Thursday, May 6, 2021

Immersive Sound: recreating fully realistic environments requires advanced sound technology

interview with Charlie Morrow, MorrowSound

What is immersive sound and why is it important?

We live in a world of three-dimensional sensations. That is how we understand our environment. 3D sound is sound that moves up and down as well as around.

Present life blends the real and the virtual, the home and workplace, the built with the natural world. With sensations we now shape the real and virtual space we inhabit and share.

Close your eyes and scan the terrain. Turn your head. You can see with your ears, hearing the shape of what is above, below and around you. Walk around and you will navigate with your ears. This is echolocation like that used by bats and sea mammals. A news story from Belgium describes a blind young man who claims to hear colors.

Our sound perception immediately detects changes of sound from physical motion, especially vertical motion, or changes in quality, say loud and soft. Sound perception automatically foregrounds moving sounds, especially those from above and below a person, sounds that can warn of earthquakes, lightning and attacks.

Our minds assume that sound comes from given sources and involuntarily size up and track sound sources. The ear is one hundred percent of the time open for our protection and quicker than the eye.

Immersive 3D soundscapes are projected into physical spaces that have sonic personalities. The 3D soundscapes take over the physical space’s acoustics to create stories, memories, control and often improve sound of place.

Live, rendered or streamed, what is an immersive soundscape?

360-degree experiences are built in layers: continuous immersive ambiences, fixed and moving sounds and interactive events.

3D sounds have size and scale, which are fun to manage in production. Story boarding is useful as is mixing to scale.

We create an electronic three-dimensional soundscape with the composite sound from many loudspeakers, each fed with a separate digitally controlled signal. This fully engages the attention and can be mixed with directional speakers sound for localized sound.

Immersive is an alternative to the overhead speaker sound in many airports and restaurants or the sound of stereo speakers at one end of a room. They produce a kind of drapery or sound furniture, to quote Erik Satie.

How about immersive sound for the Oculus Rift VR?

Our sound engine works with game engines to produce continuous changes of perspective and color. You can compose the behavior of virtual sound space and enjoy on headphones or speakers.

How does your company’s product True3D software minimize hardware requirements?

Using off the shelf, same-model loudspeakers, the 3D illusion works with inexpensive as well as high-end devices. True3D software creates immersive three-dimensional soundscapes by delivering digitally controlled sound to a matrix of loudspeakers above and below the heads of listeners.

Because the total effect is atmospheric, ear-level speakers are avoided except where a point source is needed.

Standard devices like mac mini’s, MOTU & RME soundcards as well as plugin for larger systems are specified.

Content can be linear, generative and interactive,  MorrowSound has programmed sound years for hospitals and work places.

How do you handle small and large sound spaces?

The True3D experience is created with 8.1 sound cube audio zones from 8 to 30 feet sides. The zones can be coupled together in larger spaces to create whole-space effects, or can be operated separately to create localized effects within each zone.

What format sound can be played or expanded to 3D?

True3D expands mono, stereo,double M/S,  binaural or 5.1 sources to 8.1 or larger.  Sound can be montaged in 3D or decoded from B Format microphones.

How do you handle prototyping & large scale mixes?

Whether creating immersive sound for the Oculus or zoned sound for physical spaces, we provide prototyping systems.  To make sound believably move through a 300-foot tunnel, one needs to mix at scale.

Why is Immersive Sound important for an attraction owner/designer or museum professional? What does this new technology really do?

Three-dimensional immersive sound environments can scare you, thrill you – give near death experiences like being run over by a locomotive or colliding with a comet. It can sonically transport you to another place, like virtually relaxing on a warm beach while lying in a hospital.

There is also an element of fantasy. It can put you on-stage with the band or behind the controls with the formula one driver. • • •

Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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