Soundfield who are well known for their microphones also branched out a couple of years ago into the plug-in market by producing the Surround Zone plug-in that would take the B format signal from the Soundfield mic and enable you to produce a 5.1 output.
Now they have released another plug-in the UPM-1, which has nothing to do with their microphones, and this is an upmix plug-in taking stereo content and produces a 5.1 output, otherwise known as an Upmix plug-in. They are following the TC Electronic Unwrap and the Waves UM225/226 upmix plugins, but what Soundfield say they are trying to do “is to produce a very stable and natural sounding 5.1 without destroying the original stereo image.”
I downloaded the plug-in and opened up a session and went to insert it on a stereo track as I would do with other similar plug-ins, but as hard as I would look, I couldn’t find the UPM-1 plug-in in my plug-in menus. I checked the manual and there are instructions the VST and AU versions of the plug-in but nothing for the RTAS version. So I emailed Soundfield and they responded very quickly to explain that the plug-in only works on a 5.1 track. So armed with this news I routed my stereo track to a 5.1 buss and when I went to look in the plug-in menu on the 5.1 track there in the Soundfield category was the UPM-1.
I tried it on a variety of content and found it incredibly natural, it just worked, no frills, the mono dialog was routed to the centre speaker but you do have the option to spill it into the front left & right speakers with the Divergence control. Also you can open out the front image width with a Width control. Only the ambience went to the surround channel, with only just a hint of the front dialog finding its way into the rear channels. There was no sound of any ‘processing’, which you can get with this kind of plug-in.
They do need to look at the plug-in mapping for the Euphonix Artist Series as not all the controls are mapped across properly, in fact it looks like there is a page missing. What encouraged me to use the rotary controls was I was really struggling to adjust the the plug-in controls with the mouse, the adjustment seemed very random and hit & miss. However when I hit the Info button, as well as the usual info there, I found an option to determine how the mouse controls the rotary knobs. I had been trying to move the mouse up & down or side to side, as most plug-ins are programmed to expect, and not doing very well. However now I could see it was expecting a rotary movement, now I found I could easily adjust any of the rotary controls, however there is no mention of this in the manual.
They have added a number of sensible broadcast related features including the option to decode out an LtRt signal into 5.1, which I am sure will be very useful for handling semi-legacy content that it is new enough to have been mixed in Dolby ProLogic but old enough not to have been done in 5.1.
All in one plug-in
Another nice feature is that you can output 3.0, 5.0 or 5.1 from the one plug-in unlike Waves where you have 2 separate plug-ins one for 5.0 and one for 5.1 output.
Need a 5.1 track
Following on from my email from Soundfield they went on to tell me that they are about to bring out a new version (v1.04) of the plug-in which will do away with the need to create a 5.1 buss, you can insert an instance of UPM-1 on a stereo track and it will force the track to output in 5.1, which is great news. They sent be a beta version and I tired it out and it works exactly as I would expect it to.
Having put the UPM-1 through its paces, I have to say it meets all the aims set out for it in the manual…
- Good extraction of mono sources to feed the centre channel – such as dialogue, commentary, etc.
- Maintaining the frontal stereo image by keeping the direct sound sources of the stereo mix at the front.
- Only the extracted natural ambience is fed to the rear surround sound channels.
This is a very neutral sounding plug-in which does exactly what it says on the tin, upmixes stereo and ProLogic cleanly and without side effects, to 5.1. Soundfield need to work a bit on the manual to make sure it explains all the features and limitations of the plug-in but that is my only criticism other than the cost.
Download a trial version You will also need to request a 5 day iLok license to try it out.
Handles Prologic input
Easy to use
Manual needs some work