Let’s take a moment and explore two very different immersive audio production formats and how each differs from the others. When we think about the various flavors of audio, we can generally group them into five – now six – categories. Let’s explore each format in greater detail.
Monophonic, or “mono” sound comes from a single sound source, like a loudspeaker. Mono is used extensively in audio production today for effect. However, for listening purposes mono is flat and without depth. Think of the radio shows of the early through mid-1900’s.
Stereophonic, or “stereo” sound is created from two sound sources. The result is sounds that come from one or the other sound source – or both in some combination. The result is an illusion of greatly increased depth and instrument positioning capability that was used more creatively in the 1960’s for remarkable effect.
Surround audio combines three or more mono channels to deliver an illusion of being surrounded by sound. Surround audio requires more speakers to achieve its effect, which is a downfall. Additionally, surround sound’s effect is limited to the speaker axis. If your speakers are all at three foot off the floor, you’ll hear all sound as if it lives at the three-foot off the floor level. Still, many more interesting perceptions and potential effects are possible. This audio format has been used in cinematic and home theaters for years.
Binaural. Perhaps one of the oldest forms of audio recording, binaural recording was introduced in 1881 by Clement Alder. Binaural recording is capable of capturing the most realistic subjects and can capture and reproduce realistic illusions of sound in natural directions. Binaural is one of the most technically demanding and expensive methods of recording. However, the binaural experience can be enjoyed with simple stereo headphones.
Spatial Audio. Spatial audio simulates sound in 3D space. The key feature of spatial sound is that it is mastered using Dolby Atmos® or other systems that enable engineers to place a certain number of sound sources within 3D space to trick your brain into thinking sound is coming from everywhere. This provides opportunities to create convincing gaming and motion picture audio effects. However, spatial audio is used to produce a synthetic reality and not real-world precision. The effects can be wonderfully interesting. Spatial audio, with the proper listening equioment, is making its way into virtual reality right now – and is likely the best choice for this application at this time.
Like everything, spatial audio also has limits. To be truly effective, spatial audio must be coordinated with camera views, which is a severe limitation of this technology in addition to its high production cost – but possible in some cases. It also requires the listener to wear expensive equipment. Audio editing is limited if not impossible in many cases with spatial audio.
Another problem is spatial audio can become mentally tiring after a short period of time listening. We believe this phenomenon is because the brain is confronted with processing sound source locations that are located differently than where it expects them to be.
Life Environments Surroundia™ Lifelike Audio Series One™ – (“LESA-1”). LESA-1 audio production was pioneered by Life Environments. It incorporates the ability to capture highly realistic environments that exceed those of binaural recording and place audio sources in 3D space like spatial audio does. However, there are several significant differences that separate LESA-1 technology from all others.
LESA-1 recording technology captures real-world subjects that are virtually acoustically identical to the source environment – something binaural recording cannot do nearly as precisely. As with spatial audio, LESA-1 allows an engineer to place sound sources in 360-degree space in combination with natural spaces and animated source positioning series. This feature delivers creativity when required and an unmatched immersive experience. The most important feature of LESA-1 audio technology is that it can be experienced perfectly using quality stereo headphones or earbuds. No other equipment is required.
LESA-1 audio also has other features designed around capturing environments in lifelike ways that include proprietary technologies like human physiology adaptations (HPA), sound source dynamism (SSD), and human acoustic interaction (HAI) that enables the human brain to perceive and respond to sound as if the listener is present at the live sound location.
One major drawback of LESA-1 audio production is the requirement for proprietary equipment and production techniques unavailable to the industry as it is owned exclusively by Life Environments. The second drawback is the significant production expense, which can exceed $25,000 per finished minute in some cases – or $1.5 million per hour and up for audio alone.
Like spatial audio, audio editing is virtually impossible after post-processing has been completed. As far as your brain’s capacity to listen for long periods of time, that effect is largely mitigated by the fact we produce recordings of natural environments and produce any additions to that environment in a natural way. When you trick the brain, it tries to resolve it. LESA-1 does not try to trick the brain or require interpolation as spatial recording methods do.
Now you understand a bit more about the five – now six – audio types and where Life Environments audio technology fits into the mix. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for more information.
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