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Out Board’s Dave Haydon and Robin Whittaker on the future of immersive audio

Immersive audio specialists Robin Whittaker and Dave Haydon from Out Board – the developer of TiMax – offer PSNEurope their thoughts on future directions for the various TiMax platforms to meet its ever-diverging range of immersive audio marketplaces and applications...

TiMax focuses on two distinct areas of immersive audio, which nevertheless continue to overlap more and more – Spatial Reinforcement for localisation of live voices or instruments, and graphical rendering and show control of immersive 3D audio soundscaping.

In this first area, TiMax has seen continuous interest, demand and growth globally in its core orchestral/opera, stage musical and dramatic theatre sectors, and has recently added the faith sector to its roster, particularly in the US.

The latest advance has been StageSpace, which auto-calculates delay and level parameters for multiple stage and effects ‘Image Definition’ objects. This means large-scale shows are quick and simple to implement by defining and placing different speaker types and targets on to a dimensioned drawing of the venue. The adaptive nature of this object-based mapping automatically allows for relative distances and angles between speakers, audience and stage zone positions. All weightings can be adjusted and re-tried instantly by the user. Individual object parameters can also be edited.

This hybrid of automatic rendering and manual adjustment is vital, because, as Robin Whittaker observes: “With TiMax we are un-mixing the multiple sources and presenting them to an audience spatially as they should be heard – and experienced sound designers will tell you its often the last few millsecond or dB tweaks that absolutely make the imaging work”.

TiMax StageSpace evolutions currently underway include the expansion of adaptive parameters with frequency shading to further assist localisation and also to support impressions of performer distance and posture, such as facing away or lying down.

The TiMax SoundHub platform has a new FPGA core which introduces holistic delay-morphing algorithms, providing ultra-transparent transitions via real-time, sample-level analysis of signal waveforms and content. The new core will also host an interactive spatial reverb resource – featuring concepts beyond existing TiMax implementations and other current first-generation approaches, including multiple simultaneous spaces and dynamic creative parameter showcontrol.

Out Board is also busy with new performer tracking developments. Direct integration within the TiMax StageSpace workflow via OSC also allows integration with the growing number of third party systems. Further developments include rapid auto-calibration, six degrees of freedom data to further manage level and tonality, and enhanced low-latency, 3D precision to support multimedia and lighting integration.

In the area of immersive audio soundscaping, TiMax provides an integrated show-in-box solution with all DSP, spatial rendering, audio playback, editing, automated mixing, scheduling and showcontrol onboard a single standalone unit.

Dave Haydon comments: “Many installers prefer the long haul durability of a dedicated hardware platform over a computer for continuous use in hostile environments and frequent power-cycling. And having all the resources in one box saves programming and interfacing time. The ease with which TiMax allows designers to add movement to effects, soundscape and ambience elements makes for a quantum leap in immersivity.”

TiMax achieves this workflow via its PanSpace visual object-based multi-channel panoramic rendering screen, which integrates with the TimeLine to allow spatial event scheduling and showcontrol integration, as well as playback, editing and mix automation. PanSpace and TimeLine both use effects-oriented versions of the “image-definition” objects – allowing varied approaches and degrees of subtlety to the programming workflow, all directly integrated with show sequencing and showcontrol resources.

TiMax has provided this soundscaping to installations in museums, exhibits, theme park shows and more recently, ridecars. In fact, the ridecar demand has spawned a new TiMax SoundHubVR mobile variant in a cut-down chassis with 24VDC power supply, allowing it to be built into the ride-car itself. The new Batman:Knight Flight ride at Warner Bros Yas Island, Abu Dhabi park has 17 of these built into the four- person, winged drone vehicles. Out Board sees interest from new and existing parks wanting to upgrade with this new immersive trend they’re hearing about, so the future looks bright for this new initiative.