Immersive Audio


Jon Schorah - new TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
i

In 2012, the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign burst onto the scene, initiating a new wave of public interest in sense-enveloping immersive experiences. 5 years later, the consumer reality is mixed with some very public let-downs like Google Glass (which is coincidentally enjoying a re-birth at the time of writing, now as a technical tool in the workplace), and other technologies such as Dolby Atmos® becoming almost commonplace experiences. What does this mean for the audio professional and how is the near future shaping up in 2018?

Now that the initial hype has settled down, it's clear that some immersive experiences fit well as a natural extension of existing technologies, while others require the consumer to embrace new equipment and services, with the latter being somewhat slower to come to practical fruition than the former.

Perhaps the most successful application today is that of movie theatre sound. Generally, the domain of the seasoned professional, with an accompanying budget, it seems that the adoption of technologies such as Dolby Atmos, DTS-S and Auro-3D® has been both rapid, and welcomed by the consumer. While it's true to say that initial production of audio in these formats has been something of a custom set-up, popular editing software is catching up fast and with Pro Tools® now enabled for native 7.1.2 tracks, the process has become much easier. However, there is still work to be done here. Most modern NLE/DAW systems do not support native object tracks, so at the moment the technology remains as an opportunity appealing to the more dedicated or adventurous producer.

If a significant contributing factor to the widespread adoption of immersive audio in the cinema market can be put down to the negligible effort required on the part of the consumer (who doesn't want an improvement for nothing?), then the same factor could explain the somewhat stalled start that appears to have materialized in the gaming market. It could be argued, of course, that game audio has always been object-based and to some extent immersive, in that the sound has been delivered in a manner that reflects the position of the players character on screen. At first inspection, gaming and headset sound and vision would seem to be a perfect fit and initial consumer interest was certainly in this direction. However, mass market adoption, even in this narrow arena has yet to materialize. Reasons for this are open to debate, but cost is a significant factor. Game developers are certainly more than capable of delivering a quality experience, but the cost to the consumer seems to remain elusively high.

360 video on the other hand, is immensely accessible, with viewers needing nothing more than a smartphone or tablet and a pair of earbuds to enjoy an immersive experience for, in most cases, very little additional outlay. Samsung recently released figures that indicated 50 percent of its VR content consumed was in fact 360 video, with gaming actually on the decrease, at around 35 percent. It's easy to produce content for this medium with ambisonic audio getting a new lease of life as the dominant format for producing a fully immersive 3D audio environment. As first order, ambisonic audio is generally employed, precise localization is somewhat difficult. However, in mobile settings, the listening environment is often compromised and the sense of space, even at this level, can deliver a real improvement over stereo.

In between the movie theatre and 360 mobile video lies TV. Here, several factors combine - production, delivery mechanisms and consumer equipment. On the production side, in theory, audio produced in an object-based format will automatically translate to the home environment as the decoders configure the audio to the available speaker arrangement at the set top box. This, however, pre-supposes the availability of an object-based mix. It's still early days, however, the tide is changing with many post-production studios installing 7.1.2 and 7.1.4 rigs in preparation for the inevitable transition away from a channel-based workflow to the more flexible object-based proposition, even as the editing software rushes to keep pace with the demand.

Production pre-dates consumer adoption, but even if an immersive soundtrack is available, the systems needed to replay this have to be in the home there is little to be gained from an immersive soundtrack in a stereo playback environment. New speaker developments, including upward firing technologies that avoid the requirement for ceiling speakers, and specially developed sound bars may indicate a way forward, bringing a true immersive enhancement for the everyday home listener.

What does all this mean for today's audio post-production engineer? With some applications moving forward at high speed and others still in their infancy it can be difficult to know where to invest your time and energy. As with all emerging technological transitions, the key is flexibility. DAW and NLE audio technologies are still catching up with the demands of immersive audio production. Concepts are wide and varied with object, ambisonic, high channel count and binaural audio all enjoying their own application. Within these fundamental choices there are many formats as well as myriad encoding options to deliver the resulting mix to the consumer.

Translating a mix from stereo to a 3D setting itself can be a challenge, as much of the recorded source material is stereo, as are most sound design libraries, digital instruments and FX. New tools are emerging rapidly to support these requirements, including our own Halo Upmix, now available with a 3D extension capable of upmixing to 7.1.2 and ambisonic formats. Tools such as Halo Upmix are now making 3D immersive audio possible within a traditional post-production workflow and DAW/NLE template. The need to configure a complex hybrid system is fading into the past and immersive audio is at the edge of mainstream production for those who need it, where these applications will ultimately take hold in the consumer market still remains to be seen.


Tags: iss127 | immersive audio | dolby atmos | dts-s | auro-3d | oculus rift | nugen | Jon Schorah - new
Contributing Author Jon Schorah - new

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos support by Halo from Nugen Audio at NAB 2017

    7.1.2 Dolby Atmos support by Halo from Nugen Audio at NAB 2017

  • Nugen Audio Loudness Meter, Halo Upmix and Halo Downmix at NAB 2018

    Nugen Audio Loudness Meter, Halo Upmix and Halo Downmix at NAB 2018

  • Nugen Halo Upmix and AMB Updates at IBC 2017

    Nugen Halo Upmix and AMB Updates at IBC 2017

  • Nugen Audio at IBC 2016

    Nugen Audio at IBC 2016

  • Nugen Audio at NAB 2016

    Nugen Audio at NAB 2016

  • Nugen Audio Loudness Toolkit at BVE 2016

    Nugen Audio Loudness Toolkit at BVE 2016

  • Nugen Audio Halo Upmix at BVE 2016

    Nugen Audio Halo Upmix at BVE 2016

  • NUGEN Audio at IBC 2015

    NUGEN Audio at IBC 2015

  • NUGEN Loudness Toolkit at NAB 2015

    NUGEN Loudness Toolkit at NAB 2015

  • NUGEN Audio at BVE 2015

    NUGEN Audio at BVE 2015

  • Nugen Audio at NAB 2014

    Nugen Audio at NAB 2014

  • NuGen Audio at IBC 2013

    NuGen Audio at IBC 2013

  • NUGEN Audio: Loudness Toolkit at NAB 2013

    NUGEN Audio: Loudness Toolkit at NAB 2013

  • Nugen Audio at IBC 2012

    Nugen Audio at IBC 2012


Related Shows
  • NAB 2013 Day 1

    NAB 2013 Day 1


Articles
Taking on a self employed placement year
Joshua Round The idea of being self-employed or freelancing has always been somewhat terrifying for me. There is a level of uncertainty and responsibility that comes with the freedom of being self-employed, the likes of which makes me wonder why I chose to give it a go for my placement year as part of my university course - (BSc) Television and Broadcasting.
Tags: iss133 | placement year | university | student | education | portsmouth | Joshua Round
Contributing Author Joshua Round Click to read or download PDF
Ride along on the Tour de Tech at IBC
Lorna Garrett Finding your way through the halls and aisles of the massive IBC can feel a bit like attempting to complete all 21 stages of the Tour de France — but in far fewer days. But have no fear; your team at Garland is all geared up and ready to show you the best on show at this year's exhibition.
Tags: iss133 | garland | liveu | lu600 | media excel | teracue | wisi | broadcast wireless systems | bws | artel | ibc | Lorna Garrett
Contributing Author Lorna Garrett Click to read or download PDF
Ruth Matos Interview - A Career Unfolds
Ruth Matos We first met Ruth when we employed her as a student to help with our live studio at BVE in 2013. We were struck by her determination, passion and ‘I’ll do anything to help’ attitude. We became friends of Facebook and have since seen her career in the industry develop and unfold. We thought it was about time to catch up and share her inspiring story of where she is now, how she got there and the challenges she has faced along the way.
Tags: iss133 | interview | filmming | career | education | Ruth Matos
Contributing Author Ruth Matos Click to read or download PDF
How todays technology platforms can make AMAZING seem mundane
Bruce Devlin - new Some things never change. It's September and it's time for another IBC. Maybe I'm getting old and maybe I have selective memory about the past, but recently there hasn't been the buzz of years gone by. Sure, as you wander around the vast halls there will be lots of enthusiastic sales people trying to give you the best demo possible, but something has changed and to survive, I believe that vendors and customers need to change too.
Tags: iss133 | ibc | class | vulture | imf user group | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read or download PDF
Perimeter LED screens management
Nicolas Houel Opened in January 2016, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, also known as Groupama Stadium, is the new home of Olympique Lyonnais football club, one of the most popular clubs in France. Since its inauguration, the stadium was a host of UEFA Euro 2016, and was also chosen to stage, among other important events, the 2018 UEFA Europa League Final and football at the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Tags: iss133 | 3dstorm | graphics | groupama stadium | liveexpert | livecg | deltacast | Nicolas Houel
Contributing Author Nicolas Houel Click to read or download PDF