These days it’s always exciting working as an audio professional in XR, both on the creative side of things and on the technological front. Similarly to a standard audio production workflow, there are moments you want to be creative and other moments where you HAVE TO work on the technological side of things. But unlike the established audio production environment, the XR audio world has been missing the opportunity to close the gap between these two workflows. This is exactly where dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT comes into play. Question: If you have to deliver XR work, you want to work in XR as well, right? Definitely! So, I decided to include dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT in my professional workflow to see how this unique piece of software can improve my work.
The first test
We started testing out dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT in 2019 after meeting with the Dear Reality team at various conferences around the world, such as SXSW and the Audio Engineering Society. Our initial reaction to the software was amazing. Being able to mix within the delivery medium is something so essential, but making a piece of software that actually speeds up your workflow and helps you make better content is not as easy as it sounds.
The first tests we ran included a basic spatial mix for a 360° short video as well as real-time rendering over loudspeakers for music production purposes. In both scenarios, I had tons of fun playing around with it, and I could see the huge potential the product has to offer. However, some workflow elements were still missing. At this early testing stage, I still needed to properly apply this software through a more professional environment, which included deadlines to see how the product truly performs.
Project #1, May 2019
Dreams of Gold
Credits - DREAMS OF GOLD
Spatial Audio Lead - Axel Drioli
Directed and produced by David Bradshaw for ILO
Sound Editor, Spatial Audio co-mixer - Benedict Sanderson
A twelve-minutes long 360°-documentary, which involved lots of foley, sound design spatialization, and music spatialization was due to be delivered in May. The project was about the gold miners situation in Ghana. It was funded by the International Labour Organization and was directed and produced by David Bradshaw. The deadline? Yesterday.
We had one week to deliver the complete project from picture lock while other projects were also lined up around it. Our time frame was very tight as we had three projects going on at the same time with almost clashing deadlines. This was the perfect opportunity to test dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT.
By using dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT, we managed to have 12 minutes of spatialized audio realized for the first mix in 2 hours, music included. Having the right perception of depth as well as the distance of each sound object straight away and all that without ever having to remove the HMD [Head Mounted Display] was extremely useful.
The process was as follows: I was wearing the HMD, spatializing and mixing sounds, and giving feedback to my colleague who was editing and making changes on Reaper straight away.
I personally never worked so fast on a 360° mix. All we had was a container as a studio with a funky pink floor, and we had to set everything up. With dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT were able to deliver a professional mix at the same speed as in a professional dubbing theatre where the mixers have the opportunity to share the same space and consoles.
It was a great first run. I had fun working with it, and I’m also sure it saved us time. There are always things to improve, in everything, but I think Dear Reality is actually going in the right direction and creating a tool where designers can focus on creating rather than fixing tech.
Project #2, September 2019
‘A Predicament of Pangolins’
What’s better than bringing awareness to our natural world by highlighting the Pangolin, one of the most endangered animals on the planet, using immersive tech? Due to the great results we achieved in the first project, we again decided to jump right into this project using dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT.
This project was funded, directed and produced by Habitat XR, a South-African award-winning immersive wildlife studio, which began as a series of collaborations between SAL and Habitat XR. With the introduction of this project, I also announced my new brand, Sounding Wild. This project aims to bring awareness to the natural world while also using immersive sound in XR and installations.
How did the dearVR products help us with this project? Well, our challenge was that it needed to be delivered in five days. Everything had to be spatialized: SFX, foley, music and natural soundscapes. Though there wasn't much to work with from the original audio, we had the most important sound of all: the pangolins walking!
The workflow had already been tested with the previous project, which really helped me not to lose my mind while working between all the different elements that were happening in the mix. It was quite a busy mix, with various elements all happening at the same time.
I really started loving the software more and more. It was amazing how I could spend hours working in it without noticing how much time actually went by. However, working constantly for hours could reduce time efficiency, which then counteracts the purpose of using the software to increase production speed. In the end, after applying the Pomodoro time management technique, I started to get good results.
The editing process is really important, and this time I was on my own. I had to make sure that all the edits were spot on, so I could focus on the mix and get all the elements in the right place.
Working on this project within the medium of 3D audio was another thrilling experience. Over the last months, there have been some major improvements. For example, now the video player was working like a charm, without any issues! ‘A Predicament of Pangolins’ will premiere on EarthXR in April in Dallas, one of the most important climate/conservation events happening worldwide!
Working with dearVR SPATIAL CONNECT helped me shape my way of producing content, understanding how important it is to work within the medium, and that innovation in technology should make your life easier not more complicated! I am so looking forward to the next releases of these incredible tools.