Several new 360-cameras launched to help creators step into the world of VR creation. But it wasn’t just the hardware that made waves, YouTube also made VR content easier to consume on their platform.
So it’s safe to say that VR devices, games, short movies and even homemade VR are becoming more common. However, there’s one thing that’s falling behind, VR audio. This is a huge mistake in our opinion.
In order for VR to become a great medium, the sound that goes with it needs to be great as well. Music has a huge role to play if the experience is going to be convincing.
The relationship between sound and VR
Currently, there are two types of sound within VR experiences. These two types are single (or stereo) source natural sound, and artificial stereo sound.
The first type is most used by creators using inexpensive cameras. The creator goes out and records 360 videos, using the onboard microphones to capture sound in that environment. While the sound might be clear, it doesn’t capture surround audio.
Consider the sound from a set of headphones versus surround sound to understand the difference. It doesn’t quite live up to the virtual reality title, does it?
The second type is common with game designers and VR experience creators. In this case, they often add audio in stereo (or more) through artificial sources.
Stereo-based sound still only presents two sound points to a 360-degree experience. The ones with more are better (often 4 points) but still only present sound from a static number of locations.
To create immersive 360-degree videos, new types of sound recording need to add 3D audio. The most accessible is Spatial Audio which records in all directions. A device like the H2n recorder is affordable for most and does a good job at capturing audio that surrounds it. Spatial audio enables audio to get louder and change pitch/tone as you turn away and towards it.
Music and VR
Great films, YouTube videos and video games come with great soundtracks. VR can use it the same way but also in unique ways. In most flat videos, music is a stereo addition that sits among other sound effects. In VR, music can play that role and more.
Through the implementation of spatial audio, music can become part of the story. Instead of music coming from everywhere, you can set the mood by having it come from speakers in the room.
To add depth, music played in rooms you cannot see helps create atmosphere. As you walk towards it, it becomes louder and quieter as you walk away. It becomes a piece that builds the world.
Music that originates within an experience rather than as a soundtrack is like the difference between an image and VR. It’s on a whole other level.
Together, immersive sound, music and VR can convince the brain into thinking it's real. Talk about creating life-altering experiences!
Spatial audio in VR
There are many exciting things that come from VR and spatial audio, but now let's experience it. Below, we’ve selected a few fantastic (albeit basic) examples of spatial audio.
Grab your VR goggles, put on some headphones and try these audio/visual experiences!
The future of spatial audio, music and VR
Now that you’ve tried some spatial audio and VR experiences, let’s talk about the future. Right now, much like current VR cameras, recording spatial and other 360-audio is basic.
In most cases, the solutions that exist today will improve in the coming years. The future will enable better sound recordings and improved editing methods.
Your favourite video editors will likely get add-ons to edit and adjust in a 360-degrees. That will enable higher level content and exciting new ways of creating.
As a creator, you should consider looking or renting the tools to get some ideas. Practice and then wait for better equipment before you start creating VR content.
The market for VR is only going to grow in the years to come, so keep your eyes on the technology!