Why You Should Use Spatial Audio for Immersive 360° Videos
360° video and VR are changing the way creators tell stories by placing the viewer in the director’s seat. And when publishers create interactive content, it gives them the ability to break the fourth wall between them and their audience. This is why publishers need to focus on one of the most important — but often overlooked — aspects of 360° filmmaking: how to incorporate spatial audio sound design that maximizes the immersive experience.
What is spatial audio?
Spatial audio, or ambisonics, is a full sphere surround-sound technique that uses a dimensional approach to audio to mimic the way we hear in real life. By channeling the characteristics of sound as it travels through space and time, spatial audio makes 360° video even more realistic.
The Google VR Software Development Kit features an audio-rendering engine that is optimized for mobile VR. The engine simulates the main audio cues humans use to localize sounds via three characteristics: interaural time differences, interaural level differences, and spectral filtering done by our outer ears. In a nutshell, these filters break down how we process sounds coming from multiple directions, levels, and frequencies.
Why is spatial audio important?
Audio can make or break the quality of your video, especially when dealing with 360° and VR. In order to bring these videos to life, you need to take the viewer into an all encompassing sensory experience.
With cheaper headset alternatives like the Google Cardboard introducing the masses to the possibilities of VR, it’s become even more imperative that 360° filmmakers produce top quality content that draws more people in. If your audio is a stagnant stereo track, the VR experience will feel flat, which can leave viewers unimpressed.
On top of that, with these sophisticated sound design techniques, you can direct a viewer’s attention in a 360° video with audible cues. This can be highly effective for controlling the VR environment and driving the video’s message, so that the viewer doesn’t feel lost or confused about what to look at.
How is spatial audio recorded?
When capturing sound in 360°, you need to hire an audio engineer whose setup has a minimum of four audio channels to recreate the surround sound effect. The more audio channels they capture in different angles, the more specific you can get with sound direction and tracking.
With spatial audio technology becoming more affordable and accessible, incorporating it into your 360° or VR has never been easier.
How is spatial audio edited and mixed?
Post-production is where the real challenge emerges. To do a great job, your audio tech will need to have an intimate knowledge of how sound travels through a space to reach the ear.
Multiple softwares are stepping up their audio engines to incorporate spatial audio, such as Reaper, Adobe Premiere, and Waves. But the best thing a sound engineer can do is learn from the pros, like Korey Pereira, who built a sophisticated audio workflow specifically for VR in Pro Tools.
One digital toolkit, dearVR, is closing the gap between audio editing programs and VR design softwares by allowing the user to mix the audio within the virtual realm. Essentially, audio techs can use their VR headsets and gloves as their sound design utensils to mix live within the environment.
If your company is exploring 360° video content, you can maximize its potential by incorporating spatial audio from the start. Your viewers will be blown-away by the experience, and your company will be thought of as a forward thinking content producer. VR is on the rise, but you still have time to shine amongst your competitors.
Want to get more insights into the video production and media industry? Sign up for our newsletter here!
By Jordan Rapaport, Storyhunter Writer