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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 – Sound Effects

Sound Effects

Following a successful conclusion to the recording tests earlier in the week we again setup in the Editing Suite to review the sound recordings for a short list to edit into the final sequence.

This took more time than we’d originally planned but eventually we had a complete set of recordings for both the 5.1 surround sound sequence and the binaural soundtrack by the end of the day. Then for the first time using the 5.1 surround soundtrack played back through the speaker systems using Logic Pro and the binaural via the output of a PC through a set of headphones. Both recordings were started in synch and for the first time we listened to the combined soundtrack.

Although not all the sound effects have been added yet we were generally happy with the result so far and decided to demonstrate it to Chris Pegg. Chris commented positively, that he was happy with the progress the group had made and with the overall project, which was a new experience for him. Chris also suggested that we test the project further by asking individuals from outside DMP to experience the soundtrack and to record their responses and feedback in order to confirm our concept and/or to make improvements.

We felt this was a good idea and immediately asked a 1st year and a 2nd year from another course to listen to the soundtrack in the edit suite. We recorded their responses on video to be included in the ‘Making Off Video Record’ which we are making in conjunction with the project as a complete record of the work, the testing and each individuals role in the development of the project.

Sound Effects

Audacity Noise Removal Filter

Audacity Noise Removal Filter

I have personally sourced some additional sound effects to go with the Mad Doctor & Pirate storyline. For example the ambient noise from inside a Hospital Ward, the bleeping of medical equipment for the Mad Doctor version and for the Pirate version the creaking of the ship, the wind and the sea. All of these will help to establish the setting for the audience, to assist with their imagination, to visualise themselves in a Hospital Ward and the Cabin of a Pirate Ship in a heavy sea.

To test the suitability of these sound effects and additional soundtrack clips I first edited together the binauaral sound recordings, taking the best recordings from each scene and cutting and pasting them together using Audacity. After I had completed this I discovered noise where there should have been silence. Using the noise removal effect in Audacity, I first recorded the ‘Noise Profile’ by selecting a 2 second sequence of the soundtrack free from effects and voices and then using this, the noise removal tool removes the noise by comparing with the Noise Profile in effect filtering it out.

The resultant soundtrack was very clean, free of any noise. I then added a 10 second sound sequence of the ambient sound taken from a Hospital waiting room and mixed onto this the sound of an EKG medical unit using it’s bleeping to link sound clips together. The final touch was to add some sound clips of a fellow student screaming and the majority of the editing was done. All I had to do then was to balance the audio levels on the individual tracks and then export the whole sequence of 6 tracks to a stereo WAV file. During the export process the 6 tracks were mixed to 2 track stereo file.

I repeated this process for the Pirate storyline version, but using the sound of a ship rocking in the sea with the wind in it’s sails. Again I exported the 6 tracks as a 2 track stereo WAV file.

I’ll post these sountracks up onto the final blog posting for this unit following the critique.

Sound Scary Laugh by Ian Hunt 1
Please note not used in the final soundtrack

What Next?

We plan to finalise the sound tracks, setting levels and balancing for the 5.1 Surround Sound channels with the additional sound effects added.

Alternative Headphone Tests

Alternative Headphone Tests

I have sourced some headphones that do not filter out external ambient sound, with these I am expecting that the listener will be clearly able to hear the Surround Sound played through the edit suite speaker systems while at the same time getting the full effect of the binaural sound recordings through the headphones. The plan is to test the setup with students from other courses and to record their reactions on video to see if the concept has worked as well as we had originally visualised.

This will be followed by the completion and editing of the ‘Making Of Video’

 

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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