Virtual Reality (VR) is taking the human imagination to places it once only dreamed about and HEAR360 – developers of hardware and software solutions for audio for today’s cinematic VR filmmakers – is making sure those places sound as amazing as they look.
HEAR360 products like 8ball, an omni-binaural microphone that supports directional recording that immerses the viewer into a field of head-trackable 3D sound, enable VR content developers to match realistic audio to 360-degree video. And HEAR360 has come to rely on the Focusrite Red 8Pre 64-In / 64-Out Thunderbolt 2 and Pro Tools | HD compatible audio interface for their products’ research and development cycle.
HEAR360 CEO and co-founder Matt Marrin recalls that during the development stages of the company’s 8ball microphone, he first experienced a RedNet 4 eight-channel mic preamp, and he knew immediately that RedNet would be an important tool in developing these products moving forward. “We contacted Focusrite and eventually had three of the RedNet 4 units as interfaces using Cat-6 and fiber-optic cables, and they worked wonderfully,” he recalls. “Soon we were using fully functional beta versions of our 8ball microphone with the Focusrite products on 360 video live streams before our microphones were even available for purchase.”
For a more complex demonstration during the Cine Gear Expo, held in June on the Paramount Pictures Studios film lot in Los Angeles, HEAR360 used both RedNet4 and Red 8Pre devices to create an entire 3D workflow.
Marrin explains, “For Cine Gear, we used three of our microphones along with three Nokia Ozo 360 camera rigs. One of our microphones was mounted under each Nokia Ozo camera. We connected each microphone (all in different locations) to its own RedNet4. Each RedNet 4 was connected to an Ethernet-to-fiber converter and then sent over a fiber line to our central control location. All three fiber lines were then converted back to Ethernet and then fed into a network switch.
“From the network switch we connected a Sound Devices multichannel Dante recorder for redundant backup capture. We also connected a laptop to the switch that allowed us to control the gain of the RedNet4 units remotely from our control area, and also allowed us to route all of the incoming Dante devices to their intended destinations via the Mac OS Dante Controller application. Finally, Ethernet from the switch was also connected to our Pro Tools | HD rig’s Red 8Pre, where we ingested the Dante audio from all of our incoming microphones.
“The Red 8Pre was also used to capture other source audio, like announcer and music feeds. We mixed all incoming audio within Pro Tools, and then sent a multichannel analog output from the Red 8Pre to a separate audio/video streaming encoder system, where our final multi-channel spatial audio mix was merged with a live-edited 360 video feed from the video switch. The encoder sent audio and video to the cloud for distribution to virtual reality headsets, mobile phones, and 360 web browsers.”
The results, says Greg Morgenstein, HEAR360’s CTO and co-founder, were spectacular. “We love the Red 8Pre’s performance,” he says. “It’s compact in size yet has the ability to flexibly connect with any combination of I/O. The Red 8Pre has the most connectivity of any device in that size, and we can interface with Pro Tools through mini-DigiLink or Thunderbolt 2 formats. And people may overlook the dual headphone connection, but we’ve found that to be critical for providing directors with custom mixes. It’s an awesome device.”
Marrin further points out that the ability to digitally control gain on all eight channels of the Red 8Pre mic pre’s is critical when capturing spatial audio. “The HEAR360 8ball utilizes eight microphone capsules that all need to be set to the same recording level,” he explains. “The Focusrite Red 8Pre does that.”
He adds that the Red 8Pre has also been very useful for broadcast applications as well, allowing users to interface with conventional broadcast workflows as they seek to add immersive audio to their content. “It beats anything else out there,” he says. “The Red 8Pre now lives in our workstation. It’s become our standard.”