perhaps deliberately) mimicing the frequency / phase manipulations used to achieve these effects in 3D systems. But it's fleeting, like slipping in and out of seeing a Magic Eye photo or something.

So yes, the head tracking does the perceptual heavy-lifting necessary to sell the illusion and I wholeheartedly recommend people try it out properly. I say "properly" because it's not actually an instant WOW! . . . it can take a few minutes for the brain to become accustomed to the effect, after which it does the usual brain thing and accepts the input as valid - and we're off to the races!

I've never used the camera tracking option, opting instead to take a chance on the head tracker as my first contact with the system, because I didn't want to be disappointed by a sub-optimal experience and potentially dismiss a very useful tool as a result - so I can't vouch for the efficacy of testing the system that way.

Damn . . . did it again. Serious threadjack! Somewhat on-topic I have a few issues mapping channels correctly here myself but I expect I'll be able to work through them easily enough once I get the chance to sit down and do so (currently making sure all audio / midi / optical conncetions are working hiss / crackle-free etc before physically moving kit into position).
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