Professional Sound - February 2018 - Page 9

INPUT A NEW OPPORTUNITY IN AUDIO: PART 1 Technicolor’s Scott Gershin on Audio for Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality By Andrew King S cott Gershin, supervising sound editor and mixer with Tech- nicolor, is presenting a session at The 2018 NAMM Show called “Mixed Reality & the New Oppor- tunity for Audio.” We invited him to share some thoughts on the technolo- gies and techniques being used for these applications, and where he sees the most potential. Here’s part one. PS: How long has Technicolor been serv- ing the audio for virtual and augmented realities (AVAR) market, and what has the field’s growth looked like from your perspective in recent years? SG: I’ve been with Technicolor now for nearly two years. Before that, I was at Soun- delux and Formosa Group. Technicolor has a s trong commitment to try to advance the technology and content in immersive media, whether it be for entertainment, scientific, or medical usage. They’ve had a strong commitment to add their talents to that and recruited me to head up the immersive unit. [This industry] is very, very young. It’s the wild west, but it’s getting a little more focused in regards to the working methods. The biggest hurdle that I feel the industry has is that we need to get to a point where people rush home and can’t wait to put on and experience something in AR or VR. Once we get to that point, the industry will become another alternative to the many things available to entertain us now. PS: What are some of the ideas you plan to cover in your NAMM presentation? SG: One thing is I’m comparing VR to several other mediums like gaming, TV, film, and even commercials, because how VR is used depends on the type of storytelling the content creator wants to create. Some things work better than oth- ers. Some things are ported from a more linear format that’s been used previously and put into a VR environment, and some things are being created conceptually from scratch – new ways of storytelling where we take what we’ve learned – whether it’s lighting, where we put the camera, picture cuts – and manipulate them to visually or audibly tell a story. Is it a documentary? Is it a video game? So basically, I’m stealing knowledge from those other industries to see how, in audio, I can use my toolbox to come up with something new and interesting. PS: How quickly is the technology in this sector developing? Are there areas where you still see a significant amount of untapped potential? SG: I think there’s still a lot of untapped potential. Right now, the biggest problem with VR and AR is nobody’s quite sure how to monetize it, because, again, nobody’s racing home to put on the goggles just yet. So it’s difficult for people to acquire content, or creators to know how to push their content. It’s still very young, but there are definitely pioneers that have been jumping into this aggressively. So with the tool sets, you’ve got compa- nies like Lenovo, which is now with Google, G’Audio Lab, you’ve got Dolby, you’ve got Audio Ease – there are probably a half-dozen or so companies trying to make a dent into the tool sets we use to create and consume content, and they do it in many ways. Some are using first, second, third order ambison- ics, some are using quad binaural. There are many different techniques to create the audio, but there’s a problem that hasn’t been solved, and that’s with the technology for the end user. At the end of the day, for you to hear 3D audio, we’re using some form of [head- related transfer function, or] HRTF. With that comes the problem that everybody’s head is slightly different, so when they create HRTF models of the head for you to hear how you normally hear, they’re generalizing the size of your head and length of your ear canal, et cetera, et cetera. So somebody’s going to hear something and say, “Wow, it flew around my head. I can feel it on my hair. Amazing!” The next person sitting right be- side them might say, “I can’t hear any of that.” So there are people looking to solve it, but ultimately, we need to be at point where someone can measure your head and perhaps even your ear canal to precisely get the tech closer to how each individual actually hears, because everyone hears a little differently. PROFESSIONAL SOUND 9