‘ADR1FT’ Wins Best Sound Mixing in Virtual Reality Award

I am humbled & honored to win Sound Mixing in VR for ‘ADR1FT’ from the The National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers. navgtr.org/winners/

It was an incredible project and an honor to work with Adam Orth & the rest of the team at Three One Zero, including Samuel Bass, who’s design work & Unreal Engine Blueprint scripting laid the foundation for the realtime sound mix.


NAVGTR Corp. is a non-profit corporation devoted to promoting and recognizing the developments and achievements of the interactive entertainment industry for public awareness and education.

What’s the Best Tool for VR Audio? It depends.

A friend once told me a story about renting bicycles while on vacation. He asked the man offering the bikes which one was the best. He pointed to one of the higher priced models and proudly responded with an emotive gesticulation, “This one. This one is the Best.” The Best was more than my friend was willing to spend, so he pointed to a different bicycle with a lower price and asked, “What about this one?” The man responded with a big smile, “This one? It is also the Best.”

The idea that someone can make that kind of claim, just to please a customer is, well, “Not the Best.” When something is touted as a “total solution” for anything, I’m immediately skeptical.

We all want to be able to give definitive answers and when we can’t, it feels like we’re not doing our job. The reality in a field like sound, one that’s both appreciated, but often misunderstood, we need to cut through the noise, if you’ll forgive the bad pun, to do fill our role as sound designers. Sound isn’t as sexy as visuals to most people and the technical side can be, let’s face it, downright boring. Since we don’t block production on most projects, we tend to come on near the end, after most of the money, schedule, and emotional energy has already been spent and a director or producer just wants something they can hold in their hand and say, “this is the magic thing that will make my project sound good!” 

Factor in the hype surrounding VR & the confusion that naturally comes when new technologies are introduced and I find lots of people are looking for the *one* tool they can get and then Bam! VR audio. Man, I wish it were that easy. I get asked the question “what’s the best (fill in the blank) for VR?” on a fairly regular basis. I hate being the bearer of bad news, but the answer is almost always going to be “it depends”. 

It Depends

But what, exactly, does it depend on? A lot, it turns out, but the single most important factor—beyond format, beyond hardware platform, beyond development environment/game engine—is “what’s the right tool for this project?” I work on mostly entertainment projects, so before I can begin technical exploration, I need to do creative exploration. I find out what this project is all about. What’s the story? What’s the gameplay? What do we want people to feel or think? Those are what guide every decision we need to make.

Define the Best

For starters, we need to define “Best” for each project. Will people spend long moments in a VR trance soaking in the virtual environment? If so, then detail and subtlety are probably important.

Best sounding? That’s the ultimate aspect of VR audio that falls under the auspices of “it depends”. HRTF is, by definition, unique to every single person. If you’re one of the people who’s pinnae (outer ear) doesn’t work well with whatever HRTF is used by a tool, it may sound fine, but you’ll have more trouble localizing sounds. Not the “Best” for you. 

If the plan for a project is to be released “everywhere”, then “it depends” is really going to rear its ugly head. Hardware platforms, game engines, video platforms; they all have different requirements and you really need to spend some time doing technical exploration before you can know what’s even possible. 

In future posts, I’ll go into each phase of the pipeline for creating audio for immersive entertainment and review how to decide on the best tools.

Insurgent VR

Insurgent VR Announced

Insurgent VR

LOS ANGELES, Calif, Feb. 18, 2015 — echo.haus, an interactive audio agency founded by Viktor Phoenix, and Kite & Lightning, a highly-regarded virtual reality creative agency, have teamed up to create the exclusive virtual reality (VR) experience “INSURGENT – SHATTER REALITY” for Lionsgate Films.

echo.haus provided sound design, re-recording, dialogue processing, in-engine audio implementation and mixing for Kite & Lightning.

Below is more information from the press release that Lionsgate and Samsung issued this morning:

The four-minute visual work of art is a fully-immersive, 360-degree narrative experience set in the world of the upcoming feature film The Divergent Series: Insurgent and features stars from the film including Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, Miles Teller and Mekhi Phifer. Beginning February 27, fans can experience the VR content for themselves exclusively through Samsung Gear™ VR powered by the Galaxy Note® 4 as “INSURGENT – SHATTER REALITY” goes on tour in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin and San Francisco prior to going live across all platforms and app stores.

The experience will also be available exclusively on Samsung’s Milk VR™ service through March 1. Fans outside the tour markets will have an opportunity to view the experience on Samsung Gear VR over the weekend of March 7-8 at select Best Buy® stores across the US.

“Virtual reality elevates the world of Divergent to a whole new level by creating a uniquely exciting and immersive experience for our fans,” said Lionsgate Chief Marketing Officer Tim Palen. “The ‘INSURGENT – SHATTER REALITY’ experience reflects our commitment to partner with leading technology companies like Samsung to remain at the cutting edge of VR and other innovations that expand the worlds of our franchises and extend our storytelling in exciting new directions.”

By putting on the Gear VR headset, consumers are immersed in the role of “Divergent” members of society who have been captured by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) and her Erudite faction and are subjected to a series of mental “simulations” in order to determine the full extent of their divergence. As the VR technology simulates Jeanine and her faction cohorts testing them with experimental serums, they experience two distinct, intensely gripping and realistic fearscapes, transporting them from the frightening heights of a crumbling Chicago skyscraper to the intimidating challenge of a massive, fast-approaching locomotive.

Created by virtual reality innovators Kite & Lightning with assistance from the film’s VFX team, the experience was built using stereoscopic 4K video of the actors, with effects and environment built in Unreal Engine 4 and then rendered into an immersive 3D/360-degree experience. It was scored by The Divergent Series: Insurgent composer Joe Trapanese.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent, the second installment of the blockbuster Divergent franchise, will be released in theaters worldwide on March 20. The first Divergent film grossed nearly $300 million at the global box office, and the Divergent trilogy has sold more than 30 million books around the world.

Kite & Lightning