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State-of-the-Art Dolby-enabled Studio Realised At SIT Sound

Two years of work on a state-of-the-art sound studio recently completed at SIT Sound, has helped the institute gain recognition from international specialist audio company Dolby, as a Dolby Institute education partner.

Doug Heath, Programme Manager for the Schools of Sound and Contemporary Music at SIT | Te Pūkenga, says the Dolby Atmos 360 immersive sound studio in Invercargill has taken around two years to set up as they worked through the requirements to ensure they met all the criteria. The result is an agreement recently signed between SIT Sound and Dolby Atmos, which recognises SIT Sound as a Dolby Institute education partner. US-based Dolby partners with schools, colleges, and organisations around the world to provide educational resources and teaching which encourage “pushing the boundaries in creativity”, and support a quality learning experience of immersive audio with Dolby Atmos.

The Dolby Atmos studio will be utilised to teach SIT Sound students on specialised sound mixing equipment. Adding the top-end product to SIT Sound’s repertoire of teaching tools helps them to keep pace with contemporary trends. “It’s indicative of the further development we’ve done with recognised industry products,” said Mr Heath, mentioning they have also been an Avid Learning Partner (ALP) since 2008 and are Avid certified.

Mr Heath stated setting up the studio to meet the high specs required, was to achieve an industry standard environment for sound mixing in film post-production, as well as the immersive audio formats which are being released on platforms such as Apple Music, Tidal and Spotify. “It’s for visual media - film, TV, gaming, content development, and music – it’s like surround sound plus; it envelopes the listener with greater richness and more depth,” he said.

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First introduced in 2012, Dolby Atmos is multidimensional, immersing the listener in sounds which are created from multiple points on both horizontal and vertical planes. This gives the audio a 3D effect, which moves around the listener, creating an accurate, real-world, ‘live’ sound.

Dolby is recognised worldwide as the standard in cinema sound and immersive audio. “Top artists are releasing in Dolby Atmos format, with leading producers now

creating the Dolby Atmos capability in their studios,” Mr Heath said, adding “it’s now also a minimum requirement to have Dolby Atmos on student entries for international film festivals.” Having the studio “will allow more cross collaboration between the two schools - SIT Sound and Screen Arts - to create industry standard outcomes in film, animation, gaming and immersive audio.“

Mr Heath acknowledged two Bachelor of Audio Production students who were supervised for their major projects in setting up aspects of the studio. Erika Waymouth worked on the room acoustics and Quillan Percival focused on getting the technical systems up and running.

Dolby Atmos requires a specific environment with a precise, neutral acoustic footprint. Adding a particularly “kiwi touch” to the set-up, Mr Heath said “we have been able to meet the standards and specs incorporating Floc acoustic panels, made with New Zealand wool, for the mid/high frequency balancing in our state-of-the-art studio.” The wool product had other appealing qualities, including natural air-filtering capabilities and moisture regulation properties, making it a healthy choice for educational spaces. Using the 100% home-grown panels backed the wool and manufacturing industries, and helped the institute to meet its sustainability goals as well, Mr Heath added.

With SIT Sound now officially a Dolby Institute education partner, Mr Heath believed it increased the possibility to connect with the nearby burgeoning Queenstown film industry. “Having a second sound stage (in proximity) to do their post-production mixing could be advantageous,” he said. “We’ve set up the environment for that to be possible and to educate students in the professionally recognised format.” SIT Sound continued to look at ways to link with industry to enrich the student learning experience and to support connections for potential future employment opportunities.

“SIT Sound is now being recognised within industry as a destination with the specialist equipment and industry people who know how to use it,” Mr Heath stated.

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