AES Announces 3D Audio Standard
TWO WEEKS AGO, The Audio Engineering Society ANNOUNCED AES69-2015
…AND WHAT IS AES69-2015 AGAIN?
Good question. AES69-2015 is a new audio format that provides standards for the development of 3D / binaural audio in an effort to help drive the adoption of what AES calls “an increasingly popular form of audio.”
When you go to the grocery store and buy apples labeled “organic,” those apples are given that label because they have been grown and produced under a certain protocol. The farmer used certain ingredients and growing methods that a certain committee deemed mandatory in order for said farmer to commercially market their apples as organic. There was a protocol, a process, and a final product that was part of this label. But there was also an origin to it all as well.
At the beginning, no one knew what organic was, or what made an item worthy of the organic label. Someone created that standard. They also created the “organic” knowledge base and made tools readily available for any farmer to produce an organic product.
THINK OF AES69-2015 AS THE “ORGANIC” OF AUDIO
I’ll tell you why I’m excited about this: it is the birth of what will be an incredibly creative sonic movement.
Bruce Olson, committee chair of Audio Engineering Society says “AES69 represents a fundamental piece of architecture for taking personal audio to a new level of performance. Using this, product developers will be able to take advantage of transfer-function databases from all over the world to produce a truly immersive 3D audio experience.”
[WARNING: TECHNICAL JARGON AHEAD]
The new AES69-2015 standard defines a file format to exchange space-related acoustic data in various forms. These include HRTF as well as directional room impulse responses (DRIR). The format is designed to be scalable to match the available rendering process and is designed to be sufficiently flexible to include source materials from different databases.
This format heavily effects the world of 3D Audio Playback, less heavily, the world of recording. A lot of companies are working on 3D Audio playback software: Dolby Atmos, DTS Premium Sound 3D, SonicVR, 3DSoundLabs to name a few.
Many companies are transforming 2D Audio (recordings made with standard microphones, not binaural mics) into 3D Audio in the playback space — all of them differently. This proves that while 3D Audio is desirable and attainable in today’s market, some regulation will be necessary: a world in which people capture their Coachella snapchats in 3D Audio is just around the corner, but still a ways to go. This movement starts with a product for consumers and professionals to create with as well as a protocol (AES69-2015) for playback companies and licensing firms to adhere to.
It’s important that everyone in the 3D Audio space, whether recording company, playback company, or convolution company know what constitutes a true 3D Audio recording. And just like the farmer from our earlier analogy, it’s important that they follow protocol and process to get the desired product.
The creation of this format creates a business
The reality is that sound is big business; it is both hardware and software, and can’t be one without the other anymore. Audio standards and features like surround sound and 7.1 come with high margin licensing agreements. For example, the brand manufacturer pays a fee per unit shipped (or similar terms) for use of the audio standard in their product. In recent years, this has also become a valuable marketing play for licensors. The relationships between sound licensee and licensors is worth billions.
Imagine if every time an .mp3 was played or streamed, some company somewhere collected $ .001.
Did the standard come before the marketing opportunity or vice versa? The question is not whether 3D audio is going to be the next big thing with the advent of consumer VR and commercial AR, the question is when. Big Sound is getting ready by establishing these “new” audio standards so that brand manufacturers and retail reps can prepare for the next big push.
What does this mean for mobile 3D audio?
Nothing. Our standard is standard agnostic. Hooke binaural audio recordings can be experienced and played back on any two channel playback device with or without 5.1 , 7.1, surround, etc. There are no software tricks, algorithms, or file corruptions. Just audio the way your ears heard it the first time.
The 3D sound marketing onslaught right around the corner and I can’t wait for it. I’m excited to see what people create and do with binaural recordings. Establishing an audio format for binaural is the first important step of many that will make sound, at last, part of the conversation. The next step will then be who is creating what, how, and why. We will be right here when that conversation starts to take place, and we can’t wait to join in on it.
From One Ear To Another,