Spatial Audio: For Creators

 

For Creators

When it comes to sound beyond stereo via headphones, the games industry is way ahead. The rest of the audio world can, and will, learn a lot from the gaming world. Having sound not only from the front and sides but also above, behind and below, means looking at certain elements of the production chain slightly differently. From a recording POV, not a massive amount needs to change, in that a mixture of close and ambient micing is still needed to create a satisfying mixture of presence and ambience.

Having said that, there is an opportunity to expand to the sense of spatialisation in a recording. This can be achieved via dedicated microphones known as ‘Ambisonic’ models which capture a spherical 3D scene from a single point. (Check out mics from Sennheiser, Soundfield, MH Acoustics and Core Sound.) You can also use spatial multi-channel microphone arrays (using normal microphones) such as a Hamasaki Square or Equal Segment Microphone Array and panning via ambisonic/object software.

There are three types of audio we need to consider when it comes to SA: Channel, Object and Ambisonic. These aren't mutually exclusive and in some cases all three are used together. Channel based is when the production framework is tied into the reproduction format, for example when we traditionally mix for 5.1 we produce a six channel mix at the end. Object is encoding each of your audio sources independently with positional metadata and letting the renderer at the reproduction side position the audio as best it can to the desired location based on the loudspeaker layout. This format can reproduce audio from mono right through to a full 360 sphere of loudspeakers.

Ambisonic is the full 360-degree sphere and can be captured from a single point via ambisonic microphones or created artificially in post-production. Ambisonics come in two different flavours: FOA (First Order) and HOA (Higher Order). FOA consists of four channels = Omni, left and Right, Front and back, Up and down. HOA means more channels; more channels technically equate to increased spatial resolution and more resolution means better localisation.

Thanks to software by Waves, Facebook, Blueripple, Ambix, G-Audio and Sennheiser (to name just a few) you now have access to create music and sound not only coming from Left and Right, but all around, and that opens the door to some cool sound sculpting options that add a serious sense of space, depth and edge to mixes. We are only getting started, over the coming years there are going to be some mind-blowing mixes created by the most talented musicians, producers and engineers from around the globe. A new dimension of the creative imagination is about to be unleashed.
 

Spatial Recording Equipment & Techniques

Spatial Recording Set-up
Hamasaki Cube
 

Get in Touch

Mirek Stiles

Mirek Stiles

Head of Audio Products
 

Abbey Road Studios

3 Abbey Road
London
NW8 9AY
UK

Please note that Abbey Road is a working studio and business and as such, is not open to the general public for visits or tours. For information on vacancies and internships in the UK, please visit the Universal Music website.