Surround sound immersed for FascinatE test

The possible future for interactive and immersive live television was demonstrated in Berlin last week, with 3D audio based on Ambisonics, writes Kevin Hilton.
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The possible future for interactive and immersive live television was demonstrated in Berlin last week, with 3D audio based on Ambisonics, writes Kevin Hilton. The recording of Rodion Schtschedrin's Carmen-Suite at the Arena concert hall was to demonstrate the work of the EU funded FascinatE (Format-Agnostic SCript-based INterAcTive Experience) project. The technology, involving SoundField and Eigenmike surround sound microphones and the Omnicam panoramic camera, comprising six ARRI ALEXA M digital cameras (pictured with an Eigenmike), was demonstrated to the press on 24 May prior to the recording sessions on 25 and 26 May. The performances involved over 200 dancers and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle. To match the panoramic images the music was captured using a microphone configuration developed by researchers from the University of Salford in the UK and Technicolor's research laboratories in Germany. It comprised 12 shotgun mics (Sennheiser 416s and 419s), a SoundField positioned high up for ambient sounds and another SoundField and an Eigenmike closer in. This set-up was originally tested for English Premier League football coverage during 2010 and has been developed for other types of programming. Rob Oldfield, research assistant at the University of Salford's Acoustics Research Centre, explains that the Eigenmike was added to the array to give ambient sound in a higher order Ambisonic (HOA) format. "The Eigenmike is similar in a sense to the SoundField but it captures sound up to fourth order Ambisonics as opposed to only first order, hence it offers a much higher spatial resolution," he says. Raw microphone signals are used so the sound can be dynamically and automatically mixed to match the viewpoint of individual viewers, in keeping with the FascinatE project's search for a truly immersive 3D experience, including sound with height as well as width. The FascinatE project, which also involves the BBC, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute and Joanneum Research, is now entering the final year of its research programme, with the aim of producing "a more interactive" viewing experience on any kind of device. www.fascinate-project.eu

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