Head of Audio Products, Mirek Stiles talks about the Abbey Road Spatial Audio Forum, a new collective dedicated to discussion and development of 3D sound technology with leading thinkers in the field:
On the 6th December 2017, I had the pleasure of hosting the first Abbey Road Spatial Audio Forum in the Gatehouse Studio. It was essentially a gathering of some of the wonderful people I have met over the last year or so whilst researching Spatial Audio (SA).
In attendance were representatives from broadcast, gaming, film scoring, software engineering, academic research, sound design and of course the Abbey Road recording team. We had a lot of ground to cover in the three hour session.
Topline topics included past failures and current uses of SA, Ambisonics, Object based audio, working with visuals, Binaural rendering, head tracking vs head locked, distribution challenges, terminology and clarification of SA (from both a consumer and creator point of view).
One of the key challenges is demystifying SA in general. With so many great minds in the room, focus was paramount to ensure we dedicated enough time for each topic and covered everything we wanted. We could have talked for hours more; actually some of us did in the Abbey Road bar afterwards! One the most rewarding outcomes from the session was the realisation that we were all pretty much on the same page in general.
The one area which created a lot of discussion and difference of opinions was head tracking. Is it only needed when working with AR/VR? Or is it vital to the spatial experience regardless i.e. can non-visual, music-only SA be head locked and still provide an impressive experience? The argument being that head locked mixes will allow engineers to keep a majority of their standard mix workflow, only using spatialisation tools on elements of the music that can benefit from it.
Up for further discussion… another key point, from a production POV, it doesn’t matter if Spatial Audio is created using Channel, Object, Ambisonics or a mixture of all three, it is irrelevant to the end user. The consumer just needs to know they are listening to something beyond stereo via a convenient playback medium – Headphones or a Sound Bar.
Keep an eye out for a new section of the Abbey Road website dedicated to the SA Forum. There you will able to read about SA in general, the work of the Forum and its various members. Anyway, it’s still early days. There is a lot to learn and discover. It’s exciting stuff!