If there’s one thing that keeps echoing on and on in the minds of audio engineers, that they always have something new to listen to, then it probably would be the Audio Engineering Society’s (AES) grand annual Convention. AES is an international organisation that unites audio engineers worldwide and promotes the advancements in the field of Sound. AES Conventions are a perfect platform for scientists to present their papers, for student activities, workshops and even tutorials. I was lucky enough to take part in the 130th AES Convention that was held in London from 15th to 18th of May 2011.
AES conventions are rich in information. Right from the day one, there were many things that interested me. The very first paper session was all related to Loudspeakers – air density, speaker placement, etc. Some of the papers would have given ideas for a live sound engineer as they discussed about equalisation of loudspeaker panels based on bending wave radiation. Simultaneously, there was a workshop by Alex Case sharing his approach for equalisation and a posters’ display on sound field analysis in the foyer. Everything was so remarkable and useful that it annoyed me that I was letting go one programme to attend another, only due to overlapping schedules. So was the case with most participants.
There were exhibitions on all four days in which many leading audio companies including Schoeps, Sennhiser, DPA, etc., showcased their products. Even though there were so many interesting things, most of them were possibly familiar to audio magazine subscribers. The highlight of the exhibition right from 2009 was the ‘Clasp’. ‘Clasp’ is a system that allows you to record and overdub analogue tape quality sound onto a DAW with all the controls of DAW and even without any delay. In this case, the exhibitor showed me how to record a drum machine onto Protools via a StuderJ37 with Clasp. Another innovative product was software developed by Celemony named ‘Capstan’ that can be used to reduce the Wow’s and flutters. Capstan would be a really useful tool for sound engineers who do restoration of old records. The algorithm works by detecting the common flutters in a recording and by adjusting the pitch wide align tool.
AURO 3D; it was the most attractive idea of the convention. A workshop by Wilfried Van Baelen from Galaxy Studios, the man behind Auro 3D, explained everything about the system and the codec. In short, Auro 3D is surround sound format that contains the height information of sound as well. It is a 9.1 system which can be embedded into a 5.1 PCM mix. Sound engineers always wanted to produce surround mixes in PCM. This codec creates an output almost like a PCM.. In fact, It would not have been believable if I had not attended the demo presentation of it. We all know that due Anatomical Transfer function of our ears we perceive the height of a sound as well. In that case to completely emulate the effect of 3D cinema-going experience, the soundtrack should also contain the height information in it and it should be reproduced in the best possible way. It was just wonderful to experience an aeroplane taking off in front me and then flying above and then over to the back inside a small demo room.
With my experience in the broadcast industry I am aware of the need for loudness normalisation over peak normalisation. It is really irritating for viewers/ listeners when a commercial jumps in extra loud and when the next programme is barely audible. The session on Loudness Normalisation standards was really informative. The paper sessions on de-reverberation were also good even though the practicality and usefulness of result is questionable.
I could not but treasure the insights the AES Convention 2011 provided me with. Truly a memorable experience it was.