Adam Hawkins Interview About Mixing In Atmos


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600 Club - QQ All-Star
Sep 2, 2012
Denver, CO
Recently I was impressed with the Atmos mix of Turnstile's Glow On album. I reached out to the album's mixing engineer Adam Hawkins to see if he'd answer some quick questions:

How did you start mixing music in surround?

A&R at Warner gave me a heads up that there was going to be strong demand for Atmos mixes, so I started to research at the beginning of 2021.

My first involvement was just giving my 2¢ on atmos mixes for the most recent Twenty One Pilots album "Scaled and Icy". Dolby did the atmos mixes for that project. I went to Blackbird Studios here in Nashville to listen, and then only listened with headphones for any revisions. As soon as that project began, I started looking into getting my room setup so that I could be ready to start doing the mixing myself.

You have over twenty years of experience working with Mike Elizondo, mixing 50 Cent, twenty one pilots, Muse, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, and many others.
Is there an album (if finance and legality weren't issues) that you'd like to remix in Atmos?

Honestly, I'm having a lot of fun doing this on current, and some previous releases. I'd enjoy doing them all!

How did you become involved with mixing Turnstile's Glow On in Atmos?

It's becoming part of the negotiation process when I am first approached for a project. I'm doing it for nearly all songs that I mix in stereo now.

What is your current DAW, IO, and hardware setup for Atmos?

I'm using Pro Tools with the Dolby Atmos Production suite running on the same computer. Unfortunately this isn't possible on a windows system right now. I use a Windows system for the stereo mixing stage. Current macs just don't have the CPU power, or maybe it's a cooling issue, to get me through a stereo mix without constant CPU errors/system crashes. Hopefully their new CPU's will solve this issue! Anyway.... I print/export stereo stems that I then use to create the atmos mix on a mac. I use the Dolby Audio Bridge as the playback engine in Pro tools, and the dolby renderer sends audio to my Lynx Aurora's AES outputs which go to the digital inputs of a Genelec monitoring system.

I've been playing around with Nuendo a bit since the external renderer app isn't necessary, but I still haven't quite gotten the hang of working with Nuendo. I'm hoping that I'll make the switch after more time with it. But... Maybe avid will do something similar before I get comfortable enough to try doing a project with it. I mainly just like the idea of offline rendering. So far recording to the Dolby renderer in realtime has been very frustrating at times. I'm also not loving the added steps necessary once a mix is approved. Currently I have to import the ADM file back into pro tools to match the exact length of the stereo master just to re-bounce it. It seems like Nuendo can take care of that all in one step. If I do make the switch, I'll miss the Dolby Music panner though. I don't think it works with Nuendo's built in renderer? The panner has helped me get these mixes done pretty quickly compared to having to automate everything spinning around the room. haha

How do you want surround streaming to change in the future?

Well, to start, I'd love to be able to listen to other atmos mixes with my pro setup. Right now apple music will allow me to assign 5.1 outputs for listening, so hopefully there will be an update in the next OS that allows for 7.1.4. I don't plan to invest in a home theater receiver to decode in my studio anytime soon, so I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing without really being able to reference what others have been doing with their mixes.

I'm really not sure what I'd change in the format. I don't have a way to playback anything beyond 5.1 in the house or studio, unless airpods count. haha I don't really know anyone that has a true consumer 7.1.4 setup, so I think it's still very new, or something that will stick to being something mostly heard on headphones and soundbars that can't truly reproduce the full experience.


A more comprehensive interview (by pureMix) can be found here if you're curious about his bio and history and such.
He said I could reach out with more questions. No guarantees, but feel free to post any good ones (!) and I can ask. ;)
- Ian