Crash Course in 3D Audio (with Felix Deufel and Nikhil Nagaraj)

Crash Course in 3D Audio (with Felix Deufel and Nikhil Nagaraj)

Crash Course in 3D Audio @ TheISRO – 3D SoundLab Bengaluru

On the 5th of January 2022, sound-designers and sound-artists, Felix Deufel and Nikhil Nagaraj facilitated a day-long workshop at TheISRO - 3D SoundLab Bengaluru. The goal of the workshop was to empower students, sound artists, producers and other practitioners to work with 3D audio and to use the SoundLab Bengaluru for future experiments and productions.

The workshop started with an introduction to 3D audio, where the facilitators explained the basic principles of 3D sound in the context of natural human hearing systems – how parameters such as the distance between ears and the shape of the head and ears enable humans to hear 3 dimensional sounds with 2 ears. They then went on to talk about different 3D audio formats such as cinema surround sound, Atmos, Ambisonics, etc. and how these try to emulate natural 3 dimensional sound through different sets of algorithms / mathematical formulae.

After this introduction, the facilitators gave the participants an overview of the software used for 3D audio production. This included an introduction to Reaper - a digital audio workstation, various open-source VST plugins developed by the Institute for Electronic Music and Acoustics (IEM) for ambisonics, binaural and multichannel audio, as well as a VST plugin called Grapes, developed by Felix Deufel and his organisation, Not a Number GmbH. The software crash course gave the participants a comprehensive overview of the signal flows and pipeline involved in 3D audio production, and how various ‘decoder’ and ‘encoder’ plugins are used to render 3D audio from different source audio formats for different types of audio formats, sound-systems, layouts and spaces. They also demonstrated how certain plugins and their GUIs make it easier to define the positions and movements of sounds in a 3 dimensional space. Further, the crash course also included an overview of the hardware such as the audio interfaces, amplifiers and speakers, their signal flows and how they work in conjunction with the 3D audio software.

Afterwards, the participants were shown how to install and setup the various software and plugins on their personal computers, getting them ready for future endeavours in 3D audio production. Since the participants came from diverse professional backgrounds, the facilitators also advised them about different usage contexts and scenarios, and how the 3D audio production pipeline could be adapted to the individuals’ workflows, as well as different types of hardware, speaker setups and spaces.