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Immersive sound: are we ready?

Whether it’s the next generation of soundbar technology, built-in TV speakers that scan and bounce sound off the walls of your living room, 3D spatial audio in VR technology, or simply new immersive methods of mixing for increased headphone listening, it’s becoming hard to ignore just how advanced immersive sound is becoming.

Some of the biggest tech companies and entertainment platforms are starting to realize and lean into the exciting new opportunities that immersive audio presents – and it’s not just changing our blockbuster experiences in cinema. With this technology becoming more high fidelity, more affordable, and more prevalent in our home entertainment devices, we decided to speak with sound design experts around the world and get their thoughts on the technology and what it’s all about. she means for the advertising industry.

In the third and final article in this series exploring immersive sound, experts from Grand Central Recording Studios, HENRYBOY, MassiveMusic Amsterdam, Machine London, Red Apple Creative, Squeak E. Clean Studios, WithFeeling, Gramercy Park Studios and Two AM discuss what industry sound designers and sound engineers need to be ready for the “new normal” of immersive sound – if it is to be achieved at all – as well as to share their thoughts on whether advertisers and the people at home are also prepared for it.

Click here for a collection of all articles in this series.

Bill Chesley

Owner and Sound Designer, HENRYBOY

While I like the potential for immersive audio, it’s not going to be a game changer in the realm of consumer TV applications. Immersion has its place, but believing that a TV will produce the desired effect, a meaningful 360 audio experience, is wishful thinking.

Raja Segal

Sound Director and Co-Founder, Grand Central Recording Studios

Cinema advertising already uses Dolby ATMOS, with brands considering using the space during creation. The launch of SkyGlass is a good example. With sound being key, the promos were mixed in the “HomeEnt” format, allowing us to utilize the format to its fullest – which in turn joined the dots between high quality visuals and sound. Although not right around the corner, immersive audio for advertisers could become the norm in the coming years if advertisers see the benefits, as it will drive the push for technology updates that traditional advertising and social mailing systems may require.

Auke Riemersma

Sound engineer and music producer, MassiveMusic Amsterdam

The entertainment industry strives to produce higher quality content – trying to implement the latest technologies in both video and audio. But history has shown that the public seeks convenience rather than adopting the latest trends. In music reproduction we saw: quadraphonic discs in the 70s, DVD-Audio, Super Audio CDs and 5.1 music in the 2000s – and they all required lots of loudspeakers in the house. But it turns out that people tend to make things smaller and more convenient; listen to music or watch movies and series on your phone, tablet or laptop – using built-in speakers or headphones.

Immersive sound production for headphones and soundbars could be a focus for brands, as long as it fits the product and the immersive experience is part of the campaign. Otherwise, people just won’t notice it. 8D audio was a buzz term for a while, but it’s nothing more than an extremely playful effect on music tracks.

Rowland crest

Senior Sound Designer, machine london

You could say that traditional televisions and worlds are technologically catching up. With the ability to replicate different existing immersive experiences, it is ideal for content that uses immersive audio – this type of work now has more and more spaces in which to exist.

Specifically for sound design, binaural, ambisonic, and handheld surround microphones are readily available to create unique, format-specific audio recordings. With the adoption of Dolby Atmos and Ambisonics audio encoding, we could see the end of “mixed down” stereo TV commercials and commercials with immersive soundtracks seamlessly transferred to immersive TV shows and streams or iOS/Android devices.

David Lazaro

Senior Sound Designer, Gramercy Park Studios

While the audio industry is ready and a wider range of consumers are slowly waking up to the importance of sound, the average listener and advertiser are definitely not. And it’s our fault. Like recent developments in virtual production, advertisers and their agencies need to take a different approach to their creative thinking, methods, and workflows.

In the 60s, stereo made sense. But since then there’s been breathless talk of quadrophonic sound, a bewildering array of cinema sound formats, and a dizzying array of home entertainment surround sound formats – not to mention those for games consoles, computers, phones and Facebook forays (360 immersive audio) and others.

With multiple formats and devices, we risk overwhelming customers and confusing consumers, with the latter wary of spending money on ephemeral technology and the former unwilling to spend money on mixes that won’t be heard correctly only in specific places.

The rubicon has been crossed and a new era of immersive audio is coming – and isn’t far off. It comes from the core technology, rather than top-down – which is expensive. The flexibility and cost of digital systems along with games, computers and virtual reality have enabled what now looks like an inevitable shift to some version of immersive sound.

Kathleen Moroney

Executive Creative Director, creative red apple

When considering immersive sound design for any device, it all starts with the creative idea. When we talk to our clients about immersive sound, we often talk about the evocative use of sound and the journey we take the audience on. Immersive audio is ideal for putting audiences in the heart of the action. With immersive sound built into TVs, it’s a great creative and mixing playground to think through layers of sound and motion in greater detail than you ever could before.

The second thing to keep in mind when creating immersive sound is to leave enough room for the sound design to breathe – keeping the voiceover to a minimum. Any content with a wall-to-wall voice will never sound as immersive as it should. It’s really about understanding the technology, as well as its limitations. I’d love to hear a TV that sounds a bit like our Dolby Atmos studio without extra speakers, but I’m a little skeptical!

Paul LeCouteur

Sound Manager (Melbourne), Squeak E. Clean Studios

For the future? Sky is the limit. Once supply chains – for commercial television in particular – open up to these technologies, then it is possible for any advertiser or brand to mix in an immersive way, and perhaps even have ideas born simply because the viewer will hear the sound coming to them in all dimensions. Viewers will enjoy a variety of experiences depending on the home setups they have, with the more expensive systems providing the closest experience to a cinematic experience.

Social media is a bit more of a problem for the offering, but certainly purpose-built content could be created in some apps and listened to through a narrower lens than general content.

But there is an important element that these discussions do not take into consideration. And it’s the artistry and skill of the sound engineer to deliver a mix that’s sympathetic to the vision and story that’s being told. Because even brilliant spatial positioning will not spare a bad mix. And among all these technologies, the essential element that is part of any good mix – and that can convince an audience whatever their listening experience – is the art of creative composition and the mixing of sound and music in a way that captivates an audience and serves the narrative.

And that relies on the human component.

Chris Atkins

Co-founder, WithFeeling

Nothing can improve a bad movie. But a good movie can become great.

Cinema is as much what you see as what you hear. This is where sound design comes in – the often overlooked element of filmmaking that creates true immersion in the world of the story and can elevate the whole experience. But it doesn’t stop at the movies. Live events, advertising, social media as well as exhibitions and public spaces can all take advantage of the immersive and engaging power of soundscapes.

Good sound design is easier said than done. This requires expertise, experience and impeccable production – played by high fidelity systems, perfectly adapted to their acoustic environment. Placing the best speaker system in the world in a badly treated room? You missed an opportunity to create a truly immersive experience. But a sound design perfectly suited to the environment and its narration, creatively mixed in full surround and playing at the perfect volume – that’s our sweet spot.

Oliver Stutz

Executive Creative Director, Two o’clock in the morning

Using spatial audio to improve ad experiences and engagement can certainly be a game-changer, but knowing how and where your listeners will listen to your content is critically important. We must always keep in mind that even in modern times with advanced technology incorporated into home devices, the effectiveness of any audio experience is still highly dependent on the space of the listeners and the capabilities of the output device. . Simply put, spatial audio can be hugely immersive and absolutely captivating, but on the other hand, it can also be, well, a little average.

To understand this potential disconnect a bit more, we need to understand how this embedded technology works. For example, the PS5 allows users of any standard TV speaker to enjoy 3D audio, but to a widely varying degree. This potential inconsistency and lack of control over effectiveness could very well be what is preventing this area from gaining momentum in the advertising industry.

In a nutshell, the benefits of spatial audio in advertising should never be overlooked, there are endless possibilities and ways to create unique and captivating experiences for content. However, one must always consider how and where listeners will hear the content, and also ensure to some extent that if the spatial audio elements were not working properly, the content would still make sense and the message would be conveyed accurately. to the listener.