April 12, 2011

The Road to Surround – Part 12: Special Interview with Mr. Keimei Asami

By. Mick Sawaguchi


Sawaguchi: As I have been issuing the articles in this series for one year, I thought I wanted to have the last round with Mr. Asami. I talked with Mr. Uchimura in the previous round. This time in the other end, I want to talk with the teacher of my life so-to-speak, that is Mr. Asami.
The other day in the column called "Me and the Microphone" of the Federation of Specific Radio-Microphone Users, you wrote about your life briefly, and I thought it would connect well with this interview. Maybe most of the readers may not be so familiar with such details even if they know your name well. So first of all, could you tell us your career from the days when NHK was in Uchisaiwaicho?
Asami: As you know, it was in 1952 when NHK began a stereo program and it was practically the world's first regular service. I think it was an indication that Japanese audience loved audio. The television had already begun then, and Hiromi Nakajima the Chief of sound adjustment at that time created a new role in the organization called "a mixer function". It had been a general engineer role before then. Therefore there existed a mixer function, and I entered NHK in 1955. However, it was only that year when the recruitment of mixers took place.
S: Was it really one-off recruitment? How many people entered then?
A: There were me and Yoshinori Ando. Mr. Ando was a graduate of the Tokyo University of the Arts, majored music theory, and later studied the flute in the Research Center, and then moved to Kyushu Art College of Engineering eventually stepped up to the President. Though he had a kind of unique educational career being the doctor of engineering graduated from a music college, and he started his job as a mixing engineer.
S: Then only two people!
A: But he belonged to the sound adjustment section only a year and then he was transferred to NHK Research Center. An electronic music studio was built for the first time in NHK when we just entered in 1955, and he was in charge of electronic music then. While investigating electronic music, he notices that one must analyze the musical instruments before synthesizing a new sound, which eventually drove him to study the flute in NHK Research Center. He was indeed a splendid senior colleague.
You like new things, Mick, but I myself wanted to do some new thing, too. Because I devoted myself to the sound analysis of the musical instruments in my university days, I thought it was great to synthesize sound electrically. In the electronic music studio of NHK at that time, we had a theory that we can synthesize any kind of sound from sine waves by processing them infinitely; and in addition, by slicing white noise through filters infinitely, a sine wave must be generated. When this is achieved successfully, we are the winner, we thought idealistically. Coincidentally, it was the time when Moog started his synthesizer concept around that period.

Masaki Sawaguchi (author, left) and Mr. Keimei Asami (right)

S: Then did you do the electronic music relations mainly since you joined as a mixing engineer?
A: Of course I was in charge of not only the electronic music but also the programs of stereo music and others. I did considerable number of drama programs, too. The mixer function disappeared in around 69 or 70.
S: Was it because the television service started or what?
A: The opinion was raised from television people that they did not like the idea of the dedicated function only given to mixing engineers. There should be similar arrangement for camera and lighting functions.
In the beginning it started with the idea of dedicated staff for camera, lighting, and audio for the first time in NHK and the hope was to gradually interchange the duties among them. In the days of your time, location productions began, and we were looking into the pattern for one engineer to be able to do anything for himself in various ways.

Italia Award by "Undine."
And afterward executed the first multitrack-surround in Japan
S: You won Italia Award by "Undine", didn't you?
A: That's correct. We were awarded in the 1959 Art Festival with a music poetic drama titled "Undine" music by Akira Miyoshi and lyrics by Kyoko Kishida. The following year, we made this program in stereo and entered it in Italian Award and won the grand prix. This is a music and poetic drama that displays a tangle love in the fantastic world of water. The orchestra and an electric musical instrument called ondes martenot are wrapped by dialogs and chorus through the entire drama, and in addition such electric sounds generated from white noise through various filters and fine bleeps of various pulses actively appeared in the drama. The sonic image of the bubbles to sway and ascend in the water was created by manipulating electronic pulses.
S: How did you process the electronic pulses?
A: For example, I record various pulse sound in tape. I cut the tape in some 60cm long pieces and hold both ends by hand and rub it against the magnetic head of the recorder slowly. As I play it manually by delicately changing the speed, I hear something like "hwow-wow" and send the output to the echoic chamber, then the return sound is like "bwowoon-pharr" that gives an imaginary texture of bubbles. I store them on tape from top to end one by one, and have Mr. Miyoshi choose among them. Though it says electronic music, the work was very analogous. With the sound of traditional sine waves only, the resultant sound would be mechanical and lacks with emotions, I wanted to pursue a wet sound, and it consequently led to such a process. Have you listened?
S: No, I haven't. But only heard the story.
A: When we think about the electronic music itself, the sense of direction is very important and is effective because it is an inorganic sound. There was a composer called Xenakis in Norway or Sweden in Scandinavia, and with regard to him, there was a report that said when he composed an electronic music, he made use of multiple speakers. When I pan the white noise between 2 channels, it becomes as a beautiful panning and often displays an excellent surround effect depending on its sound.
In creating sound in "Undine", echoes were effectively very important for the chorus of Naiad. I think that it was the very first time around 1959 that I did the after-recording having singers put an earphone in one of their ears. After the recording of an orchestra in old NHK hall of Tamuracho first, I output the chorus from speakers placed here and there, making it just about to cause feedbacks. Then I could capture an echo with a delicate expansion.
The chorus became very rich and I think I wanted to bring out something that was sensed as surround. We won the grand prix of Italia Award in 1960, and in the following year we did a ballet based on tape in Sankei Hall, where I realized that the sound balance of the broadcast and that in a large auditorium are completely different; therefore I fine-adjusted the mix by running dialogs and music on separate tapes. And the next was in newly completed Cultural Center in Ueno at that time. We borrowed a 1/2-inch 3ch recorder from Sony and placed it in the orchestra pit as the main unit. Left and right channels of music were recorded in Ch1 and Ch3 respectively, and Ch2 was used for echoes only. In the orchestra pit were total 10 stereo or mono recorders and also mixers and effectors that I gathered, and what I did was surround as we say today.
They did the public performance for four days, but the sound was always different and the balance, too. For the speaker system, I used 3 trumpet speakers to achieve clarity in dialogs; and for the orchestra I used 3 large-size cinema-purpose speakers. I used total 50 speakers for the ceiling, the back wall and others. I had the female chorus of the naiad spread out to the whole hall, and the electronic tones are heard here and there directionally from the ceiling or from the walls. They were really effective surround. I intended to design the sound configured considerably three-dimensional in this way. I believe that it was the very first kind of surround effort in Japan. Later on, 4ch records came to the market, and then FM Tokyo did the quasi-4ch broadcast afterwards.
S: Oh, it was a program sponsored by Sansui, wasn't it? I remember it somehow.
A: At that time the head of engineers was Mr. Fujishima, and he called me and Mr. Fujita of NHK Research Center to ask how the 4ch system by Tokyo FM was. I answered him something like "the multi-channel is very interesting, but the matrix system will affect negatively to the image of 4ch and I do not want to try it". Mr. Fujita also commented a similar thing. Taking this voice of Chief Engineer as a fair reason, we managed to buy a 4ch recorder and started a rather extensive research of 4ch recording. There are some types of music that suit with surround or not, I felt.
While the pipe organ is superb, reverberant elements only from the back sound rather poor. If the music has been composed taking surround effect in to account for example "Requiem" by Berlioz in which a trumpet plays from the back or "The Tale of Genji in Picture Scroll" by Isao Tomita at Nagoya International Expo, the effect is obviously valid as it aims surround effect from the beginning. And then you became eager to do it in radio dramas.

An inside story of a mixing console installation
S: What about after "Uchisaiwaicho"?
A: When the Broadcast Center of Shibuya was established, I think I made a considerable effort for the adoption of vertical attenuators, but the drama engineers were absolutely against it in the beginning saying the transitional sensitivity of the round shape attenuators was unbeatable in our questionnaire. Consequently in the end, they agreed to compromise with 50 mm wide and 100mm stroke faders.
Though I wanted to use 30 mm width to allow more faders for music mixing, the attenuator which I produced experimentally for electronic music was 150 mm long with 35 mm width. Therefore it looks very graphical when the attenuators for music purposes line up in use.
You recommended 50 mm, too.
S: I suggested 50 mm wide and 120 mm long for post-production purposes. The stroke was the key. 50 millimeters for post-production and 40 millimeters for music. And 100 mm stroke for 40 mm faders. It was because the music is always critical in this neighborhood of the reference level. But the post-production goes down to the bottom and it will preferably need 20 mm more.
A: in June, 68 the department structure was renewed from traditionally-classified radio/TV /film by media to single drama /serial drama /entertainment /music according to the programs, and we became responsible for TV and film in addition to radio that we used to have to be only in charge, and so we had to manage a 1200 square meter CT -101 studio for big music purposes that had, my God's sake, only 12 channels in the console! Coincidentally, it was about the time when I was thinking of becoming a freelance mixing engineer out of NHK.
With the resignation letter in my pocket, I went to see Director Toyota accompanied by my boss to present my request for a bigger console, and if it did not work, then I thought I would hand him my resignation. The reaction was "okay I will leave it to you if you say so much about it"; and I lost the chance to quit NHK!
That's how the first console came in from a foreign country that was 24ch Neve as the sub-console next to the main 40ch. You did so much love foreign consoles, too.
S: I had a lot of criticisms for it being foreign-infective.
A: No, I had more above and beyond. I kept being accused. High-level managers of those days had a concern in the microphone because only this was not made locally while all the other equipment for the TV were fully Japan made. They felt they had to bring up domestic manufacturers in Japan. But later on, it became fairy easy to use foreign products soon.

Sprashing Drinks on Hot Argument
A: By the way, when did you move back to Tokyo?
S: It was 1976. I was originally supposed to move to a master function. I thought that it would take longer time for me to become a mixing engineer if I follow this assignment, and I expressed that I wanted to go to the production section. My director went upset asking "are you declining my preliminary notification?" Then he said "can you tolerate a little more while in this local station?", and I answered "I would" expecting to be stuck for around 3 more years.
Then it was December, I recall, I was told that there was a department that could transfer me in a position, and I moved to Second Audio department where they did radio dramas.
A: Did you want to do the dramas from the beginning? Wasn't it music that you were interested?
S: I did jazz myself as a hobby, but I thought that I did something related to the sound in a difference world as my work in the broadcast. The radio drama is like the world of movies only with sound, isn't it? It involves music, sound effects, and dialogs, too. A wide range of things are there. I was wondering where I could find such a post, and heard that Second Audio department worked on the drama in Production Technology Center, so I applied. When we deal with audio only, don't we enjoy more freedom to consider lots of approaches because it allows various ways? I thought the audio-only media would be appealing. Naturally, I was often asked why I did not target TV toward the age of television.
A: In those days, the time when I got to know you was when I had a project to decide the direction of our future mixing consoles in NHK.
S: That's right.
A: There, we argued a lot.
S: We had never worked together with you. It was not the master-student relationship with us in terms of the works in NHK at all. But I was taken good care of by you, probably because our wavelength matched in various directions each other. It was mostly after 6:00 p.m. for me to learn from Mr. Asami. When it was about 6:00, the telephone rang and it said "Pronto, Sawaguchi!" And I was like a secretary carrying your brief case.
Utchan and I talked about this in the last issue, but the thought not to be a person totally settled in the place like "Shibuya" was something that you always had been stressing for some time, too. I think that it was a big leap for me that you dragged us out in the night and opened the door to other broadcasting stations, music industry and manufacturers, all outside our organization in front of us.
A: One thing I was not able to achieve is related to my inability of language handling. In your case, you improved your English significantly in Singapore. And you built international acquaintances that I could not manage. I really think that you did it very well.
S: I was not good at the language at all from a beginning, too and almost hated it. But I made an effort of going to school for 3 years, a private Sunday school run by a church with hospital near Ogikubo. It was the basis for me to visit Singapore. And it served me as an extensive training there because I had to complete the work for myself. In contrast, my opponents handled Queen's English fluently. I seriously realized at that time that such a chance would continue to expand once you trigger an opportunity.

A: What we studied the least was English because I was in the third grade of junior high when the war was over, and for these three years we had student mobilization to factories. We were near Sagami Bay on the verge of enemy's landing, so we were busy building tochka pillboxes.
It was so heavy for two of us to carry the packs of cement.
Without learning English, I always had an inferiority complex toward English. Therefore for the entrance exam of the university and of NHK, I chose German through the study for myself. When I joined Otari, it was inevitable for me to handle English conversation, and I decided to visit the church just as you did. I went there for about 2 years, but anyway it was a mere beginner at 60.
You know, I was in charge of the program called "World Music" in CT-101 studio from 1966, and the world's top entertainers came from overseas every time. I really thought it would have been marvelous if I could talk a little more with them. I actually did a little with my broken English.
S: Asami-san belonged to Department 3 while I was in Department 2, and how did you find me interesting among various young people in your Department 3?
A: Because I thought you were unique and I enjoyed making fun of you! After having drunk in Shibuya with you and Toru Ishizuka from my department, we said "good-bye!" and at the door of my home you guys popped up saying "welcome home!" You were extremely talkative all the way until morning in those days, and once you've done with what you wanted to say, you went to sleep immediately! I was just being told... But you were not like others.
S: You had an apartment house. A hideout in Shibuya.
A: We often drank and stayed there. I remember that I made apology calls to your wife politely when you were a newly-wed.
S: Drank a lot and argued a lot.
A: In my age, learning was through drinking. Wasn't it the style everywhere? In those days, when I went to see the work of our seniors, they got furious asking me if I came to steal their skills.
S: There is a cable TV channel running old archives, and I happened to watch "Sound in S" by TBS. It brought me back to the days and was quite interesting.
A: Taku Kato was indeed the guy who succeeded in realizing a sync of VTR with 24ch multi-track recorder in "Sound in S".
S: That was phenomenally a cultural shock for me. In contrast, the equipments of Shibuya village in those days were totally miserable. It was as if bamboo weapons in the war, relying on manpower. Such a situation was sp regretting to me. I heard repeated criticisms by session musicians when they came to the Broadcast Center. "How could this work?" I think it was one of reasons why I always challenged you in hope for an improvement.
In the arguments, it was an established knowledge that when it boiled up Mr. Asami threw the liquor over the partners. In one occasion, I got sake thrown which was when I insisted on audio dramas with surround sound exactly like movies using Dolby matrix because it was good enough. You were from purist music school, and said it degraded the sound quality. No rush and we should wait till a better solution would be available. This was somewhere in Shimokitazawa, and the result was "damn it!" And came the shower of sake. I thought "oh, yes, this is the liquor that everybody talked about." You really dump it on us!


Joining Otari/Otaritec after NHK
S: It was slightly before your retirement age when you joined Otari, wasn't it? What kind of opportunity was that?
A: I went in Otari on October 2, 1985. On December 17, I would be 55 years old, and they could settle this as a proper retirement. Otari was in the process of deciding DASH or PD, and they chose PD for their digital recorders. And they wanted to make an announcement in about November. I was only focusing on the digital area at that time, right? Therefore it was considered best to be in time for the announcement. Though I decided to move because I thought I would be better being younger and more ambitious in the next company, and I chose Otari as I felt it would be more exciting to be able to actively challenge various things in a relatively small company.
S: Eventually, it was the substantial second life of yours. You really did various things there.
A: Oh, there were so many things. We start working in manufacturers right after the graduation from university in Japan, but there seems to be a difference between Japanese and foreign manufacturers. Because the American society does not follow the lifetime employment, there exist many out-of-the-track examples such as those who want to do the equipment after gaining the experience of mixing engineer. Therefore I saw their quite high recognition of users' needs in talking to them, which was a significant difference. It was same with Otari American staff, too.
S: What do you recall interesting in dealing with foreign manufacturers?
A: If I name the people, Mr. Martikainen of Genelec and Mr. Hoehestrasse of Studer.
S: What kind of opportunity was it with Genelec?
A: We sold some 200 Otari recorders to the Netherlands. And they brought a monitor speaker called S-30 at that time. It was terribly outstanding piece. Most foreign speakers designed for music use fail with voices. We broadcasters have a custom to judge the quality with human voice, you know. And S-30 had an excellent voice reproduction. That was the point I liked most.
S: In your days in Otari, the one of my memories is you introduced me to Mr. Yoshiaki Shimizu.
A: He is truly splendid! BBC was always open for his visits, and his sales of multi-track recorders to BBC exceeded Studer's at that time. He is now in another company selling consoles.
S: He represents Euphonics Japan now.

Always Create Opportunities for Us
S: The overseas deployment system was revised in NHK around that time to find a desired place where you can study at least for three months or possibly as long as a year, and I wanted to apply as one of the first explorers somewhere. When I consulted it with you, you told me to contact Mr. Shimizu of Otari UK with your introduction because he had a close relationship with BBC. Mr. Shimizu introduced me to Mr. Jeff Baker who was Director of Sound Department in BBC at that time. When I met him and talked face to face, as many people around him described, he was so soft and nice; one and only guy opposite to typical BBC character. He also had a sense of humor.
And my point was an exchange project. I made a proposal not just I stay with them and learn but to do an exchange program because there should be a few things that they could learn from NHK. I always go for 50:50 principle. Then Jeff responded to try it as it looked interesting.
I was the first to visit BBC for three months in 91. This opportunity was seeded by Asami-san.
There are two types of seniors when consulted: one to dump it and the other to offer an even slightest trigger, and Mr. Asami was always the latter. The rest is that I dig it further and further to hit something underneath.
Regarding my translation works, you made the opportunity. It was regarding Studio Sound, wasn't it? You told me to translate it for JAS publication. I really worked hard on 7 or 8 serial project of "The Mixing Console Design" regarding which you said that it would be an extensive lesson for me and at the same time readers could learn, too. But you in parallel had a friend of yours check if my translation was appropriate. A well-considered follow-up action! A lot of learning through this because both speaking in English and translating to Japanese have some focal points that require your sensitivity.
A: It is only in Japan now facilities-wise where you can see so much advanced broadcasting stations. If I should add more, Europe is different. In the USA, most of the programs are not produced by themselves. Nobody elsewhere takes the radio programs so seriously. BBC does some and Germans do more or less, too, but TV programs are basically done by outside productions. Japan is now in the same direction, too unfortunately. At any rate, everybody will be amazed to see our studios in NHK.
S: Exactly. But such an advancement started from 1983 or 84. The situation began to allow us to execute untraditional facility updates and we managed to bring in some latest systems.
Before this paradigm was a long effort of fighting in your times, and then we had this revolution. Today foreign country friends joke that NHK is a department store of sound and one should visit there to understand all at once! The density is particularly high there when we take surround productions in account.
A: Europe still holds some status.
S: True. In foreign countries, and Europe in particular, young people can learn things visiting there. I think that there are some in USA, too. They are very quick to make business models.
For example, relations with the Internet and non-conventional broadcast models. We never feel relaxed.
A: That's true. For the next generation
S: Our conversation used to be endless, but before closing, can you please say a few words to the next, young generation people through your experience as professor in Nippon University and chairperson of JAPRS regarding what to challenge?

A: At first I think, if you are going to be music mixing engineer, you have to master at least one musical instrument at a considerably high level. You will find how to make of the tone for yourself if you learn playing an instrument. In America, 90% of mixing engineers have background of studying music now. Anyway, music and mixing work together so closely to create music. Japan is much behind in this respect. Therefore I want mixing engineers particularly those not in broadcast continue to study music extensively despite the fact that many of them are from the field of music. In Europe, conservatories in Berlin, Detmold or Den Haag offer a course for tonmeister and I feel envious of their educating engineers thoroughly.

Then of course you need to know computers, and to be really international like Mr. Sawaguchi, the language should be not only by English but also by French or German preferably. It is for a good communication. You seem to be the ideal type in this sense, don't you think?
And the rest, I want people enjoy more "analog" character. I may have taken too much part in the digital, and therefore the young engineers have not listened to acoustic music sufficiently.
They do very little. They may not have many chances to hear. I want them to listen to music more. I think it is time for us to get tired with music through inputs soon, and less people will create music in this sense. After all, music should drift with delicate atmosphere. With a sense of atmosphere. Such waves should be more prominent.
S: I think a good combination is the mind in analog and the tools in digital. People are digital-and-digital today, and I hope they become aware of it soon. Thank you so much today.

Time flies and this one-year series have now been concluded. In these 12 sections, a few matters may have not been covered, and I appreciate any comments and requests from you to the editor, Mr. Matsui (matsui@kenroku-kan.co.jp).



Keimei Asami
1930: born in Kugenuma, Kanagawa
Took piano lessons from childhood, and in the college student days, addicted to the cello in stead of studying, and became active as a semi-professional musician in the drama broadcasts of NHK and other commercial stations, music accompaniment in the ballet, and local music classrooms.
Having realized the own ability, decided to go back to school giving up the ambition to be a cello player.
1955: graduated from Gakushuin University, department of science physics subject (acoustics specialty)
Entered NHK as a mixing engineer.
In charge for the promotion of "Three-dimensional Music Hall" (NHK had the world's first regular stereophonic program by using two AM waves since 1953), electronic music, FM stereo, TV stereo, HDTV, and PCM recording.
1960: Italia Award by "Ondine" (Akira Miyoshi's composition) in charge of audio mixing. This work is a music poetic drama performed by orchestra, chorus, nodes martenot (French electrophone) and electronic music.
1961: 4 day performance of the above title in ballet in Ueno Cultural Center
In the orchestra pit, a 3ch tape player, a 2ch tape player, 5 monaural players, various mixers and effectors were brought in, and 7 staff manipulated them following the conductor, Mr. Miyoshi.
Everything was all manual work with no multi-track recorders nor synchronization system in those days. It was the first multi-channel surround performance of tape media in Japan using 3 speakers for music, 3 speakers for dialog, 3 large speakers on ceiling and 3 speakers on walls.
1962: Salzburg Opera Award by "Aya-no-tsuzumi" (Yoshiro Irino's composition)
1968: Salzburg Opera Award by "Orpheus of Hiroshima" (Yasushi Akutagawa's composition)
In the mean time, in charge of such performances as Italian opera, Karajan/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Boehm/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, Celibidache/London Philharmonic Orchestra ...
Associate Editor of Broadcast Technology and Japan Audio Society

1985: Retired NHK
Chief Engineer of Otari and Executive Director, Marketing of Otaritec
1993: Retired Otari/Otaritec
1994: Lecturer, Nippon University, Art Department Broadcast Section
2000: Resigned Nippon University
2002-2005: Chairperson of Japan Music Studio Association chairperson.

2006.12 Broadcast Technology

Part 1: To acquire the skill for writing, listening, and talking >>>

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April 11, 2011

The Road to Surround – Part 11: Special Interview with Mr. Kazutsugu Uchimura

By. Mick Sawaguchi


Sawaguchi: This series started with the January issue to put variety of topics in the past in writing, and here we are so quickly to leave only two more sections! In the remaining sections, I myself would like to discuss how we should tackle the issues of surround once with a seniority who has acquired a lot through variety of studies, and the other with a younger generation. The very first comments I received directly from readers were when "why the stake that sticks out in the workplace is hammered" was released in the third or fourth section. Utchan (nickname for Mr. Uchimura), did you read it?
Uchimura: I definitely did. As I faced with this article, I could feel something like the history of Mr. Sawaguchi himself along with the history of surround, and I thought it represented what Mick thought or felt at that time in a straightforward way. Reading each section of this series for me was like having a microscopic vision of what I did or how it turned out and even reviewing the approach I should make from here in my brain. I had a feeling of nostalgia in a way and at the same time thought that I had to whip myself further to move on as I read it.
S: The reason why I thought that I wanted to talk with Utchan among my successors this time is because I expected that it might be useful for the other people who read this if I discuss with someone who understands that it is important to create things and to express oneself. Why don't you introduce your career to the readers from the days in Sapporo until today?
U: Thank you. I was born in Hakodate in 1961. I first entered the company called Sapporo Video Production. I think in those days among most local commercial broadcasting stations, audio by itself or the sound engineer position was not quite established yet. They were simply bundled as "the engineer". While I began as VE first, I always felt the need to establish the function of audio. Above all, I regarded MA (multitrack audio) as extremely important, and therefore I set up an MA studio under the concept only with a pen and a monitor first. Many said "such a thing cannot succeed" in the beginning, but when I watched your efforts keeping up with high-level challenges, I really wanted to be a part of the same effort because I was born in the same century. I moved to a studio in Tokyo, company called Digital Egg, and was lucky to be able to make a 5.1ch facility to cope with surround. I learned that NHK provided a "career employment examination" while I was in Digital Egg, and I applied to enter NHK. That's where I work now.
S: Can you tell us about some memorable productions of yours?
U: Programs that I worked to remember? Because Digital Egg was a high-profile post production, when I did surround first, I had in my mind from the very beginning that I would do commercials in 5.1ch among others, and it was one of my big steps that I was actually the first to be able to complete a commercial for cinema in 5.1ch. Then "the Stairs to Heaven" that I was in charge right after I joined NHK is also memorable. It was when NHK did not have any 5.1ch facilities yet. You wrote about it a couple of sections before in "Road to Surround", and it was an epoch for me. Another one is again in my Digital Egg time, "the Jump of a Whale" is a cartoon title of Shigeru Tamura and it was 5.1ch, too, and it was a collaborative work with my close friend Mr. Someya. Digital Egg and Sony PCL independently started the sound design, and then networked the material elements each other in production. We took the process in American style, or movie-production style.
S: Well, now the readers have understood what type of person Mr. Uchimura is.
U: I have been a long-time fan of Mr. Sawaguchi being a reader of your early days' articles! :-)
I thought "this man is terrific!" and "amazing point he sees!" I was reading "Broadcast Technology" since I joined this industry. Some senior engineers had "the Institute of Television Engineers of Japan magazine" which was too difficult for me to understand. On the other hand, "Broadcast Technology" was digestible, and I was really digesting it, and then often came out the name of Sawaguchi in the magazine. Additionally, the story of TBS to build an MA system that synchronized with time-code to multitrack was totally stimulating for me. Then later came "Pro Sound" magazine, which was when I was still in Sapporo enjoying little information there. In old days, seniors won't tell you the exact details to teach you even asked. Stealing the skills by watching while at work was all you could make, and it was so important at that time. What I had been thinking at that time was because the broadcast was a "broad delivery", it wasn't easy to understand where it reached with what kind of reactions, and I really felt that I should check and confirm what I was exactly doing as I worked if I wanted to be regarded as a world-class engineer, even if this may sound impertinent. These professional magazines taught me about it. There was various information in them, and I told to myself “am I still in such a level?” Moreover, I felt uneasy about the possibility to result in a mere, superficial paper-mixer just like a useless paper-driver. The only solution was obviously to study and study... And you became in charge of symposium in InterBEE from 89 and, it was fantastic! I could watch and listen to such extracts gathered from the world once every year.
It was my spirit even to lie anything to go through the company authorization for visiting these symposia. :-)


"Our Idiots ..."
U: Before that, when Mr. Roger Lagadec came to "Digital Seminars" that Sony ran at their Shinagawa facility, I participated in it from Sapporo and saw you for the first time. In something like a training outfit and kung fu shoes, you kept beating your thigh all the time...
I imagined that you had a muscular pain playing tennis or something the day before. The aura around you prevented me from speaking to you.
I think it was when I was 29 or 30 years old, but I visited the AES Conference in New York. I had so much of worries at that time. I kept thinking about how I could build an MA studio in totally new style, and as I was staying at Hilton Hotel where the convention took place, I determined that it was the time and dashed to your room with a magnum bottle of sake. Introducing myself, "Sawaguchi-san, please drink with me. I am Uchimura of Sapporo Video Production. I challenge various things and I hear a lot about you." And came a proverb back from you. You started with an apology. It was to the industry rather than to me, I guessed. "Um, do any of our idiots cause any trouble to you?"
"What does it mean?" I thought for an instant. After I entered NHK later, I often heard you used the terminology of "Shibuya Village", and it appeared that you used it as the same sense like "don't be buried deep under Shibuya Village". You spoke out the same to the people inside NHK, too, and you meant that your life in this industry should not self-conclude merely within the working organization. We can see the words "Shibuya Village" and "nuisance caused by our idiots" are close each other. Without understanding it on the spot, it became my first "Sawaguchi collection of proverbs".

“You should do an original thing than you imitate something that others did”
U: Your word that changed my life and that drove me to determine my thoughts was "you should build an original thing than you imitate something that others already did". It was when I was working on the design of new MA studio, and you clearly said so. I really felt at that time the focus then blurry in myself suddenly fixed. Then everything was visible, DAW (digital audio workstation) and networking that became common today. I could clearly hear the voice in me, "the days of running multitrack recorders are over, and here comes the change!"
I made the drawing in my return flight and I could build the studio. It was entirely because of these words.
S: Because I hear that you write down my words as "collection of proverbs", can you please introduce one that you think best? Putting it on the plate, we can discuss how it came out.
We can also review in what kind of context I said so and why Utchan liked it ...

"A tie and the true ability are inversely proportional"
U: Alright then, I would start with my favorite: When one steps up towards management from mixing engineer or sound designer in the field, most directors in this situation start wearing a tie, and I was curiously watching if you would come to the office wearing a tie or not, and after all you did not. I felt like tackling this issue a little further, and asked if you did not have to wear a tie. Then you uttered "what?", and said something like "a tie and the true ability are inversely proportional". I was knocked completely socks off! I felt it sounded exactly like Mick in a way, and you seemed to be expressing that you were not different even in the management. Realistically, how was it?
S: I do care about the appearance, but I hate the stereo-type idea of determining someone's superiority entirely by his appearance, or judging reliability by whether one is wearing a tie. Therefore I of course wear a suit, or I wear the proper clothes daily that do not look rude. In a nutshell, I wanted to indicate in a concrete style that there existed different views than a pre-determination like without a tie is unsophisticated or lacking politeness. But I need to be prepared with confidence because there would be a lot of external pressures to face. I guess that my direct director or others in the middle in those days probably had a hard time because of this. I tend to hate traditional concepts: Such as when it comes to this, it has to be in this way. When we face with a situation, showing "this would be a counteraction" or "this is also possible" is important, particularly so for those who produce contents. Rarely is there only one, this answer for it, as there are various ways in the expression. But using only words in this situation is not enough because nobody would understands only by words. If you show saying "see how it turns out" in a concrete manner, people would realize that some different approaches could be safe to take. Consider if no-tie is automatically interpreted as rudeness.
The essence is I do not behave rudely and am dressed appropriately with certain quality well suited as the management of the workplace, and then a tie in particular may not be a critical element. That was how I considered.
U: Mick's style is characteristic and unique, with kung fu shoes that nobody wears, illustrating Mr. Sawaguchi himself in a way, and impressive and above all it's not rude. It is not dirty, it is even classy, and we can feel your self-consciousness in coordinating clothes and others to a great extent. You react upset when I say "how do you decide your clothes?" You go "it is absolutely my decision!" Strongly. Therefore I interpret it that you have a certain appeal in it.
S: It is the same thing as mixing balance.
U: It is a balance, indeed. Something common between the two.
S: In achieving a skillfully delicate balance...
U: And that's why we got interested in. But on the other hand, in the absolute occasion, you wore a tie properly.
S: Well yes, two or three times a year, I did.

Masaki Sawaguchi, the author

"Assign-chart does not decide your life"
U: I introduce next from the collection which appeared to me you wanted to speak to junior colleagues. It is called "the chart" in NHK, and it is a table which dictates production assignments for you to confirm from what time to what time in where your work has been allocated, and a young staff was watching it to see what his work was for tomorrow. Then you quietly approached him from the side, and said "the chart won't decide your life". It must have startled him, or hopefully so, and I believe it exactly did. You must not be satisfied only with what the chart dictates you. I heard you meant the time should be spared more consciously and effectively for educating oneself. Was it what you meant?
S: That's correct. People are apt to be happy focusing only on specified jobs if they are given to do on the day, and in the end of the day they tend to think "Well done! Today is over!"
It is not so, and you should interpret it as the minimum work for your salary but not the greatest. What I wanted to stress was that it should be the way for you to find a lot more to do for yourself and challenge them hard to raise yourself to 2 or 3 times higher level rather than simply remaining as one of workers in the office. Of course the young people today are brought up in a peaceful environment and they may not be quite ready to absorb tough experience even if I say to them abruptly to be hungry. Therefore if I give them the jobs for the day specifying this and that, they tend to be satisfied with them. Where the growth is was my concern. It may not be easy to understand just being told so, but they could see exactly what we imply if we demonstrate how we do it to them.
U: Indeed. Therefore, as for the incident, I wonder if they find exciting when something different from normal comes in front of them while unexpected thing may be unpleasant. I am terribly excited with it myself, even if I hate troubles. In a trouble in fact, I find myself heated somewhere in me. I meet someone whom I can see only at that time, or I manage to absorb something new...
There is another wise remark of yours among the collection: It is when one has a problem with the stomach, or maybe a headache and he will be asked "you don't look feeling well today?" and will reply "I've got a headache slightly" for example." In this context, Mick, you said "well, that's great as you can sense you are living!" While I thought something like "sonovabitch!”, I was totally fascinated at the same time. That's right, that's right ... I thought. We don't usually think "oh, I feel good because nothing goes wrong so far", but this remark looked hitting the point. This can be said to various things. Not even with a stomach ache, but when you encounter with a trouble, or your mixing does not proceed as you hope, or something unexpected happens as an example. And it causes you to realize that you are alive.
S: Things like an unexpected encounter are common to everybody. Being common but how you perceive it. You might think that we can meet him sometime again, and thus good-bye, you would react, or "there may be no chance to see him next. I should hang onto the man to exchange information"; this split of considerations will be a significant turning point. I, for myself, regard the encounter as important very much. In spite of the first acquaintance, if we look for things we do not carry each other looking for things you carry to share, we can improve ourselves than minutes ago. Such a power in thinking, or in the other word, you find it fun to think that way would matter. I think I learned this since I started dealing with people from foreign countries. Between Japanese people, the acquaintance tends to have a long introduction with small jabs through socially meeting for five or six times, and if they find "this guy seems to be able to make good friends with me", then their relation gets very tight from there. Foreign people always contact us with a feeling of once for all, and even when you meet for the first time, they bring up in the conversation a sudden but essential topic like "what is your job?" Or like "what is your original that others do not have?" Japanese would think "you may ask it a little later", but they don't care. When the mutual wavelength matches or each finds the other interesting, the tone and the level of conversation boils up thereafter. It's so fast, and we had better gain the attitude in the encounter with other people.
Among the same Asians, although I do not know well, the Chinese seems to be well ahead of us. Bumping into someone gets into essential discussion immediately, and if the air fits in, everybody goes excited. Just like sumo wrestling, Japanese takes very long time facing each other before standing up.
U: Well, Chinese people are literally self-centric considerably! :-).
S: It is because if you grow in a uniform environment of single type of people to work with, you tend to regard how you build the human relations after the acquaintance is pre-fixed. If you visit various places though, you will encounter with the people with different way of thinking. You then begin to recognize variations, and I tend to love it.

"You lose the way of the corner-cutting if you forget the genuineness."
U: As the times get more and more efficiency-oriented, I once uttered complainingly "do they mean that we should perform on groundless basis? It can not be that they say everything needed for a proper production effort to be avoided", and you commented "you lose the way of the corner-cutting if you forget the genuineness." What could I say with this? But it won’t be possible to be really not to do a slipshod job in such a thing whether you say that you change a viewpoint. While joking slightly... You might end up being the type of person who does not understand how to cut the corners. Someone who can only follow what is dictated.
S: In this series of articles, I wrote that it was important to recognize genuine things. Knowing genuine things, as you have just described, means that you always understand how high in the range of levels you stand now, and also recognize how it deviates from the top class in the world. If you experience a genuine production flow properly though there may be limited number of occasions, you get to know the proper procedures through picking up the essence in the given budget, schedule and resources tightly while trimming minor parts, and on the other hand, to work compactly on efficiency with first priority without understanding all these things will made a large difference in the end. Technologies develop constantly and a better efficiency is a logical topic. For example, in 1970's when I came to Tokyo, only around 1 audio drama could be produced in stereo in an entire year. Why? Because it took 3 to 4 months to complete a 1-hour drama in stereo. Because the studios were not equipped with such functions, and facilities and procedures were not just ready in those days, everything was purely handmade entirely. Therefore only one production was possible in a year, and then in 1979, a very efficient studio with 8 bits CPU was built in the process of facility update, and it became possible to complete the same program in one week. Then it becomes possible to challenge for more dramas in stereo, doesn't it? And I think this exactly applies to surround in its infancy, I believe it still is in an infancy, and it needs more time for a little more while. If those who have made various attempts and detours then consider how their tools should be in order to achieve excellent productions efficiently and how the work flow should look like in parallel to drive changes, I would think that it becomes possible to realize quality productions in a certain budget and schedule constraint. By the way, Utchan, when did you join NHK?
U: It was March, ’98 and thus I did "The stairs of Heaven" in ’99 first.
S: That means you were in Digital Egg when I was occupied with "the Last Bullet"?
U: Excactly. And so when the "Bullet" was done, I could participate in the preview and was utterly horrified. If my memory is correct, it was a preview for Imaging Media Workshop. I chose the seat for myself approximately where you had done the mix. At that time, I had two feelings; being touched by surround sound for one and envious about being able to do such a job for the other. It was a definite surge to me, and I committed absolutely to do this myself, too. "The Last Bullet" was so phenomenal. I felt I must make a 5.1 ch studio.

"A chance has its hair on the chest" and "there is no future in hesitation"
U: Let me introduce some other phrases in the collection that I heard from my seniors and colleagues. One is "a chance has its hair on the chest". This is splendid. This is exactly how Mick would say. When you are facing to the direction where a chance approaches, it is easy to catch the hair on the chest, but it will be harder to do so if it is leaving you seeing its slippery back. It is really well-said. When a chance comes to you fortunately, if you reject it or hesitate at that time, you would not make it.
S: If your life entirely soaks in the safe and mediocre employment environment, you would expect that chances would always come to everybody equally, and eventually become inert to such a sense as "now is the chance!" They tend to think it will come again to them later. When I started working with various people widely in the world, I strongly felt that it was essentially important to recognize when the chance is in front of me, is it now or is it the one coming next, by sharpening the sensitivity and ability to judge. When a chance comes to me, I absolutely have to catch it without breezing because it will be gone while I hesitate for an instant. When it turns over, it is already the end.
U: And you phrased it into these words "to have hair on the chest". However, in reality it is not so easy to act.
Another saying of yours is "there is no future in hesitation, no carrier to be developed". This is literally what it means. It says that there is no hope without aggressiveness.
By the way, Mr. Nishida who picked this phrase said that a typical expression when Mick scolded him was "you are rather daring". One of my colleagues, Mr. Otsuka told me Mick questioned saying "are you trying me?" when he forgot to cut a noise or failed something. It sounds very skillful. Instead of shouting "what are you doing? Don’t!” a witty question like "are you trying me?" will surely startle us. So this should be one of selections.

"Do you work worthy of your salary?"
U: I introduce one from Mr. Kamekawa's collection. When he was working with us, Mick often said to him "are you working worthy of your salary?" according to him. I hear the same quote from others, too.
S: The lineup of the organization has considerably changed now from where we were because we now have some master-degree staff. But, in 70's and 80's, 80 to 90% of the people in the field were high-school graduates. Such climate was intense that the front line does not need high-salary guys at that time as the university graduates were perceived only to repeat reasoning and perform merely a half man-power. It was least enjoyable for us, wasn't it? We were the minority as clean as a whistle. I had a serious sense of risk in being recognized, and we had to achieve results with whatever painful efforts rather than hiding ourselves from this reality in order for them to say that we deserve the salary. I heard similar stories from our seniors because only a limited number of people entered as university-graduates. In the end, most of them were swallowed by the atmosphere of the workplace and move to somewhere else without sprouting a bud. I considered in those days that I would stick to this situation without going anywhere else, and I being an anchor hit some kind of wedges to it in hope of building an atmosphere where they would feel some usefulness in our presence in the party. As one or two university graduates entered every year, I used to say this to them. The significance of being disappears completely here if people consider "that boy has no skills and slow to move and still makes more". I said to myself not ending up so. The atmosphere has changed very much now.
U: You, Mick always minded how the seniors should reach their hands to the new recruits when they do not understand where to start after joining the team. Probably your long experience will suggest when is right to comment just by observing. This may be a rather old topic but something that amazed me was when you said to me "watch her properly", and I asked why. You then added "she is the type of person who tends to worry things". Quite surprisingly careful eye on subordinates, I thought.
S: One of benefits I enjoyed by pursuing audio drama in my career was I experienced numbers of stories with variety of lives condensed in them. Therefore I was able to master how people would view things, or how much they would perceive by the first glance. And I came to notice such things quickly as good characterization of a role or the need to boost a little more of specifics for the other.

Give-and-take
U: Mick, you often use the phrase "give-and-take" in this series, and I think you are always keen to comply with this thought. Though it is not so simple to express in front, but your personality is very serene. Generally as people accumulate ages, they inevitably collect dusts and tend to be too definitive in saying, while you remain mysteriously serene. And I think that is why you are good at capturing opportunities. Though you choose the words through considering so many things from different angles, your reaction appears to be really serene. This relates with the give-and-take we just discussed, and you give a chance to anyone. You extend it not only within your broadcasting stations but also to me when I was an outsider, and to the people of the whole world. Many panelists at InterBEE were given the opportunity triggered by Mick Sawaguchi. Like Jedi Master for sound engineers and sound designers. Someone like Yoda.
One more popular phrase of yours would be: "invest in yourself". I really think so. I had been participating in AES conventions all the way, and when I heard these words, I felt it was a supporting comment of what I was doing. AES is truly an irreplaceable thing, and is a pure gathering which is extremely good. People gather from all over the world for a short period of time intensively, and act together in there for a few days. We can meet with various people, hear various opinions, and exchange them, for free of charge, a real give and a take!
S: When Wieslaw came to Japan for around 3 months after having been appointed as the chairperson of AES, he said in his interview with me that one of reasons why he contributed to AES and kept making efforts was because of a strong memory in student days of his own. According to him, he found a book about AES in his school library in Poland, and it was so instructive that he wanted to be a student member. I think it was a story of 30 or 40 years ago, and the membership fee for students at that time was 6 dollars a year. But people in Poland were poor and could not afford paying such money. He had an uncle in U.S.A. who paid the fee for him, and thus he could read and study AES journals in Poland. In addition, when he consulted the branch manager of AES Europe about his wish to go to New York from Poland to study, he introduced him to the manager of AES New York office who received Wieslaw in New York to properly guide him to various studios of entire New York and immensely supported him in the rental equipment arrangements. It was a fascinating care for a student from a poor eastern European country at that time. Coincidentally, an AES convention took place in New York during his visit, and he participated to find the latest stories discussed by the renowned top people in the industry of those days, which was a phenomenal stimulation to him. With this prototypical experience, he passionately explained his challenge to facilitate AES as a spot where everything can be shared. If people with such an experience gather whether it is larger or smaller, it appears to me a good relationship will develop around them. How many times have you been to AES at you own expense already, Utchan?
U: It is uncountable for now. My very first attempt was to Paris about 18 years ago when I was 27 years old. I visited Copenhagen for 100th AES Convention, too. I keep participating since I joined NHK; therefore I have already traveled almost 15 times by now.
S: It is one of proofs of your investing in yourself.
U: I did it saving money as "AES deposit" personally in my early days. Listening to the lectures in the 100th AES, the idea of doing surround became very solid in my mind. Also, I visited SSL main office in Oxford immediately after AES because I was communicating with Mark Yonge of SSL who now chairs the standard committee in AES, and there was a darker version of Axiom prototype to play with in front of me that gave me the full confidence saying to myself "this is it". In my return flight, I was drawing the diagram all the way, and it came true as the surround studio of Digital Egg.
S: "Post magazine" visited the studio for coverage at that time.
U: I was really excited. There were no notable reactions in Japan, and the "Post magazine" for postproduction professionals from the US came to see us. Ken McGorry, the chief editor came expressly for himself for this coverage as a special feature. It was titled something like "Tokyo Digital Culture Clash".


"Post magazine" cover and its article

S: The people with a proper sensitivity highly valued it because the concept was essentially new.
U: And this magazine had an outstanding influential power. When a then-director came back after his visit to NAB, he told me "Uchimura, the reactions were terrific and the comments were with amazement that such advancement is already in practice in Tokyo!" He rephrased the comment proudly, "All digital, non-linear, with 5.1ch, and supports stereo mix in addition, a terrific example of studio network!"
S: When one does an original thing, not found elsewhere and innovative, people in the world will respect it properly. I think that we Japanese should have a mind to accept such thoughts openly. On the contrary, they may say "I had him do that" or "I did this way at that time". The right steps are to give a proper recognition no matter how small the issue is if one has achieved something better than others, which will raise the motivation of those recognized, and eventually the motivation of the workplace and that of the entire company to result in a better harvest in the end.
U: When I built a fully-digital studio in Sapporo in the first place, I received a letter from you inviting me for a talk about it in AES Tokyo convention. I was very happy. When the SSL 8000 console was released and Shibuya station organized a surround seminar with their first, serious console targeting surround professionally in analog, you sent me a fax and later came a letter from Ms. Nakayama then in SSL. Those were nice things and I still keep the pictures at that time. It was as if a light guiding me to the place with lights. I could see it only as a tiny light-ball, but it was to me a sign of the direction and it made me more confident to challenge; if I pick up something interesting in it, more excitement may develop from there; that was what I had in my mind and really enjoyed the participation.
S: You showed up in the morning of our symposium at InterBEE saying "I have just arrived!” I asked "how could you be so early?" and you replied "worked all night and then took the first morning flight." It was enchanting, wasn't it?
U: I could not show up otherwise. I could get a break next day because I worked all night. Other excuses I also took advantage of were Buddhist memorial services, wedding ceremonies and critical conditions of my relatives.
S: I think it was the result of cumulative acts you continued. Something that made me happy personally with your action was that you successfully made a technical presentation at AES.
U: That was 2004.
S: Your viewpoint must have sky-rocketed up to another level when you watch the world. From the situation just sitting to watch the stage before this, now you are in the position to make a presentation yourself, your channel will automatically grow as you create more opportunities to do the presentations for yourself. One drop of water will turn into a big river in the end. I think that Mr. Fukada was exactly in the same situation. It was 100th AES Convention in Copenhagen where we visited together. Because his presentation at that time was excellent, various people gradually tried to get in touch with him, and it is reasonable to say that most members of AES know him now.

In Closing
S: Could you give us a word in closing as a leader of the next generation?
U: I came to realize that it dealt only with a part of the sound expression to do the mere mixing. Ben Burtt of Skywalker Sound says; "Each of us has a dictionary of feelings that can bind a specific sound to a specific feeling in one's brain." In order to have the "dictionary of feelings" function, it becomes important to deepen the psychological consideration and to correctly handle the power of expression by the sound. In addition, such programs inevitably rely on the mutual influence between the image and the sound.
In order to produce a program in this way, such abilities are required as the sound design to offer scene development of necessary images when telling the story from the viewpoint of sound expression while being deeply engaged in the program from its scripting stage, the supervision to be able to be persuasive, and the producer-ability of management. I would like to challenge in this area and want to bring up the next generation based on my past experience.

For the twelfth (final) section, to conclude this series, I will talk with Mr. Keimei Asami who has been the teacher in my life who triggered me to shift my views from NHK to the inside and outside of the country.



Uchimura, Kazutsugu
1982: Joined Sapporo Video Production. Worked on mixing, sound design, enitre production technologies, including those facility and design for programs' location prodcutions, relay broadcasts, and postproductions.
1995: Joined Digital Egg as Chief Mixing Engineer and engaged in the sound design and mixing of commercials, documentary and drama programs, music, VP and others.
1997: Completed a 5.1 surround MA room specialized for the DVD production first in the nation for domestic video productions, and was involved in variety of surround productions.
1998: Joined NHK, now belong to program technology development in Contents Technology Center, Broadcast Technology Station. Mainly in charge of sound design and mixing of documentary programs such as "NHK Special".
For these past several years, engaged in a lot in international co-production and worked on program production and international collaboration corresponding to various formats.
2004: A paper "5.1 Surround Sound Productions with Multi-format HDTV Programs" presented in 117th AES Convention in San Francisco.
In addition, produced a 22.2ch surround program "Planet Earth with Full of Lights" for World Exposition Aichi.
2006: Won IBC Award with Super High Vision software shown in IBC Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Major works
"HeatBeat", SlGGRAPH93 Electronic Theater exhibition
"People Handing Down Ainu Culture" (1993), Mainichi Movie Contest Minister of Education Prize in the documentary film section
"Revived Bird of God" (1994), Grand Prix of TV section in Love Earth Campaign by Japan Commercial Broadcast Federation
A commercial sound design for "Another Movie Theater" (Sony, 1997), the first 5.1 surround theatrical commercial in Japan.
"Grandpa's Ladder" the first prize in Entertainment Section (Astrolabium Award) in 12th International High Vision Imaging Festival
"The Life Story of Rice", Basel City Prize Grand Prix 2000 in EBU/SSR International Educational Program Contest
"NHK Special: Space - A Grand Journey to the Unknown", Minister of Education Prize in 12th Science Technology Imaging Festival, and Science Broadcast Takayanagi Memorial 2001 Award

Recent works
China-Japan international co-production, "Chamagudao - A Way to the Sky"
UK-Japan international co-production, "Super Volcano" (BBC)
US-Japan international co-production, "People Who Were Robbed of the Mother Country:
A Record of Forcible Escort of Japanese in Central and South America"
US-Japan international co-production, "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home"

2006.11 Broadcast Technology

Part 12: Special Interview with Mr. Keimei Asami >>>

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April 10, 2011

The Road to Surround – Part 10: Steps To Surround School-shed and the Next Generation

By. Mick Sawaguchi


George Massenburg V.S. Surround-shogun(?) 2007-2-27

Up to the last section, I talked about our activity for expansion and enlightenment of the surround sound world as "Surround Crusaders". I will describe this time mainly on the thought of people gathering in my "Surround School-shed" regarding how to convey the above issue to younger creators as a concrete example.
The Surround School-shed started in September, 2003, and takes place once a month in my home-studio in Mitaka aiming to form a workshop of three hours by surround producers then hot and in frontline carrying out a lecture and a production demonstration about the way of thinking, concrete examples, themes, and challenges. In case the participants exceed the capacity depending on the subject, I have someone offer a studio or a showroom in Tokyo and cater a "Surround School-shed" there.

The Start of Surround School-shed Emitted from My Home Studio
When I was in charge of surround seminars and workshops, I often heard voices from participants about the opportunities or physical places where they could learn surround production regularly. This may be an outcome of the desire to experience and gain the real world of practical production in parallel with their scientific study, and also the thought to distinguish themselves with a different skill set from others in the earlier stage to appeal their superiority in the business aspect.
I strongly felt this type of tendency in foreign countries in particular. In the surround workshop that I made in the AES Convention of 1996, a large number of participants lined up in front of the platform after the session to get a copy of my various surround miking information I showed. As I could hardly cope with them on the spot, they filled me with their address and I air-mailed to each of them a copy later, but it was only one person who wrote me back a thank-you letter! With regard to this type of things, there exists a considerable gap in their behavior and the way we Oriental people would express their appreciation. I wonder if they consider it unnecessary to express another appreciation by return once they thanked me on the spot.
With above all these things, I wanted to establish an environment that enabled me to organize private workshops regularly someday in my home. In spring, 2000, we decided to move to Mitaka city, and incidentally planned to build a long-cherished home-studio. Equipment were gathered for surround production environment little by little shifting from a temporary stereo setting, and finally completed in 2003 through 3 years of effort. The studio concept was "how far I could express my feeling only with a DAW and a keyboard without a mixing console". (It was a great challenge judging from my sincere respect for the sense of faders and knobs.) It very much arose for the room size consideration, but the essential reason was because I wanted to have the middle age generation including myself experience and understand the level of future computer environment as a tool to use. I chose for DAW a product of Swiss Margin Technology called Pyramix. It began to be used in foreign countries at the time particularly in European classical music productions, and I found its sound quality was quite straightforward. Its expansibility managed to cover the latest needs as a system such as from SD to HD imaging, mixing of DSD recordings, and the high bit sampling.
(Despite the fact that there was another DAW that already was gaining the position of industry-wide standard in the market ...)


Picture 1: My home studio in 2000 to support stereo only


Picture 2: Completion of long-waited construction of surround facility

Collecting equipments was pretty much done in 2003 for sufficient environment, and I decided to finally start “the surround School-shed”. However, there was nothing but practice without knowing the mechanism of publicity or the PR activity. I only considered the followings at the start:

• Words of mouth would spread to some people as this effort continues.
• Ask some surround friends I know for a lecture.
• Accumulate valuable contents steadily and faithfully that participants find truly instructive.
• Avoid the system for exaggerated organization or authoritative meeting, but to form a free structure where the people who want to study can participate with their own intention and also can leave anytime when they lost the interest or consider they have learned sufficiently.

As the seminars tended to be indigestive under the conventional format because of limited time, I allocated 3 hours for the lecture and the demo, and taking this opportunity, I arranged an "after hours" cross-industrial social gathering where participants bring their own drinks in a BYO style while my wife prepared just something to bite.

I asked the first session to the expert Akira Fukada for a lecture with the subject of music surround recording and mixing that many people were very interested. The publicity was spread through friends and relatives, and the number of participants in this first seminar was seven which looked exactly like a School-shed. The session proceeded around Mr. Fukada with copies of exhibits.
One of very first participants, Kayoko Kimura, saxophone player, later played an active role to promote my School-shed, and even introduce my School-shed activity in her own Internet community. (Much appreciation!)





Picture-3: September, 2003. The start of first surround School-shed session (top), and the participants in the second, the third, the fourth sessions (downward)

While I held the sessions regularly, participants themselves spread the words to bring new participants next time, and this community grew gradually. Depending on the subject, applications to participate came beyond the capacity of my house occasionally, and securing the new meeting facility was one of the next challenges. In 2002, I could get to know Mr. Suzuki of Marantz through the "Home Theater Event" held in Shinjuku Keio Plaza hotel sponsored by Monthly New Media, and he kindly offered me their show-room in Ebisu. Mr. Suzuki had been in charge of surround installations in U.S.A. for many years, and was one of people who wishes to spread surround in healthy form in the home in Japan as well. In their facility, it was fully equipped to our convenience, and 30 to 40 people could join. I was able to begin the catered Surround School-shed in this way. There was a suggestion by Mr. Seigen Ono who joined me to lecturer in 2003, and he uploaded the content digests every time on the web. "It's unfortunate if this ends only with participants. We should report the content every time as we can use my Saidera site." My need soon expanded beyond the borrowed home page in Saidera site, and I felt the serious need for a dedicated "Surround School-shed Home Page". However, I had neither the skill of the home page production nor the know-how. I tried various applications to see the ways in each program, and decided to use Dreamweaver with some advice from an expert. From here was a hardship ... just as hard as the road to surround!

School-shed Home Page Opened - The Growing Circle of Surround People
A customer of my wife's live house Unamas in front of Mitaka station extended the support who was a professional designer/illustrator. I took the lesson for beginner's class and asked for the entire design of my homepage at a bargain price. This completed the look of my web.


Picture-4: Surround Terakoya (School-shed) HP top page
http://surround-terakoya.jp/

Now what should we do with the report of each session? I hoped to rotate around the participants by assignment, but because everybody was busy, the reports tended to delay, and we faced difficulty in timely uploading the topics for a while. Sorry to say this, but if you look at my web page, there are many holes in the early days. As 2005 was the year of my retirement, I could have more free time and I updated the reports more timely using tape recording of articles occasionally with pictures of activities.
Other than reports, I upload my archives of skills and know-hows about surround production, information and the latest trends from overseas, and surround content production reports in the section titled Mick-News, and also upload example music that look inspiring to students as Recommended Software. A strong reinforcement appeared this year for this. It was Mr. Ishii of Otaritech who was a great surround music fan and collected some 200 titles, and he introduced to us among them those useful to listen to as reference.

A careful management of personal information became essential for compliance, and the proper contact-management on e-mail basis looked burdensome, and thus I added a BBS in my home page. This is the site that Mr. Yasumatsu, illustrator, participating the School-shed introduced me to. My intention was for everybody to exchange comments openly and freely in this place, but this is not functioning as expected. After all, e-mail seems most convenient to exchange opinions in messages, but at the same time it is delicate because a lot of open contact information is in the risk of spams these days.

Mr. Mitsuzuka is a shakuhachi player active in the traditional Japanese music group called TONE who was interested in surround performance for a long while, and visited our School-shed. His desire was realized in the autumn of 2006 in the form of DVD-A to be released. Other young generation artists and engineers also steadily experience and acquire the world of the surround sound. They experiment and produce a demonstration for themselves, and their efforts will soon be fruitful. A young engineer/musician, Ichiro recorded his first piano-solo concert in April, 2006 and brought it to our School-shed for a demo. It is delightful to see some participants recently brings their demo pieces saying "let's listen to my latest work" which generates an atmosphere of the School-shed not being one-sided passiveness.


Picture-5: The catered Surround School-shed at Sona

In addition, the members to travel long-distance to participate such as Toyama and Osaka are increasing, too. I now hope that School-shed branches pop up voluntarily here and there in many places, then the circle can expand further. In foreign countries, such an activity tends to turn into a business immediately, but I think that it may be the secret of perdurability that we run it relaxingly in the NGO style. (Naturally the reality side of reason is that I am not so good at business.)

Many invited lecturers came to talk voluntarily, and I learned this type of approach from friends in foreign countries. In fact top professionals think that once one has built a certain level of position in the industry, he has responsibility to hand his philosophy of life down to the next generation. Because the idea that unpaid devotion is his own honor is commonly penetrated, such an activity is often administered by a celebrity, and thus the circle can spread. Probably it may be due to the Christian view of the world. While I held a session on an interested theme every month, the exchange of opinions by the School-shed members heatedly swelled on the theme around present conditions of the music industry and the surround production by young generations after having Mr. Takada, Chief Engineer of JVC Victor Aoyama studio make a demo and a talk in the spring of 2003.
I quote here some e-mails exchanged at that time.

1. Regarding the path toward spreading surround:
Make people impressed to motivate them to get one. Arrange a surround corner in coffee shops where they naturally and unconsciously experience surround in their daily life. The strongest impact comes without expecting it while they tend to try to be ready if they know it is coming.
Appeal the way to remove the bottleneck when they feel the practical installation is a tough challenge despite that they want to have a surround setting in their room through the experience.
It's pricing. Ideally speaking, the price range should be comparable to cassette portables, below 30,000 Yen for DVD-Video system, or below 65,000 Yen for a system with DVD-AUDIO/SACD player. I think that surround package systems are available for less than 30,000 Yen, but many of them may not deliver sufficient quality low frequencies with such 5-channel speakers. Hopefully, it would be nice if they reproduce signals as low as 80Hz ...
So I think the third issue has come close to the reality. Then how can we deal with the first and the second after all? Anyway, until one experiences it, it remains as "the pie in the sky", so I want to have them try to find how "delicious". Being a person myself who ate a pie and was fascinated with its deliciousness, I really wish that this attractive fact is extended to other people in the world.

2. I may have expressed this repeatedly already, but musicians strive for not only ideas of compositions and arrangements but squeezed wisdom that would allow them to step out from the present condition, and I think that Surround School-shed is the perfect place for them to exchange their thoughts. People from various fields gather to openly voice their opinions and contribute in mutually present ideas. I really appreciate that I can participate in such a community every time. As in the previous e-mail, the lecture of Mr. Tomita covered from composition to final mix throughout, and above all it was the class to consider how you could make your own composition valuably fit in the music media and penetrate it to listeners. Perhaps no music colleges offer such lessons, and it was truly indispensable four years that money cannot buy. In addition, we learned here that the music that has assumed surround from the stage of composition bears a significant meaning and power. We composers without a support in our back must find a method that replaces the present for the next. I hope it can be found under the key-word of "surround to get popular".

3. Those who have surround environment around me (business partners, relatives, acquaintances) may exceed 30%. In each different home environment, people think and tweak ideas, and enjoy this process apparently. On the other hand, the lack of contents is disappointing, music in particular!
As you know, almost all movies are produced in surround. Surround is the standard format of the DVD, and even delivery formats cope with surround. Even NTT indicates their great expectation in the future Windows Media Player with surround (http://flets.com/square/51ch/51ch_what.html), and 30% of PS2 users enjoy games with surround. The situation continues to be improved. I feel the rapid growth of surround compared to five years ago.
How long did it take for stereo to penetrate in the home environment during its growing stage? I guess when the consumers bought or replaced a radio or a television set, the stereo feature was almost automatically found in the product. In contrast, the introduction of surround is subject to the consumer's choice. The playback environment varies and I wonder if it was same in the time of stereo?
Let's involve record company A&R. As for my working colleagues, surround is already a requirement. Pasting still pictures animation files along with audio within the DVD-V specifications is quite enjoyable. Let's stimulate the music industry more than ever through the .

Those were the topics discussed through e-mails for a while! In addition, some members wanted to hear the talk by Mr. Isao Tomita and I sounded him on its possibility through Mr. Fukada, then we received from him a willing consent in 2004. The actual session and the social exchanging opinions were very much swelled discussing the theme of "the relation of recording industry and retailers". The relation between the art and the business lives with a tangle any time. Having enjoyed the atmosphere at that time perhaps, Mr. Tomita told me "I will participate in the school as a member because I liked it", and has been a regular member thereafter. In addition, as he had had a master class in Shobi Music School, some students of his such as Mr. Nojiri and Mr. Oshima came to participate, too. When the composer who considers the space expression in the stage of composition gains presence in the world, a true surround sound space will be realized, and it rightly triggers the next generation music. Mr. Nojiri has already released 2 DVD-Audio albums of his own work in surround music.

Lecturers from Foreign Countries
Mr. Kobayashi of Sanken Microphone has been doing overseas business for a long time and said "we would want to invite lecturers to this Surround School-shed from foreign countries some day. Let's plan an opportunity for organizing it." And a chance unexpectedly came in 2005. Mr. George Massenburg sent to Mr. Kobayashi his surround recording sound source and a document with his recording philosophy for the School-shed members. Shown below is the part of his introduction:

An introduction to my work by George GML
To all of my friends in Japan, and also to one of my oldest and dearest friends, Minoru Kobayashi, but especially to my mentor and spiritual guide, Mick Sawaguchi, a master of all things audio.
Looking back over my work, I think I do the best job with acoustic instruments. One of my best-known records is The Trio, with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris, and it's basically an acoustic record. Why I do this well I don't know? Maybe I believe that an acoustic instrument - in its complexity, responsiveness and huge dynamic range - provides more of an opportunity to convey emotion and also the underlying story of a piece of music.
Or maybe it's because extracting a performance on an acoustic instrument is such an arduous, demanding endeavor that the musicians you meet are... well, better and smarter.

In the received sound source was a very impressive performance by a blues guitarist called J. Randy that realized spacious music perspectives. The recording was made in Capital Studio, and according to the data, the formation was purely acoustic strings of ten players laid out in the shape of a circle around J. Randy. For surround, four SANKEN CO-100K microphones were used, and his loving acoustical music wrapped the surround space to enchant all the members listening to this.
Later on, there was an opportunity for Eliot Scheiner to visit Japan on December 6, 2005 because he won "Expertise of the Sound" award, so I sent him a request to lecture in our School-shed on 7th following the award ceremony the day before while he was in Japan. He delightedly accepted it and spared approximately 1 hour 30 minutes in the afternoon despite his tight schedule to return home from Narita, and talked earnestly about his own music and why he did surround. Because it was a very stouthearted message regarding music and surround expression, I sincerely recommend you to read it in my School-shed homepage.


Picture 6: Document from George Massenburg


Picture 7: With Eliot Scheiner, December, 2005

In April 2006, I got an e-mail from W. Woszczyk, one of my AES pals and music department professor of McGill University in Montreal, Canada informing me of his staying in Japan for a couple of months, and I automatically invited him to lecture.


Picture 8: Catered surround School-shed at Onkio Haus, May, 2006


Picture 9: Pleasant exchange of opinions after the lecture, June, 2006


Picture 10: The latest catered surround School-shed in July, 2006 at Marantz

Studies of surround dimensions were active in this university, and we had him talk about height relations and immersive sensation of sound. In the wine party after the lecture, he praised the youths in Japan studying surround eagerly as their life work, and expressed that Japan was the exact field of his surround researches.

Japanese Surround Prize Foundation One Day...
I also want to promote a composition competition or an award as the gateway of such young composers devoted to surround. I want to deliver the process in which we bring up the young musicians to compose music with surround from their very beginning and provide them an opportunity to be recognized in the world from Japan. There are a lot of such examples historically as current Academy Award, Grammy, Cannes Film Festival, Tchaikovsky and Chopin competitions. However, we can see none that clearly brings surround as a subject anywhere, and I am eager to build a global situation for cultural creativity, especially form Japan. Furthermore, I think that it is my duty to introduce the thought of such artists to the world and with the advent of high quality networking, a development of some new business models would be possible.
The active efforts by Seigen Ono and Octavia Fine NF are the pioneers in package media, and in the foreign countries are sprouts of Nexos, PENTA-TONE, DMP, Telarc are Chesky producing surround titles, and in this year, a small label offering surround recordings of eastern European classical performance called Lipinski became visible. I think that it is important to offer high-quality contents contrasting to enjoy music anywhere with a mobile DAP.

This series proceeded quickly and now leaves only two more times. For the remaining two sections, I plan to introduce some thoughts and hints that I collected through my encounters with seniorities and younger people in the form of interviews.

2006.10 Broadcast Technology

Part 11: Special Interview with Mr. Kazutsugu Uchimura >>>

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April 9, 2011

The Road to Surround – Part 9: Surround Crusaders - to drive surround grow

By. Mick Sawaguchi

From "GIVE" to "TAKE"
The desire grows to involve other people and expand the circle of those motivated, as we continue surround production. I told before that the information is "give and take", and it is very important to deliver the experience and the know-how we acquired to others in order to maintain an equal viewpoint each other. While I compiled the various production examples that we produced from 1987 to around 1990 (including other companies), I thought "cannot we deliver this to abroad?" There are undoubtedly some people who struggle with similar surround productions in other countries, and they might be hoping to exchange the production know-how each other. So I translated mine into English and handed them to Mr. Fushiki of Dolby Tokyo to see if Mr. Mead in their SF main office finds any possibility to it.
I thought that it would be nice if we manage to report them in the professional MIX magazine or in some trade journal. The answer came from Bill who read the content. “How about you present it for yourself?” Coincidentally, there is a joint AES/SMPTE Conference titled "the TV broadcast sound for the future" in Detroit in 1991. A technical presentation? That should be it! The chance has come to realize what we wished to shift myself some day from the listener's side to the other side running a presentation to the audience.
Because this was my very first experience, I did not have a slightest confidence to cover entire 20 minutes myself, so Mr. Fushiki did the introduction, and then I presented our activities about surround productions with Dolby matrix system in Japanese broadcast environment.


Picture 1: AES/SMPTE joint conference hand-out, Detroit in 1991

The encounter with people rightly says a destiny, and the Chairperson in charge of this conference was Wieslaw of McGill University, Canada who later became Chairperson of AES in 2007. Furthermore, the Chairperson for the paper section of "surround sound" was Tom Holman, and among presenters was Bob from Shure, now in charge of AES T.C. who brought the theme titled “the new development of surround in home”. Shure's paper involved a progressive concept to improve Dolby Surround with a flat response for both front and rear without the band limiting. In addition, I had heard the news beforehand that a postproduction called GTN in local Detroit introduced the SSL network system. I asked Mr. Asano of SSL Japan for the contact, and then Jey Scott, the mixing engineer at GTN, visited our AES meeting place during the session and I managed to visit their studio. His studio was also experimenting the production of Dolby Surround behind the scene. Scott told me that he had learned of my presentation about the Japanese surround production situation and was interested to hear so timely, and our conversation consequently brought him to our surround family member. The surround monitors of this postproduction studio were placed on the floor surprisingly with the arrangement to radiate aiming the engineer's seat diagonally. Everybody was groping everywhere at that time. Being the first experience, my essential presentation exceeded by five minutes, and the chairperson Tom cautioned me with the bell to "be breaking off", so it was not an elegant start. What I considered as my next theme at that time was how to prepare and execute a presentation skillfully that would not make listeners bored.


Picture 2: After the first technology presentation with Mr. Mead and Mr. Fushiki of Dolby

Not being my native language, it took me ten years to get to such a level in English. A digression but the first occasion that I managed to make the audience laugh was the surround workshop in AES L.A. Convention in 1996 where I spoke to them in the beginning to "convince your boss is your first task to get a surround sound".
The audience must have expected some sort of know-how such as equipments, mixing technique or miking placements on the theme of "what was necessary to let surround succeed", then it goes like "the first thing to do is to persuade the boss" which was probably unconciously acceptable. When I left the meeting room after the session, a lot of people around there talked to me expressing "it was interesting".

Surround Crusaders Go Action!
I wrote in the previous section that I felt the need for standards of the acoustic designs regarding studios to support surround. It was in the activity of HDTV-MSSG for the period of 1992 through 1995. In a working group, we investigated and experimented where and how different the acoustic design would be in comparison to that of 2ch stereo, and what are the important factors in two different environments; a small studio of about 50 sq meters and medium-size studio of 100 sq meters. We announced this result in various occasions in Japan and abroad. We asked Professor Yoshikawa whose role was HDTV-MSSG Representative to present the complete summary in No. 100 AES Convention in Copenhagen in 1996. The member list is shown here (figure 1).


Figure 1: Organization and members of HDTV multichannel sound study working group

I think that you can see the working group gathered colorful variety of people as the member. In fact, this was the time I started the pilgrimage of "Surround Crusaders" with Akira Fukada. Let's talk about the circumstances. In 1990's, High Vision experimental broadcasting started as previously described, and it became possible for us to broadcast various programs in 3-1 format. In the entire world, there were some broadcast programs in Dolby Surround matrix, but it was only in Japan to have broadcasts in HD and also in 3-1 format.

If you ask what the foreign people show respect for, it absolutely comes down to the fact that you did something that nobody else has accomplished". No matter how trivial it is, they would pay great respect to the originality even if it did not result a successful track in the business. The reason why European people can still maintain some initiative globally is, I think, because they carry a solid confidence in themselves for creating the model and the way of thinking even if the resultant business profit is gone to U.S.A. If we always pay our attention to this point, originating information from Japan will be more active. In such a point of view, the fact was a truly pioneering attempt that we broadcast a program called "Singing Stage" produced weekly in live from NHK Hall in 3-1 discrete surround for HD and in Dolby Surround matrix terrestrial general TV service.

There were some examples in U.S. broadcasting surround programs live constantly, but very simply with standard definition NTSC image and one additional audience mic feeding surround; a rational American idea that rear suffices with only one mic because the format is 3-1. They declare that they make 70% of programs in surround in the recent digital sound broadcast such as HD-Radio and XM radio, but the most of them use an "Up-Mix" encoder that converts normal stereo program into surround. They can still appeal it as surround broadcast. NHK Hall facilities including the console, the production system and the monitoring environment did not support surround at that time, but we made efforts to arrange transmitting 2 separate mixes regularly on the air, which should be considered quite advanced. I proposed to Mr. Fukada to announce it in the AES and as his application was accepted, we decided to make a trip together. At this time, our presentation regarding Composite Mix, a simultaneous production method of 3-2/3.1/stereo that we developed in the production of "Cry of August" and "The Last Bullet" HD dramas was accepted. Anyway, an extensive presentation in a foreign country was for me the first experience (because in 1991 we shared one), and as for Mr. Fukada it was the very first time. But I think that the turning point of your life starts where you make up your mind to "go ahead!" I still remember the voices clearly that we spoke loudly, both of us, after the arrival at our hotel in Copenhagen to rehearsal our presentation by going through the manuscript in English until midnight.
In our joint presentation afterwards taking the opportunity of conferences and conventions at AES, IBC, Korea KOBA, Chinese ISS, I discussed the surround-sound design while Mr. Fukada presented demos and papers about music surround. As a result, it formed a group of friends and old familiar faces who came to listen to us every time, and the current surround family connection has been established, and the circle expanded by itself throughout U.S.A., Europe and Asia. I think it was because our presentation was always comprehensive with refreshing demos, and prepared an abstract that served as a valuable document.


Picture 3: In charge of surround session Chairperson in AES N.Y. in '97.
"FUKADA-TREE" was announced for the first time in this Conference by Akira Fukada.



Picture 4: The surround pilgrimage by Mick-and-Akira continued sharing a room to stay

There was another side story to it. During the period we sent our entries and participated in accepted conferences, we were cheered and supported by our workplace, but the situation gradually developed for us to receive requests from friends in overseas to "give a lecture in so-and-so conference next time". Then the logic of the organization "why the same two must go every time" came sticking out. Therefore we stayed in a shared room to save expenses, but overseas people seemed interpreting we were in a special relation if two men always stay in a same room. It was an inconvenient rumor. Mr. Fukada must be feeling relieved now that we are in separate companies! I appreciate him for his patience for such a long time.

How to make a presentation easy to understand - "Gripping" is the key.
Let's talk about the presentation. People who produce contents like us in foreign countries and particularly in U.S.A. tend to prepare nothing for a presentation but tell whatever topics that pop in their mind, and then play some commercial SA-CD or DVD-A available in the market. (Researchers in university and manufacturer however do know the need to prepare a splendid PowerPoint.) They might be always busy, but we seldom see a PowerPoint, a careful and intuitive explanation or a demonstration. In contrast, Mr. Fukada's presentation is always popular and applauded because his session is very carefully structured to analyze exactly what the participants want to understand. In this situation we Japanese indeed create a situation to "offer". I think that this is a result of steady, cumulative efforts of our progressive idea to "step forward" as was conceived in 1996.

It was 1996 when the project was launched to examine next generation audio as post-CD formats in Japan Audio Society. Through this activity, a report was submitted by a project called ADA in 98, and at that time I was in charge of Surround Working Group with Mr. Yukio Takahashi who was then in Denon. The project studied the entire process from production to reproduction environment at home, and set forth a clear direction-setting of SA-CD and DVD-Audio. We also made a surround demo and visitors' survey during Audio EXPO 1998 held in Tokyo Big Site in this opportunity by borrowing a corner of the show floor. The result here was quite interesting, showing an even split between surround-oriented and 2ch stereo-oriented groups while both of them looked into higher quality. In addition, regarding "the media in hope", the result showed that the digital broadcasting in surround followed the package media. The audio business was then said hitting a plateau for a long while, and my thought to make a breakthrough to it was a repeated effort to have the consumers experience the combination of superior imaging and sound. Audio is closely bonded with human relations and I sense that it can be cultivated by steady and continued hands-on activities.

In our Surround Crusaders' effort, the next challenge was how to run a long enough presentation enjoyably. The main concern of a technical presentation is how you tell your story and conclusion with efficiency and clarity within the limited time of normally 15-20 minutes. However, in the field of workshop or a hands-on seminar, you will be required to be responsible all by yourself for around 90 to 120 minutes. For the entire time, you will proceed with your own rhythm and structure, and you must assemble the content to make the audience find useful without being bored. To improve your skill for this, there was nothing but experiencing variety of similar lectures as a lesson and see things like unexpected development to be enjoyed by watching the participants' reactions.
Such an opportunity came true in the first AES Surround Conference in 2001. It was the very first attempt for AES for their conference to feature surround as the single only subject, and the meeting took place in a town called Elmau, Germany near the Swiss border. I was responsible for a workshop of 90 minutes regarding the surround production of radio drama there. It was actually a part of workshop of three hours jointly proposed with Florian of Austria Broadcast Association who planned to give a lecture regarding the production of documentary programs in surround.
The skill of the sound design that I cultivated through radio drama productions greatly served me in how to structure the PowerPoint and the demo without making the audience bored. In other words, the fundamental scenario structure of introduction, development, denouement and conclusion has the common value in the presentation and the mix not to bore the audience but modulate their excitement. When 90 minutes' session was safely over receiving big applause, the sense of this achievement was indescribably large and it formed a big confidence in me while recalling the night in Copenhagen reciting the manuscript repeatedly until midnight.


Picture 5: the first AES Surround Conference in Elmau, 2001

I give you some hints in order to avoid getting too nervous in such a situation. Let's think about an opening episode that brings a smile among the audience and yourself as well. Once you achieve a relaxing atmosphere here, the process afterward will move smoothly. It is said that the human beings emit "aura", and when you yourself in fact is in tense in your talk, the aura transmits to the listeners, and the entire atmosphere of the meeting room gets stiff. It leads to the worst as the session continues in the stiff mood and end resulting no gains each other. It often helps to talk as you observe a few eyes of the audience. Also if you see someone you know in the audience, you may try to involve them asking for their advice or knowledge on the topic. It may calm the air of the place and also work as a kind of lip service. The younger generation people seem better at doing such things.
One good example is Mr. Hamasaki of NHK Institute of Technology who carries a definite skill to always make the audience laugh in his speech. If I may tell you this, as many AES participants are already familiar, "the sweet spot of surround" is one of his popular presentations. Jeff of DTS really loves it. It says when one pursues the critical sweet spot, he will get on one's back inevitably, and another one will get on his back, and on and on showing an illustration of tortoises across the generations of father, child, grand-child, and the meeting place gets in a complete laughter.

Leading the "surround production handbook" publication
A conference is held on a specific theme and people sharing the same goal gather there and often discuss all night, therefore the acquaintances, exchanges of seminars and conversations about know-hows eventually work as a good opportunity to evangelize and expand surround itself.
A masterwork that I considered as a step of education and enlightment was to publish a production guidebook for everybody in this business. This idea welled up in about 98, and I thought I should make it to cover a wider genre as much as possible by asking surround friends in various countries to participate in offering some know-hows rather than doing it by myself alone. In the beginning, I considered to find some sponsor while the writers would cover only printing costs under voluntary participation, and issue free distribution in English and in Japanese gradually through some events. Several people who read my proposal responded me to join if we found a publisher to buy the project because it appeared to them a free distribution of such valuable contents was too much. While we found a prospective sponsor, we started looking for a publishing company to negotiate. I was introduced to a candidate, Focal Press in England, and submitted my conceptual proposal.
It was some lesson for me again. For this to proceed, they requested a very logical proposal that contained such factors as the purpose, expected readers and mutual gains, who would be responsible for proof-reading, the cost consideration and so on. I will show you below my message when I asked my friends for writing an article in the project, for your reference. Here it writes, "Let us gather the know-hows and the wisdoms that we managed to understand for the people who will be enlightened to do surround in the future. This is Surround Aid."
Then manuscripts began to gather gradually, and it consequently took me three years to complete collecting them. What I felt at that time was that American content producers tended not to want to display their know-hows. On the contrary, Europeans seemed finding a good value in writing, and fearlessly sent me their manuscripts even if they were only a few pages of content with know-hows not sufficiently accumulated yet.


Picture 6: Surround Production Handbook, Japanese/Chinese/Korean versions that gathered various know-hows

In the end, the English version was not realized. It was mainly because Tom Holman published a book of similar subject sooner. However, in 2001 the Japanese version Surround Production Handbook was published by Kenrokukan Publishing, and then Chinese and Korean versions followed later. I did not ralize the actual reaction at that time, but when I happened to be invited to lecture about surround in Asian Sound Forum in Guangzhou, China in 2004, many engineers there showed the Chinese version of Surround Production Handbook to my surprise saying that it was their Bible. Through this book, they were able to have the entire overlook of the surround world. It was a very encouraging event. Because the production know-how kept evolving at the stage of 2006, I want to start the second edition adding some new writers.


Picture 7: First surround seminar in China, Guangzhou, 2004



Picture 8: Second China surround seminar, Jinan, 2006


Picture 9: The booklet of Third AES Surround Conference in Sweden

2006.9 Broadcast Technology

Part 10: Steps To Surround School-shed and the Next Generation >>>

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