Culver City, CA (December 7, 2020)—Sony had an ace up its sleeve when Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti’s Safer at Home emergency order limited activity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. Can’t work on the dub stage? No problem: Take the stage home with you.
Sound teams at Sony Pictures Entertainment were already working on some major movie projects when the work-from-home order came down last Spring. That gave Sony an opportunity to roll out its new virtual monitoring software, already in development.
Sony offered a preview of the technology, Sony 360 VME (Virtual Mixing Environment), during the recent Mix Sound for Film & TV event. According to a Sony spokesperson, the software is currently under evaluation as a beta version only within the Sony group. The company has not yet decided on a business model for the product.
Sony 360 VME captures the impulse response of any physical space and any speaker configuration, from Dolby Atmos to stereo, generating an algorithm that replicates that environment for headphone playback of any audio source. The algorithm, together with an individual’s HRTF, is saved as a profile in the AAX plug-in or standalone application. Different rooms can be saved as separate profiles and selected in the software.
To create a profile, microphones are placed in an individual’s ears and the speakers in the dub stage, editing room or other listening environment are swept with sine waves and measured. With the room profile captured, calibration is repeated with the listener wearing headphones—Sony provided the sound teams with a prototype set optimized for use with Sony 360 VME—to create a personal HRTF measurement. The user can then work at home with his or her headphones replicating the acoustic environment and speaker setup of their familiar dub stage or edit room.
Sony also presented comments from users, including Will Files, re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor on Ghostbusters: Afterlife (scheduled for release March 2021) and sound designer on Venom: Let There Be Carnage (June 2021). According to Files, when his profile was calibrated for the Cary Grant Theater on Sony’s Culver City lot, “My first instinct was to say, mute the speakers, I want to hear the headphones. But they said, ‘You are hearing the headphones.’ It’s like a magic trick.”
Post-lockdown, returning to the dub stage after using the new software at home, “We were all pleasantly surprised by how well the 360 VME headphone environment translated to the Cary Grant. There were no big surprises,” said Files.
“Even when things go back to somewhat normal, now that people have gotten accustomed to using technology like this, I have a feeling more and more people will be working from home for more time on projects.”
Boundless by Sony • www.sony.com/en_us/boundless.html