Image of Dolby Atmos and Pro Tools workstation in front of large theatre screen

The Race for Content: How Pixelogic Is Embracing the Growing Demand for Immersive Audio

Just as cable broke the dominance of broadcast TV, streaming is now realigning the entertainment landscape for both end users and content creators. Major media and big tech companies alike are jumping in to streaming services with both feet, creating an explosive demand for content. Add in the growth of immersive audio and the increasing adoption of Dolby Atmos, and watch a rapidly changing, new world unfold for creating and consuming content. Post-production teams now must set new technical requirements and the sheer quantity of media assets being handled is dramatically reshaping mastering and distribution—the final link in the production chain. Vast amounts of content must be redubbed and remixed in multiple languages, using Dolby Atmos, and converted into multiple delivery formats. And Pixelogic is making it happen.

Burbank, California-based Pixelogic is one of few companies tackling this “last mile” chain end-to-end for both picture and sound. Founded in 2016, Pixelogic has grown from a smaller startup in Burbank and Culver City to 570 full-time employees in facilities worldwide. “We commonly start our services immediately following the creative phases of picture and sound for television and film,” reports Doug Higgins, Pixelogic VP of Worldwide Dubbing and Audio Services. “From an audio perspective, our services might include taking original 5.1 and 7.1 mixes and reversioning them to immersive Atmos versions or creating localized dubbed audio mixes. We offer theatrical and home entertainment localization services, which includes dubbing in over 45 languages and subtitling services in 65-plus languages, as well as mastering and distribution services.” Pixelogic’s breadth of services leads them to performing work on the vast majority of new release feature titles from the major U.S. studios, while also servicing the major broadcasters and digital platforms.

Headshots of Pixelogic's Doug Higgins (L) and Paul Karpinski (R)
Pixelogic's Doug Higgins (L) and Paul Karpinski (R)

In addition to servicing existing customers, the company invested significant resources into the launch of several major streaming platforms in 2019. This evolved into thousands of Atmos mixes and QCs within a relatively short period of time. It was a challenging undertaking that required immaculate asset management, highly detailed project management, and highly customized workflows. By standardizing their workflows around identical Pro Tools hardware and software configurations, Pixelogic tackles projects with total workflow consistency across multiple locations worldwide. To meet these challenges in the audio sphere, Pixelogic uses Avid Pro Tools | HDX Systems to deliver their production pipeline, supported by integrated hardware, including the Pro Tools | MTRX audio interface and Avid S6 and S3 control surfaces.

Pixelogic has 14 Atmos-equipped mix stage theaters and edit bays worldwide, built around Pro Tools | Ultimate software and Pro Tools | HDX systems and with standardized workflows. Central to those installations is Avid’s Pro Tools | MTRX audio interfaces, which offers customizable analog or digital I/O options, plus extensive routing capabilities. Pixelogic’s facilities house six Avid S6 modular control surfaces and a number of the smaller Avid S3 control surfaces. The S6 is tightly integrated with Pro Tools | Ultimate and supports various Atmos workflows, including manipulation of object-based sounds. MTRX interfaces connect control surfaces, outboard equipment, and other devices and allow audio to be routed with great flexibility.

In our Burbank facility, it was our goal when we built our Atmos facilities to have a centralized control room where we could effortlessly cross connect anything to anything, and quickly adopt any configuration required at the touch of a button.

Doug Higgins, VP of Worldwide Dubbing and Audio Services

“In our Burbank facility, it was our goal when we built our Atmos facilities to have a centralized control room where we could effortlessly cross connect anything to anything, and quickly adopt any configuration required at the touch of a button,” details Higgins. “Pure digital routing was very important, ideally without having a large traditional AES digital router. The MTRX was a welcome addition because it reduced our footprint, enabled us to consolidate our machine rooms, and gave us greater flexibility.”

The release of the 64-channel DigiLink option card for the MTRX, which supplements the two onboard DigiLink connectors, meant that Pixelogic could run 128 Pro Tools channels through a single MTRX by adding a single option card. “Going from two 64-channel interfaces to one 128-channel box reduces complexity, reduces the footprint, and allows us to be very nimble and flexible in routing,” Paul Karpinski pointed out, Pixelogic’s Director of Audio Services.

Image of expansive mixing theatre with Dolby Atmos and Pro Tools workstation

Pro Tools’ native integration of the Dolby Atmos panner, instead of relying on a plug-in, has been key to accelerating Pixelogic’s workflow, particularly in the context of inevitable last-minute changes. “Any time there’s a change in the original source content, we have a ripple effect that goes down the line,” Karpinski explains. “Those creative changes need to be implemented across hundreds, sometimes thousands of assets, and new masters and deliverables need to be generated in incredibly short turnaround times. That tight workflow time is our biggest challenge.”

One common workflow is that Pixelogic starts the localization audio process by creating a template session, which includes immersive audio metadata. That gets distributed to dubbing studios around the world and comes back to Pixelogic once localized language dialogue is recorded into it. With so many assets in play, and so little time to handle them, a problem in the source content of any single session can disrupt the entire production flow and impact the timeline. This places tremendous importance on quality control.

Image of small mixing room with Dolby Atmos and Pro Tools workstation

With support for the Dolby Audio Bridge in Pro Tools 2019, Pixelogic is able to leverage all of its Pro Tools seats and stations—including native systems rendering in-the-box with the Dolby Atmos Production Suite—for specific steps in managing immersive content. “In addition to our theaters and bays, we have 20 fully enabled Pro Tools stations connected to a SAN to improve our workflows,” Higgins reports. “These are headphone stations that can open up immersive sessions and prequalify them. That is a valuable part of our supply chain and workflow that would not have been possible even three years ago.”

“Our prequalification team confirms that we receive all of the required deliverables, then open sessions and validate that they are correct,” Karpinski adds. “Pro Tools’ integrated Atmos rendering enables us to perform advanced work in a native format, which increases our quality and throughput.”

Our prequalification team confirms that we receive all of the required deliverables, then open sessions and validate that they are correct. Pro Tools’ integrated Atmos rendering enables us to perform advanced work in a native format, which increases our quality and throughput.

Paul Karpinski, Director of Audio Services

Standardizing on Pro Tools systems and establishing identical workflows in all of their facilities provides Pixelogic consistency the world over. “It was very much part of our business strategy to be compatible with as many partners, vendors, and customers around the world as we could, even facilities that can’t afford to always upgrade to the latest and greatest Pro Tools version,” Higgins observes. “I would not have wanted to go through the quantity of mixes and assets and QC that we’ve delivered over the last six months without [Pro Tools systems].”

Want to learn more?

Pixelogic Media’s Doug Higgins discusses current industry challenges and the growing demand for smaller immersive production spaces. Or, dig a little deeper into our immersive audio solution here.

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