Guten Tag, VR!

A room full of people earing headphones listening to a binaural demo

There was a lot of headphone wearing this convention!

I’m in Berlin again for the first time in 8 years which means three things:

  1. They let me out of Galaxy Studios for a bit
  2. I’ve already eaten far more currywurst than is reasonable
  3. It’s AES time!!!

This week is the 142nd AES Convention and marks my second time attending (my first time was the 139th convention in New York city). It has been great to see some familiar faces including some of my friends from Norway and some of the rerecording engineers that have come into Galaxy during my time there.

This convention is much smaller than the one in New York City; but, there are no shortage of talks, especially in regards to ambisonics, binarual audio, multichannel audio and object based audio. In particular, Avid is showing off their new native Atmos mixing for Protools HD, which includes a heap of features. I have to say, the integration makes it more streamlined and seemingly easier to setup than the Auro 3D plugins; but, I still find Atmos limiting. The restriction to a 48kHz  sample rate and inability to place channel based audio in the top channels in very limiting for immersive music content, which is the greatest strength of Auro. For music, especially in film and games/VR, I strongly feel that Auro 3D is better; however, Atmos definitely has a lot of good applications particularly for broadcast. The fact that it can be rendered at play time to any system setup, and that certain objects can be switched out for user customization is really compelling and there are great examples of that being shown here by the BBC and Radio France in particular. It would be great to properly work with it someday!

Sennheiser also had a lot of talks promoting their new AMBEO line, which includes an ambisonics microphone and the KU 100 binaural microphone/dummy head. Dr. Jörg Sennheiser himself delivered the Heyser lecture, which outlined the journal of audio from mono applications to the modern day and beyond.

In fact, the whole event felt very future leaning, with many talks looking at the trials and tribulations of working with audio for VR, 360 video, and new approaches and applications for binaural recording including broadcast, enhancing descriptive video services, and improving monitoring systems for conductors. It’s started to get me thinking a lot more about when I’m done at Galaxy– I really love working with immersive audio, but the practicality is that it has to work on headphones– there aren’t many people that are able to set up a 9.1 studio in their home. I definitely can’t afford to myself, so if I want to listen to any of my 9.1 mixes again, I’ll need to render it on headphones!

This has all gotten me thinking a lot more about working with 360 video and VR as well. I think it’s time I dig into my computer science background and pull out those coding skills 😉

Cheers,

S.

SoundGirls: Sound System Optimization Training

I feel like I just got to Norway, but I couldn’t pass up a opportunity to meet some fellow sound ladies an hour and twenty minute plane ride away. Women from Denmark, Norway, the UK, Finland, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and myself met up at Amager Bio in Copenhagen for two fun and informative days of Sound System Optimization Training hosted by SoundGirls.org. While most of the attendees were predominantly live sound technicians, I still found a lot of the information useful and applicable to recording work. Particularly, I wanted to learn more about Smaart and brush up on my digital signal processing skills.

Over two days, our amazing instructors Theis Romme and Rasmus Rosenberg walked us through using Smaart and the technical considerations of sound system optimization. We had lots of time to listen and get our hands dirty moving the measurement microphones around the room, adjusting the speakers, changing the EQ and SPL of the system, and seeing how our adjustments affected how we heard music tracks of different styles in different parts of the room. Ultimately, everything was (as it always is) a compromise. There is a never a perfect solution for everything, but you can get pretty close.

I learned a lot in terms of thinking and listening, in particular to phase and how it effects the spread in the room; but, the best part was spending two days with other female engineers. I have never been around so many other women that love audio in one place. We did a lot of talking shop, but also about our unique experiences in the industry. I can’t wait to do it again sometime!

S.

UPDATE: Check out the Soundgirls.org blog post here! http://www.soundgirls.org/soundgirls-sound-system-optimization-workshop-denmark/

Ladies Hacking Night: Making an APC

One group I’ve been seeing news about more and more these days is the VIVO Media Arts Centre here in Vancouver. VIVO hosts some amazing events such as the upcoming Nomadic Streams Festival of Ambient Music, and is also the home of ensembles such as the Vancouver Theremin Orchestra as well as a local resource for equipment rentals and electronic workshops.

In my journey to continue expanding my knowledge in the audio world, I took the opportunity to attend the first ever Ladies Hacking Night at VIVO, where we were given the opportunity to build our own Atari Punk Console (APC) under the instruction of composer and artist Bella McKee.

I had a lot of fun making my kit. It was nice to get my hands on a soldering gun again for the first time in a while. It also was a unique experience to sit in a room of mostly women while talking about audio and electronics.

The kit we used was made by Synthrotek. The APC has three knobs: volume control, frequency, and pulse width. It’s driven by a single 556 dual timer IC. The kit came with two 1/4″ inch inputs for extra fun, but I’ve only installed one as I will be using a small mint case to assemble the final product, something like this:

2015-10-15 20.35.48

Volume pot will be top centre, frequency and width pots on the top of the case on the left and right. On off switch on the left front, 1/4″ output on the left back, 1/4″ input right back, and DC in right front. I will also have a 9V battery pack for potability.

Will finish it off and post a cool demo track with it after I get home from the AES conference in NYC. For now he’s a short demo of some of the sounds I got out of my assembled kit:

Ta for now,

S.