Multichannel Takes Hold

Every year I use this editorial not only to provide an overview of the Surround Conference, but to give an update on the progression of multichannel music. Once again, I won’t disappoint because–yes, it’s true–we’re really making some headway.

When we first started this conference in 1999 (has it really been that long ago?), production tools were not only expensive but few and far between, there was no widespread delivery method, and consumers could only hear multichannel audio occasionally in the movie theater. By 2001, the tools had improved and become more readily available, and DVD-Video was becoming a consumer sensation, but there was still a lot of confusion in the production community regarding the basics of monitoring, formats and delivery. Fast forward (now there’s a term I’ve not used in a while) to 2003 and multichannel production techniques were becoming commonplace, the marketplace was flooded with multichannel titles, DVD-Audio and SACDs were finally on the shelves in quantity, and mixers were no longer asking questions like, “What do I put in the center channel?”

Now here we are in 2004 and multichannel audio is readily within everyone’s reach; professional and consumer alike. On the pro side, multichannel capability is now built into just about every workstation and console, authoring tools are amazingly affordable, and most audio professionals are well versed in formats and production techniques. For the consumer, prices on combo disc players have come down to a point that it doesn’t even pay to buy anything else but a universal player any more, and the 5.1 “Home Theater In A Box” makes the entry into consumer surround sound easier than ever. And thanks to the hi-def television revolution, broadcasters and consumers alike are demanding that all audio production be in 5.1.

This year’s Surround Conference reflects those trends, with sessions on surround in broadcast, games, and online as well as a continuing look at not only current productions trends, but what to expect in the future as well. We’re honored by the presence of this year’s Surround Pioneer Award winner Herbie Hancock, and Surround Visionary Award winner Peter Frampton as they discuss their multichannel philosophies. And The Crystal Method’s Ken Jordan (in the forefront in the charge for the Recording Academy to instate an Electronica Grammy) demonstrates electronica’s cutting multichannel edge.

So get ready to enjoy the ride because, after a few well meaning years of false starts, it looks like our predictions on the widespread use of multichannel audio may finally be coming true.

Surround Professional Magazine