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Thundercat - 'Uh Uh' - Electromechanical Lithophone - Binaural Audio & 360 Video


This week’s blog entry focuses on the immersive world of 360 and binaural audio technology. Specifically, we will be looking at some of the most popular Binaural DAW plugins currently available, comparing different examples and discussing their merits. To complement the post, I have produced an audio-visual example intended to demonstrate the capabilities of binaural audio when paired with 360 videos.


The video comprises of binaural audio and 360 video documenting a performance of the Thundercat track ‘Uh Uh’ by the Electromechanical Lithophone. The audio was recorded using an Ambisonics Soundfield ST450 microphone in 4 channel B Format FuMa (WXYZ). The video footage was captured using a GoPro Fusion 360 camera also mounted at the centre.


The 4 channels were recorded as separate mono tracks using a Roland R44 field recorder. These tracks were then imported into Reaper and combined into a single 4 channel file. The Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation suite including the Spatializer, Converter, Loudness meter and Control plugins were then used to convolve the B Format stems to a binaural mix. The audio mix and 360 GoPro Fusion files were then combined using the Facebook Encoder to create the final video file.



Binaural Plugin Comparison


The following is intended as a broad comparison of some of the leading plugins that facilitate binaural audio processing.


DearVR Pro - $349.00 - AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU, VST2 & VST3 – Win & Mac


Pros:


- All in one solution compatible with a wide range of render destinations

- Specific delivery format options including Youtube 360 and Facebook 360

- Company has a strong established reputation in the industry

- Excellent compatibility with most plugin host systems catered for

- Includes 46 virtual acoustic spaces modelled on real spaces

- Virtual acoustic spaces can also be used in 2D stereo productions


Cons:


- One of the most expensive products on the market


DearVR Music - $99.00 – AAX Native, AAX AudioSuite, AU, VST2 & VST3 – Win & Mac


Pros:


- Specifically designed to work well with music as source material

- Company has a strong established reputation in the industry

- Excellent compatibility with most plugin host systems catered for

- Includes 18 virtual acoustic spaces modelled on real spaces

- Virtual acoustic spaces can also be used in 2D stereo productions

- Excellent user interface


Cons:


- Does not perform as well with source material that is not music

- Binaural 3D audio is not a popular delivery format for music


Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation – Free – VST & AAX - Win & Mac


Pros:


- Specific delivery format options including Youtube 360 and Facebook 360

- Suite of plugins including Spatializer, Converter, Loudness meter, Control, Video player & Encoder

- Allows you to render to video with 360 spatial panning easily

- Excellent compatibility with most plugin host systems catered for

- Free to download


Cons:


- Only compatible with Pro Tools HD, Reaper & Nuendo

- Workflow is a little more complicated with multiple plugins

- Limited options for acoustic room modelling


Dolby Atmos Pro Production Suite - $299.00 – AAX - Mac


Pros:


- All in one solution compatible with a wide range of render destinations

- Plugin suite includes Panner, Renderer & Transcoder

- Includes additional extensive functionality for Dolby Atmos mixing

- Allows you to optimise audio for 360 video using the transcoder

- Features standalone editing functionality in addition to plugin suite

- Separate spherical VR panner


Cons:


- Binaural processing is included but not the main focus

- Workflow is more involved with multiple plugins

- Limited compatibility, only works with Pro Tools and Mac

- One of the more expensive products on the market


Sennheiser AMBEO Orbit – Free – AAX, VST, VST3 & AU – Win & Mac


Pros:


- Excellent compatibility with most plugin host systems catered for

- Pairs well with Sennheiser AMBEO microphone

- Very simple and intuitive user interface

- Free to download


Cons:


- Very basic acoustic modelling functionality

- Overall a somewhat limited feature set

- Only offers binaural output


Overall of the five products detailed I consider DearVR Pro to have the best feature set when it comes to producing binaural audio for a multitude of formats. It is worth stating that this appraisal is purely based on the advertised specifications and may be subject to change should the plugins be auditioned. In order to gain a complete appreciation on the qualities of plugins of this nature it is important that a real time functional testing is carried out to accurately review both the functional and auditory performance of the software.



Video Sources:


Original Thundercat track available at:


- Brainfeeder. (2017, 24 February). Thundercat - 'Uh Uh' [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lHjeEkS1WE


Arrangement for Lithophone adapted from the following Midi score:


- Burgess, D. (2018, 29 January). Thundercat - Uh Uh [Midi score]. Retrieved from https://musescore.com/user/27698652/scores/4911179


Blog Sources :


- Dear Reality. (2018). DEARVR MUSIC USER MANUAL v1.2. Retrieved from https://files.plugin-alliance.com/products/dearvr_music/dearvr_music_manual.pdf


- Dear Reality. (2018). DEARVR PRO USER MANUAL v1.2. Retrieved from https://files.plugin-alliance.com/products/dearvr_pro/dearvr_pro_manual.pdf


- Dolby. (2017). Dolby Atmos Production Suite Guide. Retrieved from http://developerdownload.dolby.com/docs/Dolby_Atmos_Production_Suite_guide.pdf


- Facebook. (2018). SPATIAL WORKSTATION USER GUIDE. Retrieved from https://facebookincubator.github.io/facebook-360-spatial-workstation/Documentation/SpatialWorkstation/SpatialWorkstation.html


- Sennheiser. (2018). AMBEO Orbit Quickstart Version: 0.1.1 beta. Retrieved from https://www.scribd.com/document/375531946/AMBEO-Orbit-Quickstart

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