From September 14 to 18, b<>com teams will be at the IBC Amsterdam, Europe’s largest Media, Entertainment and Technology tradeshow. At the Future Zone, out of the three demos being offered, the "advanced media coding" team will present a complete production system for creating immersive content. Nicolas Epain, R&D Audio engineer at b<>com, tells us about the technology that will be exhibited, which enables professionals to produce high-quality, affordable immersive audio content.

Could you tell us about the b<>com technologies coming out at IBC?

We're presenting a complete workflow at IBC, including a series of 360 audio plugins based on HOA (Higher-Order Ambisonics) technology for producing premium immersive content. At the booth, we'll show how to record, mix, and broadcast audio soundtracks for virtual reality videos. Live 3D soundscape capture using microphone arrays will be demonstrated.

Specifically, we will present two new tools for capturing and analyzing 3D audio signals. The first is a plugin that converts the signals recorded by a spherical microphone array into HOA signals. This conversion is done using custom filters based on precise calibration of the microphone array. The second tool is a plugin that analyzes the signals recorded and displays a map of the sound field. This spatial analysis also makes it possible to accentuate or eliminate certain sounds coming from a particular location in space. With respect to playback, we'll be showing a 360 video player compatible with the Oculus Rift. This player offers high-quality dynamic rendering for HOA soundtracks encoded in MPEG-H.

Nicolas Epain

What are the benefits of this technology?

For a long time, audio production for virtual reality content was reserved for specialists. With the b<>com plugins, any sound engineer can now easily produce high-quality immersive audio content. 

What it offers consumers is an audio experience guaranteed to be accurate and highly immersive, thanks to dynamic audio rendering. The resolution will be much better than with the ambisonic format currently used on web platforms.

For the producer, the use of object-oriented audio standards (ADM and MPEG-H) facilitates the archiving, exchanging, and distribution of content. Thus, a video with an HOA soundtrack compressed with the MPEG-H codec may be integrated into a standard MP4 container and read from any compatible video player on a smartphone or PC.

How is this demonstration innovative?

Until recently, to produce audio intended for immersive content, there were only two solutions: Either employ free tools that require a certain degree of expertise and did not ensure an optimal experience, or make use of proprietary tools that were easier to use and offered better sound quality, but were very expensive and totally locked-down.

At IBC, we want to show that there is now a third way that combines the best of both: Audio production that relies on open standards and offers a high-end experience at an affordable price.

What content was chosen for the demonstration?

We will present our tools with the short film « Alteration », a short film directed by Jérôme Blanquet and OKIO studios, one of the most prominent French studio in the European VR scene. In this VR content, the soundtrack plays a prominent role in the experience: Such an approach is still rare, but it always makes a big difference in the success of VR productions.

b<>com *Spatial Audio Toolbox* will be in demonstration from September 14 to 18 at IBC - Amsterdam. Come meet our team in the Future Zone.