Virtual Reality Is Flopping Because It Doesn't Value The Art Of Expression

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Virtual Reality Is Flopping Because It Doesn't Value The Art Of Expression

It's no coincidence that the devices we love to consume on also let us create. We can consume on our smartphones but also take incredible photos. We can consume on our laptops but also make beautifully unique websites with little web dev experience. Groundbreaking technology allows us to create just as easily as it allows us to to consume. And that's exactly what the Virtual Reality movement is ignoring. 

I read an awesome article on Business Insider last week by Matt Weinberge titled "The future of tech is already here — and nobody cares". It spoke of Best Buy closing down 200 of its 500 Oculus in store demo stations, the never ending decline in both popularity and sales of the smart watch market and the skepticism behind companies like Apple and Doppler Labs wanting us to have "hearables" in our ears 24/7.

It also asked a very important question "Can cutting edge tech successfully overcome our natural habits?"

Doppler labs wants to change the way we hear the World.

Doppler labs wants to change the way we hear the World.

No. Not if it keeps inhibiting us from expression.

Every product Matt speaks of in his article is a consumption device, a time management tool or a smart gadget. Eliminating the possibility for creation (or in this case expression) is a death sentence. The ability to consume is only half of the experience in today's social media gadget driven world. And as a result, products that only allow us to consume and not create grow tiresome quickly and often force us to ask the question "do I really need this?". 

The key to great tech is making a device that inspires some one to use it in a way that you never could have imagined. This is the tech that sticks with us. In order for virtual reality to have the same success as personal computing and smartphones, it needs to start inspiring us to create and express ourselves. And it needs to give us that ability to create in an easy to use, affordable and portable platform. Otherwise it's just going to be another thing we use to play video games and watch porn.


Twitter succeeded because of the Arab Spring, Apple succeeded because it made the computer personal and the app store, CDs were burnable, Snapchat has filters, Instagram has filters, Facebook gives you a voice, Wifi gives you mobile creativity. These devices inspire you to both create and consume.


Creative...?

Creative...?

These days there's a lot of talk about virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses and even 3D Audio headphones. It feels like every day we're learning about a new device that changes the way we CONSUME and INTERACT with content. Even more, they are making the consumption experience as easy as hitting a power button. Shouldn't it be the same for creating on these devices?

Unfortunately, it is not. There are many dev kits and developer platforms out there for VR, but they are still only reserved for a professional market with big budgets and large teams who have the ability to both purchase the expensive equipment and program it. The average Joe can't start creating VR content the way they can get their voice heard on social media, create beautiful photos on instagram, burn a mix for their crush on CD (20 years ago) or make a smartphone app from their personal computer.

Don't get me wrong, I think Virtual Reality is well on its way to providing easier tools and platforms for immersive content creation. But until then, VR is going to remain a niche experience. Think of it this way, when we saw HD Video for the first time, we wanted to express ourselves in HD Video. Thankfully the Handycam and iPhone gave us that.

YouTube, the easiest platforms to create and share videos on is also the hardest platform to share VR content on...

YouTube, the easiest platforms to create and share videos on is also the hardest platform to share VR content on...


VR needs its Handycam and its GoPro of Microphones.


VR needs more authentic creators and content. We hear and see the world in 3D, so how about making more content that captures the way we see and hear? Once more, how about making devices that let us capture our world the way we actually see and hear it and not the way a video game character or a porn star does? We need videocameras and microphones, not algorithms and goggles. We need tools that don't over process or over saturate, we need tools that just listen and see. They can't break the mold of our usual habits, and they can't be devices that require 24 hour engagement or wearing to succeed. They need to be capable of being picked up like a paintbrush, put down like microphone and inspiring like a blank canvas. 

Expression is what keeps us moving forward, I think Virtual Reality needs to better job at incorporating affordable, accessible and portable creation tools into its experience. Do you agree? Or do you think there is a different factor missing?

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder 

 

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Why My Home Videos Are Binaural Recordings

This week's post comes from Hooke Audio's Head of Accessibility, Justin Thornton. Justin is a blind drummer, audiophile, tech enthusiast and all around amazing dude. We asked him about his connection to sound as a blind storyteller.

Justin with his Hooke Verse and fiance, Catherine Holland

Justin with his Hooke Verse and fiance, Catherine Holland

WHAT IS THE FIRST THOUGHT THAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN ASKED, “WHAT IS SOUND?”

For me (Justin), it's everything. I was born totally blind, so I live sound day-in and day-out. It's how I explore and navigate the world, live independently and accomplish my dreams. Plus, it's how I relive memories. It's my everything and I think it should be yours, too.

My relationship with sound started at the early age of four when I started developing rhythm. That's when I knew I'd become a drummer. I'd beat and bang on anything I could get my hands on, in time with music. Thankfully, I can relive these memories because my grandfather recorded a lot of my young drumming on VHS tapes. I often revisit these videos to remember just how far I've come as a drummer, and also to remember my grandfather.

Justin playing drums, 2011.

Justin playing drums, 2011.

However, spacial awareness has always been a major problem inhibiting me from remembering these special moments. When I say spacial awareness, I mean the ability to recognize audio sources the way I did in the moment. Perhaps hearing a siren behind me from the window or the sounds of my cousins coming to the right of me in a nearby room. Sound is all I have to remember these moments. The way my grandfather captured these sounds, on his VHS camcorder, was equivalent to hearing with one ear. See, sound on VHS is mono, especially when recorded with a standard consumer camcorder. I have two! I wish I could remember it that way. Add to the fact that I can’t see the screen, which means I don’t know where that little boy is in the room or when he moves from one side to the other interacting with his family.

 


THE ABILITY TO EXPERIENCE A MOMENT IDENTICALLY TO THE WAY I ORIGINALLY HEARD IT IS VITAL FOR ME, BUT I FEEL THAT IT SHOULD BE VITAL FOR ALL. SOUND IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT IN BOTH CAPTURING AND TELLING OUR STORIES, REGARDLESS AS TO WHETHER YOU'RE BLIND OR NOT.


Thankfully this is changing (cue the binaural audio!). I can’t go back in time to re-record those memories, but from here on out, I can capture 3D audio as easily as wearing a pair of Bluetooth headphones. Now, anytime I attend an event and want to be able to relive it, and see it in my mind without having vision, I can. Anytime I attend a concert, family and friends outing, adventure -even my upcoming wedding, I can easily capture it and know I will be able to relive it again, and again. Being blind, this is groundbreaking for me, as well as it is groundbreaking for many other adventurers, musicians, and memory makers.

 

THE BINAURAL SOUND TECHNIQUE HAS BEEN AROUND FOR CENTURIES, SO MY QUESTION IS, “WHY IS IT NOT THE STANDARD OF TODAY’S AUDIO RECORDINGS FOR VIDEOS?”.

 

Justin using the Hooke Verse Mobile app in VoiceOver mode. The Hooke mobile App is completely accessible to blind users using VoiceOver on iOS and Talkback on Android.

Justin using the Hooke Verse Mobile app in VoiceOver mode. The Hooke mobile App is completely accessible to blind users using VoiceOver on iOS and Talkback on Android.

For me, it’s like the ultra 4K quality of today’s[KB1]  television content; just as vivid and crystal clear. Plus, you don’t have to turn around or adjust your eyes to enjoy full 360 degree binaural audio. Your hearing, in this case, is way more capable than your sight! We should be demanding the same clarity out of audio as we do video. I truly think binaural has the ability to wake up people's ears the same way it does for mine daily. I am excited to see where this technology can take us and I hope it connects us all in ways we never could have imagined along the way.

From One Ear To Another,
Justin Thornton, Accessibility

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Dear Facebook: If You Want To Beat Twitter In Streaming, Support Stereo Audio

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Dear Facebook: If You Want To Beat Twitter In Streaming, Support Stereo Audio

With more people live streaming on mobile platforms than ever, Twitter and Facebook are trying to cash in. In the last month we've seen each company unveil a slew of features in hopes of becoming the go-to mobile streaming platform. Twitter unveiled 360 video support, where Facebook took a stab at radio by unveiling Live Audio. And CES 2017, happening this week in Las Vegas, could be a defining moment as both attendees and media are forced to choose one service over the other for live coverage at the show.

These apps exist to tell stories, our stories. If they can’t share scent, touch, or taste, then they better do the best job at sharing our sights and sounds in their highest quality. Live Streaming is POV by nature, you the viewers are expected to be transformed into the head of the streamer and both hear and see from their perspective. Both of these apps do a fine job of visually conveying the world to its viewers, however one (Facebook) seems to think we hear the world with one ear instead of two. And even more unsettling is that they assume we don't care if our concert videos sound like crap. It’s completely unacceptable, and unfortunately it's persistent across all of Facebook's products.


Despite the recent feature rollouts in the race to own live streaming, there’s one widely overlooked space where Twitter is clearly winning: audio quality.


How are they doing it? Well to be honest, they’re the only ones even trying.

Currently, Twitter is the only option that supports multichannel, high quality audio for live streaming video. So while Facebook encourages users to capture and share real time, POV content that immerses audiences in another place, none of their platforms support the capturing or publishing of multi-channel high quality audio to go with it. In other words, Facebook compresses even the highest of multichannel audio into garble-y mono upon upload. A simple comparison of streaming on Facebook Live vs. Twitter's Periscope is all it takes reveal the difference:

Notice how you can actually localize audio on the left and right when listening to the periscope cast? 

Across Facebook’s entire portfolio which includes Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Android and iOS apps, Mentions and Messenger, NONE of them support stereo audio. The only way you can share a stereo audio file through one of Facebook’s products is by uploading it via desktop and using the Facebook website. And even then, the audio is incredibly compressed to an unlistenable degree. Hear the difference for yourself:

Notice the digital compression sound on the Facebook video. The YouTube upload is much cleaner.

It is the giant tech companies like Facebook and Twitter's responsibility to provide us, the consumer with the best tools to tell our stories. As long as Facebook converts everything to mono, how are we to know it can be better? However, as headphone sales continue to rise and iPhones now come with stereo speakers, more people are noticing the difference and demanding more. There are many creators sharing incredible stories with high quality audio, but Facebook is limiting them from truly connecting with their audiences. That ends now.

It’s clear that these companies are looking for any opportunity to gain an edge over their competition, and once the video features have gone as far as they can, audio will be next in line to help one company rise above the other. In that regard, there’s no denying Periscope’s audio dominance leaves Twitter poised to take the lead, and a recent decision by tech pub The Verge to exclusively use Periscope for their CES Live Coverage could be an early confirmation of just that. Either way, the next few days will be pivotal in the live streaming arms race and we say, watch your back Facebook because Twitter is already winning. 

 

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder and CEO

 

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A Complete Guide to Apple MFi Certification: How To Pass & What to Avoid.

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A Complete Guide to Apple MFi Certification: How To Pass & What to Avoid.

For the last year Hooke Audio has been working to receive an Apple MFi certification for Hooke Verse and today we have received it. The MFi application and review process is daunting, it's not exactly easy to line up innovation with a company that is constantly innovating. Apple doesn't make the process easy either (for example, the only contact for communication throughout the process you are given is a generic MFi email address and a portal containing multiple +100 page handbooks that must be followed to a science). I've desperately searched for a How-To guide online with tips from other companies who have gone through the process, but I couldn't find any. So I decided to make my own. Enjoy and happy innovating!

"Apple Inc.'s MFi Program ("Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad") is a licensing program for developers of hardware and software peripherals that work with Apple's iPod, iPad and iPhone, the so-called iDevices. The name is a shortened version of the original long-form Made For iPod."

"Apple Inc.'s MFi Program ("Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad") is a licensing program for developers of hardware and software peripherals that work with Apple's iPod, iPad and iPhone, the so-called iDevices. The name is a shortened version of the original long-form Made For iPod."


Step 1. Determine Whether MFi is Necessary.

Companies seek MFi certification for various reasons. Some become MFi certified to ensure their products stay up to date and compatible with the latest Apple products, some become certified merely for the marketing value and some become MFi certified because they have to.

If your hardware utilizes any of the following features, I guarantee you will be required by Apple to receive an MFi certification:

1. Your accessory requires a mobile app to function. Apple will not release the app into the App Store until the accessory is MFi certified.
2. Your accessory uses the iPhone's internal battery for charging.
3. Your accessory communicates with smart home technology
4. Your accessory functions by plugging into the lightning connector on an iOS device.
5. Your accessory over rides the built in microphone or camera on an iOS device.
6. Your accessory provides external batter power to an iOS device.

You can search all MFi certified accessories on Apple's site: https://mfi.apple.com/MFiWeb/getAPS

You can search all MFi certified accessories on Apple's site: https://mfi.apple.com/MFiWeb/getAPS

 

 

Step 1 Duration: N/A
Price: N/A


Step 2. Get a D.U.N.S number

Before you've even written a line of code, make sure your business is in order. When you submit your app to the App Store, you'll be required to submit under some name. This might be the name of your LLC, or just your name if you're submitting alone. Odds are if you're seeking an MFi certification, you'll have an LLC or Delaware Corp already established. 

In order to begin the process and have access to the Apple Developer Portal, your entity will need to acquire a D.U.N.S. number. According to Apple, this is why you need the number:

 

Step 1 Duration: 3-4 weeks
1 week to gather materials and submit, 2-3 weeks to receive D.U.N.S. number once submitted.
Price: Free (unless you expedite it to get it in 5 days instead of regular 30 days time.)


Step 3. Partner with an MFi Licensed Manufacturer.

Not all factories are alike. Make sure yours has what you need. Once you receive your D.U.N.S. number, you'll gain access to the Apple Developer Portal and be able to start coding. You're well on your way towards creating an iOS app.  But what about creating the MFi accessory?

The saying hardware is hard has never rang truer when it comes to getting your hardware MFi certified. You'll need to partner with a manufacturer that is registered as an MFi licensed manufacturer. Factories apply for this certification every year so make sure your factory shows proof of this certification and that it is up to date when they sign on. You can do some research ahead of time and check the list of licensed manufacturers. The factory might be a licensed manufacturer when you sign on, but when you begin mass production a year and a half later that might not be the case. It's also important to understand what accessories they've gotten MFi certified in the past. Just because they've gotten a HomeKit accessory MFi certified does not mean they'll be good at getting an audio product MFi certified. Keep on them throughout the process and ask as many questions as you can. 

 

Step 2 Duration: 1-2 months
Budget a few months to find an MFi licensed manufacturing partner.
Price: $0 - $5,000 depending on whether you find one on the internet or choose to fly to China and interview them yourself.


Step 3. Develop With An Apple Mind

After obtaining the manufacturing partner, D.U.N.S. number and developer account, you're ready to start developing the firmware for your accessory and app. 

When you obtain your MFi account, you'll gain access to the "MFi Accessory Hardware and Firmware Specifications handbook". In our case since we were a bluetooth product, specs like the "Bluetooth Accessory Design Guidelines for Apple Products" were very essential. The MFi requirements that apply to Bluetooth accessories can be found in Sections 18 & 19 of the Accessory Interface Specification R23 document.

Keep in mind these are constantly changing documents filled with +200 pages of proprietary components and features that Apple requires you to incorporate if you want to obtain the MFi certification.

Also, don't for one second think Apple will budge on any of the requirements they have listed in that document. For example, if you're creating an Apple certified headset, Apple has a required distance that the 3-button array must be from the actual earbud. Follow all of their guidelines. All of them.

The following components and features are essential to passing MFi certification for a iAP (Bluetooth) accessory:
-Your accessory IN NO WAY threatens the battery life of the iPhone (ie. http://bit.ly/1PbOhJE)
-iAP1 can no longer be used as of 2016. All accessory's using iAP must be using iAP2.
-Your accessory supports Wide Band Speech (see section 18.2.2.7 “Wide Band Speech”)
-If your accessory is using A2DP for music listening, it MUST support AAC (see section 18.2.5.2 “MPEG 2/4 AAC Codecs”)
-If your accessory is using iAP2, it must confirm the presence of a HID headset remote component, as required in the Spec R24 , Chapter 7.2 of the handbook. The HID headset component is what the Apple headphones use. Essentially, apple wants your music listening accessory to work just like theirs, hence making sure your product functions like theirs is essential.
-Section 4 of the the "Bluetooth Accessory Design Guidelines for Apple Products" states “Bluetooth Accessory Identification” describes the AT command an accessory must send to the Apple device before it can send the battery level and Siri status commands.

4. Test Yourself Before Apple Tests

Let's say you've double checked and confirmed your product's firmware and iOS app contain all the features and components listed above. You still need to make sure your Bluetooth accessory is performing up to Apple's standards.

In Hooke's case, it was heavily recommended to perform as many of the tests described in Section 18.5 “Test Procedures” of the Bluetooth Accessory Design Guidelines for Apple Products as possible. Each MFi accessory has its own "Accessory Design Guidelines" which you will gain access to once you create your MFi developer account. As a general rule, if you find problems or issues using these test procedures, then it’s all but guaranteed the 3rd party test lab will find the same problems/issues, and will deny the certification. That'll require the manufacturer to address the issue(s) and resubmit the product, which will take time. It’ll save some time if you can find and address any problems/issues before the manufacturer submits the accessory to the 3rd party test lab.

ATS AND BPA100

All Bluetooth products seeking MFi certification must first test and pass on the ATS software offered by Apple. This software works solely with Avnet Inc's BPA Bluetooth Protocol Analyzers which are offered exclusively through AVnet Inc.

 

Shown after Hooke Verse successfully passed ATS tests in live mode.

Shown after Hooke Verse successfully passed ATS tests in live mode.

Don't even bother submitting your Bluetooth production samples to Apple until you've successfully passed ATS traces for all devices you've listed as "compatible" on your MFi product plan (more on the Product plan below) application. NOTE: You MUST pass ATS tests in "live mode", meaning you have to login to your MFi portal account and run the tests through the portal so that Apple knows you're not pulling any fast ones on them behind closed doors.

Some comments on the BPA bluetooth sniffers, they're pretty awful. They're very unreliable when it comes to getting an accurate trace result every time. Often when testing, some bluetooth packets might get lost when sending to the BPA simply due to the test environment or where the tiny BPA is placed on your testing table. When Apple sniffs your Bluetooth product in testing, they use high end equipment in controlled spaces without any other bluetooth interference. The distance between your phone and headset during your internal testing could be the cause of a lost packed and sequentially cause you to fail the ATS test. We had to test over and over again, multiple times just to get a passed result because the BPA100 and BPA600 we used were so unreliable.

Bluetooth packet loss caused by BPA100.

Bluetooth packet loss caused by BPA100.

Step 4 Duration: 3-6 months
Not joking. This is what really delayed Hooke Audio in producing the Verse.
3-4 weeks: Estimated shipping time from Frontline after ordering BPA100
4-8 weeks: Testing internally and passing ATS trace on all iOS devices
3-4 weeks: Onboarding factory and having them successfully pass ATS themselves
1-2 weeks: Preparing production ready samples and ATS results for Apple.

Price:
BPA100 $1,185.00


5. Product Plan and Product Plan ID

At this point you should have your MFi developer account, MFi licensed manufacturer, D.U.N.S. number, beta iOS app and production ready samples that are passing ATS tests in live mode and incorporate all the features/components listed in step 3.

In order to submit your samples for Apple review, you'll need both a Product Plan ID and Product Plan. I recommend applying for the Product Plan ID during step 4. You should know all of your features by the time you're testing on ATS and it takes 1-2 weeks to receive a product plan ID from Apple. So it's best to save time and do these two at the same time. 

Product Plan ID
You'll need a PPID to put together a proper product plan. Your factory is responsible for putting together this document and submitting for PPID.

On the document, you must select from the following:
-TECHNOLOGY
a. AirPlay b. iAP c. Wi-Fi Accessory Configuration d. HomeKit e. MFi Game Controller
-COMPONENTS
a. Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Module b. Headset Remote Transmitter Chip c. Lightning Audio Module d. 30-pin connector e. Authentication coprocessor f. Game Controller Module g. Lightning Connector
-ACCESSORY NAME
-WILL THIS ACCESSORY BE SIMILAR TO ANOTHER ACCESSORY THAT HAS PREVIOUSLY COMPLETED MFI ACCESSORY SELF-CERTIFICATION?
-DEVICE DESCRIPTION
-WHICH CATEGORY BEST DESCRIBES YOUR ACCESSORY HARDWARE? (SELECT ONE)
a. Aftermarket automotive product b. AirPlay speaker c. Docking speaker d. FM transmitter e. Headset f. Health and wellness g. Home automation h. Home entertainment / theater i. Keyboard j. Regulated medical device k. Toys / games / music creation l. Other
-Model/SKU, Brand and UPC/EAN
-DO YOU (MFI LICENSED MANUFACTURER) INTEND TO MANUFACTURE THIS ACCESSORY FOR ANOTHER COMPANY?
-CUSTOMER NAME
-CUSTOMER'S MFI ACCOUNT NUMBER

A note on "Which category best describes your accessory". This one is important. Apple has created categories in which most accessories fit into. Once you select one of those categories in your PPID, you are then obligated to follow the design guidelines of that category to a T. 

IF YOUR ACCESSORY HAS BEEN DESIGNED IN A WAY THAT DOES NOT MEET ALL GUIDELINES FOR SAID CATEGORY, SELECT "OTHER". When Hooke Verse was first reviewed, it was tested as a headset. But according to Apple, all MFi certified headsets must incorporate a 3-button array (like the iPhone headphones: volume up/down/power). Hooke Verse was designed to have all volume control (monitoring and microphone) accessible via the app like a field recorder. We had to file an "exception request" to deviate from Apple's spec and be tested as an "other" category. 

Once this document is submitted and a Product Plan ID is given, you can ship samples to Apple and await their decision.

Step 5 Duration: 1-2 weeks
Once submitting the PPID document, it will take about a week for Apple to respond with a PPID.
Price: $100 product plan submission fee


6. Submitting Samples

Ask your factory to add your MFi developer account number to the product plan so that you can track the MFi audit process as they progress. Apple requires you to ship three production ready samples in in full packaging.

There's a reason for the three samples. Apple requires you to add a unique serial number to each accessory so that if you mass produce say 50,000 units, everyone has a unique identifier. Most product companies will be aware of this and add the unique serial number when mass production begins. But Apple wants to see three unique serial numbers on each of the three samples you submit.

Step 6 Duration: 1-2 months
According to an MFi rep I spoke with last week:

"The amount of time needed to receive feedback/complete MFi self-certification varies. It’s always best to submit complete sets of production-ready sample units as early as possible. To prevent unnecessary delays, please ship all of the items requested on the Packing List generated by the MFi Portal. You will receive an e-mail regarding the next step once your materials have been received and processed."

But we have heard from other MFi applicants that it normally takes 30-50 days.

Price: $250 ($200 for sample submission fee, $50 for shipping costs)


6. Tracking Apple As They Test

From the MFi portal you can track Apple has the test your accessory. See an example of what our process looked like below:


7. Passing Accessory Self Certification

When your accessory has passed self certification, it means you can begin mass production.


8. Packaging Self Certification

Once your accessory passes self certification, you will be required to submit final packaging art to Apple for review. Apple wants to make sure you are properly labeling their products with the correct trademark and copyright symbols. There are also requirements for how large (or small) the "Made For iPhone" sticker must be on your packaging as well as required text that must be in your user manual prior to launching your product. 

Make sure you are following all guidelines addressed in "MFi Identity Guidelines redirect.pdf" which you can find via the "Marketing Materials" tab inside the MFi portal. You'll also find "Apple product icon artwork.zip" which you will need to use for your packaging. Once this is approved, your mobile app (if you have one) will be accepted and available in the App Store.

Your packaging art must also show a UPC label. If you have three colors for your product, make sure you've obtained the proper UPC codes for each and that they are visible on your packaging art.

 

 

Step 8 Duration: 3 weeks
One week to implement design guidelines, two weeks for Apple to review and approve once submitted.


Conclusion

If you add this all up, you're looking at 7-9 months from starting the business to Apple granting your MFi certification. Keep in mind this is in a perfect world where Apple finds nothing wrong with your product after your first submission. In other words, it's going to be longer. When Hooke Verse first submitted, Apple tested for 35 days and then had three notes that were relatively easy for us to fix in our firmware. However any changes made require a fresh new submission. This means new samples, new PPID, new product plan approved, new passing ATS trace results in live mode and a new 30 day submission and review process. Resubmitting v2 samples took us 5 months, even though it took us 2 days to implement Apple's requested changes.

It's a big endeavor, but it's a necessary step. We aren't the only ones to experience this long of a process. If you want to change the World, you have to work with the company that's been doing it for over 3 decades. They know how to innovate and they know how to push technology forward. 

Wishing you all the best! If you have any questions throughout the process, please comment below and I will do my best to respond.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Founder, Hooke Audio

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Here Are The Big Audio Companies Jumping Into 3D Audio

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Here Are The Big Audio Companies Jumping Into 3D Audio

3D audio is still a relatively new technology, although more and more people are becoming aware of the possibilities. Once only reserved for enterprise and commercial applications, 3D Audio is gaining steam thanks to the innovative startups that are making it accessible to all.

We're now seeing some of today's most popular and successful audio companies join the space, further proving that the future of audio is immersive. 

1. Sennheiser

At CES in 2016, Sennheiser announced its Ambeo VR Audio Mic, a handheld ambisonics microphone designed for enterprise VR applications. Ambisonics microphones capture a file format known as B-Format audio, the go to recorded audio format for developers creating VR experiences to be consumed on VR headsets. 

Sennheiser claiming their Ambeo to be a "VR Microphone" shows just how much demand there is for content creators in this new space.


2. THX

Just saying the word makes you hear that infamous sound effect that's been playing in every movie theatre for the past 10 years. In 1983, George Lucas created THX to make sure "Return of the Jedi" felt just right in theaters, with true-to-the-original sound. THX has been certifying audiovisual systems ever since, including the ones in consumer products like Panasonic TVs, Onkyo A/V receivers and Lincoln cars.

In October the gaming peripheral company bought THX in hopes of moving beyond just gaming. Their intention is to make THX into a 3D Audio certifier.

"We see a lot of potential to have the expertise of THX applied in new categories like virtual reality, and spacial surround sound," says Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, adding that THX's patents in those areas might be valuable. Facebook's Oculus, one of today's VR leaders, found itself licensing and buying VR audio technology before getting its headset off the ground."
 

3. Dolby

This year Dolby announced Dolby Atmos, a 3D Audio algorithm that Dolby hopes to license to theaters, home theaters, sound bars, mobile apps and headphones. Think of it as the next step beyond 5.1 and 7.1 speaker set ups. Products that support Dolby Atmos will offer the following experience (from Dolby site):

When it comes to audio licensing, Dolby is one of the biggest and brightest. Almost all of the audio equipment we own in our homes has a dolby audio algorithm in it. With Atmos, Dolby is showing us that the next step in speaker technology is not just 7 channel stereo, it's 3D audio with height and depth.


4. Rode

In November 2016, Rode announced it would be partnering with SoundField to give ambisonic microphones a "bright future". Presumably to give the Sennheiser Ambeo some competition, Rode's new "3D Audio Mic" will also capture audio for VR applications. We now have two major microphone manufacturers agreeing that the future of audio is immersive. Expect to see more 3D Audio recording technology from Rode in the coming months. 


5. Roland

This year Roland released the WearPro Mic, a pair of wired 3D stereo microphones designed specifically for GoPro. GoPro footage makes you feel like you're there, seeing from the recordists perspective. But the audio is flat and removes you from the experience. 3D Audio for GoPro is a no brainer, now you can both see and hear from the recordists perspective. Roland is hoping to cash in on this new market by providing a 3D Audio recording product, a sign of where Roland's intentions are in the coming years.


6. DTS

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In hopes of competing with Dolby, DTS also released its 3D audio algorithm this year. DTS X is the alternative to Dolby Atmos, designed to work the same way. Dolby Atmos is well-established and quickly becoming the standard in immersive audio formats. But just like McDonalds versus Burger King, the default choice isn't always the best one for everyone. DTS:X also has its benefits. DTS uses a slightly different techniques which it hopes will distinguish itself in the format race.

Like most technologies, they begin as a format and grow into a market. What we're seeing between DTS, Dolby and Auro3D is no different. This is just the beginning!


7. Auro Technologies

The third and arguably lesser known algorithm company of the big three, Auro has begun its push into the consumer 3D Audio space with its Auro3D 11.1 format. Truthfully Auro has the most experience and best product, but you might not have heard of them because they focus more on enterprise and business. Where DTS and Dolby have the home theater receivers, Auro has the theme parks, cinemas and automotive. That is all about to change however as 3D Audio becomes more readily available and accessible to consumers. Exciting stuff. 


This is just the beginning, we are headed for a sea change when it comes to listening and capturing our stories. These days more than ever, technology is helping us create a global community where we can better understand the common humanity that bonds us all. The phrase "walk a mile in their shoes" is becoming less metaphor and more reality, and that's a good thing. I'm excited for the future of storytelling and the truth that 3D Audio brings.

Thank you for reading! If you think I've missed any big audio companies in this post please comment in the section below! And always, thank you for sharing.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Founder, Hooke Audio

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The Unique Perspective That Storytelling in Binaural Brings

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The Unique Perspective That Storytelling in Binaural Brings

Storytelling 2.0

One of the rarest talents in the world today is that of the gripping storyteller.  Hearing a tale from a golden-tongued orator full of passion has the power to kindle a bonfire of inspiration. 

Whose heart didn't surge at the end of the film "300" when Dilios expertly rallies his troops for the final battle against Xerxes?  If I were handed a spear at the end of his moving speech, I'd have jumped through the movie screen and joined their ranks on the spot!

I connected with that moment because I was thinking and feeling for others. I was experiencing empathy. And empathy is essential to connecting with a storyteller. The more I can connect, the more captivating the story can be.

3D Audio is an incredible key to connecting with others.  With binaural playback, you are literally standing in someone else’s shoes.  If you want to be in the shoes of a woman in the throes of passion, the book publishing giant HarperCollins has just the audio book for you.

They have published one of the first 3D Sound book extracts recorded in binaural sound.  They are using it to enhance the spice factor in a romance novel called "A Royal Vow of Convenience."

No, that story may not change the world.  Sadly, technology alone does not deeply connect us.  No one walked out of a movie theater saying, "Ever since I saw Transformers 4 in IMAX 3D, I am a changed man!"  It turns out that good writing is a critical factor. Combine that with a captivating technology like binaural and you can have an audience glued.


A compelling story & an effective medium:

The reviews of the 3D Sound theater production "Encounter" on Broadway reveal a more profound experience which is felt physically and emotionally.  More importantly, theater-goers describe it as if they were in the story itself, "lightheaded, exhausted, baffled, and invigorated as if it had been you." - New York Times.

The audience experiences, more effectively than ever, what it’s like to be someone else who is struggling.  TV ratings prove that we care about other people… like the Kardashians.

However, if we experience life for a moment as someone different than us, who is worse off than us, someone suffering, in need, or in pain… it makes us more open and vulnerable.  Yet, in the end, we begin to understand and sympathize on another level.


A new kind of education:

1. Gaming

Hardcore gamers know that some of the greatest stories are being told on game consoles, and not just in paperbacks.  Sound designers are adding amazing realism to the experience by going beyond mere 3D sound effects.

The upcoming game, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, is using binaural audio to inflict players with the same schizophrenic voices the main character deals with.  What better way to empathize with a character than actually dealing with their pains and demons right along with them?

Diligent research was conducted with people who suffer from auditory voice hallucinations so that the voices you hear in your head are as close to the real thing as it gets.

2. Empathy 

The Center for Civil and Human Rights museum in Atlanta shows people what it was like to be one of the black protesters in 1960 who staged sit-ins, demanding to be served food alongside white people.  People can choose to experience the trauma the real pioneers faced. 

They can sit at a dummy lunch counter, face forward, and put on the headphones.  Then, they experience the taunts & threatenings behind them which the real protesters endured.
 

3. Connection

In Japan, 3D Sound is used to specifically develop empathy.  Taisuke Murakami runs workshops where each participant only hears what one other person's ears are hearing.  When two people approach each other, they can physically feel the sounds the other is hearing - developing a bond and a consideration of others.

Stanford University has revealed the results of their studies on how difficult stories develop empathy with people.  Being exposed to different and more complex stories develop the empathetic mind by creating new connections in the brain, allowing it to more-easily connect with a wider range of people.

And, frankly, at this time in our country, couldn’t we use more people who are working to connect, love, and consider one another?  These are the types of qualities we so value in our greatest friends.


Binaural Storytelling allows us to connect to each other in a very human way.


How wonderful it is that we have a tool so beautiful to help us get our eyes off of ourselves, and onto new, frightening, and wonderful horizons!  Who will we become?  Who will we find ourselves fighting for and listening to?

From One Ear To Another,
Joe Guarini
Hooke Audio Team Member

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QUIZ: What Headphones Are Best For You

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QUIZ: What Headphones Are Best For You

Not all headphones are made alike. Depending on your listening habits and lifestyle, the right headphone fit might surprise you!

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From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Founder, Hooke Audio

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The 11 3D Audio Companies You Should Be Caring About

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The 11 3D Audio Companies You Should Be Caring About

For the first time in decades, we're seeing substantial innovation and economic upturn in the world of audio. In 2016 we saw Facebook acquire the 3D Audio Software company Two Big EarsRazer Inc buy THX to Get into VR AudioIntel lead a Series A in which an audio company was actually apart of and not to mention the introduction of what is essentially the first new consumer audio format since stereo: 3D Audio. 

I am incredibly excited about this new frontier and even more excited about the companies that are helping it become a reality. Like any successful medium, #3daudio will need companies offering solutions for capturing, consuming, advertising, licensing and developing. 3D Audio is in its infancy, but we are already seeing plenty of companies providing solutions for what is shaping up to be a very hot space.


1. DYSONICS

TYPE: 
Software/Hardware

MODEL:
Commerce/Professional

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Rondo360: audio toolset for cinematic VR & 360 video. End-to-end solution for hyper-realistic VR audio

PLATFORM: 
DAW/Pro Audio/Pro Video

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Yes. Contact them through their website for a quote and partnering opportunities.

WHO WILL USE IT:
In flight entertainment on airplanes, headphones companies (license for playback), large scale events, video games, post production audio engineers. 


2. Longcat Audio

TYPE: 
Software

MODEL: 
Licensing

PLATFORM: 
DAW/Pro Audio

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Custom audio solutions development, for applications ranging from authoring tools and plugins, to virtual reality and industrial simulation.

READY FOR PURCHASE?: 
Longcat's 3D Audio algorithms and services can be licensed at an at need basis by contacting them online.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Headphones companies (license for playback), video games, post production audio engineers. 


3. The Owl Field

TYPE: 
Entertainment

Model:
Consumer

PLATFORM:
Mobile/Online

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 3D Audio dramas that place you at the centre of the story in an immersive, 3D audio experience.

READY FOR PURCHASE?: 
Yes, stories can be experienced via their website and soundcloud.

WHO WILL USE IT:
Consumers/PodCast Listeners


4. Superpowered

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TYPE: 
Software

MODEL:
Licensing

PLATFORM:
Mobile

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Superpowered SDK: Completely Mobile Audio engine for smartphone games, VR and Audio Apps. Cross platform of Android, OSC and iOS.

READY FOR PURCHASE?: 
Yes, can be downloaded via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Mobile App Developers


5. Hooke Audio

TYPE: 
Hardware/Recording

MODEL:
Consumer

PLATFORM:
Mobile

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Hooke Verse and Hooke Mobile App: World's first bluetooth 3D Audio microphone and 3D Audio recording iOS and Android App.

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Available for preorder via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Creators/Podcasters/Consumers/Visually Impaired


6. 3D Sound Labs

TYPE: 
Hardware/Playback

MODEL:
Consumer

PLATFORM:
Mobile/Desktop

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
3D Sound One Module: Module that fastens to headphones. It connects through Bluetooth to a Windows PC (via audio driver) or iOS device (via “One Player” app). Designed to bring immersive audio playback to any headphones. 3D Sound Labs also offers standalone headphones designed to turn audio into immersive audio on playback.

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Available for order via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: Video games, music, movies.


7. Ossic

TYPE: 
Hardware/Playback

MODEL:
Prosumer

PLATFORM:
Headphones

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Ossic X: Headphones with technology to capture a listeners HRTFs and allow for headtracking audio experiences on video games and music/movie watching.

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Available for pre order via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Video games, music, movies.


8. Sennheiser

TYPE: 
Hardware/Recording

MODEL:
Professional

PLATFORM:
Pro Audio

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Ambeo: A handheld microphone that captures high quality B-format audio for VR applications

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Out of stock via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Post Production Studios/Audio Engineers


9. Mamomi

SONOPHILIA FESTIVAL TO CELEBRATE THE WONDER OF SOUND IN LINCOL - PRODUCED BY MAMOMI

TYPE: 
Community Interest Company and social enterprise

MODEL:
Visually Impaired

PLATFORM:
Experiential

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Experiences and expand the possibilities available to visually impaired, deafblind and those at risk of exclusion. Mamomi uses visual culture as the platform for engagement.

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
N/A

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Art and Design/Visually Impaired


10. Eardrum

TYPE:
Ad Agency

MODEL:
All Audio Ad agency

PLATFORM:
Radio

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Eardrum is a radio and audio specialist. They work with the world’s largest advertisers and their agencies to create effective radio advertising, branded content and audio logos. Advocates of binaural and immersive audio for advertising.

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
N/A

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Companies interested in audio advertising. Especially those looking for new and innovative ways to sell products. 


11. Sozo 3D

TYPE:
Post Production House For VR Sound  

MODEL:
Professional
 
PLATFORM:
headphones, VR Headsets and Desktop

NOTABLE PRODUCT: 
Sozo 3D is a one stop shop for remixing audio to become Virtual Reality Sound. The provide services in 3D Sound Design, Mixing and Mastering. 

READY FOR PURCHASE?:
Available for hire via website.

WHO WILL USE IT: 
Filmmakers or musicians can have their old projects sound like they were made for VR, even if tracks were recorded in mono.


 

A Market is forming, get ready to experience storytelling like you never have before. 

1. 3D Audio software that mobile apps will license so that regular listeners can experience 3D Audio.
2. Professional 3D Audio software that large scale corporations will embed into their existing platforms.
3. Stories being told in 3D Audio.
4. All in one solution for capturing and playing back 3D Audio.
5. Hardware that converts stereo audio to immersive audio.
6. Hardware that allows for immersive audio capture. 
7. Advertising in immersive audio.
8. Bringing immersive audio to the visually impaired.

 

We all have a story and right now that story is currently being captured and remembered in terrible mono audio. I am excited for this new frontier in which audio quality is finally catching up to video. Where stories aren't just about immersive visuals but audio. Where companies don't just rely on video to sell a car but audio too. Sound matters and the world is about to see why. Let's do this!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Founder, Hooke Audio

If you feel there are companies I have left out, please include in the comments section below. Thank you for sharing! 

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3D Audio Talks: Experimental Musician Francisco Lopez

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3D Audio Talks: Experimental Musician Francisco Lopez

(Pictured above: Francisco López with Zeitkratzer Ensemble (Berlin, 2001)

Francisco López is an avant-garde experimental musician and sound artist. He has released a large amount of sound pieces with record labels from more than fifty countries and realized hundreds of concerts and sound installations worldwide; including some of the main international museums, galleries and festivals, such as: P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center (New York City), London Institute of Contemporary Arts and Paris Museum of Modern Art. Let's talk sound.

Francisco Speaking at Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid. (https://vimeo.com/32312594)

Francisco Speaking at Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid. (https://vimeo.com/32312594)

Goal with your pieces - what do you want the listener to experience?

FL: Whether I can attain it or not –perhaps this is for others to say- my answer to that kind of question is always very ambitious: a substantial transformation through listening. Not just interest, joy, pleasure... but a truly transformative experience.

Francisco Lopez - Untitled #249 (extract) official video Sound artists Francisco López (Spain) and Novi_sad (Greece) have explored together the blurred territory between reality and the creation of self-contained sound environments through a long process of transformation of sonic materials.

 

Here's an interesting quote from an intvw:

"I’m not doing recordings because I want to simulate or re-enact or recompose or listen again to this reality. I don’t believe in this and the more I work with so-called reality the more I’m convinced that this is a futile attempt at reproducing reality. To me, what is interesting in this back andforth between the reality and the sound compositions, artificial ways of reproducing sounds and so on"

...what's the value of binaural (which is meant to be representational) can it also be experienced phenomenologically? As sonic hyper-reality?

FL: Of course. You just need to get rid of the representational prism (blinkers?) and... there you go!: our simulation tools magically become ontological tools.

 

Francisco López and guests at London's Cafe Oto. Photo: © BBC/Mark Allan

Francisco López and guests at London's Cafe Oto. Photo: © BBC/Mark Allan

Your live performances/installations aim for immersive experiences. Feelings about binaural to achieve this immersion?

FL: To me, this points to the question/distinction between immersion and illusion. Keeping that in mind, tools like binaural technology and headphones are potentially great immersion media.

 

What’s you favorite recording?

FL: I guess always the one I’m hoping to do in the near future.

 

I often see you sporting a t-shirt that says “Less Is More”. Can you talk about that?

FL: Mies van der Rohe –among many other classics- would certainly provide a more detailed answer. The most direct reason for this is probably the realization that we always underestimate the contents, potential and scope of any phenomenon when it’s obscured by others. Or, in other words, the reason why we should be wary of multi/trans/inter-media as a general form of precaution. Obvious historial, aesthetic, political corollary for the work with sound: ‘only sound’ is never sound only.

 

Field recordings are prevalent throughout your work, often taking on different roles depending on the piece. What inspires you to use these recordings?

FL: With its contemporary reductionist connotations, I don’t feel represented by the term (and the concepts and principles behind it) ‘field recordings’. My main interest in working with environmental sound recordings is an inspiring –and always surprising- ‘cooperation’ with ‘reality’. Not simply because of the ‘sounds’ themselves but because they necessarily contain temporal, spatial, spectral, dynamic structures that haven’t been intentionally designed as (or for) ‘music’. From my perspective, this ‘cooperation’ leads to a much deeper connection/exploration of ‘reality’ (not abstraction) than any other prototypical form of representation.

 

I’m aware that in your early days you almost exclusively used walkman cassette recorders. Was this an artistic choice or one made due to financial constraints?

FL: First the latter, then the former. In any case, a fortunate event for me, as it taught me the lesson that the most essential tools are spiritual, not technical.

 

Would you say these cassette recorders used early in your career helped shaped the sound of your work today?

FL: Most likely; and in ways that I might not be able to detect myself.

 

Do you find there is a sound of the rainforest you connect most with? Tell us about your connection to the rainforest.

Francisco Lopez in MIDE (Mexico City, 2007) The space is reconfigured with a multi-channel surround system around the audience, which is placed in seats arranged in concentric circles facing the outside array of speakers. The performer operates from the center of the space (not on stage), in order to be able to control live the sound as is heard by the audience.

Francisco Lopez in MIDE (Mexico City, 2007) The space is reconfigured with a multi-channel surround system around the audience, which is placed in seats arranged in concentric circles facing the outside array of speakers. The performer operates from the center of the space (not on stage), in order to be able to control live the sound as is heard by the audience.

FL: To me, one of the most relevant consequences of extended listening and recording in natural environments is the epiphany of sound becoming flow and space, environment and substance, entity and matter. As opposed to individuated ‘sounds’, especially if these are understood –as it’s often sadly the case- as mere properties of other entities, like ‘sources’. My extensive experience in rainforests all over the world, with their intrinsic and intense naturally acousmatic character, greatly helped shape this perception.

 

 

 

Your work is transportive, often making the audience feel like they’re there. Would you say this is one of your major intentions in using the field recordings?

FL: I always hope –as one of my major intentions- that that ‘there’ is somewhere different for every listener.

 

What are your thoughts on Audio Ecology and the work of audio ecologists like Bernie Krause? 

FL: I respect and share the ultimate good intentions but have no interest at all in the perspective, principles, aesthetic consequences of it, etc. An ‘Acoustic Ecology’ based upon representation is in my view a sort of oxymoron. One could also argue that this is a questionable ‘Ecology’, being fundamentally based as it is on a second-rate ontological status for ‘sounds’ relative to their ‘sources’. It’s not only that “as soon as the call is in the air, it doesn’t belong to the frog that produced it anymore” (an older quote of mine), but also that the frog has a ‘source’ as well.

 

How has your work as a biologist inspired the content you compose?

FL: Most likely by giving me the opportunity of extensive immersion andexperience of a multitude of natural environments. Despite my interest in a lot of different music and work with sound, I believe it’s the past and present experience of those environments what really shapes and influences my understanding of how/what to create with sound.

Francisco López at the ‘Mamori Sound Project’ he directed in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2011

Francisco López at the ‘Mamori Sound Project’ he directed in the Brazilian Amazon between 2005 and 2011

Your live performances are anything but ordinary. How important is the space when presenting your work? Do acoustics and audience size factor into your decisions?

FL: Absolutely. My choices of sound materials and the ways I work with them live are dependent upon both the specificities of the actual space and those of the actual sound system used. In that sense, what I do in a live performance is a kind of site-specific live composition (not improvisation) that tries to keep a very attentive and sensitive ear to those characteristics. This is not simply to have a ‘good sound’ but rather a consequence of the realization that sound does not exist in any recording or in any generative tool we might have.

Concerning the audience, I always insist on the relevance of sharing the transformative potential of sound and of having a sense of responsibility in your role as ‘medium’ in performance (hence the blindfolds I provide for the audience). These two elements are always vividly present for me in live performances and transform these into extremely intense and rich experiences for me.

 

Do you have a go to rig for your field recordings? If so, why? Do you have a go to rig for composing on your computer? If so, why?

FL: One of my aesthetic strategies to (I believe) re-focus and increase the potential of listening is to keep a deliberate cryptic stance as to what equipment I use for recordings or for composing. Besides, I sincerely think it would be of no interest for listeners/creators: all the tools I use (hardware, software) are the most common, affordable and widely accessible –even vulgar- pieces of gear around. I use the same rigs that vast numbers of people use today.

 

What do you think is gained with binaural field recordings? In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

FL: I think any ‘Virtual Reality’ endeavor pales in comparison with the depth and the challenge of what I’d call ‘Actual Reality’ (in the ontological sense, not in the ‘normal’, daily sense) ;-) Even more, ‘Virtual Reality’, in its present form of pathological simulation, only bring us farther and farther away from any possible venturing into the true rabbit hole of the scary real... These are not just philosophical / esoteric digressions; they might have very direct and vivid consequences in our understanding of sound, the results of our work with it, and hence our use of any tool, including ambisonics.

 

A big thank you to Francisco for talking sound with us. You can hear/learn more at his website. And make sure to check out his complete discography of experimental music here.

From One Ear To Another

Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder

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Radio's Resurgence: How Radio Reinvented Is Better Than Ever

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Radio's Resurgence: How Radio Reinvented Is Better Than Ever

In the last 10 years we've seen HD video, 360 video, 4K video, GoPro video and most recently virtual reality video. You can't walk a block without some one saying "we live in a visual world" and one step into Times Square will prove most companies believe video is the way to sell you your next crop top or soft drink. However, in a world dominated by visual storytelling, radio which dates back to the 1920s continues to hold up. Just last year, “Serial” (a sister podcast to “This American Life”) broke an iTunes record as the fastest podcast to reach 5m downloads. Through its now 15 year old surrogate the Podcast, radio is finally attracting real money and expanding to more platforms than just Apple. Why the continued success and newfound growth? The answer is simple, it's human.

 

RADIO IS HUMAN

Hearing is one of the key senses we use for learning in the beginning of our lives. A baby starts to talk before he/she can read, so hearing words and getting familiar with their sounds is critical to development. Knowing this, it's understandable why storytelling began with sound rather than video. We've been listening to and learning from audio only stories much longer than we've been seeing them. Stories were told in caves or around fires long before we had electricity and running water. In the history of mankind, more generations have lived on this planet having only listened to stories than have seen them on a square screen. Perhaps this multi-century spanning human tendency is why in 2016, 40% of podcast listeners are 18-34. Half of all podcast listeners are humans who were probably born with a square screen in their hands. Being human connects us with sound, we need it to grow regardless of old we are or what generation we grow up in.

 

RADIO IS TRANSPORTIVE

The key to storytelling is knowing your audience. And if your audience can't see the story, you better make them feel like they can. The great audio storytellers don't need an image because they possess an incredible ability to make you feel like you're there. Take Major League Baseball for example. Successful tenured MLB broadcasters like Vin Scully of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ernie Harwell of the Detroit Tigers and Harry Carey of the Chicago Cubs all possessed an amazing ability to make you feel like you were there. When you listen to an MLB game on the radio, you're not just connected with the team but the announcer. A familiar voice factors heavily into sports fandom. "Familiar voices appear to influence the way an auditory 'scene' is perceptually organized," explains lead researcher Ingrid Johnsrude of Queen's University, Canada. Feeling like you're there requires both a great storyteller and familiar voice. I am especially reminded of this now, as my Chicago cubs vie for their first World Series in over 100 years. Now that they are in conference finals, the games are nationally telecasted. This means I am hearing the game through an unfamiliar voice, a national broadcaster. For 162 games I rooted for the Cubs alongside the great voice of Pat Hughes, not Joe Buck Schmuck. That's why I now stream the radio broadcast as I watch the games on TV. I feel like I'm at Wrigley Field, even if I'm sitting in my family room watching the Cubs play in Los Angeles. I have great audio storytelling to thank for that.

 

RADIO HAS GOTTEN EASIER

Listening to a podcast is a personal experience, that's why Steve Jobs introduced them alongside the iPod, a device invented to be even more personal than the Walkman. The majority of Podcasts have always been listened to either in the privacy of a car or on a pair of headphones. The evolution of the smartphone has helped drive radio because it has become increasingly more powerful. Today making, streaming downloading and consuming radio on a phone is almost as easy as turning a transistor radio on. Thanks to faster processing, better access to internet and headphone innovation, more than 70% of podcasts are now listened to on smartphones. That's up from 42% just three years ago in 2013.

 

RADIO CAN BE EVEN BETTER

Up until about 10 years ago, the majority of radio was listened to on one channel (mono) speakers. Now the majority is consumed on headphones or in cars. Thankfully we're almost done with mono. Even Apple added a left and right speaker on their newest iPhone 7. 

Headphone shipments have risen from 310,000,000 in 2015 to 340,000,000 in 2016. On average, people spend 4 hours a day listening to audio and 34% of those people are doing it on smartphones. This act of personal listening is something podcasts should be paying attention to.


The way we listen to radio is changing, the way we create it should be changing too


RADIO IS PERFECTLY SUITED FOR BINAURAL AUDIO

Binaural recordings are reproductions of sound the way human ears hear it. In fact, the word “binaural” literally just means “using both ears.” When you listen to a binaural recording through headphones, you perceive distinct and genuine 360° sound. When it comes to the 1s and 0s, a binaural audio file is the exact same thing as a stereo audio file. Meaning all existing radio and podcast platforms can support binaural natively since they support stereo audio.

Frontier of Change is a project that brings the voices and stories of Alaska's changing climate to the streets and airwaves of Anchorage. The producers recorded binaural soundscapes and interviews with Alaskan locals to be mixed together into an immersive “soundwalk.”

Frontier of Change is a project that brings the voices and stories of Alaska's changing climate to the streets and airwaves of Anchorage. The producers recorded binaural soundscapes and interviews with Alaskan locals to be mixed together into an immersive “soundwalk.”

Binaural should be the go to format for all podcasts. Every podcast incorporates field recordings, every podcast plays ambient audio so that you the listener can feel like you're there. But it's only left and right. When I'm listening to This American life walking alongside Ira Glass on a college campus, I'm only hearing to my left and right. It helps transport me, but it could be better. If I were really walking on campus with Ira, I'd be hearing the leaves crunch below me while I walk, students shouting from the windows in building up above and cars behind me driving on the street I just crossed.

Why are podcasts recording in mono with one ear!? You wouldn't watch Planet Earth with on eye open. Why are you listening to This American Life with one ear? 

 

 

THE TOOLS MAY CHANGE, BUT THE OBJECTIVE REMAINS

Tell great stories, the rest is just table scraps. The future will be filled with wireless audio, immersive experiences and consumer products that capture virtual reality content, but those are just tools. The objectives of great storytelling will always remain, paint the picture for your audience and make them feel like they're there. Consumer electronics have helped binaural by pushing the stories to headphones and cars, now it's time for radio and podcasts to follow the lead and create captivating stories in binaural. DEAR PODCASTS, don't fall behind the curve. Create in binaural and watch the magic of sound based storytelling reach more ears than you could have ever imagined.

From One Ear To Another,

Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

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3D Audio Talks: Alvin Lucier

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3D Audio Talks: Alvin Lucier

Quite simply, Alvin Lucier is a living legend. A pioneer of music, sonic creation and acoustics, Lucier has been pushing the boundaries of what it means to both create and experience sound for over 60 years. He composes experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. A long-time music professor at Wesleyan University, Lucier was a member of the influential Sonic Arts Union, which included Robert Ashley, David Behrman, and Gordon Mumma. Much of his work is influenced by science and explores the physical properties of sound itself: resonance of spaces, phase interference between closely tuned pitches, and the transmission of sound through physical media. It is a true honor to be talking all things sound with him today.

 

Why experimental music and sound installation? What is it about these sound mediums that drive you more than say classical music or film sound?

AL: I am a very practical composer. Therefore, I use whatever medium is necessary to convey my musical ideas. It is as simple as that.

 

When did you first discover a passion for sound art?

AL: 1977, when I made Music on Long Thin Wire.  It was originally conceived as a performance piece. But soon I discovered hat it was more magical as a sound installation.  It could change by itself without human interference.

 

In his own words (1992): "Music on a Long Thin Wire is constructed as follows: the wire is extended across a large room, clamped to tables at both ends. The ends of the wire are connected to the loudspeaker terminals of a power amplifier placed under one of the tables.

 

In your opinion, what are the characteristics of an interesting sound? What about a beautiful one?

AL: All sounds are usable.

 

What are the characteristics of an uninteresting sound?

AL: Ditto.

One of Lucier’s most important and best-known works is I Am Sitting in a Room (1969), in which Lucier records himself narrating a text, and then plays the recording back into the room, re-recording it.

'This is music about listening'. Alvin Lucier performs Music for Solo Performer.

'This is music about listening'. Alvin Lucier performs Music for Solo Performer.

What is your definition of a great sounding room? 

AL:One which gives back any sound that is put into it. Needs to have            reflective surfaces to some degree.  On the other hand works such as still and Moving Lines of Silence need a dry enough space so that the troughs and crests of the hyperbolas may be easily perceived.

 

What is your definition of a poor sounding room?

AL: Too bright, abrasive. My first office at Brandeis, for example.

 

How do you feel about using technology to digitally produce space vs using a natural space for resonance?

AL: I much prefer natural spaces.

 

How did directing a chamber chorus influence your work as a sound artist?

Not much of an influence except that I suppose that I got a sense of the flow of a performance. Also I experienced the need to adjust tempi according to the decay characteristics of the room.

 

In order for your sound art to succeed, which is most important? The speakers in which sound is played? The content? The space? The message?

AL: The space.

A still from Viola Rusche & Hauke Harder's film "No Ideas But In Things: The Composer Alvin Lucier

A still from Viola Rusche & Hauke Harder's film "No Ideas But In Things: The Composer Alvin Lucier

Are there any materials (wall treatments, wood, plastic) you are particularly drawn to when creating your work?

AL: Wood is always good.

 

Are there any tools (instruments, microphones) you use regularly in your work?

AL: Not really. I am not wedded to microphones, In fact I very seriously think twice about using them when they re not needed. Often they confuse the listener as to where the sound is coming from.

Before performing his seminal work, I am sitting in a room, at the CAST symposium in September 2014, minimalist composer Alvin Lucier spoke with Evan Ziporyn, Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music, MIT and Faculty Director of the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology, about his early compositions, his process and his influences.

 

What's the most exciting technological development in sound technology that you've seen in your lifetime?

AL: Electromagnetic tape.

 

Do you remember the first time you heard a binaural recording? What's the power of spatialized sound - narratively, experientially, musically?

AL: I don’t remember. I first used binaural mikes when I recorded Vespers in the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis in 1970. I had borrowed a pair of Envriron-Ears binaural mikes from someone in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The spatial results were as near to real as I have ever achieved in a recording, but not as realistic as in a performance, of course.

 

What is one piece of advice you’d give hopeful sound artists?

AL: Don’t add any visual material that is not directly related to the initial idea of the work. No cosmetics.

 

A big thank you to Alvin Lucier for talking sound with us. You can hear/learn more at his website. And make sure to check out his latest novel "Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music" on here.

 

From One Ear To Another,

Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder

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The History (and Future) of 3D Audio

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The History (and Future) of 3D Audio

The hot name for all things immersive audio today is "3d audio". Whether it's a headphone, microphone, amusement ride or algorithm, more and more companies are pushing to support this somewhat illusive format of "3D Audio".

So what is 3D Audio? How did it come about? Where did it start?

Many devices and many marketing buzz words have been thrown out over the past 100 years to try and capture this experience of immersive audio. Whether presented a "Theatrophone", a "dummy head", an algorithm, or an amusement ride, immersive audio has been evolving and growing into the promising 3d audio format that it is today. Let's take a look at where it all began (and what people were calling it then).

1800's

The history of 3D audio reproduction can be traced back to the 1881 World Expo in Paris.  After establishing France’s first telephone network, Clément Ader invented the théâtrophone.  This invention delivered audio over two phone lines, one for each ear, in order for musical performances to be enjoyed in stereo miles away.  Before long, théâtrophones were installed all over Europe and were praised by commoner and royalty alike.


Early 1900's

America caught wind of the action and made their first binaural demo in Chicago.  In Cheryl Ganz’s book on the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, she described AT&T’s most popular attraction.  It was a dummy called Oscar which had microphones on either side of its head.  When the onlookers put on headphones, they were amazed that they heard everything Oscar did.  This Oscar design is still used today!

For another 45 years, people experimented with stereo recording and playback, including Disney.  Their 1940 film Fantasia was projected into some theaters using 6 audio tracks through several speakers placed throughout the theater.  This was a huge upgrade since most films were played using a single track being played only from behind the screen.

AT&T's Oscar, an early binaural recording dummy. Image via ACTA Acustica.

AT&T's Oscar, an early binaural recording dummy. Image via ACTA Acustica.

Sound technicians in 1941 listen through earphones to the music ofFantasia piped in from the orchestra stage on the floor above.

Sound technicians in 1941 listen through earphones to the music ofFantasia piped in from the orchestra stage on the floor above.


Late 1900's

Then, in 1978, the BBC recorded a 28-minute radio play called “The Revenge.” 
It was revolutionary in that it was the first story to be recorded in true binaural format.  It played on BBC Radio 4, and it contained no dialogue – only sound effects!  It proved that sounds alone can tell a compelling story.

In 1984, a New York non-for-profit group called the ZBS Foundation took this to the next level by using the Neumann Ku81 binaural microphone dummy.  ZBS released the 72-minute audio drama version of Stephen King’s story “The Mist” in true binaural, and it is amazing.  It has been released on LP & cassette.  However, I recommend the CD transfer (available on Amazon); it is glorious, and sounds like it was made yesterday!

Australia released a binaural audio film called Bad Boy Bubby.  The main actor placed microphones on either side of their wig to capture the effect.  It was a pioneering effort, and was another first for the technology.

In 1995, Disney used binaural in their Disney World ride called ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, which scared the ever-loving snot out of me as a teenager.  The audience was strapped into seats in a ring shape.  What every participant was oblivious of was the speakers in each seat located just next to each ear.

George Lucas helped write the story, which included putting the entire room in complete darkness, and the audience is traumatized by a roaring beast encircling them.  The effect was so convincing that there were always kids crying their eyes out from the sheer terror – thanks to head-hancho Michael Eisner who felt the earlier versions weren't "intense enough!"  Don't under-estimate the realism of 3D sound!

Have you ever wondered who made the original binaural barbershop sound clip, which everyone and their mother has heard by now?  Canadian sound studio, QSoundLabs made that for a client back in 1996.

Although overused, it must be credited by popularizing the format and convincing the world that this stuff is true virtual reality.

Disney released another binaural attraction in 1999 called “Sounds Dangerous!” starring Drew Carrey.  The audience is asked to put on headphones, the lights turn off, and the drama unfolds.  The show lasted for 13 years, which is pretty impressive by Disney World standards.


2000's

Once upon a time in the year 2000, there was a band named Pearl Jam who said to themselves, “We want to try something new!”  So they hired a sound wizard named Tchad Blake to create tracks in 3D sound on their intelligently titled album called, “Binaural.”  Again, it helped make binaural a household name.

Then, something beautiful happened.  Binaural microphones started to fly off shelves into the hands of the average Joe, me included. Roland released an affordable binaural mic and sites like Sound Professionals and Amazon helped make purchasing binaural microphones a less daunting task.

However in the next 12 years, no one would produce any significant 3D content except for the little guys!  New and weird recording ideas were explored, one of which turned into ASMR.

In 2008, a group in France called Mixage Fou started an annual contest for any independent sound designers to flex their binaural muscles and produce the best 80-second 3D sound clip.  People from Africa, Asia, Europe, and America have been producing material that would otherwise be unnoticed – building the 3D sound community!

In addition, an Australian named Nick Bertke, has gained huge popularity by remixing mono sound into binaural.


2010's

Then, the Fuel Theater group in the UK produced a show called Ring in 2012.  It had the same concept as Disney’s Alien Encounter attraction, but with a twist.  The audience is seated in a pitch black room in a ring.  They put on headphones, and half of the performance is through the headphones, and the other half is with live actors around them.

In 2013, we started seeing mature iOS games being made - most notably, Papa Sangre 1 & 2 made by UK game studio, Somethin’ Else.  It was innovative because it made the experience interactive by forcing the listener to turn in certain directions based on the sound.  And this is where the future is leading us – interactivity!

This is best use of binaural I think I’ve seen yet – Notes on Blindness: VR, released this year.  In the 70’s, a man slowly turned blind, and he recorded cassettes of his experiences.  In the VR application, you hear his real voice, and you experience the sense of blindness with him in audio VR with head-tracking.

I feel this is the most important binaural product to date because it highlights one of the great lost arts – storytelling.  The role of the compelling story-teller is almost extinct.  Yet, it is also kept alive in Simon McBurney’s one-man binaural audio show “The Encounter.”


The Future

What are we trying to do with 3D audio?  We are trying to tell stories.  We are trying to make people feel something, to be changed for the better, and to be inspired to live bigger, better, and more enriched than before.  Just look at how many different ways people have succeeded in doing so.  There have been tremendous innovations from people of every walk of life, from all corners of the world.  We are the creators of tomorrow!

There is a reason why we have two ears, and we need to fill them with what they were intended to be encountered with – life.  This is the future of 3D audio.  What's your story?

From One Ear To Another,
Joe Guarini
Hooke Audio

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3D Audio Talks: Kaki King

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3D Audio Talks: Kaki King

Kaki King is a guitarist and composer. She is known for her percussive and jazz-tinged melodies, energetic live shows, use of multiple tunings on acoustic and lap steel guitar, and her diverse range in different genres.

Her 10-year career includes six LP and two EP albums, as well as multiple scores for television and film. In February 2006, Rolling Stone released a list of "The New Guitar Gods", on which King was the sole woman and youngest artist. She worked alongside Eddie Vedder and Michael Brook contributing music for the soundtrack to Sean Penn's Into the Wild, for which the trio received nominations for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.

She is also a Hooke Live Sessions artist and one of the coolest, most forward thinking and adventurous musicians I have ever had the pleasure of learning from! Her curiosity proceeds her and it is evident in everything she touches. Can't think of a better artist to chat 3D Audio and the future of sound with!

  Kaki King at Brighton Music Hall, 2015.

 

Kaki King at Brighton Music Hall, 2015.

How would you explain your relationship to the acoustic guitar?

KK: I've been playing guitar and drums my whole life, but the acoustic guitar is something that I end up generating almost all of my music with. I think it's the most challenging instrument to continue to compose as a soloist on, and therefore the most rewarding.

 

You have very unique approach to guitar playing, often using various techniques in a single song. Is this something that comes naturally in your songwriting or from somewhere else?

KK: It comes from trying to squeeze all possible sound out of the guitar, the melody, harmony, bass, percussion, etc.  All the things I'm hearing in my head I've got to work out on the guitar.  I'm working with the entire animal, so to speak, so I've had to push the limits of the instrument and get really creative in my technique.

 

You have your own signature Ovation Adamas guitar which you designed. What choices did you make in this design?

KK: My main improvement to it was a pre-amp model that was more properly eq'd for that low sound. Most of the other designs were aesthetic--cleaning up the soundhole epaulette and making it symmetrical, and choosing a black finish with gold hardware.

 

The Ovation is made of graphite, why graphite?

KK: The Adamas line has the very light and very strong graphite top.  It's incredibly responsive and those guitars can push bass notes like no other. 

 

How important are the acoustics of a physical space when you’re performing live?

KK: Well everything comes down to a good sounding room and a great sound system.  That's where everything has to start for a good live sound.

 

 

What advice would you give to new musicians when picking their first guitar?

KK: The guitar doesn't offer the instant gratification of a piano or drum or even a wind instrument, so my first advice is to be really patient.  I also recommend trying to get the best possible guitar in your hands, or at least make sure that the guitar you're learning on has been recently set up and has new strings.

 

Where did the inspiration for your interactive guitar piece come from?

KK: I discovered projection mapping and realized I could do it on a guitar while I was playing it.  It is a way to show off the personality and versatility of the guitar visually as well as sonically, so it made for a really strong stage show.

 

In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

KK: I think it's fantastic.  As a musician your monitors are always your own ears, so you're mixing everything you do to the sound that comes exactly to that point. I think being able to record what your ears are hearing will be incredibly helpful and revealing.

 

A big thank you to Kaki King for talking sound with us and sharing her amazing projects! You can hear/learn more at her website. And make sure to check out her latest album "The Neck Is A Bridge To The Body" on iTunes!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder and CEO

 

 

 

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Binaural Audio: The Dark Horse Advertising Needs

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Binaural Audio: The Dark Horse Advertising Needs

I’ve never heard someone say, “Gee-whiz, I can’t wait for the next commercial!” We've heard it all before. We've seen it all before. We're being sold at from every angle. And younger generations are proving every day that traditional brand advertising doesn't work on them. However as long as we shoot new and unheard of concepts out into the World, we will need advertising. It won't die, it just won't. But that doesn't mean it always has to be the same. Advertising could change as more people realize the sheer potential of binaural advertising.

In the cutthroat world of marketing, every ad agency is looking for an edge.  With the rise of VR and 3D sound, advertisers are chomping at the bit to get to ride that unicorn all the way to the bank.

The next generation of consumers are not sitting in front of a TV right now.  They’re Snapchatting on the move, finding their next Pokémon.  We are now a mobile generation who wears headphones.  Shouldn’t this be the target audience instead of a race, age, or any other demographic?  The content itself should be tailored to our growing stereophonic audience.

Advertisers are methodical in going by the numbers that data-miners provide.  Want to hear something frightening?  Companies like SilverPush, Drawbridge, and Flurry send ultrasonic pitches (which our ears can’t hear) through commercials which nearby tablets and smartphones can detect. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.
(Source: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/11/beware-of-ads-that-use-inaudible-sound-to-link-your-phone-tv-tablet-and-pc/)

It's funny that with all their visibility, they are seemingly blind to the stats concerning headphone sales.  I assure you; most commercials today would be adopting binaural techniques if advertisers could predict the staggering rate in which headphones are flying off the shelves.

Before I highlight the binaural commercials which are getting it right, I need to go “Moneyball” on you and hit you with some stats.

The unprecedented shift we’re seeing now is in the growth of pure audio advertising – no video.  In the US, advertisers spend $17 billion on radio ads annually.  If you still think radio is dead, look at how Amazon & Uber are marketing in Europe.

I believe no one sees the potential of binaural sound more than the British.  This year, the media giant News UK is buying Wireless Group, which operating the world’s biggest sports radio stations (talkSPORT & Virgin Radio), for about $300 million.

The only way this mammoth investment in radio happened is because the number of people absorbing audio-only content is growing.  Is this only an overseas phenomenon?  Consider how big podcasting has gotten in the US lately.

Would anyone have guessed that podcast-listening has grown 23% since last year?  Monthly listenership grew 75% since 2013.

57 million Americans listen to podcasts.  Apple is laughing all the way to the bank with over 1 billion podcast subscriptions enrolled via iTunes so far.  Podcast user base competes with Twitter’s!  Why the sudden surge?  It’s because we’ve all gone mobile.  In fact, the majority of all podcasts are heard on mobile devices.

The reason why that is music to advertisers’ ears is because those mobile users can immediately communicate the ad’s product using that same smartphone.  Ad agencies know that their message is being received on the same device that can instantly share it using social media in the hopes it goes viral.

With so many listening in a stereo format now, why would any advertiser overlook the attention-grabbing advantages of binaural?  Goldman Sachs knows a thing or two about advertising revenue.  They predict 3D ad revenue will surpass TV revenue by 2025.

So, who’s doing it now?  Who’s been dipping their toe in this ocean of possibility?

Axe was one of the first to show it off in this ASMR-inspired ad:

HP used binaural when selling their slick audio processing wares:

Audi is also advertising their support of 3D sound:

Independent organizations are using binaural to make public service announcements about important topics such as bullying:


Even major Hollywood film studios are drinking the Kool-Aid.  Brazilian sound studio, Binaulab, produced 3D audio clips of the new movie “Don’t Breathe” for people to listen to in a dark booth in a mall to entice them into the movie theater next door:

A company called Hypersound uses special external speakers which you can only hear if they are pointed at you.  Advertisers are using two of these speakers (one aimed at each of a listener’s ears) in kiosks to give passersby a taste of binaural without needing anyone to wear headphones.

I could go on and on.  This technology is fascinating, it’s out there, and it’s got potential we’ve never dreamed of.  This is pie-in-the-sky stuff for us!  All of this is telling me that binaural 3D sound has such a fast track to our emotions; we simply can’t ignore it anymore.

My comments to the ad agencies wanting to give me 3D content is simply this:  Feed me, Seymour!  Feed me!

From One Ear To Another,

Joe Guarini
Hooke Audio

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3D Audio Talks: Soundscape Ecologist Bernie Krause

Today we talk about listening with Bernie Krause. Bernie is a professional soundscape artist and audio ecologist. He founded Wild Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to the recording and archiving of natural soundscapes. He is also the author of "The Great Animal Orchestra". Krause is a musician, soundscape recordist and bio-acoustician, who coined the term biophony (he is also founder of the field). He has collected more than 5,000 hours of natural habitat audio recordings, including more than 15,000 wild species from all around the world for nearly fifty years. Krause holds a Ph.D. in Creative (Sound) Arts with an internship in bioacoustics from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati.

Bernie Krause in a California park. / Ramin Rahimian

Bernie Krause in a California park. / Ramin Rahimian

Rarely do we ever take time out of our days to stand still and listen to our natural environment. What are the dangers of the iPod culture we live in? How can we listen to our own personal soundscape and also remain aware of the natural one around us?

Well, I guess we’re just gonna have to make a choice. The soundscape of the natural world contains its own rich narrative. That biophonic expression is a vast library of detail that, together, tells stories from many different perspectives. One of those is the degree to which a habitat is thriving. Our level of awareness with regard to that natural world soundscape, depends on how much “noise” we want to exclude in the process of discovery (aka listening). When I go into the field, other than a recorder, I never take another distraction with me. Not a camera of any kind. No smart phone. No music. Nothing. I’m there for one purpose, only. To the extent that anyone would want to hear the voice of the natural world, you’re gonna have to clear that fragmented mind and pay close attention. Honest, no one really gives a shit if you miss 8 hrs of Twitter or Facebook. La vie continue.

 

What has studying animals and natural soundscapes over the last 40 years taught you about humans?

That many of us supporting the corporate collective destroying our living space are pretty much dicks. However, there are still those filled with a sense of wonder at expressions of the natural world and whose moral compass is calibrated toward a model that posits way less virulent consumerism.

 

 

Soundscape ecology sometimes get criticized for having a purist approach - the ideal soundscape is the natural one, not the modern. What's your thought on that? Any beauty in the cityscape?

I’ve been around for a long time and have rarely heard any critiques of soundscape ecology, per se. That’s because it’s so new that it isn’t on anyone’s radar, yet, neither political or social, or even much from the scientific community. Except for the few hundred folks worldwide who are dedicated to the field, and who critique each others’ publication submissions, I’ve not heard a peep from the hoi polloi. I haven’t a clue what the hell a “purist” in this field would be like since the field is still evolving and being defined. The full definition may not happen for decades. So critics, if they exist, need to hold their fire for a few more years. 

That said, there are some fundamentals: The soundscape is all the sound that reaches an organism’s ears from whatever source. The soundscape is divided into three basic sources: 

1.   The first and original source on the planet was the geophony – non-biological natural sounds like wind, water, etc.

2.   The second is the biophony – the collective sound that organisms produce in a given habitat at a particular time

3.   The third is the anthropophony – human-generated sound. Some controlled like music or language. The rest non-structured = noise.

I have no idea what defines “beauty” in someone else’s mind. I happen to like natural soundscapes (biophonies) because they make me feel good…the  primary reason I’ve chosen to do this. I have a terrible case of ADHD and no meds or weed ever helped much. Only natural sounds. Therefore I make it a point to get my lardy old ass out there as much as possible. Some get their fix from straight-piping Harleys or the sound of a leaf-blower. That’s probably a contributing factor to why they feel like shit.

 

Walter Murch often said there is an equivalent visual attribute for every sonic attribute (ie. High frequency/low frequency = yellow/brown, a stampede = percussion). Have you found any connection between the sounds animals make to what they look like while making them?

Walter’s palette is film. He’s a key dude in that visually-oriented domain. When I was involved in scoring films, directors would often come to us and describe the feeling they wanted us to convey in a scene by describing it in terms of its color or shading because there was no language, then, to describe sound (other than in classical musical vocabulary…a discipline rarely understood by directors).

When a sea anemone or ant or a fish or a snapping shrimp produces a sound signature it still looks like a sea anemone or ant or fish or snapping shrimp. No change in expression for those wee critters. Different expressions sometimes occur with the higher order mammals when they generate certain kinds of vocalizations. But I have never associated any of those with what we consider as our color-palette.

 

 

What industries benefit the most from an education in soundscape ecology?

With soundscape ecology, let’s see… Here are a few: Music, linguistics, biology, environmental sciences, theatre, medicine, anthropology, social sciences, paleontology, resource management, religion, film, politics, zoology, physics (acoustics), literature, botany philosophy, business, natural history, architecture, to name some that are informed or seen through the lens of this new discipline. 

 

 

Do you have a go to recording rig that you prefer to use? Or does the environment dictate what equipment you’ll use?

Yes. Any Sound Devices recorder, a double-MS system (consisting of MKH 30, MKH 40 & MKH 8040 mics). Sometimes I use DAP 4060 lavs, as well. That’s it.

Bernie's novel "The Great Animal Orchestra"

Bernie's novel "The Great Animal Orchestra"

What is the best way to experience your work and why? On headphones? Speakers? Installations?

Speakers, if they’re good ones and placed in a well-calibrated acoustic environment. Also, installations under the same conditions as speakers.

 

 

When experiencing your work, how important is localization of audio sources to fully understanding the piece? Can the piece be just as effective in mono?

No. Best heard in either 5.1, 7.1 or ambisonic.

 

 

Would you say humans listen to more processed sound (music, film, radio, video games) on a daily basis than they do natural? What effects does this have on a civilization over time?

We become more pathological. If you don’t believe that, watch the news!

 

 

What’s your favorite sound you’ve ever recorded?

Don’t have one. Depending on the day and mood, I enjoy different soundscapes at different times.

 

 

What's sacred in terms of audio recording? Anything that shouldn’t be captured in your opinion?

Natural soundscapes are the voice of the divine. We need to get that there is no other sermon necessary.

Bernie at his Glen Ellen home studio. (Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Bernie at his Glen Ellen home studio. (Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

What's the future for citizen field recording as recording technology becomes more ubiquitous?

It helps folks reorient to the experience of the natural world. Anything that accomplishes that is way cool.

 

 

Do you think we are generally getting better or worse at listening and how does recording technology factor into that?

Worse. We have to learn to use the listening tech as a tool. Not a crutch.

Graphic representation of "The Great Animal Orchestra", with animals arrayed like the instruments in an orchestra by the audio frequency of their sounds. (Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporaine)

Graphic representation of "The Great Animal Orchestra", with animals arrayed like the instruments in an orchestra by the audio frequency of their sounds. (Foundation Cartier pour l'art contemporaine)

Do you think the potential for ubiquitous recording will make us better or worse listeners?

Have no idea.  We just need to shut the fuck up and stop asserting our presence all over the place. We ain’t at the top of the heap like we think.

 

 

What's the most exciting technological development for recording sound that you’ve seen in your lifetime?

The wire recorder.

 

In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being paid to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

Put it away and get the fuck outside where there are no well marked trails, where you have to walk for a week in any direction before you find a road or a fence, where there are no eager rangers to tell you about the life-cycle of a moose or squirrel, and, best of all, where there’s nothing to buy. (this last bit is a paraphrase from Bill McKibben).

 

 

Do you think any of these immersive audio formats could stand out in soundscape ecology?

Depends entirely on the context. The more tethered to the technologies, the more distance there is between ourselves and the natural world.

The rise in popularity of these formats is causing people to wake up and realize we don’t hear the world in mono. Do you think incorporating technology like this into consumer’s hands could help our natural habitats?

All depends, again, on the context and how the tech is applied. I’d advise to travel as light as possible.

 

A big thank you to Bernie Krause for this opportunity to learn more soundscape ecology, listening and our ever changing planet. Make sure to check out Wild Sanctuary, Bernie's YouTube Channel and order a copy of The Great Animal Orchestra, a fascinating read.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder and CEO

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3D Audio Talks: DJ Robert Bordignon

Today's electronic artists do much more that just spin at clubs. Chicago based Rob Bordignon is no exception to this. When he's not performing on an electronic/acoustic hybrid drum set with Chicago based Win and Woo, he's DJing with with his own group Casual DJs, and when he's not DJing he's performing on his own. Thanks to today's powerful and portable laptop based music tech, a DJ can do much more than just spin records in a single set on a single rig. We sit down with Rob to talk electronic music, youth culture and the future of audio. 

 

1. How did you get your start in electronic music? 

RB: 2010 was when I first started listening to electronic music. Sampling was what really drew me in. I was really excited by artists who would use bits and pieces of old songs and rearrange them to create something totally new and fresh. After a little research (shout out internet) I pirated my first bit of DJ software, picked up a 50$ DJ controller and started laying a cappella tracks over songs in the same key. I'd spend hours finding the perfect place to blend songs and before I knew it, I was stringing together 40 minutes of live mashup sets. From that point on I moved into the college bar DJ scene and eventually onto Chicago. 

 

2. Your first foray into music was as a drummer. Can you describe the influence percussion has in your relationship to music making?

RB: My experience as a drummer serves as the foundation for any music I write. I start writing most music with just a simple piano or guitar. Once I find a few chords I like I'll sometimes spend hours playing different rhythms until I settle into something. My background as a drummer forces me to experiment with many different rhythms before I can be happy with a chord progression. 

 

3. Tell us a bit about the Chicago music scene?

RB: My introduction to the Chicago music scene was more on the DJ side of the spectrum and only recently have I moved over to what I would describe a music "scene." As far as DJs go, I'd say about 75% of the scene is married to promotion. By that I mean most of the big clubs are more concerned with headcount than tunes. That being said, there are definitely some venues that really understand the power of a talented DJ. That side of the scene, I love.

Lately I've been spending less time playing in clubs and more time in studios. This has introduced me to new people in the musician/live performance scene, most of whom have been super inspiring and supportive. I can honestly say the Chicago's music scene is home to some of the most talented and driven musicians in the country. 

 

 

4. Why do you think electronic music is so popular today?

RB: Two major reasons why Electronic music has grown to where it is today:

1. The explosion of unique sounds. The pallet of sounds achievable by all of these hardware and software synths is just incredible. Most people are used to hearing songs performed by some combination of guitars, keys and drums. Then when they hear electronic artists like Gramatik or Skrillex, they get excited because they've never heard anything like it before. 

2. Its accessibility. Nowadays nearly every kid has their own personal computer and that's really all you need to get started producing and uploading your own electronic music. Couple that with the fact that most of these kids spend hours on the internet every day and you've got a large population of people creating, sharing and listening to electronic music!

 

5. Why do you think electronic music is the “youth culture” genre? 

RB: It has a lot to do with how closely "youth culture" is tied to technology. This explosion of electronic music we've seen over the last few years has sort of piggy backed off the rise of personal computers and smart devices. We're just starting to see the emergence of young musicians who, instead of picking up guitars, are expressing themselves using software instruments in a DAW. 

Rob with Casual DJs

Rob with Casual DJs

 

6. Where do you see electronic music in 10 years? 

RB: To be honest, I don't think it will be very popular in 10 years. I think clubs will always have techno and Rap will always have the big 808 subs. But I think electronic music will fall in and out of mainstream popularity throughout the course of my generation's lifetime.

 

7. How much do your shows sound like the music you release online? Do audiences demand an identical mix?

RB: The music I play live sounds a lot like what I release online and yes, audiences demand/expect it to sound that way. It actually has become one of our biggest challenges, taking the music we've produced and breaking it back down into the samples/instruments so that it can be easily played back in a live setting. Not to mention it needs to be packaged in a way that allows us to improvise on and perform off of.

 

8. Do you think live electronic performances could be better?

RB: Yes, I absolutely do. I would love to see more electronic artists turn the quantize off and play their instruments along with a live drummer. I would also like to see more improvisation in live electronic performances.

Rob Performing with Win and Woo

Rob Performing with Win and Woo

 

9. In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

RB: I think it's a really exciting area and that integrating it into our everyday electronics is long overdue. I think it's a matter of time before personal electronic devices support a more immersive audio experience. Additionally, I think that the newly announced iPhone's lack of headphone jack is a step in the right direction for binaural. Wearable tech is no longer a just an option for those who want to listen to music off of their personal phone. iPhone users will have no choice but to use Bluetooth headphones and that will open them up to a whole world of innovative products. 

 

10. Do you think these immersive audio formats have a place in modern music? What about electronic music?

RB: They absolutely do.  The electronic music community seems to embrace any and every new immersive audio creation. Over the last few years I've seen a sharp rise in the popularity of Silent Discos, which are little tents set up at music festivals where everyone has a pair of noise canceling headphones tuned into a live DJ. I've also seen quite a few of those subwoofer backpacks that add an additional physical element to the low end bass. I'm excited to see how we will experience electronic music over the next 10 years.

 

A big thanks to Rob Bordignon for this opportunity to learn more about electronic music and the future of DJing. Make sure to check out his soundcloud and follow Win and Woo to keep up with their latest work!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder and CEO
 

 

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Why Removing The Headphone Jack Will Create Better Audio Products

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Why Removing The Headphone Jack Will Create Better Audio Products

In 1998 Apple removed the floppy drive and it made a lot of people angry.  In 2012 Apple removed the CD drive and it made a lot of people angry. In 2014 Apple released lighting and USB port-only Macs and it made a lot of people Angry. And yesterday Apple removed the headphone jack and it made a lot of people angry. Is there anyone out there still missing the floppy disk?

Apple is best at making products. They are the pulse in which our electronics evolve. And for over twenty years the market has proved this.  Never has an electronics company besides Apple REPEATEDLY introduced a groundbreaking technology and have the rest of the World follow suit. That's not just luck, that's human connection. And it comes from owning a huge share of the market which doesn't just come out of nowhere. Hate them or love them, Apple has made the best products over the past twenty years, their profits can prove it.

Yesterday Apple did it again with having the courage to remove the headphone jack. However, this one seemed to cut a bit deeper. When Apple removed the Floppy drive in 1998, CDs had been well circulated in the market for over 15 years. When Apple removed the CD drive in 2012, sites like Napster had been dominating digital music consumption for over 10 years. People were angry, but younger generations were totally understanding. Last time I bought a CD was in 2007. When the CD drive was eliminated in 2012 I was ecstatic, the drive on my macbook had been broken for years!

However, yesterday Apple introduced a jack-less iPhone to a market that still loved wired headphones. Only this year did wireless headphones surpass wired for the first time. And for the first time younger generations said "hold up".

The fact of the matter is, whether Apple did this 2 or 10 years from now, it still would be the right move. With every technology Apple has weened out in the past, they have offered a simpler, easier and more reliable solution that always seems to catch on. This is no exception. Bluetooth and Lightning may make consumers cringe now. But I assure you, it will be a quick transition. Just like the Floppy Drive, Ethernet port, CD Drive and firewire port. 


Removing the headphone jack is not nearly as bad as you think

People will argue that the quality of wired headphones surpasses that of wireless. but I disagree. Yes, nothing will ever sound as good as your $800 Sennheiser over the ear cans, but wireless headphones have GREATLY improved in both quality and affordability over the past two years. High end audio companies like Harman Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins and Sennheiser have been making wireless headphones for the past few years and they sound incredible.

Soon your $800 Sennheiser cans will have a lightning connector for the same price, with the same quality and the audio ecosystem will be a better place for it. 

Not to mention, you can still use your wired headphones! Apple includes an in box dongle, it will hold over anyone still tied to their wired headphones until the market is flooded with lightning and bluetooth products two years from now. But if you think your favorite audiophile company will be making headphones with 3.5mm attachments on them 10 years from now, you're crazy. 


Removing the headphone jack creates stereo speakers! That's a huge move for audiophiles!

I've been saying this for years. The fact that we are still using the mono audio format as frequently as we are is mind blowing. This is the visual equivalent of us recording a video with one eye open and then watching the video with only one eye. We have two ears! Why would we ever create or listen to audio with one? Now instagram, facebook, twitter will all be forced to support stereo audio. These sites support 360 video but only mono audio?! Come on, this is going to be a great move.


The headphone jack is more vulnerable to deterioration, it's wide open and is limiting Apple from making a truly waterproof iPhone.

If Apple said removing the headphone jack would make the iPhone waterproof, no one would have an issue. Even though that's not the case here, it does help Apple greatly in a pursuit towards a truly waterproof phone. They have more control now because the iPhone contains their parts.

Apple is looking for ways to make the iPhone case more watertight in order to compete with Android vendors that have been touting their own phones’ water resistance:
Fewer holes in the case means fewer ways for water to seep in. The iPhone 7 also comes with a pressure-sensitive home button, rather than the mechanical one in the iPhone 6, eliminating yet another hole in the iPhone 7 case. The result, Apple says, is that the iPhone 7 is the most water-resistant iPhone yet.
Headphones plugged into a Lightning connector can also produce better sound than ones that are plugged into a headphone jack. -Timothy B. Lee VOX

I understand the danger, this move gives Apple an incredible amount of leverage in the headphone market.

But it will make headphones better. I know this better than anyone, Hooke Audio has been navigating the waters of MFi certification for the last year. When we were developing the Hooke Verse, no one thought about an MFi certification because no one thought it was necessary. MFi certification is not normally a demanded feature. It’s a feature that companies CHOOSE to incorporate so as to improve the integrity of their product amongst the Apple brand.

We were surprised to find an MFi certification was necessary, but now it makes sense. We are introducing a ground breaking bluetooth codec that utilizes an Apple authentication chip to send a type of audio no iPhone has ever seen before. If I was Apple, I'd be like "Hold up, what?! Let us look at that" too! We should be thankful for brands like Apple who continuously work to hold up the quality and integrity of our electronics. This MFi process has made the Hooke Verse a more robust and reliable product. 

We were forced down the MFi road (again, now I'm glad we were) because we were wireless and potentially harmful. When it comes to wired products, Apple has no way of protecting themselves. Any old wired product can be purchased off Ali Baba and cause potential harm to iPhones. With this shift, Apple will have better control over the products interacting with the iPhone and in turn make audio products better all around. 

The MFi process is a great thing for any company to utilize, but most companies will avoid it due to the rigorous and time consuming demands from Apple. Apple has a very clear idea of how technology should work and so far they haven't been wrong. It might be long and hard, but making a product up to Apple's standards will be a big win in the end. 

Regardless, people are scared of the leverage it might give Apple.

 Devin Coldeway from Tech Crunch says: 

The 3.5mm jack is robust, familiar, secure, well-documented, and so on — we’ve seen the argument play out over the last year. You know why it’s good: because it works reliably, worldwide, and with millions of devices. Without Apple’s permission.
See, it’s that last part that must bother them. The idea that someone, somewhere, is doing something with an iPhone that they haven’t anticipated, like making a thermometer or payment system or 3D scanner. Someone who hasn’t paid for a license to attach that thing to their phone.
Apple is taking the first step to make sure that never happens. They’re able to do this because no one can do anything about it. They’re in a position of immense power and they’re using that power to eliminate something good and replace it with something that makes them money. It’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a business plan.

The fact remains, any electronics manufacturer needs Apple to succeed. Their successes with the mac and iPhone have given them the ability to dictate the evolution of our consumer electronics and they've done a pretty good job. Apple is establishing an electronics standard that truthfully all companies should respect. It makes all of our products better in the end.


Right now we live in a world where people seek quality in their video products over convenience. Yet people seek convenience in their audio products over quality. This move will help uphold audio quality.


It's infuriating and confusing for a lot of consumers right now, but it's a very smart and necessary move.

We're just happy about the stereo speakers!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Audio Founder and CEO

 

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3D Audio Talks: Radio Producer Josie Holtzman

Josie Holtzman wears many hats. When she's not producing NPR's Jazz Night in America, she's flying to Anchorage Alaska and working with KNBA to bring stories of Alaska's changing climate to the airwaves. And when she's not doing that, she's doing just about everything else. Radio has evolved in the past 10 years and Josie is at the cutting edge of it all. She's a content strategist, designer, videographer and sonic story teller. Here's her story.

Josie Holtzman, a 21st century journalist.

Josie Holtzman, a 21st century journalist.

1. How has radio evolved over the past 10 years and how has it changed your role? 

JH: It's moved from terrestrial towards multi-platform - live recorded shows, downloadable podcasts supported by a more robust web presence.  This diversity of outlets has freed up the format, style and content.  If you're not confined by the NPR clock, a weekly broadcast or the pressure to appeal to a broad public media audience, you can experiment.  

Holtzman conducting an interview at an ice harvesting demonstration at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Conn.

Holtzman conducting an interview at an ice harvesting demonstration at the White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield, Conn.

As far as my role changing, it has allowed me to wear more hats and to think beyond just the radio broadcast medium. I produce Jazz Night in America, NPR Music's first multi-platform program, which includes web videos, live events, website and a radio program.  So when I am producing, I am not just thinking about a radio broadcast but also how a story can work visually, across social platforms and how it can be build out on the website.  Another example, I just finished a project funded by a radio initiative aimed at bringing radio to the streets.  We created audio scavenger hunts, interactive soundwalks and live events.  Now I consider myself a radio producer, content strategist, designer, videographer and live event producer!


2. How important is mobility when it comes to recording your work? 

JH: Very important.  A good kit for recording in the field is essential for a radio producer.  Radio producers are now expected to be multimedia experts, so you need an accessible carrying case for audio gear and ideally a free hand to also take pictures, take notes and video.  Luckily sound gear is much more mobile than video so you can be relatively nimble and responsive in the field.


3. What are some key factors you’ve found to be effective when telling a story just through sound?

JH: Sound can activate the "theater of the mind" if it employs good storytelling supported by evocative recordings. So, trust the tape and try to let it speak for itself whenever possible.  But also, be generous with your listeners - guide them through the story by crafting a strong narrative arc.  The assumption with radio is that people are doing other things while listening - getting ready for work, cooking dinner, driving.  Only half of their brain is engaged, so you have to guide them with a little "hand-holding".  That means concise writing, GREAT tape and smart storytelling that hooks people's attention. 

In 2016, Josie produced "Frontier of Change" a multi experiential exhibit in Anchorage, Alaska that included one immersive soundwalk, an audio scavenger hunt with a short video and several sound-rich radio broadcasts that integrated the Hooke Verse. The project explored climate change in rural Alaska for "Frontier of Change", a project funded by "Finding America", a national initiative produced by AIR with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All content is finished and published for you to hear at Frontierofchange.org

In 2016, Josie produced "Frontier of Change" a multi experiential exhibit in Anchorage, Alaska that included one immersive soundwalk, an audio scavenger hunt with a short video and several sound-rich radio broadcasts that integrated the Hooke Verse. The project explored climate change in rural Alaska for "Frontier of Change", a project funded by "Finding America", a national initiative produced by AIR with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All content is finished and published for you to hear at Frontierofchange.org


4. We live in a visual world, yet monthly podcast listenership has increased 75% since 2013. Why do you think this is?

Courtesy of Jay Baer, Convince and Convert.

Courtesy of Jay Baer, Convince and Convert.

JH: Content-wise, I think Serial proved that audio storytelling can be as engaging as visual storytelling, which raised the profile and visibility of podcasting. A few years ago few people knew what podcasting was.  My parents still don't really understand it, but at least they know it exists.  

Technologically, smart phones are allowing greater access to podcasts.  iTunes has created a pretty user-friendly infrastructure for publishing and consuming podcasts. With more on-demand TV, I think people like the on-demand nature of podcast programming as well.  There's also the factor of momentum.  More listening begets more money, begets more talent, begets more listening...You get the idea.  

Technically, podcasts are relatively cheap to make.  You don't need a ton of expensive equipment to make a podcast (though people do often underestimate the skill required in crafting an interesting podcast).   You know the refrain "there's an app for that" I think you could soon safely say "there's a podcast for that". 

Courtesy of Jay Baer, Convince and Convert.

Courtesy of Jay Baer, Convince and Convert.


5. Where do you see podcasts in 10 years?

The dystopian vision is everyone has their own podcast - 24/7 broadcast of their day to day life, playlist, meandering thoughts and feelings - highly personal, confessional, self-referential. Everyone is broadcasting, but no one is listening. Or, the podcast bubble could burst and all the new podcasts lose funding. Or, we could keep going at the rate we are at in which more and more money will be devoted to developing high quality podcasts. I could see podcasts overtaking terrestrial radio in a decade.  


6. In the last few years we’ve seen more attention being payed to binaural, ambisonics, HRTFs and head tracking playback thanks to Virtual Reality. What are your thoughts on this new space?

JH: I think it's huge.  Immersive visual storytelling is all the rage, and people are finally starting to realize that you can't have an immersive experience without 3D sound. 

Ambisonics in support of visual is exciting and full of potential, but I hope that it can also exist on its own as immersive audio storytelling.  With the proliferation of podcasts, I think audio journalism and storytelling could be moving into the 3D audio space as well.

Josie at NPR

Josie at NPR

7. How would recording and producing in 3D Audio change the way you produce radio?

JH: It would cause me to think more experimentally and experientially about ambient sound as it relates to audio storytelling. I would seek out sonically dynamic and interesting environments, "soundscapes" that enrich and inform the story, rather than seeking out quiet venues for clean recording. I would think more about sonic perspective as a narrative device. Just like the camera, what story are you telling based on the perspective of the microphone. I would also reconsider pacing of storytelling - let the soundscapes breath and evolve rather than quick cuts and dominant interview tape. 

8. What are the types stories you would tell if you recorded and produced them in 3d audio?

Imagine if you could hear a radio story about a coal mine and you could actually descend into the mine, hearing the 360 sounds as you turn your head. Or a 360 sonic experience of a war zone.  I think it would be incredibly powerful.  Maybe even more-so without visuals to accompany it. 

Radio typically requires narration to describe the scene and orient the listener in the location.  The number of radio pieces I've produced and heard that begin "I'm standing outside X, Y is happening around me" it's helpful but cliche.  But 3D audio has the capability to sonically describe the scene.  It would require more patience and attention from the listener, but I think VR is changing the paradigm and pace of storytelling towards slower, exploratory, first-person experience of story.  

I just returned from Alaska where we created immersive audio pieces that placed listeners in the shoes of an Inupiaq man walking through his mile-long rural village in the Arctic, that will soon be underwater due to climate change.  I want to continue to create stories that place people in a scene, in a story in a landscape they will never experience first-hand.  Only 3D audio can do that, and I'm tremendously excited for its potential for audio storytelling.

Thanks to Josie Holtzman for this opportunity to learn more about radio and sound in journalism. Make sure to check out her website and keep up to date with all of the amazing stories she continues to tell!

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

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Content Creator's Guide: Making 3D Audio and Interactive Sound

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Content Creator's Guide: Making 3D Audio and Interactive Sound

As a content creator, I'm always asking how I can tap into the next technological tsunami. And the next wave on the horizon is head-tracking 3D Audio for VR. It allows us to interact with audio in real-time.  When I heard this technology was going to be at CES earlier this year, I had to hear it for myself to know if it would be a groundbreaking technology or just another fun idea like the never-to-be-mentioned Nintendo Virtual Boy.

Beyer Dynamics Headzone

Beyer Dynamics Headzone

Head-tracking headphones aren't new; Beyer Dynamics put their set, called Headzone, on the market in 2006.  Only issue was the sadly-prohibitive $2,000 price tag. People have also used the WiiRemote as a headphone gyroscope to do the trick back in 2010 - hardly practical, but it had the right idea.

3D Sound One Module by 3D Sound Labs

3D Sound One Module by 3D Sound Labs

Then 2015 happens and in-swoops 3D Sound Labs like a raging Phoenix, introducing their bluetooth version called Neoh at CES in 2015.  The $300 price tag is so much lower because it's using the consumer's smartphone to do all the head-position processing.  Their new $99 product is just the head-tracking module which can attach to your own headphones! Now we're talking...

If the source audio is 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound, it makes magic happen.  After I bought their headphones, all I wanted to do was figure out how to make my own 7.1 mix.  Thankfully, with the right tools, it won't cost you anything.  I installed the Reaper audio workshop on my laptop, and then I used a free surround sound rendering plug-in called Surroundizer.

I recorded my own sounds, and suddenly I was walking around my room, interacting with the soundscape that I custom made.  Next, I made a 7.1 mix using video game sounds from Bioshock... Let me tell you - it put the fear of God in me.  It'd been quite a while since technology satiated my craving to feel like a kid again.

That's all sunshine and roses, but the future of VR sound isn't 7.1 - it needs to be 360.  So, the question remains, "How can I create 360 content of my own?"  Well, capturing 360 video is a no-brainer with a simple device like the Ricoh Theta M15 for $230.  However, capturing audio in 360 (ambisonic sound) is kind of like catching lightning in a bottle... and kind of expensive.

You can get true ambisonic sound capture with this device from Brahma: a 360 microphone and recorder in one.  However, it's out of most folks' price range - at around $1,000.  So, what about those who don't have an extra grand lying around?

 

 

Binaural microphones are much more affordable, and they have a direct application to VR! Products like the Hooke Verse can be portable, durable and worn on the head making it a snap to record my sound wherever I am or whatever I'm doing because it's wireless.

Thankfully, binaural recordings can be natively converted into VR because companies like Oculus and Samsung already support Quad-Binaural source audio.  You can use Oculus' downloadable SDK, or use an app called Milk VR for use on the Samsung VR.

All you need to do is record the scene four times - once while facing North, once while face East, then South, and West.  Import the 4 tracks, and the software does the rest.  Finally, a way to do this without breaking the bank...

If any of that went over your head, allow this to console you:  I didn't know a single thing about 360 sound until I went to CES this year.  I did a lot of Googling... and I'm pleased with what I've found.  It's inspiration fuel.

I hope my research empowers those who have ideas and stories to tell in these unique new ways so that they can be shared.  Our ears are open - bring it on!

From One Ear To Another,
Joe Guarini

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How To Make 3D Audio More Than Just a Party Trick

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How To Make 3D Audio More Than Just a Party Trick

This week's guest article comes from Chicago based 3D Audio mixer Joe Guarini. Joe is founder of Sozo 3D Sound Design, the first post production sound studio to focus exclusively on content creation and engineering of Virtual Reality audio. Enjoy! -Anthony

IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE RIGHT... DO IT YOURSELF!

Those who haven't heard good 3D content say that binaural is a solution in search of a problem. Yet, everyone vividly remembers being absorbed in hearing their first well-made binaural track - the chills!

Without quality content, binaural 3D sound is just another cool idea - a party trick; akin to watching a bad magician. Oftentimes, people will not see the potential in a tool until they see it used in a new way.  But when that happens, the industry will change. 

The first great VR party trick was displayed in France circa 1896.  Seeing this movie, people ran for their lives, convinced of an impact.


2016 was the greatest year yet for the audio illusionist, producing content so good that movie & game studios are now sitting up and paying attention.

This PS4 game commercial is actually a playable choose-your-own 3D-sound-adventure.


But oftentimes, people will not see the potential in a tool until they can use it themselves.

For over 50 years, 3D audio microphones have captured everything from the deepest thunderclap to the most tantalizing, saliva-smacking ASMR artist.  However, horizons keep expanding with diversity of content.

Taking video out of the picture allows the imagination to go wild in this audio-only adventure.


In addition, playback tools are producing a whole new realm of binaural content by converting 2D sound to 3D using post-production software.  

Imagine listening to your favorite stereo rock songs from the 70's and 80's re-rendered in 3D sound.  The leap from stereo to binaural is even more stunning than going from mono to stereo.

Today, it would be unheard of to see the newest Coldplay album released in only mono. Beck, Björk, and others are already releasing binaural tracks.  

2D stereo was knocking on the door to the deeper part of our brains, which binaural just kicked down while screaming Booya!

Using the original multi-channel source recording tracks, they can be separated and manipulated for a whole new experience in 3D!


It's Already Starting With The Little Guys

Filmmakers know they cannot record every sound they need in the field in order to make their films seem real.  They use things like foley and ADR to add sound effects and cleaner dialogue afterwards to complete the illusion.  

Using these post-prod 3D audio rendering tools, binaural artists can now be filmmakers like the pros.

Big movie studios are historically not risk takers.  When they see someone else taking a risk, trying something new, they will dive in head first when they smell green paper.  

As always, it starts with the little guy doing it first. Thankfully, the sun is slowly rising on the revolution.

We can be the pioneers and show the world what is possible, and not the other way around.

 

 

 


3D Audio Starts With YOU!

Armed with the greatest camera in the world, if you are only into still-life subjects, the result will be the most amazing pictures you've ever seen...of an apple and some grapes.  

That's not too impressive to a world that wants to experience an adventure and travel the universe.  People are now thinking beyond what they've been shown.

With every million-dollar idea that appeared before Mark Cuban and Kevin O'Leary from Shark Tank, there's a person watching it on the TV saying, "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?!"

The next generation of genius recording artists and oscar-winning filmmakers is reading this now with an idea.  Our excuse can no longer be that we didn't have the means or the tools.  All it takes is for someone to take the time to blow the world's mind.  

 

This is what Hooke is all about - let's make it happen!

From One Ear To Another,
Joe Guarini, Sozo 3D

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