Working with the Surround Panner

You use the Surround Panner to place track output signals at specific speaker positions. You can manipulate the Surround Panner directly in the Mixer or Arrange channel strip, but it is far better to open it in a separate window.

To open the Surround Panner window
  • Double-click the Surround Panner of a channel strip.

The Surround Panner window provides a magnified view of the channel strip’s Surround Panner, and contains additional parameters.

It is possible to open multiple Surround Panner windows simultaneously, and to save them in screensets. The Surround Panner window also provides a Link button. If enabled, the window updates to reflect the surround settings of the selected channel strip.

The Surround Panner offers different functionality in mono-to-surround and stereo-to-surround channels. When used on surround-to-surround channels, it acts as a balance control.

Using the Mono-to-Surround Panner

If the source input is set to mono, the Mono-to-Surround Panner appears.

The most obvious element of the Surround Panner window is the surround field. You can use it to control the surround routing of the input signal to the speaker outputs. The level sliders and fields (shown below the surround field) provide independent control of the Center and LFE channel levels. The extended parameters allow you to precisely control the separation between channels.

Figure. Mono to Surround Panner window.
Surround Field

The surround field consists of the following:

  • Two real time display fields, for angle and diversity. You can directly interact with these fields by using the mouse as a slider.

  • A circular grid, comprised of four concentric circles, divided into eight segments, each of 45 degrees. The outer circle represents the minimum amount of diversity, with the center circle representing the maximum amount of diversity.

  • A further circle encloses the grid. This is actually the Diversity/Angle display (or meter, if you prefer). As the diversity (or angle) changes, a portion of the diversity display is highlighted.

  • A square is overlaid on the grid. This is an indicator of the separation between left and right channels, and also front and rear (surround) channels. You can directly interact with the corners or edges of this separation square by dragging them. Alternately, you can use the sliders or display fields in the lower section of the Surround Panner window.

  • A number of speaker icons surround the circular grid. You can change the channel surround format directly in the Surround Panner window by clicking the speaker icons. This activates or deactivates the respective channels. Blue speakers indicate active channels, and gray speaker icons denote inactive channels.

  • The blue dot controls the routing of the signal to the speaker outputs. You can drag the blue dot in the surround field.

The movement of the surround position (indicated by the blue dot) is made easier with these functions:

  • Hold Command to lock diversity.

  • Hold Command-Option to lock the angle.

  • Option-click the blue dot to reset angle and diversity.

Level Controls

The Center Level slider and field determine the volume relationship of the (front) center channel—typically used for dialogue in film and TV productions.

The LFE Level slider and field control the volume of the LFE output. The abbreviation stands for Low Frequency Enhancement or Low Frequency Effects, as the LFE output is most commonly sent to a subwoofer channel. The use of a subwoofer speaker is not mandatory.

Tip: If you only want low frequency signals to reach the output, insert a multi mono surround EQ into the surround master channel. Use this to set the LFE (or subwoofer) output. A cutoff frequency of 120 Hz is standard for most surround applications.

Separation Controls

The sliders in the lower section of the Surround Panner window determine the amount of separation between various channels. As you alter these parameters away from values of 1.00, the separation square changes (to a trapezoid or rectangle) in the surround field, providing visual feedback on how the channel is being affected.

  • Separation XF: Applies to the Left and Right (front) channels. Reducing Separation from 1.00 down to 0.00 mixes the right signal into the left channel, and vice versa, until both channels output a mono signal.
  • Separation XR: Applies to the Left and Right Surround (rear) channels. Works as above, for the surround speakers.
  • Separation Y: Affects the mix relationship of the front and rear channels (in front or behind the listening position, in other words). It mixes the Left/Left Surround and Right/Right Surround channels. When Separation Y is set to 0.00, the front and rear channels output in mono.

The separation square is visible if the extended parameter section is open. If the extended parameter section is closed, it remains visible if any of the separation values does not equal 1.00. It also stays visible when the default values are reached by editing the square graphically. Closing the extended parameter section (with all separation values at 100%) makes the square disappear.

You can Option-click the value field or sliders shown in the extended parameters (or on the separation square lines) to reset them to default values.

Note: In 7.1 ITU surround formats, the Separation of Left Middle and Right Middle is determined by the average separation value of the Front and Rear channels.

Using the Stereo-to-Surround Panner

If the source input is set to stereo, the Stereo-to-Surround Panner appears.

It is similar to the Mono-to-Surround Panner, but features three pan pucks:  a puck for the L(eft) signal, a puck for the R(ight) signal, and a third puck, which controls both the L and R pucks as a group. It also offers a Spread field in the upper-right corner, which controls the stereo width of the signal.

Figure. Stereo to Surround Panner window.

Moving the L or R puck in the surround field moves the second puck in a symmetrical fashion. Dragging the third puck moves both the L and R pucks, while maintaining a given spread.

A left/right movement changes the angle of both, an up/down movement changes the diversity. The circular bars around the panner indicate which speakers will carry the respective signal source; the closer to the center a puck is moved, the wider the corresponding bar gets (the greater the diversity, in other words).

Using the Surround Balancer

If the source is set to surround, the Surround Panner acts as a Surround Balancer control.

Figure. Surround Balancer window.

Source channels are passed on to their respective output channels without any cross-panning or mixing. The pan control is represented by a single puck, which affects the multi-channel source signal as a whole. In other words, only the relative volume balance of the source signal is changed.

The separation parameters are not available in this Surround Panner mode.