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Author Topic: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)  (Read 970 times)

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Offline Gutbucket

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Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« on: August 20, 2020, 03:17:17 PM »
This thread is dedicated to the discussion of ambisonics in general, as related to recording and the manipulation of recordings using ambisonic techniques.  It's intended to cover B-format and its manipulations, the general use and operation of dedicated ambisonic microphones, "native" ambisonic microphone arrays made using standard microphones, and how ambisonics relates to Dual Mid/Side 3-channel and traditional 2-channel Mid/Side techniques.

Although we might touch on it, this thread will not have much if anything to do with dedicated ambisonic playback systems or ambisonic techniques used to manipulate standard 2ch stereo and multichannel surround playback systems on the reproduction side of things.  Interest in ambisonics at TS is almost completely dedicated to 2 channel stereo output (and in rare cases "traditional" multichannel surround playback).

This thread was started because a bunch of general ambisonics discussion started happening in both of Len's recent CoreSound OctoMic threads, off topic to his intent for them. 
Links to those threads:
Comparing OctoMic's Polar Patterns to the World's Best Mono Mics
The World's Finest Blumlein Array

I assumed we had a thread dedicated to the general discussion of ambisonics (I thought I started one years ago), but a search determined we do not.  Here are links to a few related threads that came up during a brief search:
2008 general ambisonic microphone thread- Ambisonic mics --- has anyone here recorded any shows?
2010 to current general ambisonic microphone thread- Team Ambisonic (Soundfield, Core Tetra/OctoMic, Oomagamma Brahma, Senn Ambeo VR)
Also 2010 Soundfield and Coresound Tetramic (and ambisonic mics generally)
M/S vs Hypers/Wides/etc for Live Recording?

[that's just a start.  I'll edit this post to add additional links to other relevant threads]
« Last Edit: August 20, 2020, 04:12:47 PM by Gutbucket »
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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2020, 03:18:37 PM »
[reserved for offsite links to explanations of ambisonics in general]
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<<

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2020, 03:18:51 PM »
[reserved]
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<<

Offline heathen

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2020, 03:19:47 PM »
Mics: AT4050ST | AT4031 | AT853 (C/SC) | Line Audio CM3 | Sennheiser e614 | Sennheiser MKE2 | DPA 4061 | CA-14 omni Pres: CA9200 | DPA d:vice Decks: Zoom F8 | Roland R-05

Offline voltronic

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2020, 04:07:49 PM »
Marking to gain knowledge.  :D
DPA 4061 | Line Audio CM3 | Naiant X-Q | AT 853  //  Naiant PFAs | Shure FP24  //  Zoom F6 | Sony PCM-M10
MOTU M2 // KRK Rokit RP5 // Sennheiser HD 650

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Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2020, 04:16:50 PM »
Here's a link to an old thread: https://taperssection.com/index.php?topic=141195.0

Thanks! Link now added above.  This was the original thread I was searching for.  Still good to have them all consolidated with links here now that the discussion has come around again with new interest in ambisonics over the past several years.
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<<

Offline Gutbucket

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2020, 06:11:18 PM »
Rather than starting here by explaining the basics of ambisonics (which is what the 2nd and 3rd post slots above are intended for, and the linked threads touch on in part), I'm thinking we might just jump right into it and continue discussion of a couple interesting topics brought up by questions kuba e was asking in the recently locked threads.  Specifically these two separate discussions: proximity effect or the absence of it in ambisonic microphones, and ways of altering pattern with frequency in 1st order ambisonic systems. 

I'll start with the second topic-

kuba e asked [my paraphrase here] Can we modify pattern such that it varies by frequency by EQ'ing the (omni) W-channel?  In other words might we be able to specify, say, an omni at low frequecies transitioning to a supercard at high frequencies? Or say, a subcardioid at very low frequencies smoothly morphing to a hyper-cardioid through the midrange at some transitional frequency and then to a cardioid at some high frequency, or whatever.

The easiest way of altering pattern by frequency will be with the use of more advanced ambisonic plugins.  This is essentially what the Schoeps PolarFlex system does (originally done using hardware now through software) except applied to ambisonics. But this being a thread about how ambisonics works in general, lets discuss what's going on "under the hood" and kuba e's specific question. The part below in italics is mostly from a PM I sent to kuba e earlier today, copied here with his permission and mine (to honor, in spirit, the rule regarding no public posting of PM discussions).


Yes, in 1st order ambisonics, EQing the W channel will alter the pickup pattern by frequency (without altering the axis). Your understanding of the fundamentals of 1st order Ambisonics as an extension of Mid/Side that you posted the other day in the OctMic Blumlein thread is correct.  Altering pattern by frequency is essentially the same as with Mid/Side, where EQing either Mid or Side channel differently than the other will alter pattern in a way that corresponds to the difference in EQ. Same goes for altering axis. But a significant difference from Mid/Side is that those two aspects are no longer inseparably linked when deriving about multiple outputs, such as a stereo pair.  Pattern and angle can be adjusted separately and need not affect each other.  With basic sum/difference combination you can vary pattern with frequency without change of angle if both microphones are oriented in the same direction, or change angle without change of pattern using two crossed figure 8's. If you want a stereo output from a Mid/Side sum/difference arrangement change of pattern and change of angle always remain linked.

Consider this- in addition to being able to change pattern with frequency, one could also change angle with frequency. Imagine a pair of cardioids (or any 1st order pattern) that remain cardioid across all frequencies but the angle between them changes by frequency.  That might be useful.  With ambisonics, one can vary both aspects (pattern and angle) by frequency, separately from each other.  Mid/Side varies both at the same time, but only on its own terms, not separately, and in a way that is inverse to what is typically useful for a stereo pair (pattern getting wider as angle gets narrower, instead of the opposite).


My advice is to think of the fundamental workings of ambisonics separately from the practical implementations of ambisonic micrphones.  The fundamental workings are B-format manipulations as extension of Mid/Side, or rather sum/difference, which is the basis upon which both Mid/Side and Ambisonics work.  "Native" ambisonic micrphone arrays using 2 or 3 figure-8 microphones and an omni (all as close as possible to the same point in space) seek to derive that directly from the outputs of the microphones, along with level and frequency matching.  In that case the microphones used correspond directly to the W,X,Y,Z  b-format channels. Think about the basics of ambisonics in that way, and not as mics on a sphere and the implementation specifics of how that gets converted to W,Z,Y,Z b-format components, which is more complicated.

Dual Mid/Side is a good conceptual bridge between 2ch Mid/Side and ambisonics.  A horizontal only "native ambisonic" microphone array such as the setup Nimbus uses (you've probably seen photos of it), or what TS member EMRR did a few times using Sennheisers (pictured in the OMT thread) is fundamentally the same as a dual mid/side setup.  The more typical and practical Dual M/S implementation is to use a single figure 8 Side and two cardioid Mids.  It's done that way for a few practical reasons: Its easier for people who already understand regular Mid/Side (just adds a rear facing cardioid Mid); more folks have 2 cardioids and a single fig-8 than an two fig-8's and an omni; and reportedly Schoeps tried it both ways with their capsules and doing it with two cards and a singe Fig-8 worked somewhat better for them.  Regardless, all of these physical arrangements can be more or less easily understood as using the same fundamental sum/difference basis as Mid/Side.


Where things get more complicated are ambisonic microphones with capsules arrayed over the surface of a sphere.  That's done with 1st order ambisonic microphones for a few practical reasons: one can't really get all 3 or 4 microphones in the same spot but this arrangement gets closer to doing so, and an ambisonic microphone using four cardioid elements is easier to implement and less costly for a manufacturer than using figure-8s.  Its done that way for higher orders because its the only way, one cannot make a "native 2nd order ambisonic array" because it would require a the addition of native 2nd order microphones (which do not physically exist) to an existing native 1st order arrangement, which already has a hard time achieving close coincidence.

Where I think your summary in the other thread goes somewhat astray is in considering 2nd order entirely different from 1st order.  On a fundamental level it is not.  It adds complexity by introducing additional spherical harmonics which do not correspond to native 1st order patterns, but the basis upon which it works in B-format is the same, only further extended.  Where it is very different is in practical implementation (mics arrayed across the surface of a sphere), yet in the same way that a 1st order ambisonic microphone made using 4 cardioids on the faces of a tetrahedron (4 mics on a sphere) differs from a "native array" ambisonic arrangement of 3 figure-8's + omni.


Ambisonics in terms of basic B-format is complicated enough just in understanding the theory.  The engineering of practical A-format implementations used to derive b-format is a much greater complication and best left out of this discussion.  The two locked threads which inspired this one are intended to be about how well the engineering of that particular microphone has been implemented.  The OT discussion over there was more concerned with concerned ambisonic theory in general (universal b-format rather than specific a-format).
musical volition > vibrations > voltages > numeric values > voltages > vibrations> virtual teleportation time-machine experience
Better recording made easy - >>Improved PAS table<< | Made excellent- >>click here to download the Oddball Microphone Technique illustrated PDF booklet<<

Offline EmRR

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2020, 12:32:47 AM »
I’ll toss out the practical idea that, purely because I can envision it more clearly, to mix patterns with respect to frequency ranges, I’d probably generate multiple patterns from an array and then mix them together through a crossover network. I have mixed Blumlein with AB omni’s in that manner, which is even more offroad than mixing multiple coincident virtuals. 
Mics: DPA 4060 w/MPS 6030 PSU/DAD6001/DAD4099, Neumann KM 131, KMR 81i, Oktava MK 012, Sennheiser MKH 105, MKH 20, MKH 30, MKH 40, MKH 800 TWIN, lots of other studio appropriate choices
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Offline kuba e

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2020, 05:33:12 AM »
Thank you Gutbucket for this thread. I will join after the weekend.

Emrr, how does your crossover network work? I remember that I was using linear eq when I edited Mid/Side. I don't remember if I did eq bass or treble. But there was an audible difference between linear eq (no phase shift) and classical eq (with phase shift).

Offline EmRR

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2020, 11:43:06 AM »
I rarely find cases where linear EQ is artifact free or sounds better to my ears.  It has it’s place.  Things like vocal plosives, anything that is a spot fix versus overall, it can be more invisible. 

I make a copy of the track, then apply opposite hpf and low pass filter to each with matched frequency, mix back together.  Really a ‘reverse crossover’ approach. 
Mics: DPA 4060 w/MPS 6030 PSU/DAD6001/DAD4099, Neumann KM 131, KMR 81i, Oktava MK 012, Sennheiser MKH 105, MKH 20, MKH 30, MKH 40, MKH 800 TWIN, lots of other studio appropriate choices
Recorders: Zoom F8n, Sony MZ-R50, portable MOTU based multitrack DAW for client work

Offline EmRR

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2020, 04:14:30 PM »
I went to do mic placement research for a music livestream/podcast/radio show from a theater this week.  The first two seasons had an audience, not possible now.  They have a pair of Line Audio CM3's at the center lip of the balcony, essentially rear of the room.  Now that there's no audience, ambience can be grabbed from anywhere, and it's probable we find something we like eventually and fly something permanent. 

I took a native B format array with MKH30's and an MKH20, and had an AB pair of MKH20's with the treble boost on at about 27 inches on the same stand. I moved that around during soundcheck and show to get samples for review.  I captured that on the F8n, along with a mono copy of the broadcast mix.

I also put a pair of DPA 4060's in boundary mounts about halfway back in the room, mounted 8 feet up on the side walls.  Those went to the house PA/record mixer, so I'm waiting to get those tracks and the CM3 tracks sent for comparison. 

This show gets a live mix, but is also multi-tracked for safety. Usually the live stage mix is combined with the CM3's, and that's it unless there's a mix error to fix for the podcast version.     

The context and eventual mix goal plays a big part, and is a big strength with ambisonics.  In reviewing the tracks, mixing with the broadcast mix in place, I actually like the native array set cardioid XY90 and pointed to the BACK of the room, because there's a lot of direct PA in anything forward facing.  Opposite of our normal taper problem.  I also like the AB pair for spaciousness, but only when it's way back in the room to diminish the direct PA contribution. 

It's a converted movie theater, so standard sloped floor.  The PA is mounted really high, and pointing down at a sharp angle, so optimal mic height varies a lot with depth of placement.  A proper ambisonic mic with up/down panning would be really useful in a place like this, at least for assessment purposes. 

Here's a pic from a previous show there.
Mics: DPA 4060 w/MPS 6030 PSU/DAD6001/DAD4099, Neumann KM 131, KMR 81i, Oktava MK 012, Sennheiser MKH 105, MKH 20, MKH 30, MKH 40, MKH 800 TWIN, lots of other studio appropriate choices
Recorders: Zoom F8n, Sony MZ-R50, portable MOTU based multitrack DAW for client work

Offline EmRR

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2020, 10:56:20 AM »
Received the other tracks, pretty interesting to compare.  The distant spaced CM3 (or 4) pair is WAAAAY back in the diffuse field...only another 20 feet maybe from where I was.   You get reverb, but no definition.   The wall mounted 4060's are immediately exciting sounding and the width adds to that, but after awhile I realize there's distracting timing differences on percussive sounds. 

Using the same mics in the native array pair, I went to mid-side.  You can use the figure 8, or the omni, or both to get cardioid.   You can flip polarity on the omni to make cardioid MS turn around 180º and point to the back of the room.  All achievable with ambisonics, but the comparison process is different and thus gives different perspectives on the results.   

By itself, no board feed, Something between cardioid and figure 8 sounded best.  f8 has the most pinpoint center clarity, but it's all in the middle at the exclusion of some other stuff.  Cardioid was good, but a little too ambient still. 

Putting the board feed back in and going back to the ambisonic plugin path, Blumlein started to stand out, but eventually I moved the pattern slightly toward supercardioid to lose a bit of the rear sound.  From there you can start to envision how placing different sets of mics with different patterns more forward or further back might achieve similar results to the varying ambisonic patterns, ignoring the time delay aspect. 

It's worth taking B format (WXYZ) patterns and setting up bussing paths to make the direct comparisons between MS and ambisonic encoding techniques, it really helps envision the possibilities and the finer points of the virtual patterns achieved.   
Mics: DPA 4060 w/MPS 6030 PSU/DAD6001/DAD4099, Neumann KM 131, KMR 81i, Oktava MK 012, Sennheiser MKH 105, MKH 20, MKH 30, MKH 40, MKH 800 TWIN, lots of other studio appropriate choices
Recorders: Zoom F8n, Sony MZ-R50, portable MOTU based multitrack DAW for client work

Offline Len Moskowitz (Core Sound)

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2020, 11:49:36 AM »
It's worth taking B format (WXYZ) patterns and setting up bussing paths to make the direct comparisons between MS and ambisonic encoding techniques, it really helps envision the possibilities and the finer points of the virtual patterns achieved.

Now perhaps stretch what you're doing to second-order and see what you could do.

It'll be nothing like what you're used to, unless you just use the second-order mic to improve the first-order B-format patterns. That's too easy.
Len Moskowitz
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Offline EmRR

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2020, 12:36:38 PM »
It's worth taking B format (WXYZ) patterns and setting up bussing paths to make the direct comparisons between MS and ambisonic encoding techniques, it really helps envision the possibilities and the finer points of the virtual patterns achieved.

Now perhaps stretch what you're doing to second-order and see what you could do.

It'll be nothing like what you're used to, unless you just use the second-order mic to improve the first-order B-format patterns. That's too easy.

Yes!  I am listening to that stuff too, 2nd order gives very different options.  In this context though, as an advisor on a show with limited budget, the goal is to spec a path for a permanent flown (affordable) pair, so focusing on first order patterns.  Right now I have opinions about where to try the existing Line Audio mics, so they don't have to buy anything.   
Mics: DPA 4060 w/MPS 6030 PSU/DAD6001/DAD4099, Neumann KM 131, KMR 81i, Oktava MK 012, Sennheiser MKH 105, MKH 20, MKH 30, MKH 40, MKH 800 TWIN, lots of other studio appropriate choices
Recorders: Zoom F8n, Sony MZ-R50, portable MOTU based multitrack DAW for client work

Offline Len Moskowitz (Core Sound)

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Re: Ambisonics (general discussion, as related to recording)
« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2020, 10:21:50 PM »
If coincident arrays are a possibility, you could do it with one second-order mic.

You would't have to worry about cable twist, as you can rotate B-format in post - the same as with the directivity pattern and pointing angle selection.
Len Moskowitz
Core Sound
www.core-sound.com

 

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