Very recently I came across an incredible open source plugin suite developed especially for spatial audio, called SPARTA, developed by Leo McCormack and colleague at Aalto University in Finland. This seemed like a good time then to start approaching composers, artists and other practitioners to field any interest to create content for our KA, both the touring and scalable pop up version, and the semi permanent one we aim to install in London by the end of the year.
As a Reaper user myself, I am so used to being able to work in surround with a close-to -limitless flexibility, that I was frankly shocked by how much harder it is to set up multichannel surround projects in other DAWs like Logic X, or Ableton Live. Logic’s bus constraint limits any easy multi channel work beyond 7.1 and the Max for Live Surround Panner is capped at 8 channels. (I did find a tweaked patch for 16 channels, but neither support the all-important ‘elevation’ parameter).
Because of these limits, the SPARTA suite cannot be used in either Logic, or Ableton, which seriously handicaps our efforts to provide an easily accessible project template for different platforms.
While I have worked in both Logic and Ableton, I have very limited experience with Nuendo/Cubase or Pro Tools, who both appear more flexible and capable when it comes to surround editing, but these are still only some of the better known DAWs, so this is not even close to a comprehensive list.
Is this a problem with a solution, or without, and so not really a problem at all as Marcel Duchamp would have said..?
At present the only solution I can think of, will be to work with a tiered approach; practitioners will initially create work in their DAW of choice, after which the stems, (separate project tracks) are imported into a KA project template in Reaper. Set up properly, and explained well, this should be intuitive and require an absolutely minimal learning curve and little time.
In this scenario, the ‘Reaper’ tier would be solely involved in the spatializing of audio work through placement of sound objects and automation, and the final rendering of the multichannel master file.
The obvious drawback of this will be that decisions about spatial placement and movement are decoupled from the initial creative process, which is maybe fine for some work, but is definitely not fine for other work.
It’s tempting to make working in Reaper a condition of creating KA content, it is a very flexible and super affordable solution after all, but I do understand this is perhaps a big ask that may limit the number of practitioners who feel inspired to make work for the KA. On the other hand, getting to grips with SPARTA will already be an integral part of the process, so how much adjusting to a Reaper workflow really add to this?
This will be a live document as I’m finding out more about what possible through discussions, and if anyone reading this might have any insights into the matter, please do get in touch at [email protected]
In the meantime, the incredible SPARTA suite can be found here: