The purpose – and power – of VR is to provide the viewer with an experience that feels almost real. It’s a brilliant illusion. One that is achieved by not just allowing the viewer to look around the 360° environment, but actually puts them in it.
What’s more, unlike a conventional 2D video that tells the viewer where to look, VR allows them to choose where to go and what to look at. However, like 2D video, sound is as crucial – if not more so – in VR. As a virtual reality agency that can hum that Jamiroquai song backwards, we know it’s not just the 360° footage that creates the immersive experience, it’s the spatial audio too.
Lights, camera, sound, action
Spatial audio, or ambisonics, complements the 360° visuals with an immersive 360° audio experience. The sound and the visuals have to deliver on the same level – or your viewer will simply disengage.
Spatial audio is recorded in much the same way as the 360° footage. The visuals are created by several cameras organised in an array. And the audio is captured by several microphones organised in their own array and pointed in multiple directions.
No matter what your nice headphones tell you, the human ear doesn’t just receive audio from left and right. Real sound surrounds you. To recreate what we hear, spatial audio has to capture sound from above, below and around the listener.
The microphones are thus positioned beneath the camera rig to record sound that matches the distance and direction of the cameras. This literally, turns up the volume, and is much more effective than the mono or stereo audio you hear in 2D videos. Simply put, the more 360° audio information that is recorded, the more the viewer’s augmented experience is enhanced – making it all seem much more real.
VR videos are not just about capturing a location visually in 360°. It’s about providing an exciting, engaging and fully immersive experience that lets the viewer choose their direction. Sound is an important narrative cue. If a viewer hears a loud bang, for example, their attention will very likely swing in that direction. Therefore, spatial audio plays an important role in directing the visual stories in VR videos.
Spatial audio summed up in three soundbites
Spatial audio doesn’t just record the sound, it records the direction and distance of the sound. It replicates the audio for the viewer in a very realistic way, similar to what the human ear hears.
- 360° audio brings the VR video to life. This immerses the viewer even deeper within the augmented reality they are experiencing, enhancing its realness.
- It can be used as a powerful narrative tool. Spatial audio can direct the viewer’s attention, helping to drive a specific message, making the story more believable and boosting the viewer’s level of engagement.
Make sure your VR video sounds as good as it looks. Give TopLine’s inhouse director Jamie a shout today and let’s make some noise.