Andrés Mayo, former President of the AES (Audio Engineering Society), is an audio engineer and music producer who has pioneered the art of mastering since 1992. He won two GRAMMY Awards and seven Gardel Awards for Technical Excellence.
I started exploring Virtual Reality some 5 years ago when everybody was calling it “the wild, wild West” because of the lack of standards and the countless hardware and software makers all over the world. We all thought that VR was going to be huge immediately. I co-chaired the very first International Conference on Audio for VR and AR (codenamed AVAR) of the Audio Engineering Society, which I presided on a worldwide level until October 2015. There I learned about the dimensions of the so-called “new world” of VR. It turned out that it had evolved differently than expected, and possibly for the good. The hardware and software slowly became more mature, opening new paths. Audio engineers now have great new possibilities in the fascinating world of 360-degree audio recording and post-production. Handling sound objects with six degrees of freedom is now possible on a variety of platforms, most of them completely free.
Together with renowned mixing engineer Martin Muscatello, I explored and beta-tested several products before we found the integrated solution provided by the Sennheiser AMBEO VR Mic and the DearVR mixing platform. This was the first time that we could record, mix and integrate Ambisonics audio into 360-degree video in one toolkit. Our learning curve was very steep: We were shown the product in August 2019 and had to showcase it in October in a hands-on training workshop at the AES Convention in New York. For that workshop, we recorded special content in Buenos Aires with a well-known rock band named Vanthra.
„The AMBEO setup is extremely easy to use and allows for excellent recording quality. On top of that, its natural integration in the DearVR platform makes it an extremely powerful yet affordable toolkit that is currently covering over 80% of our needs for 360-degree audio production.“
The recording was super easy to set up and we were ready to hit Rec in less than 90 minutes. The band is a power trio that does not like to play unplugged, so we used guitar and electric bass amplifiers, direct boxes and a set of standard microphones to close-mike all of the instruments (drums, bass, guitar and two vocals). But we made sure that the AMBEO VR Mic was in a privileged position in the physical center of the room. So we used the directional mics to reinforce the object positions but we relied on the AMBEO for the main spatial representation. We recorded in a beautiful room, co-owned by Martin, where we had an excellent acoustical response and noise control. Ambisonics specialist Ianina Canalis (from the National University of Lanús, Argentina) helped us throughout the capturing process and offered advice based on her expertise. Then she stitched the 360-degree image and delivered an MP4 file that we used as a video reference for the session. We captured the song in three takes, chose the last one and used it to synchronize with the 360-degree video. In less than 3 hours, we had a very good recording of the band with 4 Ambisonics channels (populating the first 4 channels of a TOA 16-channel bus) and 12 “standard” channels.
The AMBEO setup is extremely easy to use and allows for excellent recording quality. On top of that, its natural integration in the DearVR platform makes it an extremely powerful yet affordable toolkit that is currently covering over 80% of our needs for 360-degree audio production. We are really looking forward to testing the upcoming Mac version of the mixing desk because we have many old ProTools projects waiting in line to be remixed in 360-degrees.
About Andrés Mayo
Andrés Mayo, former President of the AES (Audio Engineering Society), is an audio engineer and music producer who has pioneered the art of mastering since 1992. He boasts credits in more than 3,000 albums released in vinyl, CD, DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming and 360-degree audio formats. He won two GRAMMY Awards and seven Gardel Awards for Technical Excellence. Member of the P&E Wing Advisory Council at NARAS, he also runs his own company – Andrés Mayo Mastering & Audio Post – and is the founder of @360MusicLab, a company devoted to the production of immersive audio.