Spatial and Head-Locked Stereo Audio for 360 Journalism

NPR is one of the 2017 winners of the Journalism 360 Challenge. See all the winners.

Project Description

360 video has made a mission of “presence,” fully immersing a viewer/listener in place, character and story. Understandably, most forays into journalistic 360 have focused on visual immersion, but at NPR, we believe nothing is more transportive than crisp, clean audio. In fact in VR productions, spatial audio is perhaps MORE important to real “presence” than video, or at the very least, it’s an overlooked but often equally important component in 360 video.

Fortunately, there have been recent developments in spatial recording equipment (Zoom H2N, Sennheiser Ambeo, etc.) and web platform support (Facebook, YouTube, etc.). As production tools and platform support continue to roll out, now is the time to craft best practices for journalistic 360 audio recording.

NPR is uniquely positioned to provide these recommendations for spatial audio practices and publications: top-tier audio engineers, a nimble and eager video team, and NPR training site. We want to dig into spatial audio by producing two day-in-the-life stories on workers in politicized energy jobs (likely coal + renewables), with a specific ear towards sound-rich scenes. We want to transport audiences into the hopes, fears, and broader ramifications of their professions.

These two pieces will require narration, which will force us to reckon with mixing/muxing spatial and non-spatial (headlocked stereo or mono) audio layers. We could not be more excited to explore, test and share our spatial audio findings.

Read more: A beginner’s guide to spatial audio in 360-degree video

A guide to recording spatial audio for 360-degree video