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      GERRY FURSDEN finds that a                     ith the increasing promotion and availability   are simply not practical.
                                                     of HDTV receivers and services, the demand          In those situations some kind of instant ‘up-mixing’
      unique hands-free approach                     for HD programming has never been higher,       process is required, and again there is a variety of
     by Soundfield could mean its                    and with it comes an expectation of             techniques and products available. Most are based
                                      surround sound. For newly commissioned programmes              on some form of matrixing idea – the simplest being
 UPM-1 becomes a popular and           that is usually relatively straightforward to achieve, but    to take the stereo difference signal and route that
                                       there is a lot of HD-compatible archive material on the       to the rear channels. In some cases even this very
      practical industry essential.
                                      shelves that was mixed with a stereo soundtrack, and a         simplistic approach can be surprising effective, but it
                                       lot of current programmes often include stereo archive        is very dependent on the nature of the source material.
                                      material. Most broadcasters                                                              Various manufacturers offer
                                      specify limits on the duration of                                                        m o re s o p h i s t i c a t e d a n d
                                      non-HD archive footage within                                                            versatile approaches, such
                                      an HD programme, but few are                                                             as TC Electronic’s ‘Unwrap’
                                      so precise about the soundtrack.                                                         algorithm on the System
                                      Nevertheless, most sound                                                                       platform or Studer’s .
                                      supervisors and dubbing mixers                                                           Width mode in the Vistonic
                                      would agree that integrating                                                             consoles, to name just two.
                                      stereo material within a                                                                 However, in my experience
                                      surround programme is                                                                    all of these systems require
                                      challenging. Once an enveloping                                                          very careful configuration and
                                      surround sound stage has been                                                            although they can generate
                                      established within a programme, it is very distracting and     very convincing and acceptable surround sound stages,
                                      disturbing for the audience if everything suddenly             they can also be caught out occasionally, sooner or later
                                      collapses into a flat frontal stereo image. And as we all      sending something inappropriate to the rear channels.
                                      know, a soundtrack that draws attention to itself is not
                                      usually a good thing – it can wreck the sensory illusion                      Step I n S oundField
                                      that the programme is trying to create.                        SoundField is a British company boasting a long and
                                          There are lots of ways of ‘spoofing’ up a surround         honourable association with surround sound since
                                      soundtrack from a stereo source – it’s something dubbing       taking up the production and development of the
                                      mixers have been doing for the last sixty years or so.         SoundField microphone in all its incarnations. The latest
                                      With sufficient time and resources there are some well         versions – the DSF- and DSF- – integrate digital signal
        THE REVIEWER
                                      established and very effective techniques – such as finding    processing with a greatly enhanced analogue front end
     GERRY FURSDEN has been a         or generating matching wild-tracks or reverberation to fill    to produce what are undoubtedly the finest single-
     freelance broadcast sound
                                      out the rear channels in an appropriate and convincing         point surround sound capturing microphones in the
     supervisor and dubbing mixer
                                      way. Thankfully a lot of HDTV programming does                 world, and these products have been widely adopted
     for nearly twenty-five years,
     working on a very wide range     pass through a formal dubbing process, and so such             by HDTV broadcasters working on live sports and
     of programming genres and        techniques can often be applied – but increasingly the         music events.
     with an equally wide range of    HDTV channels are carrying more live source material and          In developing these microphones in close association
     technologies.                    clearly such labour intensive and non real time processes      with various leading broadcasters, SoundField became


44                                                    AUD I O ME D I A DE C EMBER 2009
soundfield upm-1
                                                                                                               be classed as ‘direct sound’ or ‘ambient sound.’
                                                                                                               The direct components – those that were close to
                                                                                                               the original microphones – are sent to the front
                                                                                                               channels maintaining the stereo imaging of the
                                                                                                               source. The ambient, more diffuse or reverberant
                                                                                                               components are spread around the front and rear
                                                                                                               channels, again largely maintaining the original
                                                                                                               stereo imaging and spatialness.
                                                                                                                  Since the ‘direct’ sounds are separated from
                                                                                                               the ambient sounds, important direct signal
                                                                                                               components that are hard left or right in the
aware of the broadcasters’ regular requirement        clever DSP jiggery-pokery. It doesn’t add anything       original stereo source stay hard left or right in
to ‘up-mix’ stereo archive material to blend in       to the mix at all – there is no added reverb, for        the surround – they don’t get pushed around to
with the . programmes their microphones were          example – and it doesn’t mess around with phase          the rears. Fast pans of up-front effects also work
being used for. As a result, the company has been     shifts to create the rear channels either, so a stereo   exactly as intended across the frontal image, too.
able to bring its considerable expertise to bear on   downmix of the up-mixed material always comes            Only ambient effects and music are spread to the
producing a product aimed squarely at that need,      back sounding like the original source material.         rear – pretty much exactly as would be wanted in
and the result is the UPM- .                          What the UPM- does, essentially, is analyse the          a discrete . mix.
   This product takes an innovative approach          stereo source material on a moment-by-moment
to the concept of upmixing a stereo soundtrack        basis using a bespoke, patented DSP algorithm,                              Hands- O n
to . , using some seriously powerful and very         to determine what audible components can
                                                                                                               This all-digital unit occupies a U -inch rack
                                                                                                               space and extends around            mm behind the
                                                                                                               rack ears. The rear panel carries a fused and
                                                                                                               switched IEC mains inlet socket (configurable
                                                                                                               for      or    V AC working) and six BNC sockets.
                                                                                                               Two are associated with wordclock, outputting the
                                                                                                               internal clock or accepting an external reference
                                                                                                               clock input – both being kHz only since the
                                                                                                               UPM- is designed specifically for a broadcast
                                                                                                               environment. The stereo input is connected via
                                                                                                               another BNC using the increasingly popular AES-
                                                                                                                 id interface format, and sample-rate converters
                                                                                                               here accommodate any asynchronous sources or
                                                                                                               those with sample rates ranging from to            kHz,
                                                                                                               and - or -bit wordlengths. The generated .
                                                                                                               outputs are presented on three more AES -id
                                                                                                               BNC outputs using the standard channel
                                                                                                               allocations (L/R, C/LFE, and Ls/Rs), at a fixed kHz
                                                                                                               sample rate.
                                                                                                                   The black front panel is laid out with clear
                                                                                                               white control legends and the facilities progress
                                                                                                               logically from left to right. Starting at the left side,
                                                                                                               a couple of subtle yellow LEDs indicate internal or
                                                                                                               external clock (the system automatically selects
                                                                                                               an external clock if present and valid), and correct
                                                                                                               input lock. The first rotary control has the largest
                                                                                                               knob and adjusts the input level. This ranges from
                                                                                                               minus infinity to + dB but, surprisingly, there is
                                                                                                               no detent or bypass mode for a fixed unity gain
                                                                                                               operation. A smaller stereo balance control sits
                                                                                                               alongside to enable fine-tuning of inter-channel
                                                                                                               source levels, and a L/R Swap button does as the
                                                                                                               label suggests – with a yellow warning LED when
                                                                                                               active. A simple five-step stereo LED bargraph
                                                                                                               provides an indication of incoming signal levels,
                                                                                                               covering a dB range. Normal broadcast levels
                                                                                                               illuminate the three green LEDs fairly constantly,
                                                                                                               with only very occasional flicks of yellow.

                                                                                                                              I n The M iddle
                                                                                                               The central control section contains the upmixing
                                                                                                               controls, and although very useful for fine-tuning
                                                                                                               I found little need to adjust them with most
                                                                                                               material. A push-button switches the system
                                                                                                               between SoundField’s bespoke stereo upmix
                                                                                                               algorithm or a matrix-decode mode designed
                                                                                                               to up-mix Dolby Pro-Logic (LtRt) material, with
                                                                                                               LEDs to indicate the current mode. Next is a ± dB
                                                                                                               level trim control for what the system determines
                                                                                                               is ‘direct sound’ being sent to the front channels,
                                                                                                               followed by two more level trim controls to
                                                                                                               balance the amount of ‘ambient sound’ being


46                                                    AUD I O ME D I A DECEM BER 2009
soundfield upm-1
sent to the front and rear channels. These three       acceptable again, but the UPM- ’s algorithm does      side effects on the vast majority of source material.
allow the overall direct/ambient and front/rear        seem to be challenged by this type of material        Importantly, the essentially hands-free nature of
balance to be tweaked to suit the specific material,   at the moment. However, I understand that             its operation makes it enormously convenient
although I found the centre positions to be close      the algorithm is still being honed as a result of     and practical for busy broadcast sound balancers.
to perfect almost every time.                          feedback received from current users and updates
   The next two controls are activated by push         are easy to implement via the front panel USB port,
buttons with associated LEDs. The first adjusts the    so I dare say this very minor issue will improve.       ....................................
width of the direct sound components, in extremis      With more typical source material – light-ents,
pushing some out to the rear channels, while           location and studio dramas, and especially sports
the second applies centre channel divergence,          programming – the results were genuinely very
spreading centre channel components towards            impressive indeed.                                                   I N F O R MAT I O N
a phantom centre. I’m not a fan of hard centre
dialogue for television programmes, and I found I                      Co ncl u sio n                           GB£2,475.00 (exc.VAT)
used this control quite a lot.                         There aren’t many ‘must-have’ products for the
   The last control section provides four ± dB         broadcast sound industry, but I can see this             Soundfield Ltd., Charlotte Street Business
output levels trims, each with associated green        product becoming commonplace in HDTV sound               Centre, Wakefield, West Yorks, WF1 1UH
(signal) and red (clip) LEDs. Again, there are no      galleries and OB trucks. The unique approach             +44 (0) 1924 201089
centre detents or bypass controls to establish a       taken by SoundField’s UPM- in converting stereo          +44 (0) 1924 290460
fixed unity gain structure. A system bypass button     material to . is quite clearly extremely effective       www.soundfield.com
(with warning LED) allows instant comparison of        and very reliable, with no unwanted or distracting       sales@soundfield.com
the stereo source and the upmixed output, if
required. Finally, a USB socket is provided for
firmware updates.
    In most applications, once the unit is plugged
in and configured there will be little need to
adjust any of the controls again, although I did
find it useful to be able to tweak the balance
of direct/ambience and front/rear ambience
occasionally, along with centre divergence.

                I mpressions
Connecting the UPM- into a typical broadcast
audio chain is trivially simple. I simply routed the
output of a stereo sources group on the console
to the UPM- and returned its outputs to a fixed
 . source channel. I clocked the UPM- from the
desk and I had to use AES- to -id adapters, but
none of that was rocket science.
    With all the controls in their default positions
I started working through a variety of archive
stereo material as well as some live off-air feeds
and I have to say I was extremely impressed with
the results from the outset. The surround stage
generally exhibited stable frontal images with
appropriate panning and image widths, plus
a convincing spread of enveloping ambience
and (often) music. Up-front dialogue and effects
always stayed at the front – I didn’t find anything
that caught the unit out to force key on-screen
components to the rear. Folding mixes down
to stereo or mono never produced anything
untoward either. The balance of direct and
ambient components remained close to the
original stereo source and I didn’t hear any
evidence of phasiness at all.

                H ard Centre
 As I mentioned earlier, I generally applied some
 centre divergence when there was hard centre
 dialogue, and occasionally I adjusted the front/
 rear ambience balance a little, but these were
 usually minor personal preference and detailed
 optimising tweaks rather than anything essential.
 About       of the time I thought the up-mix
 was totally acceptable, but very occasionally
– and this mainly happened with dominant
 compressed stereo pop music – I became
 aware of some minor pumping artefacts and
 slight image instability. Adjusting the width,
 divergence, and ambient level controls usually
 managed to produce something completely



                                                       AUD I O ME D I A DECEM BER 2009                                                                         47

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SoundField UPM-1 Review

  • 1. stereo to 5.1 converter GERRY FURSDEN finds that a ith the increasing promotion and availability are simply not practical. of HDTV receivers and services, the demand In those situations some kind of instant ‘up-mixing’ unique hands-free approach for HD programming has never been higher, process is required, and again there is a variety of by Soundfield could mean its and with it comes an expectation of techniques and products available. Most are based surround sound. For newly commissioned programmes on some form of matrixing idea – the simplest being UPM-1 becomes a popular and that is usually relatively straightforward to achieve, but to take the stereo difference signal and route that there is a lot of HD-compatible archive material on the to the rear channels. In some cases even this very practical industry essential. shelves that was mixed with a stereo soundtrack, and a simplistic approach can be surprising effective, but it lot of current programmes often include stereo archive is very dependent on the nature of the source material. material. Most broadcasters Various manufacturers offer specify limits on the duration of m o re s o p h i s t i c a t e d a n d non-HD archive footage within versatile approaches, such an HD programme, but few are as TC Electronic’s ‘Unwrap’ so precise about the soundtrack. algorithm on the System Nevertheless, most sound platform or Studer’s . supervisors and dubbing mixers Width mode in the Vistonic would agree that integrating consoles, to name just two. stereo material within a However, in my experience surround programme is all of these systems require challenging. Once an enveloping very careful configuration and surround sound stage has been although they can generate established within a programme, it is very distracting and very convincing and acceptable surround sound stages, disturbing for the audience if everything suddenly they can also be caught out occasionally, sooner or later collapses into a flat frontal stereo image. And as we all sending something inappropriate to the rear channels. know, a soundtrack that draws attention to itself is not usually a good thing – it can wreck the sensory illusion Step I n S oundField that the programme is trying to create. SoundField is a British company boasting a long and There are lots of ways of ‘spoofing’ up a surround honourable association with surround sound since soundtrack from a stereo source – it’s something dubbing taking up the production and development of the mixers have been doing for the last sixty years or so. SoundField microphone in all its incarnations. The latest With sufficient time and resources there are some well versions – the DSF- and DSF- – integrate digital signal THE REVIEWER established and very effective techniques – such as finding processing with a greatly enhanced analogue front end GERRY FURSDEN has been a or generating matching wild-tracks or reverberation to fill to produce what are undoubtedly the finest single- freelance broadcast sound out the rear channels in an appropriate and convincing point surround sound capturing microphones in the supervisor and dubbing mixer way. Thankfully a lot of HDTV programming does world, and these products have been widely adopted for nearly twenty-five years, working on a very wide range pass through a formal dubbing process, and so such by HDTV broadcasters working on live sports and of programming genres and techniques can often be applied – but increasingly the music events. with an equally wide range of HDTV channels are carrying more live source material and In developing these microphones in close association technologies. clearly such labour intensive and non real time processes with various leading broadcasters, SoundField became 44 AUD I O ME D I A DE C EMBER 2009
  • 2. soundfield upm-1 be classed as ‘direct sound’ or ‘ambient sound.’ The direct components – those that were close to the original microphones – are sent to the front channels maintaining the stereo imaging of the source. The ambient, more diffuse or reverberant components are spread around the front and rear channels, again largely maintaining the original stereo imaging and spatialness. Since the ‘direct’ sounds are separated from the ambient sounds, important direct signal components that are hard left or right in the aware of the broadcasters’ regular requirement clever DSP jiggery-pokery. It doesn’t add anything original stereo source stay hard left or right in to ‘up-mix’ stereo archive material to blend in to the mix at all – there is no added reverb, for the surround – they don’t get pushed around to with the . programmes their microphones were example – and it doesn’t mess around with phase the rears. Fast pans of up-front effects also work being used for. As a result, the company has been shifts to create the rear channels either, so a stereo exactly as intended across the frontal image, too. able to bring its considerable expertise to bear on downmix of the up-mixed material always comes Only ambient effects and music are spread to the producing a product aimed squarely at that need, back sounding like the original source material. rear – pretty much exactly as would be wanted in and the result is the UPM- . What the UPM- does, essentially, is analyse the a discrete . mix. This product takes an innovative approach stereo source material on a moment-by-moment to the concept of upmixing a stereo soundtrack basis using a bespoke, patented DSP algorithm, Hands- O n to . , using some seriously powerful and very to determine what audible components can This all-digital unit occupies a U -inch rack space and extends around mm behind the rack ears. The rear panel carries a fused and switched IEC mains inlet socket (configurable for or V AC working) and six BNC sockets. Two are associated with wordclock, outputting the internal clock or accepting an external reference clock input – both being kHz only since the UPM- is designed specifically for a broadcast environment. The stereo input is connected via another BNC using the increasingly popular AES- id interface format, and sample-rate converters here accommodate any asynchronous sources or those with sample rates ranging from to kHz, and - or -bit wordlengths. The generated . outputs are presented on three more AES -id BNC outputs using the standard channel allocations (L/R, C/LFE, and Ls/Rs), at a fixed kHz sample rate. The black front panel is laid out with clear white control legends and the facilities progress logically from left to right. Starting at the left side, a couple of subtle yellow LEDs indicate internal or external clock (the system automatically selects an external clock if present and valid), and correct input lock. The first rotary control has the largest knob and adjusts the input level. This ranges from minus infinity to + dB but, surprisingly, there is no detent or bypass mode for a fixed unity gain operation. A smaller stereo balance control sits alongside to enable fine-tuning of inter-channel source levels, and a L/R Swap button does as the label suggests – with a yellow warning LED when active. A simple five-step stereo LED bargraph provides an indication of incoming signal levels, covering a dB range. Normal broadcast levels illuminate the three green LEDs fairly constantly, with only very occasional flicks of yellow. I n The M iddle The central control section contains the upmixing controls, and although very useful for fine-tuning I found little need to adjust them with most material. A push-button switches the system between SoundField’s bespoke stereo upmix algorithm or a matrix-decode mode designed to up-mix Dolby Pro-Logic (LtRt) material, with LEDs to indicate the current mode. Next is a ± dB level trim control for what the system determines is ‘direct sound’ being sent to the front channels, followed by two more level trim controls to balance the amount of ‘ambient sound’ being 46 AUD I O ME D I A DECEM BER 2009
  • 3. soundfield upm-1 sent to the front and rear channels. These three acceptable again, but the UPM- ’s algorithm does side effects on the vast majority of source material. allow the overall direct/ambient and front/rear seem to be challenged by this type of material Importantly, the essentially hands-free nature of balance to be tweaked to suit the specific material, at the moment. However, I understand that its operation makes it enormously convenient although I found the centre positions to be close the algorithm is still being honed as a result of and practical for busy broadcast sound balancers. to perfect almost every time. feedback received from current users and updates The next two controls are activated by push are easy to implement via the front panel USB port, buttons with associated LEDs. The first adjusts the so I dare say this very minor issue will improve. .................................... width of the direct sound components, in extremis With more typical source material – light-ents, pushing some out to the rear channels, while location and studio dramas, and especially sports the second applies centre channel divergence, programming – the results were genuinely very spreading centre channel components towards impressive indeed. I N F O R MAT I O N a phantom centre. I’m not a fan of hard centre dialogue for television programmes, and I found I Co ncl u sio n GB£2,475.00 (exc.VAT) used this control quite a lot. There aren’t many ‘must-have’ products for the The last control section provides four ± dB broadcast sound industry, but I can see this Soundfield Ltd., Charlotte Street Business output levels trims, each with associated green product becoming commonplace in HDTV sound Centre, Wakefield, West Yorks, WF1 1UH (signal) and red (clip) LEDs. Again, there are no galleries and OB trucks. The unique approach +44 (0) 1924 201089 centre detents or bypass controls to establish a taken by SoundField’s UPM- in converting stereo +44 (0) 1924 290460 fixed unity gain structure. A system bypass button material to . is quite clearly extremely effective www.soundfield.com (with warning LED) allows instant comparison of and very reliable, with no unwanted or distracting sales@soundfield.com the stereo source and the upmixed output, if required. Finally, a USB socket is provided for firmware updates. In most applications, once the unit is plugged in and configured there will be little need to adjust any of the controls again, although I did find it useful to be able to tweak the balance of direct/ambience and front/rear ambience occasionally, along with centre divergence. I mpressions Connecting the UPM- into a typical broadcast audio chain is trivially simple. I simply routed the output of a stereo sources group on the console to the UPM- and returned its outputs to a fixed . source channel. I clocked the UPM- from the desk and I had to use AES- to -id adapters, but none of that was rocket science. With all the controls in their default positions I started working through a variety of archive stereo material as well as some live off-air feeds and I have to say I was extremely impressed with the results from the outset. The surround stage generally exhibited stable frontal images with appropriate panning and image widths, plus a convincing spread of enveloping ambience and (often) music. Up-front dialogue and effects always stayed at the front – I didn’t find anything that caught the unit out to force key on-screen components to the rear. Folding mixes down to stereo or mono never produced anything untoward either. The balance of direct and ambient components remained close to the original stereo source and I didn’t hear any evidence of phasiness at all. H ard Centre As I mentioned earlier, I generally applied some centre divergence when there was hard centre dialogue, and occasionally I adjusted the front/ rear ambience balance a little, but these were usually minor personal preference and detailed optimising tweaks rather than anything essential. About of the time I thought the up-mix was totally acceptable, but very occasionally – and this mainly happened with dominant compressed stereo pop music – I became aware of some minor pumping artefacts and slight image instability. Adjusting the width, divergence, and ambient level controls usually managed to produce something completely AUD I O ME D I A DECEM BER 2009 47