Awards and 360′ video workflows!

Posted on March 17, 2017

Just found out that one of the projects I worked on last november won “Best International Web Video” in The Reed Awards in Las Vegas. If you’ve never heard of it (like me) it’s an event and conference for people involved in political campaigns.

The film was an initiative from the swedish organization IOGT-NTO who are working for a society with less alcohol and narcotics. It’s a 360′ video that is showing a christmas 1982 in Sweden. The narrator tells the viewer how he as a boy experienced the result of his parents being drunk at christmas eve. How he felt out of place and the more they drank the less he mattered. See it here for yourself:

It was an excellent project to work on and I learned a bunch of stuff. It was my first 360′ film project so there were some new challanges. Luckily it was new for the rest of the team as well so we had to make it work together. I did all the sound for the project, both recording and post so here are some insights.

Working with 360′ content is a whole other thing than working with a normal picture. Just the fact that the camera is static, locked, and in the middle of the scene creates some problems for everyone that are used to work right outside of the frame (sound, lights etc). Since the viewer can choose to watch whatever angle they want everytime we made a shot the team had to hide. Which means no boom mics, only hidden mics.

So what I did was to place a lav mic on each actor to cover the dialogue. All of them were going to speak in the scene and it had to be separated to place them correctly in the room. I also used 3 plant mics. One at the table at the couple, one in front of the boy and one right beneath the camera to get some natural room sound for the narrator later on when he comes closer. These plant mics were great to have in the post work since these were the mics that made it all sound natural and I could use them to fill the room. The lav mics sounded good, but too close to use for room tone. Which takes us to the post part.

I really enjoyed working with this video in post. At first I had a little trouble finding the right tools, but after realizing I’ve been too stubborn staying on a PC, I moved to a mac where I could use the Facebook 360 Workstation (now there’s a PC version too). It had just released a few weeks earlier so there were no PC version out yet… Working with audio in 360′ is very much like working in surround, but instead of turning your head within a 5.1 speaker setup you turn the picture with your headphones on and get the same effect.

The format for the final audio was 1st-order ambiX. It took some time for me to realise how this worked, but I’ll try to explain it. What the ambiX format really is is more or less just the order you put the audio channels in. The ambiX format follows 2 standards, ACN and SN3D. ACN is the ordering of the channels and SN3D is the normalization. I never really wrapped my head around the SN3D part, but it’s important apparently and the only format that google accepts.

In the end, after a little trial and error, we managed to find the correct file formats and all that and I think the product turned out pretty good. 🙂

This took some time!

Posted on February 19, 2017

Ok, “soon” is apparently a very flexible word! I thought I would get into posting some stuff at the end of last year, but the projects just kept coming so I didn’t really feel I had time to get into this. I’ve never been a writer, so all this is new to me, but I think it will be good for me to get some stuff out of my head and think about what I’m doing and what I’m putting time into. So bare with me!

That being said, I just bought a new computer which I put together by myself for studio purpose so I thought I could start with a post about that.

This was the second time putting together a computer so I put a little less time in doing the research this time than the first time. My last build was for a home/studio computer, but this one was only going to be for studio purpose so I could narrow down my focus a little bit. There are so many parts and manufacturers that you easily can lose grasp of time when searching for the right components, but this time I had some knowledge already.

So here’s what I ended up with :

Motherboard : Asus X99 A-II (Socket-2011-3)
CPU : Intel Core i7-6800K
RAM : Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3200MHz 32GB
PSU : Corsair HX850i
GPU : ASUS GeForce GTX 1060 3GB Dual OC
CPU Fan : Noctua NH-D15
Case : Corsair Carbide Quiet 600Q
Main SSD : Samsung 960 EVO 500 GB M.2
Storage HDD : Seagate Firecuda 2TB 3.5″ SSHD

I just put this all together and believe it or not, everything worked right away from the start! Well, if you exclude a bit of re-cabling when the power button didn’t work the second boot up. It must have lost connection when moving the computer. I haven’t really had time to push the limits yet, so I guess I have to make an update for that, but I did make a benchmark test on the Samsung 960 and wow…! It’s really as fast as the spec says it is. I also did some testing with loading a library patch from EWQL, more specifically their Piano Gold library, on both the USB 3.0 drive sent from EWQL and on the Samsung 960. The difference was HUGE. Here’s the loading times :

Samsung 960 Evo : 9.07s
USB 3.0 Drive sent from EWQL : 1min 12s

I mean, that’s 800% faster. So that’s really promising. Pro Tools is opening up super fast too, hopefully it will stay like this for a while even when the drive is being filled up a bit more.

The choice of motherboard came down to 3 things really.
1. Socket 2011 for multicore CPU
2. Thunderbolt expandability
3. Price

With the Asus X99 A-II I got both of those features for a reasonable price. To get a thunderbolt port all I need is a pci-e card which is quite cheap and then I can take advantage of TB 3.0 drives too.

The new RAMS with 3200hz will be useful when loading up larger sessions in pro tools and big VI libraries, so I hope that will work fine. I choose to go with 32 GB since I’ve currently worked with 16 GB RAM and I didn’t really feel like that was slowing me down too much but still wanted an upgrade. The Noctua CPU fan is really quiet so far. It’s enormous, but surprisingly quiet. Also, regarding the PSU I might have gone a bit overboard with that, but with my last build I had some very irregular blue screens which I haven’t really found out why yet, so I thought I could put some extra money in there just to be safe.

The only thing I do kind of regret is getting the Carbide 600Q Case. It’s a great case, don’t get me wrong, I think it has great potential to be super quiet even under load due to the fact that there’s so much space. The problem is the location of the USB ports. Since the case is built around an inverse ATX design all the ports that are usually at the top, are now at the bottom. This gets a bit frustrating when connecting external drives. As of now, they barely reach the top USB 3.0 ports when I put them on top of the case. Longer cables will solve this issue, but it’s an unnecessary problem I think.

Otherwise, like I said, I haven’t really pushed the limits of the system yet so that will be an update later on I guess. But so far very happy with my new build!