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AUDIO VR & 3D AUDIO ASK THE EXPERTS Pieter Schillebeeckx WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN 2D & 3D AUDIO? There are two parts to this question when it comes to audio for VR. The key difference is that 2D is a single horizontal slice, so when we’re thinking 5.1 or traditional surround sound in a cinema that would be looked at as 2D, whereas 3D adds height information to this both above and below you. The second part to this question relates to static versus dynamic audio, and this goes for both 2D and 3D audio. Until now, we’ve been used to consuming audio in a static manner to match a static image. With VR the image is no longer static as it tracks head movement, making for a dynamic experience. For virtual reality it’s the dynamic nature of the audio that’s extremely important and will complete the immersive experience. IS 3D AUDIO THE SAME AS OBJECT- BASED AUDIO? 3D audio can be part of object-based audio but they’re not one and the same. 3D audio - often referred to as immersive audio - aims to transport a listener to an environment, immersing them in the sound, whether at a concert or a basketball game. Object-based audio is a radical departure from traditional audio formats, such as stereo or 5.1, in two important ways: it supports many audio playback formats natively from one single audio deliverable; and it offers personalisation. In order to achieve this, an object-based audio stream is not a pre-baked stereo or 5.1 mix but rather a selection of audio stems that are used by the consumer’s device – such as a set-top box or a mobile device 50 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 113 MAY 2016 - to create the desired playback format for the listener’s set-up, whether that’s headphones or a home theatre. If we’re looking at all the different playback formats - including virtual reality – it’s clear that we can’t keep on creating more and more mixes, so object-based is definitely the future for audio, whether delivered to a VR headset or the ultimate home theatre. I think a very important part of object- based audio is the personalisation element. For example, by sending multiple commentator stems for a football game you could say: “Well I don’t want that neutral commentator, I’m a Liverpool fan so I want the Liverpool biased commentary.” To take it one step further, you can also set the balance between the background ambience - the feeling of being there - and the commentator of your choice. So is 3D audio the same as object- based audio? No it’s not. 3D audio can be part of an object-based deliverable, and 3D audio as an ambience bed works extremely well in an object-based environment because you can augment it with mono or stereo stems such as sound effects or narration. I UNDERSTAND 3D AUDIO IS NOT A NEW TECHNOLOGY, WHEN WAS IT DEVELOPED AND FOR WHAT REASON ORIGINALLY? 3D audio has been around for quite a long time. If you look at surround sound as a whole, Disney’s Fantasia introduced surround sound in the 1940s. SoundField developed the very first ambisonic B-format microphone in the late 70s, with the first commercial product coming out in 1978. And they