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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:54 pm 
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Hey Zeerround,

I'm a professional dialogue sound editor for episodic television and feature films in Hollywood. I have a pretty decent home theatre system in my home with Definitive Technology loudspeakers in a 5.1 setup. For my editing, I only use Macs and since I only cut dialogue and ADR, my edit system is used exclusively in mono and occasionally 2-channel mono mode. I only have "stereo" monitoring capability in my home edit bay, I don't need more than that.

I have always been a fan of 5.1 music mixes and In my personal HT viewing/listening space, I have a top end OPPO Blu-ray/DVD player as much for its capabilities to play DVD-A and SACD multi-channel discs as well as video. I have a small fortune invested in 5.1 albums in both formats and have acquired the majority of good titles (some very rare) that were released over the past 10 years, most in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, as you know, those formats are essentially dead and never became commercially successful. Almost nothing is being commercially released in surround any more. There are many many titles I have wished for to be re-mixed and re-released in surround, but had pretty much given up on. My story could end here.

Then I heard about a DTS 5.1 Surround version of one of my favorite albums which I was pretty damn sure had never been released in surround. After much searching, I finally acquired the live, 2-CD album "Waiting For Columbus" by the southern rock/blues band Little Feat and was blown away! The separation and quality yet faithfulness to the original mix was breath-taking. If you haven't got this 5.1 DTS version, get it. Not only is it one of the finest quality live albums every released, the 5.1 up-mix is astounding! In my opinion it is "demo quality". Included in the archive was a little note stating that this 5.1 was created using something called "SPEC"...I'd never heard of it, Googled it and found this forum. To me, this is like finding an oasis in the middle of a desert. I never had any idea that a 5.1 surround mix from only a 2-Channel stereo source could sound this good! In the professional audio world, there isn't crap available that does 1/4 of what your software will do. There are a couple of plug-ins for ProTools and one or two "stand-alone" very expensive rack-mount boxes that claim to create stereo from mono or surround from stereo, but they don't do much more than the useless DSP settings on most home receivers these days and create some fuzzy time-delayed ambiance in the surround channels. Basically useless. I know that some effectively up-mixed music would go over incredibly well on some dub stages when an old, stereo only music cue is needed in 5.1. I can't believe that you are giving this incredibly sophisticated and effective software away! In the commercial world, it would be the type of specialized software that would command thousands of dollars. This truly must be a labor of love and I (and I'm sure every other hobbyist that reads this forum) really appreciate what you're doing. THANK YOU! ;)

Now, a couple of tech questions if you don't mind.

As I mentioned earlier, I use Macs for my sound editing and also for my personal computing at home. I do have a rarely used 4 or 5 year old PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo and (I believe) 1 gig of ram running Windows XP Professional. I also have a fire-wire card for the PC. I am thinking of moving the PC to my home theatre and using an M-Audio 410 firewire digital audio interface from the computer to my 5.1 amplifier for monitoring. Its not a terribly powerful PC, I just use it occasionally for a PC only game or for surfing the Internet when I'm too lazy to go into the other room and boot up my Mac. I've actually downloaded Plogue and SPEC Mac versions and they run fine on my laptop, but haven't actually tried any conversions because I don't have any way of monitoring 5.1 on the Macs. I will download the PC versions of the software and from the brief description that I gave, do you think I'll be able to use my existing PC for serious experimentation and ultimately conversion? I don't plan to upgrade past WinXP Pro because it has worked just fine for me so far for what I use the PC for and besides, I hate giving MicroSoft a dime. :?

Thanks for listening to my rant, hope you have time to read the whole thing and can take a moment to answer.

Best Regards,
JAY


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 17, 2012 9:15 pm 
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Welcome aboard, Jay. You sound pretty excited about getting your hands dirty with SPEC.

I firmly believe that we have the best product out there. Even DTS itself wants to charge you $500 for their upmixing software which, while serviceable, isn't anywhere near as customizable as what you can accomplish with SPEC. I can also assure you that Zeerround is always hard at work at how to improve SPEC. Never confuse what sometimes can be silence here for complacency. There are some VERY big things in the works.

I can't speak for Zeerround but, to me, turning something like this into a business takes away the fun. We all have day jobs here. However, I can assure you that donations do matter. Much of the testing that goes on happens because Zeerround will put his own money into buying new PCs, sound cards, etc. with his own money. Donations always help offset that.

From your description, I'm not seeing a reason why you couldn't live monitor your output. However, Zeerround is the bigger expert here. I will wait for him to chime in if he feels otherwise.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 4:37 am 
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Jay,

I'm glad you've found us and appreciate our work.

A core2duo should be fine for SPEC and windows XP is still supported as a platform. The firewire audio interface I use is a focusrite saffire pro40. I haven't tried in on XP but use it on both windows 7 and my "hackintosh" running OSX. An inexpensive multi-channel USB sound card I've used on XP would be the ESI Gigaport HD, but what you already have should work as well. How will your sound card connect to your 5.1 system? I'm asking to see if you've thought about bass management.

Re: the cost of SPEC, if you read the license you will see that it's actually not "free" for commercial use, just for non commercial use. In your job you might find it occasionally useful to isolate or remove dialog from a stereo source. I've also used it to re-mix stereo stems into 5.1 in pro tools. This can be done "live" via rewire or using a VST to RTAS wrapper and the VST version of Plogue (probably windows specific), however I've just used it offline to pre-upmix drums to 5.1 or to split vocal stems into center and fronts or 5.1.

There's a couple of us here that are gearing up for 5.1 mixdown and mastering, and I'm also set up for remote recording of up to 18 simultaneous channels.

Cheers,
Z


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 3:25 pm 
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Thanks guys for your replies. FYI, I only plan to use SPEC for non-commercial uses and will personally donate to the cause once I get up and running and (hopefully) have some success. I plan to up-mix some of my favorite albums that have never been released in surround only for personal use. That being said, I'll certainly make some mixers and producers aware of the capabilities of SPEC with some examples, and if it ever comes to that, will definitely make sure you are appropriately compensated for any commercial use. I would contact you for licensing fees etc., if necessary. You have obviously put many hours of work into this project and deserve to be paid if your work is used commercially.

As far as my output monitoring, if I use the M-Audio FireWire 410 digital interface on my PC, will I even need a 5.1 capable sound card? I would think that I would only need some sort of software application that will internally route the discrete channels to the M-Audio "driver/control panel" which would then send them to the firewire bus on the PC which is connected to the FW410 which will handle the D->A conversion to then be sent to my amplifier and speakers.

As far as bass management goes, from reading the SPEC/Plogue tutorials (without actually having tried anything yet ;) ), it appears that distribution and final levels of the LF info in the mix, including the .1 channel is set up during the conversion process within SPEC. The 5.1 audio output thru the M-Audio box will essentially be the final up-mix straight through. After that, my Denon receiver, fed directly by 6 of the spam outputs of FW410 will handle any bass management necessary for my personal speaker system. Is my line of thinking correct?

Thanks,
JAY


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:42 pm 
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Oh yeah, thought y'all might be interested, I discovered another web site that attempts to do similar stuff to what you're doing here. They're using Plogue Bidule and a bunch of other software to create 5.1 up-mixes. I believe its Dutch based or possibly German...I'm not 100% sure of the language. They have both a Dutch (or German) side and an identical English side altho' the translation is a bit iffy in places. Check 'em out here and you experienced members of this Forum might have some comments as to whether their methods are sound.

This is a link to their site: http://dtsac3.com/

JAY


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:59 am 
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Jay,

We know. We are an offshoot of that forum that predated that one. We think we've gone above an beyond all the stuff from there.

Cheers,
Z


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 4:12 am 
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jaysound55 wrote:
Thanks guys for your replies. FYI, I only plan to use SPEC for non-commercial uses and will personally donate to the cause once I get up and running and (hopefully) have some success. I plan to up-mix some of my favorite albums that have never been released in surround only for personal use. That being said, I'll certainly make some mixers and producers aware of the capabilities of SPEC with some examples, and if it ever comes to that, will definitely make sure you are appropriately compensated for any commercial use. I would contact you for licensing fees etc., if necessary. You have obviously put many hours of work into this project and deserve to be paid if your work is used commercially.


Yeah I figured that. No worries and thanks in advance for any intros.

jaysound55 wrote:
As far as my output monitoring, if I use the M-Audio FireWire 410 digital interface on my PC, will I even need a 5.1 capable sound card? I would think that I would only need some sort of software application that will internally route the discrete channels to the M-Audio "driver/control panel" which would then send them to the firewire bus on the PC which is connected to the FW410 which will handle the D->A conversion to then be sent to my amplifier and speakers.


I'm not familiar with that card. With the saffire pro40, yeah, there is a mixcontrol app where you do the routing.

jaysound55 wrote:
As far as bass management goes, from reading the SPEC/Plogue tutorials (without actually having tried anything yet ;) ), it appears that distribution and final levels of the LF info in the mix, including the .1 channel is set up during the conversion process within SPEC. The 5.1 audio output thru the M-Audio box will essentially be the final up-mix straight through. After that, my Denon receiver, fed directly by 6 of the spam outputs of FW410 will handle any bass management necessary for my personal speaker system. Is my line of thinking correct?

Thanks,
JAY


Spec is going to output 5.1. Five full range channels and 1 that just has the LFE. If your speakers are not full range, you'll need some bass management to create the "sub" channel and crossover to the speakers. "MOST" Home Theater units with spam ins BYPASS all the bass management and other processing, because those are done in the digital circuitry and there are no A to D converts on the spam ins. They are assuming you are connected a BluRay or something that is doing its own decoding and bass management.

Some sound cards can do bass management, but I wouldn't think the m-audio would have designed with surround in mind. What you can do, however, is grab a free bass management VST and build it into your spec layout between Zmon and your sound card.

Here's the free one: http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Public/Bas ... assMan.htm

Or you spam one from voxengo


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:21 am 
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jaysound55 wrote:
As far as my output monitoring, if I use the M-Audio FireWire 410 digital interface on my PC, will I even need a 5.1 capable sound card? I would think that I would only need some sort of software application that will internally route the discrete channels to the M-Audio "driver/control panel" which would then send them to the firewire bus on the PC which is connected to the FW410 which will handle the D->A conversion to then be sent to my amplifier and speakers.


Quote:
I'm not familiar with that card. With the saffire pro40, yeah, there is a mixcontrol app where you do the routing.


The M-Audio FireWire 410 is a physical outboard hardware box with mic-preamps, pots and LED meters with 4 balanced or unbalanced spam INs and 10 balanced or unbalanced OUTs as well as optical SPDIF IN/OUTs. It is attached to the PC or Mac via a FireWire 400 cable with a software control panel/application for routing. For sources originating within the PC or Mac such as the Plogue/SPEC setup, the hardware inputs are not used but the outputs are fed to your monitor system, in my case a Denon receiver's 6-channel spam inputs. I don't think I actually need a conventional PC sound card. I'll just need to figure out how to get the output of SPEC or the bass management plug-in to talk to the FW410 interface.

Quote:
Spec is going to output 5.1. Five full range channels and 1 that just has the LFE. If your speakers are not full range, you'll need some bass management to create the "sub" channel and crossover to the speakers. "MOST" Home Theater units with spam ins BYPASS all the bass management and other processing, because those are done in the digital circuitry and there are no A to D converts on the spam ins. They are assuming you are connected a BluRay or something that is doing its own decoding and bass management.

Some sound cards can do bass management, but I wouldn't think the m-audio would have designed with surround in mind. What you can do, however, is grab a free bass management VST and build it into your spec layout between Zmon and your sound card.

Here's the free one: http://pcfarina.eng.unipr.it/Public/Bas ... assMan.htm

Or you spam one from voxengo


You are absolutely right, I hadn't thought of that. The Denon receiver will pass the spam inputs directly to the channel amplifiers and then speakers. I will need some bass management on the output of SPEC. I'll give the Farina bass management VST a try. From the description, it looks like it should do the job. Thanks again.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 11:29 am 
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Quote:
The M-Audio FireWire 410 is a physical outboard hardware box with mic-preamps, pots and LED meters with 4 balanced or unbalanced spam INs and 10 balanced or unbalanced OUTs as well as optical SPDIF IN/OUTs. It is attached to the PC or Mac via a FireWire 400 cable with a software control panel/application for routing. For sources originating within the PC or Mac such as the Plogue/SPEC setup, the hardware inputs are not used but the outputs are fed to your monitor system, in my case a Denon receiver's 6-channel spam inputs.


Yes sounds very similar to the focusrite saffire Pro40. 8 mic preamps, 8 line in, 10 line out. coax and SPDIF optical in and out. I have an 8 ch. mic pre talking to it via ADAT optical, and a 2 ch spam mic/intrument pre talking to it via coax, so I have 18 hardware ins and 10 outs.

In the "mixer/router" software, I have ADAT ins, SPDIF ins, local line/mic ins, and DAW ins. The DAW ins correspond to pins in the ASIO driver interface in plogue. So the first output pin in plogue is DAW1 in the software, etc.

In my (current) case I don't need bass management because my outputs are connected to a Genelec subwoofer (and then on to the 5 satellites) and the sub does the bass management.

In your case, you would just connect the outputs of ZMON to the bass management VST and its outputs to the asio firewire driver interface pins. Also, if you need any EQ (since you won't be getting any from dennon) you could add a VST for that as well. When I had a rig similar to yours I had a "group" of VSTs, EQ, delay (for time alignment) and bass management that I called my "HT" group, as it did everything my HT should have done.

After that time I switched to another solution, which was to encode to DTS in realtime. Creative used to make this box called a DTS-610 that did that. It has 6 spam ins and then you can make a SPDIF optical or coax connection to your HT and use your HT for bass management, etc. Sometimes you can find those on ebay but they're getting scarce.

Some newer PCs have a chip on the mother board that can do the same (Typically Realtek). It's called DTS connect or DTS interactive.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DTS_(sound_system)#DTS_Connect


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2012 3:38 pm 
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jaysound55 wrote:
Oh yeah, thought y'all might be interested, I discovered another web site that attempts to do similar stuff to what you're doing here. They're using Plogue Bidule and a bunch of other software to create 5.1 up-mixes. I believe its Dutch based or possibly German...I'm not 100% sure of the language. They have both a Dutch (or German) side and an identical English side altho' the translation is a bit iffy in places. Check 'em out here and you experienced members of this Forum might have some comments as to whether their methods are sound.

This is a link to their site: http://dtsac3.com/

JAY


Those methods paved the way for what we do here. Many of us were involved in the testing of those methods back in the day. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for the work done on an earlier incarnation of that site.

That being said, I think you'll very quickly see where we've taken what can be done within Plogue (and, hopefully, beyond) and moved it to the next level, both in sound quality and ease of use. We aren't stopping here either.


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