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Surrounded By Sound

GAP Digital recently finished production on the first ever 5.1 surround sound drama production for radio. The George MacDonald novel At The Back Of The North Wind is an enchanting tale of life in Victorian London. Little Diamond, the sickly son of a poor cab driver, is carried away to adventures by an unlikely companion: The North Wind.

In a continuing effort to advance the art of storytelling through technology, this production made a perfect vehicle for the maiden voyage into broadcast distributed surround drama. The key lies in Dolby Labs Pro Logic II encoding.

Heres how Pro Logic II works. A surround mix is prepared in the usual manner. That mix is then processed using the Pro Logic II encoder. The resulting stem is a stereo signal that can be distributed on CD, or broadcast over the airwaves. Standard stereo equipment plays back a stereo signal, but those with PL II decoding capability are able to enjoy the original 5.1 surround mix with the push of a button.

From the beginning, the production kept a surround perspective in mind. The character of North Wind, played wonderfully by Juliet Stevenson, is a prime candidate for using a full surround field. The orchestral score, brilliantly composed by Jared DePasquale, was recorded in Nashville using multiple surround mic configurations. The mix of that score, done in GAP Digitals Studio A, is full of air and space, and is by itself, worth the price of admission.

The production aired in December on the BBC in the UK, and will air this spring here in the states through Family Radio Theatre, a production of Focus On The Family. While we dont know how many will be able to take advantage of the surround mix, were excited to have done it, and will continue to look for ways to take storytelling to new levels.

At The Back Of The North Wind is now available.


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