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Ian Hunt Digital Media Designer

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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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Future Cinema – 5.1 Surround Sound

5.1 Surround Sound

A day testing and proving and disproving ideas for recording and playing 5.1 Surround Sound files.

Idea Development – 5.1 Surround Sound

Sennheiser ME66 Microphones - Surround Sound Recording Setup

Sennheiser ME66 Microphones - Surround Sound Recording Setup

I propositioned the idea that if the dummy head complete with the binaural microphones was positioned in a simulated cinema environment and a DVD with a 5.1 Surround Sound soundtrack was played using a surround sound speaker system then recorded using the binaural microphone setup then the surround sound effect would be duplicated in the recording.

5.1 Surround Sound Headphones

5.1 Surround Sound Headphones

Following a number of recording tests this did not seem to be the case, although I suspect the problems of sourcing a true 5.1 Surround Sound System could have contributed to the failure of the test. We did successfully combine the binaural effect with the recording of the films soundtrack by overlaying our own voices into the recording but the 5.1 Surround Sound effect did not truly represent itself when played back through headphones.

However I have a theory that with the application of the right technology the original theory may well prove to be correct, for example it is possible to source 5.1 Surround Sound Headphones where the speakers are actually separated by 12 degrees in the headset.

[youtube.com/watch?v=5QETQNFYnp4]

5.1 Surround Sound

Definition: 5.1 channel sound, also known as Surround Sound, is a standard sound format found on most DVDs and some CDs. The five channels are left and right main speakers (stereo), a center channel for movie dialog and on-screen action, two rear speakers to surround the listener and a .1 channel (pronounced ‘point-one channel’) for bass. The .1 channel is intended for a subwoofer, used for special effects in movies and very deep bass in music. The designation ‘.1’ means that it is not a full range channel and is designed to reproduce only a narrow range of bass tones.

5.1 Channel Sound Definition. Site Accessed 20/11/2011 http://stereos.about.com/od/glossary/g/FivePointOne.htm

Zoom R24 Digital Recorder

Zoom R24 Digital Audio Recorder

Zoom R24 Digital Audio Recorder

For the new recordings we decided to use a Zoom R24 Digital Recorder rather than the Fostek recorders we used in the previous recording sessions. The main advantage to using the Zoom R24 was that it could record more than 2 channels of audio simultaneously in fact it can record 8 tracks in all, which saved us from having to synchronise 2 recording devices as we had previously. The Audio tracks were also saved onto a SD card making it much easier to import the data to the Logic Pro application.

Initially the Zoom was powered from the mains supply and Phantom power used to power the microphones, but we were getting a power hum on all the audio recordings. To cure this we had to power both the recorder and microphones using batteries. I suspected at the time that as we were in a studio using a dimmable lighting system, either the power from the lighting racks was effecting the main supply or the neutral had  high frequency noise running on it or it was not pegged at earth potential and was floating several volts above zero. As we had no means of checking this and this being outside of the brief, switching to battery power was the only option.

Logic Pro

In the afternoon session we utilised a new software application called Logic Pro and attempted to create a 5.1 Surround Sound soundtrack using the sound files recorded previously in the studio see previous blog Future Cinema – Binaural Sound – Digital Sound Recording. Each track was assigned a channel 1 to 4 representing Left Front, Right Front and Left Back, Right Back.

Logic Pro Application Screenshot

Logic Pro Application Screenshot

The microphones used to record the original tracks was centrally located, the resulting soundtrack appeared to have good separation but not necessarily 5.1 Surround Sound. Personally I felt that this might be due to the fact that the recordings were of only one sound source, centrally located and so the sound when played back should have been heard equally from all 4 speakers which was the case. If instead on just using one sound source, we had recorded multiple sound sources across the studio space we would have been able to have identified these different sound sources and their locations when played back. For example four members of the group each stand beside a microphone and announce their location that is; Left Front, Right Front, Left Back and Right Back, a simple idea but not thought of at the time.

Audacity 1.3.13-beta!

Audacity 1.3.13-beta screenshot

Audacity 1.3.13-beta screenshot

The beta version of this popular Sound Editing Application according to my research now supports AC3 file formats which allows you to save sound files with up to 6 channels. For our purposes this would allow us to create a 5.1 Surround Sound file with the option of a Sub-woofer channel.

Unfortunately although it is now possible to  be able to create these file formats we still have to find a 5.1 Surround System to be able to play them back.

The AC3 file type is primarily associated with ‘AC3 Audio File Format’ by Dolby Laboratories.

AC3 is a 6-channel, audio file format by Dolby Laboratories that usually accompanies DVD viewing. It operates 5 channels for normal range speakers (20 to 20,000 Hz) and the 6th channel reserved for low-frequency (20 to 120Hz) sub-woofer operation.

Human’s audible range of frequency is typically between 20Hz to 20kHz (that’s 20,000Hz) and this range is called sonic. Anything below the range is referred to as infrasonic whilst anything above is ultrasonic.

FileExt – Website Accessed 21/10/2011. http://filext.com/file-extension/AC3

Next Steps

The next step is to revisit the studio space and finalise the full soundtrack, that is the 5.1 surround sound and the binaural sound simultaneously and then go back to the Logic Pro application and assign a track to each channel and experiment to see how the 2 sound sources can be integrated for playback in a cinematic environment.

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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Post Production Techniques – Alternate Title Sequence using AE

Wednesday 2nd March 2011
[youtube.com/watch?v=znDwBhaXnhw]

Paris Titles – experimenting with AE Cameras

Alternate Title Design

We recently had a tutorial with Jason looking at AE Cameras and Lighting and so I thought I would experiment with Cameras to see what I could do as an alternative title sequence.

Inspired by my previous use of using images taken from Google’s Street View and then adding effects to these captured images in Photoshop, I set about capturing new images from Paris Streets.

Once I had a collection of images I removed the backgrounds and used the Filter ‘Graphic Pen’ to give a sketch look to the images.

These images I saved as .PSD files which I then imported into After Effects. I decided on the sequence that the images were to appear and loaded them into the workspace in this order. I then made each Layer 3D and set the Z-axis for each so that there was a gap between each of them (Which I varied at a later stage).

I then created a New Camera and using a mixture of XYZ axis I moved the camera through the layers exposing each as the camera passed through into a new scene.

I added a few visual effects such as ‘Clouds’ and a copyright free music track to finish the short sequence off.

I’m very happy with the final result although I’d probably want to smooth out some of the camera movements, target the door openings better and remove some of the background that I missed earlier.

Updated and with Additional Characters

[youtube.com/watch?v=_7w_MwjB6F4]
Video with some characters added

I’ve spent some time cleaning up the images removing the backgrounds that I’d missed previously.

I’ve also added some characters to the scenes keying in some movements so that they move across in front of the camera as the camera moves into the next scene.

I set each character as a 3D Layer and positioned them using the Z-axis settings mid point between the background layers.

I also added an end title but this could be anything should I decide to extend the project for the full 2 minutes duration set in the brief.

I think this works really well and with the right images combined with a Film Title idea this would make an excellent alternative to what I have already designed.

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Post Production Techniques – Film Noir Soundtrack

Friday 18th February 2011

Soundtrack

[youtube.com/watch?v=FxYVrRmAHaE]
Film Noir soundtrack project

Today’s tutorial involved the use of copyright free music and matching sound to visuals to add emphasis.

I started by searching the internet for images based on Film Noir, I downloaded a selection of these and imported them into Premiere Pro for editing.

I listened and tried a number of different styles of music and came across one that fitted the fill Noir theme, a short 30 second track that I’d associate with 50’s crime films and dramas.

As this was a soundtrack influenced project I began by importing the music track first, I expanded the track so I cold see the waveform in this way it would be easier to match edit points to the changes in the music.

This was the next task importing and inserting the images into a video track, cutting and adjusting the length of the clips to match the soundtrack.

It’s not a perfect video sequence but it was a useful exercise to see how music can influence the mood of a video and also how matching an edit point to a music ‘s highpoint/change in sound/tempo emphasised the edit process and the pace of the video.

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Digital Sound – Music and Audio, Digital Sampling

Digital Sound

Sound

Fig.1. Sound Waves.

Fig.1. Sound Waves.

What is Sound? Sound is caused by a change in air pressure. When something vibrates the air pressure is changed, the picture, fig.1.shows how the beating of a drum causes changes in air pressure, the harder the drum is hit the more compressed the air becomes and so the louder the sound wave is, in this case represented by a sine wave the more compressed the air waves the higher the peak and vice versa the less the air is compressed the deeper the trough. It should be noted that sound is the movement of air molecules or for example the molecules in water and that Sound waves can travel through a variety of mediums including water, metal, glass etc. but not in a vacuum. As there are no air molecules in a vacuum there can be no sound.

Fig.1. Sound Waves. Rockwell International http://www.rockwool.com/acoustics/faq Accessed 19/03/2010

1.0 Definition of what sampling is and how to sample/record

When we talk about sampling we are usually talking about Digital sampling these days, a basic description is that a specifically designed application listens to the sound and takes a slice of the sound wave, think of it as a snapshot of the sound wave. The length of the snapshot is measured in bits and the number of snapshots taken is called the sampling rate and is measured in seconds. The more snapshots, that is the higher the sampling rate the better the quality of the sound (Fidelity) as it more closely resembles the original sound waveform.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used. What is audio. http://musikality.net Accessed 22/03/2010

The sampling rate varies but typically a CD is sampled at 44,100 times per second at 16 bits. These samples are then stored by either on the CD itself or say on a computers hard drive for possible re-sampling and/or manipulation by effects processors.

An example of Analogue sampling can be found in the effects pedals used by guitarists, some of which remain in use today examples of these being Reverb and Phaser units where a proportion of the incoming signal is affected or indeed the whole signal is shifted out of phase or added to the original signal to produce the reverb effect. Other examples include echo units which do similar things to the signal although it does not change the actual sound but just samples the incoming sound and adds a copy to the outgoing signal but with a delay that can be adjusted to give a varying echo.

Sampled sounds can be used in conjunction with a range of effects systems to produce unique sounds for the Radio, TV and Film industries. Sampled sounds can be assigned to keys on an electronic keyboard – either a different sound for each key or a single sampled sound which is then processed by the keyboard to give a complete range of sounds.

2.0 Analogue Vs Digital

Analogue Sound

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound.

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound.

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound. http://www.webbasedprogramming.com Accessed 19/03/2010

Analogue is a continuous medium and Digital is made up of steps. To sample or record sound it must first be converted from sound waves into an electrical signal. In Fig.3. There are two diagrams; the top one is of a Analogue signal which has been converted into an electrical signal for example by using a microphone which converts the movement created by sound waves impacting on a material such as thin plastic inside the microphone which in turn creates an electrical signal either by varying the capacitance in a condenser microphone or moves either the coils or a magnetic core inside a coil which then also generates an electrical signal. This continuous signal can now be recorded by using this electrical signal to for example move a needle, scratching an electrical representation of the sound onto the surface of a vinyl disk or onto magnetic tape using a recording head which is a form of electro magnet which marks the surface of tape with a signal.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone. http://www.mediacollege.com Accessed 19/03/2010

Digital Sound

A digital signal starts off as an Analogue signal that is a sound wave converted to an electrical signal and this electrical signal is then converted into a digital signal by sampling it at a determined rate. That is the number of times it is sampled in a second. If we look again at Fig.3. The bottom diagram shows a representation of what a digital signal looks like compared with the analogue signal above it. You can see how the waveform has been converted into steps with each step approximating the peak or trough of the original signal. This approximation also supplies us with a clue as to why many sound purists prefer analogue over digital, as the analogue signal is continuous or step less while digital is an approximation of the original sound and as such does not contain the richness of the original analogue sound. Of course this can be alleviated to some extent by sampling at a higher rate and so more steps will be produced therefore more closely following the original signals waveform.

Digital signals are made up from 1’s and 0’s that is Binary code, so each one of those steps in Fig.3. is made up from a series of these 1’s and 0’s. This Binary code is the language of computers and so this allows the digital sound or data to be stored and manipulated by a computer. Digital sound can be recorded onto a computers hard disk, flash drive (USB Key), CD and DVD disk. As the digital sound is made up of 1’s and 0’s it is also possible to reduce the size of the data (or Digital sound file) by removing excess 1’s and 0’s for example the Mp3 format. The computer will remember to add these back in when the sound needs to be reproduced as will other sound reproducing equipment for example an iPod as it will recognise that the file is in an Mp3 format and so it will know to add those 1’s and 0’s back in during playback.

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy etc. Car on the left is a copy and you can see the pixilation of the image compared with the image of the car on the right. One of the key differences between Analogue and Digital recording is unlike Analogue recordings it does not matter how many times you record a digital sound file it remains at the same quality. Whereas an Analogue sound file loses it’s quality (Fidelity) the more times that it is copied

that is a master file when copied becomes a 2nd generation copy a copy from this becomes a 3rd generation and so on. This occurs in the same way that when the copy of a document is not quite as good as the original and a copy taken from this copy is even less perfect. This is best viewed by images in Fig.5. which is of two images of the same car, the one on the right is the original and the image on the left is a copy of a copy of a copy as you can see the final copy is very unclear and this represents the degradation in sound quality (loss of Fidelity) which you can expect when copying analogue sound files. For this reason for example, a music producer will have a master copy and it is from this that copies are made so that the copies are at worst 2nd generation copies.

3.0 Programmes and Equipment used to sampling & re-sampling

Audacity

Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity

Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity

Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity is a free open source application that can sample and re-sample digital sound and to facilitate the editing of sound files and even offers several effects including Echo, pitch and tempo changes etc. Coming back to its main features Audacity can let you in a non-destructive way edit digital sound tracks, cutting and pasting sections, adding new tracks with other digital sound files to enable mixing etc.

It is also possible to re-sample sound files by selecting the track to resample and then from the Track menu select resample and this will pop up another menu box where you are able to select a different sampling rate from 8000 to 96,000. Another option is to be able to export a sound file in different formats including .WAV (uncompressed 16 bit) and Mp3 (Compressed).

Audacity can do more than just re-sample sound it is also possible to carry out non-destructive editing which means unlike editing of old where say a tape was cut and new sections of tape added or removed in a process known as splicing. In non-destructive editing a section of the sound waveform can be cut and pasted from and into tracks. Alternatively tracks from another music file can be imported and ether inserted into the original track or added as another track and therefore effectively mixed with the original tracks.

Pro Tools

A more professional application called Pro Tools does very similar things to Audacity but takes it several stages further also to having it’s own Analogue to Digital convertor, superior in quality to a Mac or PC’s own internal hardware called an M-Box. Pro Tools is an industry standard sound editing application used by TV, Film and music production companies to create and edit professional quality sound and music.

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot, courtesy of http://www.lennonbus.org. Accessed 22/03/10/2010

There are many other sound editing and re-sampling programs many of which are free to use or open source which include:-

  • Adobe Audition
  • iTunes
  • Goldwave
  • Microsoft Media Player
  • Sony Soundforge 9.0
  • WavePad

Image Gallery

Bibliography

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