1 September 2016
The release of several 3D/Spatial audio tools recently has been an awesome addition to my ProTools workflow. I’ve had a particular interest in binaural sound and the artificial reproduction of this within a virtual environment since 2009-10 where it was the basis of my MSc in Sound Design dissertation at The University of Edinburgh. It was entitled 3D Sonic Environments and basically involved a subject standing in a blackened room with a head tracking device that I designed and built from an electronic compass (this was 2010 remember, commercial head tracking devices were still just a concept) listening to an abstract soundscape that they could explore by turning their head or moving in the horizontal plane with a Wi controller. The head tracker was linked to the FMOD sandbox via Max/MSP and all the sound design was implemented through FMOD Studio (FMOD designer back then). If you’re interested you can read a bit more about it here. This project really enhanced my understanding of the area but also brought up quite a lot of frustration at the technology and the lack of spatial quality to the playback that didn’t go beyond anything more than EQ’ed panning. So the arrival of the now free to download and use Facebook 360 Spatial workstation (formally BigEars Audio) and Oculus’s 360 Spatializer plugin was really exciting and has allowed me to re-visit old ideas that have laid dormant waiting for such a thing to come along.
So here are a few of my first exploratory steps to working with these tools. I’ve taken a previous project which was mixed for regular stereo playback and reedited/remixed it within a spatial environment on headphones. I was really impressed by the space that was opened up in the mixing sphere, especially with certain environmental sounds like the mountain wind where I felt I could really go to town with panning and movement of the wind textures. Certain spot effects in certain frequency ranges sounded impressive, the goats moving across the distant path and birds flying over were really effective. However, not every effect worked directly and some needed a fair bit of EQ to help sell them.
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