We show you how to get started in the brave new world of Dolby Atmos.
I’ve been involved with surround sound for many years, with much experience of multi‑channel, Ambisonic and diffusion systems (which use multiple speakers with different frequency‑response characteristics to simulate an immersive experience from a stereo or mono source). However, this has nearly all been in the experimental and installation areas of creative practice. I’ve never been a fan of using surround for music production, as stereo seems to hit the sweet spot between soundstage, instrumental separation, and visceral excitement. The latter in particular often appears absent in the multi‑channel productions I’ve heard. However, the incorporation of Atmos capabilities into Logic Pro, and the ability to create and monitor binaurally on headphones without having to have a multi‑speaker setup, has prompted me to revisit surround for music mixing.
This workshop should help you get started with the new tools that were introduced in version 10.7 of Apple’s flagship DAW. One caveat: Atmos requires Big Sur at a minimum and, while Logic Pro has an Apple Music render facility in version 10.7.3 (something missing from the initial launch), you’ll need Monterey for this — and also for the head‑tracking feature to work. The latter can only be used with certain Apple headphones and requires an M1 Mac.
For a thorough introduction to Atmos and immersive audio in general, I recommend that you read Sam Inglis’ excellent article in SOS January 2022 (https://sosm.ag/immersive-audio) before you start exploring.
It’s important to remember that in Logic Pro, Atmos mixing needs to be treated as a completely separate process from a ‘traditional’ stereo mix, so it makes sense to work on a new Project Alternative (from the File menu). To get started, your buffer (in File / Audio Preferences) will need to be set to 512 when working up to 48kHz or 1024 for higher sample rates, and Atmos needs to be ‘switched on’ from the Mix menu. This is also where you choose the system that will be used for playback of the bed audio (more on this later). I’ve been using 5.1, as that’s the hardware surround system that seems to be commonly used by those who have bought my albums! For this workshop, I’m going to be using stems from a track I’m also mixing in stereo, while placing sounds that suffer from audio masking alongside some of what Howard Jones called ‘musical moments’ in the Atmos immersive ‘space’.
The Atmos plug in can be seen as a sort of virtual monitoring system, which enables you to hear on headphones what your mix will sound like via various playback systems.