Among the discoveries that Cory Coken and a team of sound designers from NoiseFloor made while preparing to build a new augmented reality / virtual reality (AR/VR) studio was, “there’s a lot of voodoo out there.”
“That’s the fun thing,” he adds. “VR is kinda like the wild wild west. Everybody’s got different ideas and theories. There’s probably a million non-productive work flows.”
NoiseFloor intends to tame this sonic new wild west inside a recently launched 24 by 18-foot inhouse studio that boasts 15-foot ceilings and walls of reclaimed wood.
In addition to a booth for voice recording, the space holds two workstations packed with an array of technologies — and the inevitable accessories — that promise to capture the essence of the largely untamed field.
“We took a year and looked at every possibility,” Coken explains. “Everything from binaural audio to HRTFs (Head Related Transfer Function, which, he says ‘basically measures distance between human ears and face.’) We included them in the room.”
The possibilities include working in Dolby Atmos, a mode of surround sound that is recognized as a standard for not only theatrical systems but also for home audio systems and headphones. The tiny environments represent a major shift in the way audio is enjoyed these days.
“So many people are consuming media in little headphones,” Coken continues. “Microsoft has put Dolby Atmos into windows 10.”
These new technologies accelerate the expansion of traditional stereo from a two-channel setup to a 360-degree surround sound experience.
“Old school, you could make sound go left and right’” he continues. “Now it goes up and down, all these different directions.”
Along with it comes the need for changes in equipment as well as production and post-production methodologies.
“It requires is a lot of computer hardware and all new panners,” he explains. “Traditional microphones don’t work. If you’re shooting in an environment that goes all around you, where do you put your boom operator? Our whole idea of how we record and our equipment packages changed from production all the way through to the mixing boards.”
But the need to compress and store digital sound has remained constant. “You have to figure out a way to take all those different channels of data and put it into two channels,” says Coken.
One of the solutions that NoiseFloor uses is Oculus’ FB360 post-production plugin, which creates several modes of sound while ensuring a smooth workflow.
The results of this expansive soundscape allow consumers, listeners and viewers much greater movement within a story. NoiseFloor helps to control the experience by creating audio queues that push the narrative.
“I can make it sound like something’s behind you,” says Coken. “If there is a creak that sounds like a door, you want to turn and look.”
Among the related projects that NoiseFloor has completed is an experimental piece for Marlboro.
“It’s horses moving around in the field and you’re kind of riding with them,” Coken explains. “We left music in a stereo field, left and right. But all the sound effects were spinning around. The horses moved with sounds to the left and right. That was really fun.”
Since the true AR/VR experience requires appropriate equipment, NoiseFloor prefers to showcase its work in a customized environment. The recently completed studio in River North is an excellent place to experience the sensation.
Contact the NoiseFloor directly at (312) 787-2979 to hear more.