The "immersive audio" label is everywhere these days, it seems. For a while referred to as "3-D audio," multi-speaker presentation formats have been around for years, but with the commercial success of the new cinematic immersive formats, such as Auro-3D and Dolby Atmos, it's taken on a new lease on life.
"Is it marketing, so that hardware manufacturers can sell a lot more stuff? Maybe. But the reason for those of us who make content is that it makes it more emotional; we have more fun with it," said Tom Ammermann, general manager of New Audio Technology in Germany. Ammermann presented back-to-back tutorials on producing 3D audio for music, film and games, and for 3D headphones, at AES.
Ammermann, who has been creating music in surround since 2000, believes the new formats produce a compelling experience when applied not only to film but also games and music. "I think the music industry missed a real chance to have a totally new experience with 5.1," he said. But with the new immersive audio tools emerging, he continued, "We have another chance now to do new mixes."
Not everyone is ready to attach speakers to the ceiling in order to produce or experience immersive audio. Consumer equipment manufacturers are alleviating that problem with up-firing speakers that offer a convincing alternative, but the greatest potential may lie with headphones.
"Headphone virtualization is a huge issue," said Ammermann, whose company makes software that allows producers to mix and monitor through headphones in any currently available multichannel loudspeaker configuration, including the immersive cinematic formats. DTS, for its part, has Headphone:X, which reproduces the company's 11.1 layout, and Dolby expects to release a similar product within the next year.
New Audio Technology