From Concert to Surround Sound Broadcast

In a career that spans half a century and over 200 scores for both film and television, Elmer Bernstein is credited as one of the cinema’s pioneer innovators, changing the sound of American film music. On January 25th, Bernstein was honored at the Sarasota Film Festival’s “CineSymphony!” where he conducted the Florida West Coast Symphony at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Bernstein led the full symphony orchestra in a retrospective of some of his best-known film scores: The Sons of Katie Elder, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Escape, The Ten Commandments, Kings of the Sun, The Age of Innocence, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Man with the Golden Arm, Walk on the Wild Side, The Magnificent Seven, and the recently released Far From Heaven, which garnered Bernstein his 14th Academy Award nomination.

“CineSymphony!” was taped as a PBS concert, a co-production of WEDU-TV, Tampa, the Florida West Coast Symphony, and the Sarasota Film Festival, as a fundraiser for both the Symphony and the Festival. Paul Grove, VP of national programming and production at WEDU, selected Bruno White Entertainment (<a href=”” www) for the project. Bruno White and audio producer Gary Baldassari in turn sought out audio engineer/producer Mike Morgan not only to handle audio for the production, but to direct the television shoot. Morgan has a background and a degree in classical music, and there was no doubt in Baldassari’s mind that he was the man for the job.

Below is Morgan’s account of the concert production itself, followed by Baldassari’s account of posting the material — which they delivered in the SRS Circle Surround 5.1 encoded format.
The 90-minute program that resulted aired in late April on WEDU to 1.6 million households in West Central Florida, and may be distributed nationwide for broadcast on PBS.

“CineSymphony,” the Concert

by Michael Morgan

In preparation for this program, I obtained copies of the conductor’s scores in order to determine camera angles and shots for the production. I attended two rehearsals where I marked the scores and developed a basic vision of what I wanted the program to look like.

From the outset, I had artistic goals for both the audio and video domains. The recording was being laid down to both multitrack and 2-track recorders, with surround sound, I hoped, being a feature of the finished program. With this in mind, I used a full bevy of DPA microphones (, including the 4041-S and the new 4016 wide cardioid. The main front array was a custom-made Decca Tree — the omni 4041’s to the outside, and the 4016 in the middle — with the rear array being a set of spaced omnis, also 4041’s.

The extremely revealing nature of the 4041-S is its greatest strength. Though the mic is an omni, the high-frequency boost lobe between 8 kHz and 16 kHz is not completely omnidirectional, so positioning the lobe towards the desired area allows instruments or voices to be highlighted without losing the rest of the ensemble or acoustic environment. This mic has a great “reach,” an ability to produce a coherent sound from a greater distance than other mics.

Using the high-voltage DPA 4016 wide cardioid allowed me to achieve a very even polar pattern across the front, with the ability to focus on particular parts of the orchestra that are usually not achievable with three omnis. The 4016 gives you high SPLs (168 dB peak) with lower noise, but with a better low-frequency response at distance from the sound source.

The signals went straight from the mics to three DPA HMA-4000 high-voltage preamps, and then directly into the wonderful Cranesong Spider(, an eight-channel, class-A, mic pre/mixer/A-to-D processor. The Spider is a completely discrete (as opposed to op-amp), minimalist-based circuit. It possesses the warmth of tubes with the clarity of solid-state. Musical images recorded with it sound “taller,” with more inner detail. Digital audio came from the Cranesong into a TASCAM DA-88 for multitrack, and into a Fostex DAT for the live 2-track mixes.

Good audio and clean sight lines seem like opposing goals. But the clarity and reach of the DPA microphones made this a non-issue. The Decca Tree proved to be a perfect solution for this problem, picking up the orchestra beautifully without intruding into the camera shots. A close-miked (i.e., multi-mic) approach, normally used for television programs, would not have produced these sonic and visual results.

During the weeks following the concert and the completion of the video edit by Bruno White, Gary and I thought that we would probably be delivering a stereo mix to the client. In late March, Gary spoke with Paul Grove, VP of national programming & production at WEDU, and told him that we could deliver both a stereo mix and a surround sound mix—at no extra cost. Mr. Grove gave us an enthusiastic go-ahead as he knew that surround would have an instant appeal to one of the three private WEDU supporters in the Sarasota area who funded the production: Tana and John Sandefur — John Sandefur being a technology buff.

We decided to encode the multitrack audio with the new SRS Labs CSE-07 Circle Surround encoder ( SRS Labs Circle Surround technology, a matrixed audio format, is the only surround sound format that can encode up to 6.1 channels of surround sound for transmission using any 2-channel medium — broadcast, Internet streams, VHS, PC and console games, and CD.

The Sandefur’s unveiled the finished product at their home during a private premier screening. “CineSymphony” played on ten video screens, including the home theater — in stunning Circle Surround. That, according to Grove, was “the highlight of the evening, the perfect final element to the production.”

Michael Morgan is an audio engineer/producer with a degree in vocal performance from Wheaton College Conservatory of Music. He can be reached at: [email protected]

Posting “CineSymphony”

by Gary Baldassari

Surround sound is nothing to be afraid of. Once you get past the initial phobias, it’s actually very easy to do. There is so much space in the surround mixing environment that the old EQ and compression techniques can be scrapped for a much easier method: mic placement. You can start the production with placement of microphones specifically with surround in mind and design a microphone grid throughout the session accordingly. Or you can record the same way you have always done and situate the instruments in the mix perspective by panning the instrument or voice, creating delay and reverb, and placing the collective sound likewise.

For the Elmer Bernstein concert, Michael’s Decca Tree arrangement and the surround mics were all panned hard to sides, with the center mic of the tree panned to the middle.

We were scheduled to post at the Avid video sweet at Bruno White Entertainment, which lacked any standard post audio equipment. We decided that if we were going to do state-of-the-art surround sound mixing and processing, we’d have to do it “guerrilla” style.

Everything that we would need, we brought in ourselves: the original TASCAM DA-88, the Cranesong Spider class A mixing console, an SRS CSE-07 and SRS CSD-07 Circle Surround encoder and decoder, a TC Electronic M5000, its Tool Box, and MD2 multi-dynamics software, and four Tannoy i6MP powered loudspeakers speakers.

It took us an hour to install and calibrate the equipment. We used a DPA Microphone 4004 mic and the built-in revolving pink noise generator on the SRS CSD-07 decoder to balance the four speakers. (Our belief was that we had such a strong phantom center that we did not need the center speakers.) The Tannoy i6MP dual concentric loudspeaker is a contractor product, not a “portable studio reference monitor,” but it uses the same drivers as the Tannoy System 600 studio monitor and offers the same 90-degree conical dispersion pattern.

The surround mix was achieved using the same Cranesong Spider that Mike used to record the concert. The only difference was that we rigged it for surround sound, with the four discrete outputs feeding the SRS encoder.

Van Wezel Hall is very dry, so we used the Big Blue Hall of the TC M5000 in an envelope set at 11 percent with a 2.2-second reverb time and no modulation. That was sent into the MD-2 multi dynamics program with a higher compression ratio and lower threshold set above 1.6 kHz to squeeze more high frequencies into the broadcast. This increased the presence of the distant miking technique. My experience thus far has been that MD2 from the TC M5000 or DBMAX or an MD3 from a TC DB-8 or System 6000 works synergistically with the SRS Circle Surround encoder. The only difference is that the older TC system performs its function on the encoded stereo stream, while the newer system can control the individual inputs of each Circle Surround encoding input. The encoded and squeezed stereo signal edits without phase flaws or artifacts.

We mixed the sections of the show that were used in three hours and the layback took two hours. Very infrequently did we touch anything on the Cranesong Spider or MD2. The reason was that the Florida West Coast Symphony played magnificently and Mike Morgan placed the microphones perfectly to capture the conductor’s chart.

Gary Baldassari is a studio, live sound, and broadcast recording engineer with particular expertise in surround sound recording and broadcast audio. Gary is also a consultant for DPA.

Images of Mr. Bernstein courtesy of Bruno White Entertainment

Surround Professional Magazine