With the growth of immersive formats like Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D, the channel format limit in Pro Tools HD of 7.1 is now sadly lacking. We need at least 9.1 for Dolby Atmos and 11.1 for Auro 3D but with the explosion of virtual reality and the rebirth of Ambisonics formats to support VR we need these VR formats included as soon as possible.
What Has Happened To The Avid Dolby Partnership?
With regard to the higher channel counts for Dolby Atmos, back in April 2015 we reported the partnership between Dolby and Avid intended to develop deeper integration of Dolby Atmos immersive multi-channel surround sound in Pro Tools. 15 months later and we have yet to see much fruit from this partnership, not least the lack of 9.1 as a channel format in Pro Tools HD.
Software Developers Produce Workarounds
Some software developers have produced workarounds to help us work in these extended formats. For example, Exponential Audio have developed a Link feature so that reverb can be correctly propagated in both Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D formats. Nugen Audio updated their Halo Upmix plugin to support 9.1 with a workaround, and earlier this year we showed this with an exclusive video from BVE in London.
Ambisonics And Virtual Reality
Either way the proportion of all productions across the board using Pro Tools that need 9.1 and higher track counts is very small. However surely there is a more urgent need that will be beneficial to so many more productions, and that is Ambisonics. These are 4 channel formats for B-format, but with the impending explosion in virtual reality content we need the tools to create this content. Some small vendors like Noise Makers have produced plugins like Ambi Pan and Ambi Head.
But the biggest problem is the need for the channel formats menu to support this correctly. At the moment we have to use the Quad format but that is less than ideal because the channels are labelled L, R, Ls, and Rs. There are now a range of different channel layouts for B Format with the introduction of virtual reality. What we need are formats like WXYZ (FuMa) and WZYX (ACN) built into the channel formats menu within Pro Tools. This should be a relatively simple process. It is not like 9.1 etc which is going to require additional channels. B-format and Ambisonics are within the maximum channel count for Pro Tools HD.
What Can we Do?
We can register our requirements for this with Avid through the Pro Tools Ideascale forum and there is already an entry made by Jan Meinema back in April this year asking for Busses with user definable amount of channels - Ambisonics, which currently only has 6 votes. So if this matters to you please go and vote up Jan's post.
For higher channel counts there is an entry from Helge Schwarz back in March 2013 asking for 3D-Audio: 13.1-Tracks, -Busses, -Plugins which currently only has 9 votes! So if this matters to you please go and vote.
Finally use our poll below to help identify what formats are needed
Poll - What Channel Formats Do You Need?
What new channel formats do you need in your current and planned production workflows? Please check all that apply.