Digital Media Design


Future Cinema – Project Conclusion

Future Cinema

Mad Doctor Storyline

Please use headphones for best effect

Blackboot the Pirate Storyline

Please use headphones for best effect

For best results use headphones while watching the two videos above. I’ve added visuals which should be viewed full screen but for the full binaural audio effect I recommend the listener to listen to the audio only and with eyes shut.

Future Cinema – The Making Of – A Video Documentary

Future Cinema – The Synopsis

Our groups idea was to incorporate a Binaural Audio Recording element into a 5.1 Surround Sound Film Soundtrack effectively creating a 7.1 Surround Sound Soundtrack. The 5.1 surround sound would be delivered using a Surround Sound speaker system and the binaural soundtrack played back simultaneously through headphones or speakers built into a Cinema seats headrest.

Future Cinema – How did we do?

Fig 1.0 M-Audio 410

Fig 1.0 M-Audio 410

See previous entries  for more details on the groups research and development, final testing, however in summary after days of testing various positions and locations for microphones and recording techniques we developed a solution which allowed us to simultaneously record both the surround sound and binaural sound recordings.

With the sound recorded onto 6 tracks, stored on SD cards, we then edited them together using Logic Pro, an audio editing application. Each audio recording was assigned to a separate channel for example track 1 was mapped to front left, track 2 front right, track 3 rear left and track 4 rear right.  Finally track 5 was mapped to the headphones left channel and track 6 headphones right channel.

It should be noted that we have intentionally made no provision for a centre speaker channel and similarly no provision for the LFE (Low Frequency Effects) channel, that is the .1 in the 5.1 surround sound systems. This was due primarily to a lack of resources for it would have been relatively simple to setup a channel for each but there was no speaker system available for testing and we also felt it was unnecessary for the purposes of the design at this stage.

Using a M-Audio 410, 4 of the tracks were mapped to the speakers in the Edit Suite and the 2 tracks of the binaural audio these were mapped to headphone output socket.

M-Audio 410 specifications

2 x 8 24-bit/96kHz analog I/O; 192kHz stereo out
2 mic/line ins w/ preamps and phantom power
8 line outs to mixer or direct surround output
S/PDIF digital I/O w/ PCM, AC-3, and DTS support
1 x 1 MIDI I/O

As well as assigning each track to a channel we also adjusted individual track volumes to balance the sound levels from each of the channels, then added the effects, the ambient noise of the Hospital and the creaking of the ship.

Fig 2.0 Headphone Test Angle

Fig 2.0 Not Mickey Mouse but testing headphone positioning to optomise the 5.1 with the binaural effect

Using headphones held slightly away from the ear (or turned slightly sideways  see Fig 2.0) it was possible to hear both the 5.1 surround sound audio from the speakers and the binaural audio from the headphones.

Using headphones may not be the final solution for an installation in a Cinema but it was the optimal setup for  demonstrating the concept to a selected audience in order to obtain feedback (See the video below for the audience testing stages).

For the audience the effect of hearing both soundtracks made for a much more immersive experience, for not only was it possible to hear the surround sound but there was the added effect of having sound originating from a point very close to your ear via the headphones. Ideal for horror films, the protagonist whispering into your ear, the sound of a bullet passing close to your ear, or a whispered instruction that only you can hear.

Audience Testing – Screen Tests

Fig 3.0 Audio Levels Testing

Fig 3.0 Audio Levels Testing

With the audio tracks locked down we began Audience Testing, inviting fellow students and staff to experience the project while we recorded their responses in real time on video. We then followed each test with a short question and answer session on camera to gauge each subjects response and to find out if our idea would indeed add value to the Cinema audiences experience.

From the video and looking at the screenshots below, as you can see the subjects gave an overwhelmingly positive response to the experience. All felt that it put them at the centre of the action, made it a more personal and more immersive experience than they would normally expect from watching a film at the Cinema.

Fig 4.0 Audience Testing - Video Setup

Fig 4.0 Audience Testing – Video Setup

Surprisingly most felt the experience was the better for the lack of visuals, the imagination more than making up for this.

Future Cinema – Sound X.1?

Cinema sound is a technological area that still has much to offer, for example Dolby (TM) have developed a new Dolby Pro Logic IIZ system which adds a height element to the sound, which they have done by adding extra channels 5.1 to 7.1 and 7.1 to 9.1 and by positioning speakers above the existing Front Left & Front Right speakers. These extra channels add to the depth and spacial qualities of the sound, allowing film-makers the opportunity to add a feeling of height to their films, an example of which, would be the distant approach and then passing of an aeroplane – as it approaches gradually gaining in volume and then passes over your head and behind rather than to the left or right.

At the moment when considering existing sound set-ups in Cinemas, film makers show aeroplanes and in fact any form of transport passing from front to back or vice versa by filming them passing either to the left or right rather than passing directly overhead, most probably due to the limitations in faithfully reproducing the sound of the passing aircraft in the Cinema. (NB this may not be the only reason)

What does this mean? as the number of channels continues to grow so will the number of speakers and with the positioning of these new speakers coverage will also grow until eventually complete coverage will have been achieved and the audience will be totally immersed in a hemisphere of sound.

Fig 5.0 Immersive Headset

Fig 5.0 Immersive Headset

Final thoughts

Personally I feel that the group have worked hard to prove that a 5.1 surround sound soundtrack with the addition of the binaural soundtrack combined together would both enhance and add a new dimension to the Cinematic experience. With the right Film, with changes to the narrative to include the binaural sound element and with minor modification to the Cinemas seating (speakers built into the headrests) it would be possible to provide a much more immersive experience for the Cinema audience.

The concept could also be applied to the Gaming environment using a headset, which has both visual and audio capabilities, for example a headset such as the one shown in Fig 5.0 would be perfect for such an application.

One of the many hurdles we had to overcome was that what we thought we knew about sound recording did not match the results. We thought that by widely spacing the microphones we would get the best separation for the channels. In fact we produced the best recordings by having the microphones just a few centimeters apart and facing in completely the opposite direction to what we had originally planned.

Time was the usual thing in short supply, working late into the night to get the recordings done in the studio space. The original assigned roles in the group blurred as we each took on extra tasks when short handed, grabbing a camera to record the processes and work carried out for the ‘Making of’ documentary.

In summary though I personally think the group have produced an effective design that can be demonstrated to an audience based on our original conceptualisation of the 5.1 Surround Sound combined with Binaural Sound Recording and it’s possible inclusion in a Future Cinema Design.

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Future Cinema – Links to Related Blog Entries

  1. Future Cinema – Project Conclusion
  2. Future Cinema – Sound Effects
  3. Future Cinema – Digital Cinema
  4. Future Cinema – 5.1 Surround Sound
  5. Future Cinema – Binaural Sound – Digital Sound Recording
  6. Future Cinema – 360 Degree Camera Mount
  7. Future Cinema – Learning Agreement (Updated)
  8. Future Cinema – Audio / Film Script 1st Draft
  9. Future Cinema – Binaural Sound Recording
  10. Future Cinema – The Film Pitch
  11. Future Cinema – does it have one?



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