Halloween Surround Status

2nd surround system up and running. My first system is basically for thunder and lightning and is fully operational. This second system is for the primary graveyard locale and will have a lot of graveyardish sounds panning across the space. I’m driving from a PC using the Creative Audigy2zs, hooked up to a Pioneer Electronics – VSX-516-K/S – 7.1 A/V receiver with Sound Retriever (picked up as an open box unit at best buy) driving 5.1 speakers. A little mysterious how to get surround working, not as nice a config utility as the turtle beach card. And then the receiver was just plain mysterious. I had to do a “reset” to finally get it to emit 5.1 sounds — hold down the tone button, the power button for 3 seconds, then enter and then setup. i can imagine why this unit got returned to best buy, it tries to be so smart about deciding what source and output mode to use, but i think it gets wedged into misconfigs. Reset is your friend.

Surround Sound Status continued

Continuing to plug away on my halloween surround sound setup — A Little Ludwig Goes A Long Way: Halloween Surround Sound Status One awesomely great feature of the turtlebeach audioadvantage roadie is the headphone jack. You can use it simultaneously with the spdif out — so many sound cards turn off the speaker out when a headphone is detected. here you can use both. the documented use is to attach another pair of speakers to create a 7.1 setup. But for halloween you can use this extra output to drive your lightning controller such as the i-zombie.

So my sound is working great. my lighting controllers are all firing. now i am playing around with lights — halogen worklights, par lights, some low voltage stuff — to create the best effect.

Oh and i am working on my other surround sound config which won’t be lightning, but will be ambient graveyard sounds.

Halloween Surround Sound Status

Tested my surround sound setup for our front yard this AM.

* For authoring using Sony acid pro. Works great, no complaints. You can mix an arbitrary number of sound sources, each traversing the listening space on independent arbitrary paths.
* Getting XP to play an ac3 file is impressively hard. Of course I can play it back on the machine with Acid Pro, but if I want to use another machine, it is tough. Graphedit is super helpful for examining codec chain to see if you can play the media. Klite mega codec pack is good for getting codecs and tools.
* Despite all this, wmp only plays half the ac3s I give to it. The ones that do play — wmp gives me an error saying I am missing a codec. The ones that don’t play — just silently fail. Klite to the rescue again with wmp classic which seems to play them all.
* Using Turtle beach audioadvantage roadie for 5.1 output. Seems to work fine. Nice control panel to test surround features. I didn’t have to pay anything like the $80 MSRP for this device.
* Feeding the turtlebeach output via spdif to a generic av amp — bought the cheapest open-box unit i could find at bestbuy

Overall it sounds good. I have a much bigger listening area than typical for a home theatre install — and the impact seems to be that the center channel is a little too dominant. I’m going to experiment with moving the sound locus to further back in the listening field. And for my big lightning strikes, I may try 5 duplicate strikes, each positioned out at one of the speakers.

Oh and I am going to try some codec options to get WinAMP to play 5.1 via spdif.

Exploring 5.1 surround tools

I’m working on creating some surround sound effects for my halloween setup this year. I’ve been looking for software to do this cheaply but no such luck so far.

I am starting with regular stereo flac files from various sfx discs i’ve purchased over the years. I’m using the 5.1 panning features of Sony Acid Pro to create a static path for the sound thru my listening space — this is pretty easy once you understand the complexities of Acid Pro. This leaves with an AcidPro-proprietary format ffile which you can play with AcidPro. For my purposes this might be good enough.

However it would be nice to create AC3 files that could be played on arbitrary PCs, burnt to dvd, etc. AcidPro will render AC3 files but it is another $199 for the codec pak to do this. I haven’t found much on the web for a free way to render AC3 — one thought tho is to loop back the spdif output from the pc to another soundcard and capture the incoming spdif stream — this post suggests how to do that. But this is not going to be cheaper than just buying the codec pak.

I’d like to find some filter that could capture the spdif stream before it leaves the pc.

Another issue is playback. I am using winamp for playback (because i am playing with the discolitez plugin) and winamp doesn’t natively support ac3 playback. WinAmpAC3 looks like it may do the trick tho.


I’ve been working on my halloween soundtracks and I needed some new thunder sounds. I’ve been using some thunder tracks off of old sfx cds but they have a lot of ambient hiss — sometimes by design to sound like rain, sometimes just crappy recorded. When you amp up these tracks for outdoor usage, the hiss is just too much.

I wanted some clean thunder tracks and so went to Sound Effects, Production Music, Royalty Free Music, MP3 AIF WAV Sound Effects. Great experience — they have more choices than you can possibly imagine, and they deliver in just about any encoding form you could want. And to reward me, they sent me a free sfx after I ordered — pretty smart, the marginal cost of them doing this is basically nothing and they have made me happy. Recommended.

Halloween Sound Creation

This halloween I want to put a little more effort into some of my sound tracks. I’ve generally been using just selected tracks from various SFX CDs, all burned to mix CDs that I play at various locations.

This year I want to invest a little more in crafting some sounds. First, i really like Pimpf from Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses as a basic graveyard tune. I’m using Sony ACID Music Studio to add some reverb and phasing to the music to increase it’s general creepiness. And then mixing in some wind and some howling wolves. Sounds great, this is my first time diving into mixing and track editing and I have to say the Sony software is pretty approachable.

I will probably upgrade to Sony Media Software – ACID Pro 6 as I next want to create some sounds that will pan across my courtyard — a moaning ghost for instance.

Update: Mixing a lot of sounds tonight. The most reliably creepy effect is to mix together two copies of the same exact track, one shifted up a half note. Turns even the most pleasant tune into a creepy mess.