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encoding for broadcast

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Bill Brent

300 Club - QQ All-Star
Joined
Apr 13, 2004
Messages
308
My autumn with Involve.
part 1
A bit of background, nearly from the beginning of my passion for quadraphonic audio – and I mean quad, not surround or 5.1 or 7.1 – but quad – that passion extended beyond simply listening to commercially available recordings – though I’ve amassed thousands – but to making recordings myself. At first, several friends were in bands, later in my misspent days in the theatre, there were the musicals. All of which I would record on my 4 channel AKAI GX-400DSS, or TEAC 3440, naturally I’d be able to listen to these in quad – and as such, I mixed them for quad playback. I’d later do front + rear mixes for band or cast members who wanted copies.
Early on I re-engineered a straight SQ decoder so that I could mix these recordings and distribute them as matrix encoded. Well, from the early 1980s through the turn of the century most folks scoffed, and asked “what do you need 4 speakers for?” – Then something began to happen – people began discovering surround sound – probably first in the movies, but then DTS and DVD-A and Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital and on and on – a new generation was discovering surround sound. It was just 9 years ago some one asked me; “How do you get by with only 4 speakers?”
In the late 1980’s I became friendly with a fellow named Bob Shannon the afternoon drive DJ at NYC’s oldies station WCBS-FM. With tens of thousands of records (from cylinders to Edisons, to 78s to LPs) I was able to provide the station with quite a few special features – but Bob (who was know in Syracuse as Don Bombard) – encouraged me to go on the air with a show of my own. Eventually he introduced me to the owner of an Internet radio station, and I developed an audio review column that I used to write, into a weekly show “The Vinyl Resting Place”
Whenever possible I would include a quad track, occasionally devoting a full show to the wonderful wild world of SQ and QS recordings. Of course this had limits. Anything released only on Q8, Q4 or CD-4 was not available for broadcast, at least not in quad.
Eventually I dusted off my home made SQ encoder and began making matrix recordings for my shows. While these worked, I preferred QS as a matrix format, but didn’t have a way of switching.
I stumbled upon a java based script that did the job, and did it very well. I used the surroundmaster decoder for QS to test the mix (using the fosgate tate II for SQ).
Now that I was encoding from sources other than my old reels and cd-4 LPs – I had to figure out what to do with that pesky center channel. Roughly 6 weeks ago I was given a little circuit board called the Involve encoder evaluation kit. This accepted 5 inputs – front left + right, rear left + right and center. Along with it came a decoder – with 5 outputs.
This Involve system is based on that same company’s Surround-Master which did such a remarkable job decoding QS material. It didn’t take long after I first starting using the Surround Master that I realized, if this device had been around in the 1970s – there would have been no format wars, and quad wouldn’t have had to wait 25 years to make a come back.
Now, what to make of this 5.0 encoder/decoder? Well, the value of the encoded file is two fold. First – to play over the radio, or in the car, or anywhere only 2 channels are playable. The phase shifting actually enhances the stereo sound field. Second – as a way to transport the 4 or 5 channels and decode them later. For the second option, it would need to be compatible with current decoding systems, not just a closed loop. In both of these – the system is without flaw.
The method is, naturally, different from the software encoding system I had been using. With software, there is a bit of prep work but once the files are ready – the encoding takes a few seconds for a song, possibly a minute for a full album.
With the involve system, encoding is done in real time. – a 3 minute song takes 3 minutes.
Well! Why use it …. Well the end result is really astounding – and there are other benefits to hardware vs software encoding. The main value (in my case) is resolution and flexibility. The software I use is limited to 16x44 – with hardware, there is no limitation. Naturally with software it’s all zeros and ones – with hardware – I can record a band or show or performer and encode it live – you know – with all analog equipment and tape, and – well – it’s just a little slice of heaven.
Let’s treat the encoding and decoding processes as separate entities, as they are. Why would you want an encoder if you are not an audio engineer or broadcaster? Of course, if you don’t have a multi-channel source, there really isn’t one – so let’s set that aside. If you can always play multi-channel material in it’s original format, there may be less of a reason – but not every one has that option. We may want to listen to that 5.1 SACD in a car, or make a “mix-tape” with songs from a dts source, an old Q8 and a dvd-a!
If you record live and still use DAT, since most DATs are stereo, this is a way to overcome that limitation. Again most home DATs are 16x44, but you can get a Tascam with 24x96 – and have at it. Most folks record to a hard drive, as long as your mixer and HD are in separate stages, you can still end up with an enhanced “stereo” master. Most modern Home Theatre Systems have some surround capabilities. Any encoder should produce a file that can be played through these and result is a surround effect that resembles the voice and instrument placement of the original. The most common built in decoders support PLII (Dolby pro-logic II). The good news here is this Involve encoder produces an image compatible with Regular Matrix (also called QS), and QS is the basis for PLII. So if you have an old QS decoder (or a Lafayette decoder with a composer A setting) or PLII or a SoundMaster or Involve 5.0 decoder – you’re in business.

Next time, on to the decoder.
 

Sonik Wiz

701 Club - QQ All-Star
QQ Supporter
Joined
May 30, 2005
Messages
765
Location
Kansas City
My autumn with Involve.
part 1
A bit of background, nearly from the beginning of my passion for quadraphonic audio – and I mean quad, not surround or 5.1 or 7.1 – but quad – that passion extended beyond simply listening to commercially available recordings – though I’ve amassed thousands – but to making recordings myself. At first, several friends were in bands, later in my misspent days in the theatre, there were the musicals. All of which I would record on my 4 channel AKAI GX-400DSS, or TEAC 3440, naturally I’d be able to listen to these in quad – and as such, I mixed them for quad playback. I’d later do front + rear mixes for band or cast members who wanted copies.
Early on I re-engineered a straight SQ decoder so that I could mix these recordings and distribute them as matrix encoded. Well, from the early 1980s through the turn of the century most folks scoffed, and asked “what do you need 4 speakers for?” – Then something began to happen – people began discovering surround sound – probably first in the movies, but then DTS and DVD-A and Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital and on and on – a new generation was discovering surround sound. It was just 9 years ago some one asked me; “How do you get by with only 4 speakers?”
In the late 1980’s I became friendly with a fellow named Bob Shannon the afternoon drive DJ at NYC’s oldies station WCBS-FM. With tens of thousands of records (from cylinders to Edisons, to 78s to LPs) I was able to provide the station with quite a few special features – but Bob (who was know in Syracuse as Don Bombard) – encouraged me to go on the air with a show of my own. Eventually he introduced me to the owner of an Internet radio station, and I developed an audio review column that I used to write, into a weekly show “The Vinyl Resting Place”
Whenever possible I would include a quad track, occasionally devoting a full show to the wonderful wild world of SQ and QS recordings. Of course this had limits. Anything released only on Q8, Q4 or CD-4 was not available for broadcast, at least not in quad.
Eventually I dusted off my home made SQ encoder and began making matrix recordings for my shows. While these worked, I preferred QS as a matrix format, but didn’t have a way of switching.
I stumbled upon a java based script that did the job, and did it very well. I used the surroundmaster decoder for QS to test the mix (using the fosgate tate II for SQ).
Now that I was encoding from sources other than my old reels and cd-4 LPs – I had to figure out what to do with that pesky center channel. Roughly 6 weeks ago I was given a little circuit board called the Involve encoder evaluation kit. This accepted 5 inputs – front left + right, rear left + right and center. Along with it came a decoder – with 5 outputs.
This Involve system is based on that same company’s Surround-Master which did such a remarkable job decoding QS material. It didn’t take long after I first starting using the Surround Master that I realized, if this device had been around in the 1970s – there would have been no format wars, and quad wouldn’t have had to wait 25 years to make a come back.
Now, what to make of this 5.0 encoder/decoder? Well, the value of the encoded file is two fold. First – to play over the radio, or in the car, or anywhere only 2 channels are playable. The phase shifting actually enhances the stereo sound field. Second – as a way to transport the 4 or 5 channels and decode them later. For the second option, it would need to be compatible with current decoding systems, not just a closed loop. In both of these – the system is without flaw.
The method is, naturally, different from the software encoding system I had been using. With software, there is a bit of prep work but once the files are ready – the encoding takes a few seconds for a song, possibly a minute for a full album.
With the involve system, encoding is done in real time. – a 3 minute song takes 3 minutes.
Well! Why use it …. Well the end result is really astounding – and there are other benefits to hardware vs software encoding. The main value (in my case) is resolution and flexibility. The software I use is limited to 16x44 – with hardware, there is no limitation. Naturally with software it’s all zeros and ones – with hardware – I can record a band or show or performer and encode it live – you know – with all analog equipment and tape, and – well – it’s just a little slice of heaven.
Let’s treat the encoding and decoding processes as separate entities, as they are. Why would you want an encoder if you are not an audio engineer or broadcaster? Of course, if you don’t have a multi-channel source, there really isn’t one – so let’s set that aside. If you can always play multi-channel material in it’s original format, there may be less of a reason – but not every one has that option. We may want to listen to that 5.1 SACD in a car, or make a “mix-tape” with songs from a dts source, an old Q8 and a dvd-a!
If you record live and still use DAT, since most DATs are stereo, this is a way to overcome that limitation. Again most home DATs are 16x44, but you can get a Tascam with 24x96 – and have at it. Most folks record to a hard drive, as long as your mixer and HD are in separate stages, you can still end up with an enhanced “stereo” master. Most modern Home Theatre Systems have some surround capabilities. Any encoder should produce a file that can be played through these and result is a surround effect that resembles the voice and instrument placement of the original. The most common built in decoders support PLII (Dolby pro-logic II). The good news here is this Involve encoder produces an image compatible with Regular Matrix (also called QS), and QS is the basis for PLII. So if you have an old QS decoder (or a Lafayette decoder with a composer A setting) or PLII or a SoundMaster or Involve 5.0 decoder – you’re in business.

Next time, on to the decoder.
Hey Bill thanks for the comprehensive post. That was fascinating read.

You raise some good points for home/consumer use of the Involve encoder. I'd also like your opinion on how discrete surround via the Involve encoder sounds to you in stereo. I think that is the main benefit compared to regualr QS encoding; that you get a surround mix that also sounds subjectively as good as stereo when played back that way.

Are you aware of the Suzanne Ciani album that was produced using the Involve smart encode?:


Have you played this on your show? At one point Suzanne made both the quad & 5.1 discrete mix available for free download in high res FLAC. I took that & did usual QS encoding on my PC as you would do & compared the SM decoding vs discrete. In all my years of surround sound appreciation I can honestly say I heard no none zero zip difference between the two formats. Now really, that is something!

Looking for part 2!
 

Bill Brent

300 Club - QQ All-Star
Joined
Apr 13, 2004
Messages
308
Are you aware of the Suzanne Ciani album that was produced using the Involve smart encode?:

Have you played this on your show? At one point Suzanne made both the quad & 5.1 discrete mix available for free download in high res FLAC. I took that & did usual QS encoding on my PC as you would do & compared the SM decoding vs discrete. In all my years of surround sound appreciation I can honestly say I heard no none zero zip difference between the two formats. Now really, that is something!
I was first on line to buy the LP. that was my into to the surround master. I played the full LP and a CD-4 de-mod/encode of Switched on Bach back in October, a lot of fun

eventually I'll post some comparison files - but I've taken 2 extreme examples of quad (Enoch Light on one end, Carol King's Tapestry on the other. did a straight f+r mix to stereo;
then encoded with my qs software, my sq hardware, the Involve standard setting and the Involve custom setting. each, naturally, resulted in a different stereo image -
the true stereo was somewhat flat, the SQ was annoying (with the rear channels out of phase in the center, at -3db. all of the qs encodes were nice. because of the phase shifting,
listening with headphones tricked the brain into imagining there were sound coming from behind - so I abandodned the headphone idea. Listening to them as straight stereo on a big old hi-fi setup;
the enhanced Invole gave the best stereo sound field, but I'll detail the testing in part 2.
 
Last edited:

chucky3042

1K Club - QQ Shooting Star
Joined
Apr 9, 2012
Messages
1,340
Hi All

YAY to Bill, Our number 1 aim is to get Involve encode into recording studios and radio stations as the new "stereo" so I am very happy to support this project!

Bill has asked me for a brochure of the evaluation modules.......see attached

Regards

Chucky
 

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