Setting Up Soundtrack Pro for Surround

In order to hear your surround project through a surround speaker system, you need to adjust settings in Soundtrack Pro and set up the related hardware.

In Soundtrack Pro, the difference between mixing in stereo and mixing in surround hinges on three different elements: the panner type, the submix output, and the number of physical output channels. All three of these items must be configured correctly to achieve surround playback. If one of these three conditions is not met, playback will be in stereo. (For more information about stereo mixdown, see Stereo Mixdown.) Use the instructions that follow to start using the surround mixing tools in Soundtrack Pro.

Using the Surround Panners

You use the panning controls in the track headers to set the pan position of a track or a bus. By default, the panning controls are set to stereo. You can easily switch between stereo panners and surround panners.

Figure. Track headers showing surround panners and stereo panners.

For surround playback, you must set the appropriate tracks or busses to use the surround panner.

To switch the panning controls from stereo to surround
Do one of the following:
  • Select a track or bus in the Timeline, then choose Multitrack > Use Surround Panner.

  • Select a channel strip in the Mixer, then choose Multitrack > Use Surround Panner.

  • Control-click the stereo pan slider in a track header, then choose Use Surround Panner from the shortcut menu.

    Figure. Track header shortcut menu showing Use Surround Panner menu item.
  • Control-click the stereo pan slider in a Mixer channel strip, then choose Use Surround Panner from the shortcut menu.

    The surround panner replaces the stereo panner.

    Figure. Track headers showing surround panners.

As far as tracks and busses are concerned, switching between surround mode and stereo mode is that simple. At this point, you are mixing this particular track or bus in surround. Any surround panning adjustments and automation that you apply are saved with the current project.

Important: To hear these changes through your speakers, make sure you also set the submix outputs to surround and connect the physical outputs. For more information, see Setting the Submix Outputs to Surround and Connecting Physical Outputs.

Setting the Submix Outputs to Surround

In Soundtrack Pro, you route the audio from tracks and busses to physical outputs using submixes. By default, all tracks are routed to Submix 1, and Submix 1 is routed to the Stereo 1, 2 outputs. You can easily change this hardware output setting using the Output pop-up menu.

To switch the hardware output setting from stereo to surround
  • Choose Surround from the Output pop-up menu in the track header, then choose 1-6 from the submenu.

    Figure. Track header showing Output pop-up menu.

    The menu displays 1-6, indicating that the audio is now routed to the physical output jacks 1 through 6. At this point, the signal is routed to those six outputs, whether or not the hardware to support those channels is connected.

Important: To hear these surround signals through loudspeakers, you must also connect the physical outputs. For more information, see Connecting Physical Outputs.

Connecting Physical Outputs

To hear the six discrete channels of surround sound that Soundtrack Pro can provide, you need external audio hardware that supports multiple physical outputs. At a minimum, this would include a multichannel audio interface and a 5.1-channel surround sound speaker system (totaling six speakers). For more information about audio interfaces, see Setting Up an Audio Interface.

To connect physical outputs for monitoring surround sound
  1. Connect the audio interface to your computer.

    For detailed information on connecting your audio interface to your computer, see the documentation that came with the audio interface.

  2. Double-click Audio MIDI Setup in the Utilities folder, then choose the audio interface from the Default Output pop-up menu.

    For more information, see Setting the Audio Input and Output.

  3. Connect your 5.1-channel surround sound speakers to the appropriate outputs of your audio interface.

Soundtrack Pro uses the SMPTE/ITU standard for routing output channels.

Audio interface output
Speaker
1
Left
2
Right
3
Center
4
LFE
5
Left Surround (Ls)
6
Right Surround (Rs)

For detailed information on connecting external speakers to your audio interface, see the documentation that came with the speakers.

Stereo Mixdown

If you have set up a project for surround mixing, including surround panners and surround channel assignments, but you do not have sufficient output jacks for surround playback, Soundtrack Pro automatically provides a surround-to-stereo mixdown of what would otherwise be sent to jacks 1-6. This stereo mixdown follows the Dolby guidelines: the Ls and Rs channels are attenuated by 3 dB and mixed into the Left and Right channels. The Center channel is also attenuated by 3 dB and mixed evenly into the Left and Right channels. The LFE channel is discarded.

Surround Speaker Placement

There are several ways you can arrange 5.1 surround speakers for playback. You can follow the International Telecommunications Union Operational Bulletin No. 775 or the “ITU Standard” for 5.1 surround sound. Here are the basic points of this recommendation:

  • Place all the speakers on the same plane. In other words, if you place some speakers on the floor and mount some on the ceiling, you will defeat the psychoacoustical benefit of having surround speakers in the first place.

  • With the center speaker directly in front, the Left and Right speakers should be positioned 30 degrees away from center at about a 60-degree angle aiming for a spot 3 to 6 inches behind the mixer’s (or listener’s) head.

    Note: This angle can be reduced to 45 degrees or extended out to 60 or even 90 degrees and still provide satisfactory results.

  • Place the surround (rear) speakers at about 110 degrees off center (to the sides and somewhat behind the listener). To ensure one cohesive soundfield, do not position these speakers too far to the rear.

    Figure. Diagram showing the placement of surround sound speakers.
Abbreviation
Speaker type
Placement
Ls
Left surround speaker
Place to the left and slightly behind your listening position.
L
Left speaker
Place in front and to the left.
C
Center speaker
Place on top of or below your viewing screen.
R
Right speaker
Place in front and to the right.
Rs
Right surround speaker
Place to the right and slightly behind your listening position.
LFE
(LFE) Subwoofer
Can be placed anywhere.

Note: It isn’t always possible to place the speakers where they’re supposed to go due to obstacles in the room (doors, furniture, and so on). You can overcome some bad speaker placement by calibrating your system with a sound pressure meter and a calibration DVD. This way, you can make sure each speaker is providing the appropriate volume.