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The Concept of 3D Spatialized Audio

We want your encounter with exhibits, live events and environments enhanced with True 3D to allow you to feel the experience emanating from within the controlled environment created by the exhibit designer, the artist or the architect. Within spaces to which we are accustomed, our brains often focus forward, following our eyes. Ears, however, operate under a different set of rules, individually and as a pair. They wander on their own. Unlike eyes, they cannot be closed easily, and they take in everything, unfiltered. Even visual fireworks are of limited distraction. The ears vacuum auditory information from the sides and back of the theatre, from the ceiling, the floor (at times even below the floor). In a typical exhibit or perfomance, sounds can be aimed at the audience projected from anywhere. Having no filtering mechanism, the visitor is having a 3D audio experience, as we all have 24/7, wherever we happen to be.

Whether in a gallery, exhibition hall, tunnel, or outdoors, the experienced performance of sound has entered a new phase of development whereby different audio streams (and live sound as well) can be controlled directly in 3D space.

In spatialized audio, we speak of directionality, our ears perceive sound sources from within the surface and the volume of a sphere or cube. Throughout the history of reproduced audio, traditional playback systems have offered us mono, stereo, surround, and even holographic sound. All of these have one limiting element in common: the sound exists on a nearly flat plane, generally at ear level. While walls, ceilings and floors all reflect sound, causing frequencies to bounce, there is no telling where they will travel. Midrange and high frequencies directionalize better, bouncing off reflective surfaces. The bass crawls around everywhere, even burrowing into corners before booming back out at us. So what are the differences between 3D sound and the flat-plane scenarios with which we are all familiar?

Mono, stereo and surround sound recording primarily enter our 3D world as an adjunct to movies and frontal entertainment. Unlike surround and quadraphonic formats, 3D is not just on the ear-level listening plane. Because of its use of the up/down z-axis, 3D has greater dramatic possibilities than other formats. Cubic sound can move up and down as well around. Surround and stereo formats by contrast both produce a flat plane of sound at ear level. Using the Cube format, we can have a sound space that reproduces the real world.

The 3D experience can include a virtual motorcycle driving through you, the illusion of the room disappearing and you suddenly finding yourself in the forest, on a farm or on a snow-swept Antarctic peninsula. Some 3D sound is heard inside the listener’s head. A 3D work can be scaled to different sizes. The Master sound assembly shaped in the studio where it is created and mixed is infinitely shapeable to fit installations at museums, galleries, stadiums and homes.

Record/Playback: How 3D Sound Works in Spaces

3D recordings capture all sound space, and become precise tools for creating, simulating and modelling architectural spaces. 3D forms a sound "bubble" around the visitors from above and below their heads. In the bubble, sound moves around in space, and virtual horizons are established. The bubble needs a perimeter between the speakers and the visitors so no one is aware of the sound from individual loudspeakers.

To create in 3D, sounds are placed and moved spatially in new compositions and mixes, creating new sound worlds, recreating the past or hard to reach environments for museums, education, entertainment and sound art. Applications for this can include:

The Building of MorrowSound® True 3D

Taking sound to the next level, composer and inventor Charlie Morrow created MorrowSound®, a state-of-the-art technology at the forefront of the rapidly expanding field of 3D sound. MorrowSound projects sound from above and below the listener, which creates the illusion of an expanded space where sound moves up and down as well as around. It has been showcased at venues and events around the world, including The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, The 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, The Helsinki Design Week 2009 and The Pro Football Hall of Fame.

MorrowSound® True 3D sound systems are based on 8.1 chained modules, from a single head-size unit to systems for very large spaces such as arenas and stadiums. The principal is to deliver sound from above and below the listener's ears to create natural listening and response to the 3D sound. A single zone is served by 8 matched speakers and a subwoofer. In exhibitions these range from 10 - 13 foot areas. Multiple zones add arrays of 4 speakers equidistant from and parallel to the cube extending the 3D experience. Where greater separation is required between zones, complete 8.1 modules are set next to each other. Exhibition systems are designed with their content in mind.

Additionally, MorrowSound® True 3D systems deliver good PA and event sound. They integrate well into AV systems such as 5.1 theatres, planetariums, cinemas and auditoria. They can easily be used in interactive modes since they run on MAX/MXP. Whether to hide the speakers, or make use of their presence as objects, is a design issue that is considered in the context of the space.

Typically, the engineers and acousticians tune the system and then mix original content on site. Staff are provided instruction for use and maintenance of the True 3D interface. 3D sound systems, because they are immersive, allow control over ambience, sounds and music. 3D audio inhabits the room acoustics. Walls and ceilings virtually disappear if one wishes. Ambience can make halls seem bigger or smaller than their physical reality.

Our systems work well with loudspeakers of almost any quality. The better the speakers, the more depth of field and granularity to the experience. But very noisy environments are often better served with lower quality speakers. Active speaker systems require audio wiring and local power to support their amplifiers. Passive speakers require audio wiring and amplifiers. Multichannel wireless systems are appropriate where there is no risk of RF interference. True 3D systems can be permanent or use temporary mountings and frames. A number of designers have created single zone units varying from metal frames to furniture-grade wood mountings that hide all wires. Temporary systems operate like show lighting with standard show light mountings, clamps and cabling.

In summary, these are the features of MorrowSound® True 3D:

MorrowSound® True 3D delivers a number of layered sound environments:

Atmospheres: Sounds of locations—conditions and shapes an architectural space, makes it larger or smaller. Our single zone interface features photographic images of locations associated with the atmospheres.

Sound Events: Short dramatic sound experiences of moving vehicles, comets, sound scenery like waterfalls, weather, earth quakes

Libraries: 3D music, soundscapes and sound art.

Instant Spatialization Of Stereo Sound Recordings And DVDs: One can use iTunes/Winamp from a computer, MP3 players, iPhone, or mobile phones. The 3D sound field can be switched off to provide stereo and monaural experiences. We offer interactive solutions, responding to customers needs, such as clocks and show control, automatic level control, motion triggers. We offer custom solutions, such as Public Address (PA), Live Performance and DJ modes.

MorrowSound® 3D sound products are in three configurations:

  1. 1. Single and double zone systems, temporary and permanent, with libraries of 3D atmospheres, music and sound events. Software spatializes DVDs and any stereo recording, from vinyl to mp3. This interface features photographic images of Atmospheres. The market for the small cube systems would include homes, small public spaces, lobbies, hospitals, schools, autos, retail, museums

  2. 2. DJ operated systems with libraries of 3D Atmospheres, music and sound events. This system allows for the spatialization of existing DVDs, as well as any stereo recording. This may be applicable for parties, trade shows, meetings, small musical and theatrical events.

  3. 3. Large scale indoor and outdoor installations. Larger systems require design, integration with systems and hardware, simulations, rehearsals and custom content, and applies to conventions, concerts, outdoor events, large public and architectural spaces.