Topics covered in this article:
- Setting up the Dolby Atmos Music Panner
- Dolby Atmos Music Panner usage
- Dolby Atmos Music Panner template
- Converting Dolby Atmos Music Panner automation to Pro Tools pan automation
The native Pro Tools panner can be used to create Dolby Atmos Music. Dolby also provides a dedicated Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in for use within Pro Tools and other DAWs.
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in has features that optimize it for mixing music. These include several unique panning patterns, unique mirror patterns on stereo tracks, and a sequencer for syncing object movement to the session tempo.
As the Dolby Atmos Music Panner is a plug-in, it writes plug-in automation distinct from panning automation; this automation can be converted to native panning automation. This process will be covered at the end of the article.
Communication with the Renderer and mapping to objects is controlled by the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in directly and independently of the DAW.
Setting up the Dolby Atmos Music Panner Plug-in
Before using the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in in Pro Tools, be aware that the Dolby Atmos Music Panner cannot be used on an output that is currently mapped to an Object input in the I/O bus page. It is possible to mix using the native Pro Tools panner on some tracks and the Dolby Atmos Music Panner on others. However, the Object mapping must be disabled so that the physical output is available to the bus in order to use the Music Panner. If the session is to only use the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in and not the native panner for objects, then communication with the Renderer only needs to be established to use the Renderer Input Configuration. For this workflow, do not map busses to objects in the Pro Tools I/O Setup Bus tab.
Setting Up the Dolby Atmos Music Panner
- Insert the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in on a mono or stereo audio track (listed in the Soundfield drop-down list of plug-ins, when sorted by category).
- Enter the IP address/host name of the external Renderer, or localhost if the Renderer is running internally. The indicator will turn green when successfully connected.
- Select the Renderer Object for which the Dolby Atmos Music Panner is sending panning metadata to in the Object drop-down menu.
- Unavailable Object numbers will be grayed out.
- If inserted on a stereo track the Object pairs are selected individually but should be set sequentially.
- To ensure that audio and metadata are written to the same object, set the track output to the bus mapped to the same physical output. Note that the Object drop-down menu starts with Object 11, even if multiple beds are configured in the DAW I/O and Renderer input configuration. If the Bus names are offset, verify that the correct output is being used.
- If the Pro Tools session has the Edit Window View Object Column open, ensure the Bus/Object toggle is set to Bus.
- Enable global plug-in automation in Window > Automation.
- Enable the plug-in parameters from the Plug-in Automation window opened from the Dolby Atmos Music Panner.
- Navigate to Window > Automation and choose enable automation
- XYZ automation is written from the “puck”. XYZ automation is not written from the Sequencer paths described below. If needed, the XYZ automation from the step sequencer can be written to the Pro Tools native panner by writing the sequencer panning metadata to plug-in automation, then converting that to native panning automation. This process is covered in exercise 6.
Using the Dolby Atmos Music Panner
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in’s basic functions are the same as the native Pro Tools panner:
- There is a height enable configured as an elevation toggle.
- It has the same height modes: Free Form, Wedge, Dome, and Ceiling.
- The position functions are configured as X, Y, Z, and Size.
Differences from the native panner
- There is only a single overhead view of a person in a virtual room.
- Snap and Zone controls are not included.
Unique features of the Music Panner include:
- A mono/stereo version that can be implemented on mono or stereo tracks.
- Unique linking modes implemented for the mono/stereo and stereo plug-ins.
- Linking Modes:
- Mirror X – Mirrors X only
- Mirror Y – Mirrors Y only
- Mirror XY – Mirrors XY
- Copy – copied any action from one channel to the other.
- Sequencer Mode – The Dolby Atmos Music Panner includes a sequencer for creating up to 16 steps of dynamic Object panning.
- Linking Modes:
The sequencer is engaged via the sequencer toggle.
Once the sequence is enabled, any existing x, y, z settings created when the sequencer is off are ignored. Object size is retained.
The sequencer is locked to the session tempo, and the step duration is determined in the drop-down menu. Options are 1/16, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32, as well as a x16 duration modifier for slower sequences. Each defined sequence path will be completed in this interval.
The individual sequencer steps are where the dynamic Object panning paths are created and edited.
To create and edit the sequence steps and paths:
- Once the sequencer is enabled with the radio button, step 1 will have a white outline.
- Click on Edit to create a path for step 1. The outline will turn red.
- Select one of the four drawing tools to create the dynamic Object path
- The tools are Free Hand, Line, Ellipse, and Rectangle.
- You can optionally use the path trip direction options:
- The path round trip has the Object move along the drawn path and then reverse direction within one step
- The path reverse button has the Object move the opposite direct to which the path was drawn
- Once a path is drawn, the sequencer will move to the next step, and the step will have a white outline indicating it contains content and can be edited. The next step being created will turn red. Alternatively, any other step can be clicked. The steps don’t need to be written in order, though they will play back in order.
- If the step is to be skipped/disabled, click the step when it has a red outline. It will turn from blue to gray, indicating it will be skipped on playback.
- When all the desired steps are written, click Done.
- To edit any previously created steps, click on Edit, modify as needed, and click Done when finished.
- The Reset button clears all sequencer data. This can also be clicked when in Edit mode.
The color of the drawn paths in the virtual room indicated the status:
- Blue: The object path is active and belongs to a step number block that is currently not editable.
- White: The object path belongs to a step number block that is currently editable. The object path may be active or disabled.
- Gray: The object path is disabled because it belongs to a step number block that is disabled.
- Additionally, the block is currently not editable.
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner Template
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in templates are available from Dolby Customer. There is a companion .pio I/O setup that can be installed along with the Dolby Atmos Renderer. The Pro Tools template has 64 outputs defined:
- A 7.1.2 Bed using the native immersive panner
- 16 mono tracks with the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in inserted.
- 16 stereo tracks with the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in inserted
Converting Dolby Atmos Music Panner Automation to Pro Tools pan automation
With the release of the Dolby Atmos Music Panner v1.2 it is now possible to write sequencer moves to panner automation lanes and convert this automation, as well as panner automation created without the sequencer, to Pro Tools pan automation. This is necessary to export an ADM BWF master file from Pro Tools.
Note that this workflow requires the Dolby Atmos Music Panner v1.2, the Dolby Atmos Renderer v3.7.1 or later and Pro Tools 2021.12 or later.
Before writing sequencer moves to panner automation, ensure that Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in automation is enabled:
Turn off delay compensation to prevent written automation from occurring early in the timeline.
Create and modify the sequence in the music panner.
Note: in order to monitor the sequenced moves in the Renderer, the Automation drop-down selector must be set to Off:
The selected Automation setting applies to all instances of the Dolby Atmos Music Panner in the session.
Once satisfied with the sequence, display the automation lanes for Dolby Atmos Music Panner parameters:
Put the track in the desired Pro Tools automation mode (Touch, Latch, Touch/Latch, or Write).
In the Music Panner, set the Automation drop-down selector to Write:
As noted earlier, this setting applies to all instances of the Dolby Atmos Music Panner in the session, so ensure that you are not overwriting pan automation on other tracks.
Start playback and continue for the desired duration. This will record sequencer moves to plug-in pan automation:
In the Music Panner, set the automation drop-down to Read (which turns off the sequencer):
Change the track output to the 7.1.2 bed (or any 7.1.2 bus) and display the automation lanes for Pro Tools pan parameters:
Select the track and navigate to Edit > Automation > Duplicate Dolby Atmos Plug-in Automation to Pan Automation.
Navigate to the I/O setup Bus tab (Setup > I/O… > Bus) and enable Mapping to Renderer for the selected object(s).
Disable or delete the Music Panner, assign the track to the corresponding object in the track’s Object controls and click the bus/object toggle to assign the track as an object:
The session can now be bounced as an ADM BWF directly from Pro Tools.