The G’Audio team is back in LA after spending some quality time out in Las Vegas at Avid Connect and NAB Show 2017. As huge fans of Pro Tools, going to Avid Connect and discussing how creators are already using Works as well as offering best practices for VR workflows was an exceptional experience. Over the following week at NAB Show, the team interacted with entertainers and broadcasters from every industry, and one thing became very apparent — everyone is hopping aboard the VR train and you do not want to miss out…
Reconnecting Works to Avid roots
Everyone can think of a person or company who was there from the start of your creative journey, and for G’Audio Lab that company is Avid. The post-production spatial audio tool G’Audio Works was first built as a plug-in for Pro Tools, the most widely used Digital Audio Workstation, so that sound designers did not need to learn an entirely new system, and instead could just add one more plug-in to their existing workflow. Avid Connect provided the perfect setting to engage in valuable feedback from those creators who are pushing the boundaries of cinematic VR with our tools. It was great to hear praise about Works features and integrations while also obtaining thoughtful, constructive feedback for future iterations and releases.
A key thing users are always thrilled about is that Works finally brings GUI-based programming to VR audio. Instead of using multiple lanes that represent height, distance, and directional information of the sound source in 3D space, Works provides an intuitive video view window so audio engineers can drag sound tracks onto the video itself and simply record their movement. All this can be done with a panoramic view or an actual HMD view that shows everything as the end user will see it. For future iterations, we were happy to hear that the new features we are adding are right in line with what users want.
But the best part of it all? Showing Works to people who have never even seen it before. Since many of the attendees were already pros at Pro Tools, the team heard things like “Wait, this is so easy,” and “Why can’t everything be this straightforward for VR?” The person who most powerfully conveyed this actually didn’t have to say anything at all. He approached the G’Audio booth with a translator at his side, and after only a couple exchanges, stepped up to the demo with confidence and proceeded to take it over. He started manipulating Works like he had been using it for years, dragging and dropping sound objects to match their appropriate movements on the reference video and easily reviewing how those new elements were written on the automation lanes. We might not have been able to understand each other in regular conversation, but intuitive design is a language that everyone can speak.
VR-oriented broadcast industry welcomes Sol and G’Audio Live Streaming
Taking over the Las Vegas Convention Center for five full days, NAB attracts established players from every corner of broadcasting. This year, however, it wasn’t just the size of the conference that was notable, but the fact that everywhere you turned, VR crept into the conversation. Many people had dabbled with 360 video or cinematic VR but were sorely disappointed in the audio solutions they found. Anyone who was in this unenviable position received a welcome wake up call after hearing G’Audio’s demos that were created with Works and Craft and then exported in GAO format. G’Audio’s proprietary GAO format stole the show, since it delivers uncompromising audio quality and a superior sense of localization. Once they’d experienced this, the next question is how GAO is put into practice. The Sol SDK renderer is ready to support GAO format, which delivers the industry’s highest quality 3D audio; it can also support Ambisonics if desired. Sol was incredibly popular across the board since it can easily be integrated into Android, Windows, macOS and iOS apps as well as mobile devices. No matter where it’s integrated, the output for Sol contains the exact same number of channels from the original project, guaranteeing your original vision in its purest form.
NAB also highlighted that creating more connected and shared experiences is the next major iteration of the industry, so it was impossible for anyone who walked by not to be hooked by the other video that was playing at the G’Audio booth. It revealed a major step for G’Audio into that space — live streaming. The booth was flooded with questions like: How does G’Audio’s technology provide live streaming solutions? How should sound acquisition be different for live streaming? How do you render VR audio live? Our live streaming technology is already being successfully implemented by a select number of major companies, and G’Audio is excited to bring it to the industry on a larger scale soon. Live 360 video will finally get the audio quality it deserves, and no matter where you are, you will feel fully immersed in live action as it unfolds.
360 has arrived in a big (but imperfect) way and is here to stay
It was fairly easy to see hard evidence of this trend — hardware evidence actually. Seemingly around every corner, the newest and greatest hardware for 360 was inescapable. There were new 360 cameras, new 360 microphones, and frequently a combination of the two. While this is good for the overall health of the VR industry, a 360 microphone on its own will not be able to deliver a truly immersive sound experience. Since it’s capturing a snapshot of the sound at a given moment, all sound objects in the scene are jumbled into one audio signal (Ambisonics), which doesn’t provide pinpointed sound and therefore leads to less accurate sound localization. That ambient sound is valuable, but it needs to be paired with object and channel inputs to create an uncannily accurate representation of real-world sound. GAO format does just this, and has the potential to replace Ambisonics or FOA (First Order Ambisonics) + Stereo as the preferred audio format for VR.
360 microphones are still very expensive, and costs need to come down without sacrificing quality. Even then though, a more complete approach is needed to create truly immersive audio. So do consumers and creators just ignore this new technology that is sweeping the scene? Of course not, but don’t depend on it for an end-all solution just yet. All this hardware is here to stay — make it work better for you with G’Audio.