Immersive Audio

For the last couple years, I have been working with 360 degree video and immersive audio. Basically, my GoPro Fusion has two wide angle lenses that when stitched together give you a 360 degree video. Accordingly, the audio is also 360 degrees, typically referred to as Ambisonic.

One of the features of this type of audio is “headtracking.” As the viewing perspective changes, the audio follows (tracks) the video. You can imagine gaming with a headset on, turning to look at something on the side, and the audio of that event increases in volume. Nifty stuff.

On a recent trip to Tofino, on Vancouver Island, I shot a 360 degree video of a walk along one of the beautiful beaches there. I finally got around to writing a song to attach to the video.

The song was engineered entirely as a 1st order ambisonic recording. So three mic positions — W (omni), X (front to back), Y (left to right) and Z (top to bottom).

Here is a link to the video with ambisonic sound. Notice how the relative volume of the mix changes as you pan around the image. I’m not sold on

I’m not sold on head tracking for music. As different instruments come into focus, it messes with with mix. So, while its amusing, not sure its so great for a song.

To that end, I took the ambisonic mix and generated a binaural mix, stereo but engineered to be more like how our ears actually pick up sound and hour brain processes it. Here is a link to the same video with a binaural mix. In this case, the sound does not move as the image is panned.

Now, that sounds really nice. To me, it sounds more open than a typical stereo mix.

Going forward, I will be engineering the audio I work on using only immersive formats. I am working on one right now that is being engineered and mixed in Dolby Atmos 7.1.2. This is largely a result of the robust support Nuendo 11 has for Atmos in the latest release. So far I am liking it very much. Once I get the song together, I’ll post it here, along with a more complete explanation.

Until then, I’ll leave you with this. It is an orchestral performance in 360 degree video with immersive sound. The audio was recorded using multiple Zylia ZM-1S digital microphones. The video is a promotional made by Zylia to demonstrate their microphones.

Finally, the most famous chord of all time …

… the opening chord of A Hard Days Night has been successfully dissected.

In this radio interview with Randy Bachman on CBC’s Guitarology program, RB talks about meeting Giles Martin, son of George Martin, at GM’s private studio at Abbey Road. In the studio, GM has access to digitized copies of all the Beatle’s multitrack source tapes.

After pondering what he would like to hear, RB is provided with solo’d track by track playback of “the chord”.  When it is all put together, HE NAILS IT!  Give it a listen …

Here is the breakdown he describes:

  • Track 1: George on Rickenbacker 12-string  GCFACG
  • Track 2: Paul on Bass playing D
  • Track 3: John on 6-string xxDADG

The notes being picked up are:  A-C-D-F-G

  • From a G perspective: 1-2-4-5-b7
  • From an F perspective: 1-2-3-5-6
  • From a D perspective: 1-b3-4-5-b7
  • From a C perspective: 1-2-4-5-6
  • From an A perspective: 1-b3-4-b6-b7

Closest thing to call it would be a Dm11 or an F6add9.  Whatever you call it, you can’t make the chord sound properly with only one hand (chording) and one guitar.

What a sound. This is TOO COOL!!

Sound Engineer Humor

One of my favorite sites is, where people, mostly sound engineer types, talk about … gear.  Most of the time, the conversations are about experiences with specific pieces of recording equipment or techniques.  Some can be offbeat and really amusing, like this one — He Is…the Most Interesting Gear Slut!

Basically, assembling all the collected wisdom, knowledge and opinion about gear, talent and luck, and packaging it as hyperbole.  Here are some samples:

  • He mixed the entire Hotel California record in one day on headphones in a room AT Hotel California and then left without checking out
  • Word clocks sync to him
  • He records a whole band perfectly with one mic, in one take, on one track, on tape — and mixes it to surround sound … telepathically
  • He pronounces Moog correctly
  • He’s so forward thinking that the last time he played guitar was tomorrow
  • He can tune a piano and tuna fish
  • He’s won Grammy’s for songs he almost worked on
  • He once wrote a concerto for dog whistle
  • He thought he’d made a mistake once, but he was mistaken
  • He can hear, pan, eq and add effects to the sound of one hand clapping
  • At a lecture, he once uttered, “just do it” and walked off the stage.  Nike tried to sue him for using the catch phrase, but ended up being sued themselves by him as he had already developed that exact shoe style for a song intro that required someone running into a house.  The album was “Nike Runner” and the title song was “Just Do It”.  He did however let Nike keep making the shoe pump that he had invented for the compression effect on that intro. It eliminated sock issues by compressing foot sweat.

… well, *I* think they are really funny. 😎

Ooo Eee Oo Ah Ah

A recording technique that has long been used for interesting and amusing effect is to change the speed of the playback.  Faster would raise the pitch, slower would lower it.  In some cases, artists slowed the tape speed down during tracking to make instrument parts easier to play or to hit higher notes, and then sped up for the final mix. Other times they would adjust the tape speed during mastering to get a sound they liked more.  The timbre of the notes changes.  Guitars played back at even slightly faster speeds sound chimier.  Vocals at slightly slower speeds have a deeper resonance.

One of my favorite Beatle songs, which coincidentally used this technique, is Rain, where the master was slowed down.  The guitars sound sublime, especially that little guitar break at 2:33.

In thinking about the Beatles use of the varispeed technique, it occurred to me that the backing vocals on Magical Mystery Tour sounded like they were pitched upwards.  And indeed they are.  Here are some parts with the final version followed by the slower playback which would have been used during tracking:

On a tape machine, this was easy to do, as you just needed to flip a switch for preset speeds (typically 30ips, 15ips, 7.5ips and 3.75ips), or change the voltage to the capstan motor (varispeed) for continuous increments.  In the digital world, this is, surprisingly, not  straight forward.  Pitch tuning (Autotune, Melodyne, …) allows you exceptional ability to change notes.  But this does not sound the same to me, and more extreme changes result in artifacts that sound bad.  Changing the playback speed for recording or mastering takes a couple of extra steps.

All that to say, as a little exercise, I took a run at Alvin and the Chipmunks, to see what the real voice behind the little critters actually sounds like.  Here is the amusing result at half-speed, from the original 1958 recording of Witch Doctor that started it all for Alvin: