Having completed the acquisition of SRS Labs, DTS has confirmed the two companies will jointly bring multi-dimensional audio (MDA) or '3D audio' technology to market in 2013.
The Orange County based SRS Labs have been researching a new sound format that envelopes a room with 3D audio without the need for multiple speakers. It re-thinks the approach for recording and projecting sound. Rather than record ‘channels’ (for example 5 channels for 5.1 or 7 channels for 7.1) audio is mapped to x,y and z co-ordinates.
DTS have also been working in a similar field and, as a result of the take-over, both technologies and research will be combined for one complete solution.
Pieces of sound are recorded as objects in 3D space which can move through an entire room in all directions (height, width and depth). A two speaker configuration will provide a level of immersion but adding speakers will improve the effect even further. This is because, unlike the channel based system, MDA is not channel dependent so it will be compatible with any configuration including headphones.
The existing channel based sound recording process confines the sounds to a 2D plane and the positional accuracy of sound is dependent on how near the listener is to the projecting speaker. SRS claim that multi-directional audio does not suffer these constraints and that the MDA format can be compressed, transmitted and processed freely. The choice of transmission method can be determined depending on the requirements of the delivery medium. For example, simple file-based transmission would suffice for digital cinema and downloads, while a more sophisticated packing and compression scheme might be required for streaming, broadcast or disc-based media.
There have been various attempts to bring audio into the third dimension. Binaural recording is a method of recording sound that uses two microphones, arranged with the intent to create a 3-D stereo sound sensation for the listener of actually being in the room with the performers or instruments. There are several examples of this on YouTube. Search 'Virtual Barber' and immerse yourself in a virtual haircut.
Ever since the 1970’s, BBC R&D have been working on a ‘sound with height’ format known as ambisonics, which lends itself well to the reproduction of live events such as 'The Last Night of the Proms’.
Ambisonics is a similar technique to the SRS/DTS MDA format. Rather than storing sound for a specific speaker layout, Ambisonics captures the entire 3D sound field as a set of spherical harmonics which can then be decoded for a wide variety of speaker layouts, including stereo and 5.1. This, of course, allows the audience to choose the layout that best suits their listening environment.
Back in 1991, the BBC science programme ‘Tomorrow’s World’, televised a demonstration of RSS or 'ROLAND SOUND SPACE' – dubbed "3D STEREO", providing a viewers a taste of an audio future via two speakers, which is now common place in PC sound cards.
To fill the gap, AV companies have been incorporating 3D sound technology into home theatre systems. LG’s 3D Sound Zooming technology adds 4 upright speakers to the regular 5.1 set up. These additional speakers pump sound upward, filling up the entire space with sound from top to bottom.
SRS and DTS expects MDA 3D audio to be integrated into commercial products by the end of next year. It remains to be seen whether TV and movie producers will switch to a completely different audio recording format.
TOMORROW'S WORLD 3D STEREO DEMO
For more information visit the SRS website
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