Topics covered in this article:
- Project settings
- The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in
- Using the Dolby Atmos Music Panner in Ableton Live
- Synchronization with the Renderer
- Template project
This module will cover the basic Ableton Live setup and workflow, both of which will be covered in greater detail in the Ableton Live exercises.
The Dolby Atmos workflow for Ableton Live utilizes the Dolby Audio Bridge to route audio to the Dolby Atmos Renderer. Since there is no native immersive panner capability in Ableton Live, the VST version of Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in is used to create Object audio metadata. The Dolby Atmos Music Panner establishes communication to the Dolby Atmos Renderer independent of Ableton Live.
Because all tracks in Ableton Live are stereo tracks, all Objects used in a Dolby Atmos mix will be stereo. While it is possible to route audio to individual bed channels, Ableton Live does not have a native surround panner, so for the purposes of this training, an all-Object workflow will be used.
- Navigate to Preferences from the Menu bar: Live > Preferences
- Click on the Audio tab to set the device driver to Core Audio and the Audio Output Device to the Dolby Audio Bridge.
- Set the In/Out sample rate to 48kHz or 96kHz to match the sample rate set in the Dolby Atmos Renderer.
- Set the Buffer Size to 1024 samples (or 2048 if working at 96kHz).
- Set which outputs are active by clicking on Output Config under Channel Configuration
- In both the Mono and Stereo Outputs columns, activate outputs
1–130 by individually selecting each output. This only needs to be done once, as this setting will be maintained across projects.
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in
The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in creates immersive Object audio metadata and sends that metadata to the appropriate renderer inputs.
Basic functions of the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in include:
- A height enable mode that allows for elevation panning
- Four different height modes including Freeform, Wedge, Dome and Ceiling
- The ability to use either the “puck” or the knobs to dynamically set the X, Y, Z and size coordinates and values.
- Several different linking modes are provided:
- Mirror X – Mirrors X only
- Mirror Y – Mirrors Y only
- Mirror XY – Mirrors XY
- Copy – copied any action from one channel to the other.
The Panner also features a 16-step sequencer.
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. 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 FreeHand, 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.
Using the Dolby Atmos Music Panner in Ableton Live
- Navigate to Plug-ins Preferences from the Menu bar: Live > Preferences > Plug-ins
- Verify that ‘Use VST3 Plug-In System Folders’ is On:
- From the session or arrangement view, select an audio track, and load the Dolby Atmos Music Panner on an insert.
- The Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in is located in the browser sidebar in Plug-Ins > VST3 > Dolby Laboratories.
- Establish communication between the Music Panner and the Renderer by entering localhost in the Renderer field.
- The connection status indicator should be green.
- Use the Object selection drop-down menu in the Dolby Atmos Music Panner to assign the panner to Objects 11 and 12.
- On the track, assign the Audio To selector to Ext. Out and set the output channels to 11/12.
- To create multiple Objects on different tracks, repeat the steps above, taking care to match the Object and output assignments for each instance of the Music Panner, e.g., assign Object 13 and 14, and set the External output of the tracks to outputs 13 and 14.
Synchronization with the Renderer
In order to record a Dolby Atmos master file, the Renderer must be synchronized to Live. The simplest way to set this up is to place a generated LTC PCM .wav file on an audio track routed to output 129 or 130 of the Dolby Audio Bridge.
There are a number of ways to generate a LTC .wav file. A common source is http://elteesee.pehrhovey.net/ . Ensure that the generated LTC .wav file matches the sample rate of the Live set. There is a 48kHz 24fps LTC audio file included with the exercise content in the LTC folder.
- Once the LTC .wav file has been generated, navigate to the arrangement (horizontal timeline) view. Create a new audio track by navigating to Create > Insert Audio Track or by pressing Command + T. Rename this track LTC 129, set the input to No Input, set the output type to Ext. Out, and set the output channel to 129.
- Drag and drop the generated LTC .wav file at the start of the timeline.
- Double click on the clip to open the clip view and ensure that audio is not being warped.
- In the Renderer, navigate to Preferences, click on Driver, and verify that External sync source is set to LTC over audio and LTC input channel is set to 129.
- Toggle the synchronization button On, press Play in Live, and verify that the renderer is chasing timecode
- Note that in order to provide the pre-roll needed for the Renderer to drop into Record, the contents of the other tracks will need to be moved later in the session (generally starting at bar 3 or bar 5 depending on the tempo)
- Set the Time Ruler Format to the same framerate that is being used in the Renderer (in most cases 24 fps).
- Navigate to Options >Time Ruler Format
- Move the cursor to beginning and end of the audio in the Live set to determine the in/out points to use in the Renderer. It can be difficult to determine the exact values, so use the closest integer value before (for in point) and after (for out point).
(00:00:05:01 for the in point)
(00:01:29:17 for the out point)
- Set the Record in/out points in the Renderer
- Note any offset required based on the LTC timecode. The LTC file provided with the exercise content starts at 01:00:00:00, so the timecode value will be offset by 1 hour
- Excess pre or post roll in the recorded master can be trimmed on Export of the ADM BWF from the Renderer after the recording is complete.
The Ableton Live template currently included with the Dolby Atmos Music Panner includes outputs for beds and objects. For Dolby Atmos Music content creation, use the template supplied in the exercise content folder.
The template project contains 27 stereo Object tracks (with the Dolby Atmos Music Panner plug-in inserted on each track) routed to outputs 11-64, as well as an audio track for LTC audio routed to output 129.
The template is a great place to explore and experiment with Dolby Atmos and Ableton Live, and can be used in the exercises.