In support of Sennheiser's recent launch of its AMBEO Music Blueprints online guide to 3D audio recording, Sennheiser invited members NYC audio community to an exclusive AMBEO 3D recording workshop.
Topics covered included AMBEO 3D recording for 9.1 loudspeaker reproduction, AMBEO for binaural 3D playback on standard headphones, and AMBEO 3D Ambisonics audio for VR applications.
The event was held at Sennheiser's elegant pop-up store in SoHo, Manhattan. The store features some of their best technologies in both audio playback and capture. On hand are a wide array of their best selling headphones, a full complement of Neumann microphones, and even a complete 9.1 listening room based around their all-new AMBEO VR recording microphone.
The evening began with Sennheiser's Sofia Brazzola, UX Designer & Project Manager, AMBEO, introducing the audience to AMBEO.
AMBEO is Sennheiser's Trademark for its 3D immersive audio projects. AMBEO is a collection of some of the most intriguing, yet practical ways to record, mix, and play back 3D immersive audio.
There are three blueprints of AMBEO, as specified on Sennheiser's AMBEO Music Blueprints online guide:
AMBEO for Loudspeakers - Recording 3D Music for 9.1 loudspeakers and beyond
AMBEO for Binaural - Recording binaural sound for on-the-go headphone reproduction
AMBEO for Virtual Reality - Sennheiser's take on Ambisonics, tailored for Virtual Reality
Sennheiser's International Recordings Applications Manager, Gregor Zielinsky, Dipl. Tonmeister, began the technical presentation.
AMBEO for Loudspeakers
Zielinsky began by discussing the way that AMBEO for Loudspeakers uses only a handful of MKH800 TWIN microphones to capture audio in three dimensions, using phase cancellation techniques as a way of controlling the polar pattern and panning of the sound recording.
With these microphones their polar pattern can be changed in post production. Each microphone corresponds to one playback speaker and so when the pattern of the microphones is changed, the sound field around the listener can be tweaked in very creative ways. Sennheiser supplies a plugin that facilitates this process in any DAW. Additionally, because of this ability to manipulate the sound field in all three directions, it opens up the possibility to create immersive experiences where a listener can "move" through the recording, as opposed to simply being in a fixed listening position.
At this point in the event, the attendees were broken down into groups, so that listeners could experience the 3D Audio room at the Sennheiser SoHo Pop-Up Store, which only accommodates a small group at a time. Attendees not listening to the AMBEO 3D Immersive Audio demo in the AMBEO room were ushered downstairs, to experience AMBEO for Binaural and AMBRO for Virtual Reality.
One of the biggest treats of the evening was getting the opportunity to spend time in a specially prepared immersive 3D Audio room, powered by Neumann studio monitors and Sennheiser sound processors. At the helm of this immersive 3D audio experience was Sennheiser's Gregor Zielinsky, Dipl. Tonmeister, who took listeners on an aural journey into the world of 3D immersive audio - with no headset required!
The AMBEO room at the Sennheiser SoHo Pop-Up store is acoustically isolated, treated, and has multiple Neumann KH-series studio monitors and subs connected in such a way as to be able to produce sound coming from any direction, at any frequency. Any listener who wants to truly experience what it is to listen to acoustic perfection should be sure to check out this set up!
Using a psychoacoustic process that he described as "50% science and 50% voodoo," Zielinsky was able to upmix listeners' pre-recorded music files directly from their iPhones, and turn them into completely immersive 3D audio that the entire listening audience could partake of... all in realtime.
AMBEO for Binaural
Sennheiser's Audio Experience Designer for AMBEO Immersive Audio, Johannes Kares, Tonmeister, treated all attendees with the opportunity to experience binaural immersive audio on some of Sennheiser's best headphones. Connected to multiple headphone amplifiers were HD800 and HD800S headphones, all patched into his Pro Tools sessions featuring recordings made with Sennheiser's AMBEO microphones and plug-ins.
AMBEO for Virtual Reality
It's hard to talk about immersive audio without immediately talking about virtual reality. Never before has technology allowed people to immerse themselves inside media the way that people now can, whether using today's generation of Head Mounted Displays (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Playstation VR being the most popular), or even using something as simple as a mobile phone, using any of a plethora of phone-mounting Head Mounted Displays (Samsung Gear VR being one of the key players).
How do we record content in such a way that someone in a virtual reality headset could be able to experience it as though they were actually in the room when it was recorded? When you're at a concert, for example, you don't just hear the sound of the band playing - you hear the sound of band, the sound of the audience, and actual acoustics of the room, and all of those elements contribute to that immersive experience. How would anyone be able to record all of those elements, and mix them in such a way that someone could play back that recording, moving around that virtual room, heading what it might sound like in the "sweet spot," while also accounting for what it might be like for the listener to turn around, and even look toward the back of the room, possibly standing in the corner, where the acoustics would change dramatically?
The key to AMBEO's magic, is the science of Ambisonics.
Ambisonics is essentially a three dimensional way of working with the M/S (mid/side) recording, where an Ambisonics microphone is placed in such a fashion that it is able to use the nature of their polar patterns, coupled with varying degrees of phase cancellation in order to create a realistic approximation of a sound field. This representation of the sound field is then reproduced in a listener's device, and can be panned in all three dimensions.
Sennheiser's Audio Experience Designer for AMBEO Immersive Audio, Johannes Kares, Tonmeister, described the science (and magic) behind creating immersive audio for virtual reality.
To show how AMBEO for Virtual Reality worked, Kares loaded up a Pro Tools session featuring Sennheiser's AMBEO Plug-Ins for Pro Tools, coupled with Facebook's Spacial Workstation Plug-Ins. Additionally, an Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display was attached to the machine, and a 360 degree video of the original recorded performance was synchronized with the recording. The result was that a listener could look around the venue in all 360 degrees while listening to the recording, and all of the nuances of the room remained intact - the sound changed slightly as a listener looked around the room, as just like in reality, the sound reached each ear at a different time, under different conditions, as their head turned. The level of immersion is simply second to none.
Be sure to check out Sennheiser's AMBEO Music Blueprints guide, available at: www.sennheiser.com/ambeo-blueprints