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AlexProMix’s ‘Ultimate Mixing Template’ — Create Immersive and Stereo Mixes Within One Session

Alex Solano of AlexProMix recaps the incredible evolution in Dolby Atmos and spatial audio mixing, how the current shift and technology upgrades underscore the industry’s commitment to innovation and enhanced listening experiences.

The following was developed in collaboration with AlexProMix, a company DMN is proud to be partnering with.

In 2021 when spatial audio came into the picture, the landscape was packed with technical limitations and challenges.

Music mixing engineer and early adopter of Dolby Atmos, Alex Solano, sat down with DMN to reveal his take on the monumental evolution of Dolby Atmos, the opportunities and challenges the shift now offers professionals, and how his mixing template allows professionals to create immersive mixes and stereo mixes simultaneously, within one session.

Today, the immersive audio landscape looks extremely promising for audio professionals, and opens up a multitude of creative and monetary opportunities. But the transition was a painstaking process, involving significant technical upgrades — including a minimum requirement of a 12-speaker setup and an investment in high-end equipment — alongside mastering the complexities of immersive audio mixing.

To fully appreciate Dolby Atmos music mixing advancements, it’s essential to understand the early obstacles and creative hurdles faced by audio mixers.

During the early days of immersive mixes, collaborative innovations between Avid Pro Tools and Dolby were designed to optimize the music-mixing process. But Dolby Atmos mixing in Pro Tools involved complex setups, with separate applications for Pro Tools and the Dolby Atmos Renderer.

The configuration also limited the use of outboard gear due to the integrated closed-system linking Pro Tools with the Dolby Renderer.

Typically, audio experts also needed a separate computer to operate the Dolby Renderer for speaker routing. This setup was expensive, and required the coordination of multiple systems to function effectively within a music production environment.

“No longer could you create a mix on headphones and check the mix in your car,” explains Solano, adding, “With Atmos, a minimum requirement of a 7.1.4 speaker setup is necessary to ensure your immersive mixes translate to multi-channel playback systems.”

The initial setup also enforced a two-stage creation and approval process, stifling creativity and workflow.

After creating an artist’s stereo mix, mixing engineers would have to seek approval before they exported the pre-mastering processed stems into a new session that was designed for immersive audio. After making a Dolby Atmos mix, the engineers would then be required to seek out artist approval once again.

Apart from this constant back and forth for creation and approval, the process of matching the tonality of the stems to the stereo master was also incredibly complex.

Mixing engineers needed a solution that would allow them to implement multiple sound cards simultaneously. According to Solano, that turning point came with the launch of AUX I/O in Pro Tools.

The feature laid the groundwork for more integrated solutions, and more flexible audio routing — including the Dolby Atmos Renderer to different destinations. Although the solutions improved the workflow, Solano says mixers and engineers still faced stability and latency management challenges with AUX I/O.

“Expanding track widths in Pro Tools to accommodate up to 9.1.6 configurations opened new possibilities for mixing, enabling more seamless integration of stereo and immersive formats,” Solano explains. But despite the initial challenges, Solano says these developments opened up possibilities in mixing technology, and hinted at the development of a unified mixing template — ‘one that could cater to stereo and immersive outputs.’

AUX I/O in ProTools marked a significant turning point in allowing the implementation of multiple sound cards. (Photo: AlexProMix)

AUX I/O in ProTools marked a significant turning point in allowing the implementation of multiple sound cards. (Photo: AlexProMix)

However, ‘the game changer in the spatial audio space’ came at the end of 2023, when Pro Tools introduced the integrated Dolby Renderer.

The integration facilitated the simultaneous processing of immersive and stereo mixes, and directly routed stems to the Renderer. Furthermore, the capability to monitor binaural and stereo mixes through dedicated AUX tracks further enhanced the mixing process, ensuring consistency across different listening formats.

“Multi-channel plugins offer tailored processing for immersive formats, and multi-mono plugins apply uniform effects across all channels.”

Solano also points out that the distinction between multi-channel vs multi-mono plugins, and understanding their unique application is vital for achieving the desired tonal balance and dynamic range — in both immersive and stereo mixes. “Multi-channel plugins offer tailored processing for immersive formats, and multi-mono plugins apply uniform effects across all channels.”

Parallel to these advancements, early adopter Solano was investing his expertise in creating a mix template that streamlines the mixing process, while ensuring the quality and emotional impact of music is elevated. “The template brings the artist’s vision to life in an immersive sonic environment, while creating an Atmos and Stereo master that are consistent in the emotional impact of the mix,” he says.

Solano’s immersive music template shares insights and practices that can enrich the mixing workflow, opening the gateways for more creators to explore immersive audio’s incredible possibilities.

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