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The Voice from Above Part 1

The Voice from Above Part 1
by Gary Woods

My previous 3 columns I called “All Mixed Up” were about “Immersive Sound,” which is the placing of speakers in the ceiling. I thought it was an interesting technology but that it would take a lot to get the format widely adopted. But then, I heard that Dennis Sands the engineer/mixer on “Shawshank Redemption,” “Good Will Hunting” and “Independence Day” as well as the Oscar nominee for “Forrest Gump,” “Contact,” “Cast Away,” and “The Polar Express” had embraced the format and I knew it was time to take a closer look. I contacted Dennis and he graciously agreed to be interviewed and what for me was even cooler is that his studio is in Santa Barbara.

First, I asked Dennis about Dolby Digital, the current format of choice for motion pictures (Dennis) “I’ve been mixing in discrete 5.1 since the introduction of Dolby Digital in 1992. Prior to that I mixed in the Dolby Stereo Matrix format. It was a difficult format, especially for music, so the 5.1 discrete film mix capabilities was extremely welcome. It changed the game significantly for me as a film mixer.”

I then asked about the 3 competing systems, Dolby Digital, DTS and & SDDS and if they affect mixing? (Dennis) “No. Those are delivery formats and are created during and after the print mastering process after the final re-recording mix. For me, I just deliver a 5.1, 7.1, and/or Atmos mix.”

Next I asked about a delivery format called “Quad Tracks” that delivers a mix in Dolby Digital, DTS, SDDS as well as a Stereophonic Optical Track. (Dennis) “Actually there are a number of formats included in all prints. I believe something like 16 different mixes. The format that alters the sound the most, in my opinion, is the Stereo Matrix format. The other digital formats, while they do have some differing sonic characteristics, don’t vary nearly as much as the matrix system.”

Next week we’ll talk about what I think is the most interesting format to come along in a long time, Dolby Amos.

If you have any suggestions or questions for me please drop me a note at or see my column on the Internet at or call me at (805) 729-0910

Gary Woods is the Computer Trainer for the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors and he is a Broker/Associate at Sotheby’s International Realty.