“Inspiration struck in the form of noise cancelling headphones.”
For a recent project at Powster Labs, we were presented with a seemingly impossible challenge — a 360 video for Facebook with fully interactive audio. The concept was a 360 scene with four pieces of John Williams’ music playing at the same time. Depending on which wall you look at, you can hear a different track and see corresponding animations playing out over the walls.
This is easy enough in a custom app or website, but the challenge here was to get this feature inside of Facebook — a platform with a potentially huge audience who aren’t likely to download a special app or even click out to a custom website.
Facebook provides a very advanced set of 360 audio tools, but they are modeled firmly on the real world where we can’t focus our ears precisely and we always hear a bit of everything going on around us. Their toolkit lets us reduce out of focus audio by -24db, which was a good start, but not nearly enough for clean isolation of audio.
Through experimentation and creative thinking we were able to come up with a great solution which, we believe, is a world-first. Check it out here.
Putting these four audio tracks into Facebook’s player sounded messy — it was like they were all playing at once. What we needed to do was find a way to further turn down the audio in the scene that we weren’t looking at.
Inspiration struck in the form of noise cancelling headphones.
They work by monitoring the ambient noise around you then playing back the same audio but inverted, cancelling out the background noise. It’s a clever trick called Destructive Interference.
When two identical waves are played in sync, they create a larger wave. When identical waves are played inverted (out of phase), the result is no wave — silence
Powster Labs tried replicating this effect inside of the Facebook player, creating inverted recordings of the background audio in all four directions of the scene. We were surprised at just how well it worked!
This kind of isolated audio brings so many creative possibilities to 360 video, going beyond the realistic approach favored by most 360 platforms. It allows us to engineer 360 stories that don’t have a singular point of focus and to pack several concurrent stories into one scene, as I did in my 2012 app ‘In Limbo’.
I’m excited to share the breakthrough technique we developed at Powster which allows for this new way of filmmaking on the world’s largest 360 video platform.
Here are step by step instructions if you would like to try for yourself.
Basic layout with only one spatial track
Layout with 4 duplicated spatial tracks
Monitoring a 360 video linked to Reaper with Facebook’s Video Player tool
Click the green FX button to open the spatial options for that track
The spatial layout plugin
Our final layout looks like the above, with all the spatial tracks evenly spread out around the room
Very important to enable mix focus like this
Our mix is done and ready to create the noise cancellation tracks
Note ‘M’ muted layer toggle
I’ve muted the Jurassic Park audio, and have positioned the video player to look directly at the centre of the Jurassic park scene.
The final layout with all noise cancellation tracks in place
At Powster labs we do the impossible for our clients. We are an innovation partner for the movie studios and music labels, delivering world firsts and ground breaking projects. From 3D image galleries, to multichannel video in the web browser, plus AR and VR on the web.
Want to work on innovative projects like this?? Luckily for you, we have an open creative developer position in the LA office. Please apply here, we look forward to seeing your work!