Spatial Audio Tests & The Reaper Switch

Ok so post GDC 2017 - plenty of things to talk about, but for me one of the main standouts was finally discovering VR/AR audio and it's capabilities. A big factor in this was at the Ossic X event on Tuesday, in which I had a demo exploring the capabilities of their 3D audio headphones. These headphones do a boatload of smart things that I definitely can't explain in detail too well, like head tracking and accounting for the human anatomy, but the takeway was that VR/AR audio is here to stay, and the tech is damn good (and increasingly getting better). Very cool stuff.

Like most people, I came home after GDC with a huge spark of creativity, and being inspired by the immersive demo at the Ossic X event, I figured I'd start diving into the world of spatial audio through linear 360 video.

Coming from a post-production background, Pro Tools has basically been the go to DAW of choice. I'm very comfortable with it, and I still consider it to be my main DAW. But when it came to using the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation to place my sounds within a 3D space, I realized that I needed to do the HD upgrade for the 8 channel ambisonic format. Since I would be doing most of this work on my own free time at home (where I only own a "vanilla" version), that meant I would either have to shell out $999 for a 1-year rental of Pro Tools HD, or find another alternative.

In comes Reaper (aptly with the slogan "Audio Production without Limits"). I knew of Reaper very well from my time spent within the game audio community, but never had a reason to actually try it out. Since Reaper has all of its features under one hood, (including the 8 channel mixing needed for Spatial Workstation), it became a no brainer. Soon enough, within a couple of hours of watching Reaper Mania and The Reaper Blog videos, some nice workflow enhancements from Adam T Croft (The Instant Take Suite, which gives audiosuite like functionality, and the PT Keymap, which maps many PT shortcuts to Reaper), and the awesome people on the Reaper professionals slack channel, I was well on my way.

Using the Spatial Workstation plugin, I felt right at home designing and mixing sounds using my traditional post-production techniques. And with the latest 2.0.0 beta, Facebook introduced the ability to overlay video within their Spatializer plugin (similiar to Audioease's 360pan and 360monitor suite), so that made placing sounds on objects within the video a much easier process. I did find that I had trouble placing objects at a higher elevation - portraying this sense through sound took some experimenting and I'm not sure I've completely figured it out yet, but as a first attempt I think that it was all around a great learning experience.

Thus, here is my first sound design attempt to using spatial audio within a 360 video (I took the video from Youtube, original can be found here). Sound design wise, I know that it could use more work - my creature sounds within my library aren't the greatest, and it took a lot of manipulation with combinations of other animals (dogs, pigs, big cats, etc.) to create most of these sounds. Some of the animations in the video are also a bit sterile, but hey it's a demo! Feedback is always appreciated. And I shouldn't have to say this, but use headphones!

Note: The spatial audio will be decoded to stereo if you're using Safari or the Youtube app on iOS. See this support document for more details.