History of 3D Audio Innovation Defines Auro Technologies
Auro Technologies is a spin-off company of the Belgian Galaxy Studios in Mol.
This recording facility is renowned worldwide for its state-of-the-art leadership in audio innovation for music and sound for film with also a 4K workflow already since 2006, housing probably one the most advanced studio setups in the world.
Based on his studio experience and recognising the need for an audio format that could better capture the natural quality of recorded sound, Wilfried Van Baelen (pictured above), CEO of Galaxy Studios and Auro Technologies, started work on the Auro-3D format in 2005. He developed a scalable and compatible speaker layout based on the existing 5.1 surround standard, using a unique 3-layered speaker layout that incorporates the height dimension, which allows for a much more natural vertical spread of sonic energy in the hemisphere. It was crucial that the technology would be channel-based to start with, as this is necessary to create a three-dimensional space for the recording and mastering of 3D audio (which is not possible in an object-based environment). This makes Auro-3D the preferred choice for 3D music on the market.
Wilfried also envisioned a set of groundbreaking technological solutions that would allow easy integration and distribution of the technology into the existing market standards, without the need of any extra bandwidth. Together with a skilled team of engineers, Wilfried started the development of what would become the Auro-Codec and the “Auro-3D Creative Tool Suite”.
Wilfried publicly introduced the Auro 9.1 and Auro 10.1 format at the international AES convention in Paris (May 2006) and the AES Convention in San Francisco (October 2006). The Auro-3D format was officially launched in 2010, at the AES Spatial Convention in Tokyo. To describe the technology, Wilfried devised a new term: “Immersive Sound,” to describe the hemispheric reproduction of sound all around the audience.
The key factor in Auro-3D’s success to create a truly immersive audio experience is the introduction of its Height layer. Combined with the existing surround layer this creates a unique “vertical stereo” field that is essential in reproducing the crucial reflections in the full 3-dimensional hemisphere around audio objects. Since more than 90% of what we hear in real life is these reflections instead of the direct sound, the vertical field provides a superior reproduction of sound, delivering more harmonic content (color/timbre), more depth, and more spatial information than the competing formats.
Another major advantage of the format lies in the easy integration in existing content creation workflows. The predictable channel-based workflow up to Auro 13.1 is a logical extension of how 5.1 recording techniques have been developed.
On the studio side, the Auro-3D Creative Tool Suite doesn’t require a RMU renderer, but can be inserted as a plugin in the existing DAW stations. This means that at every point in pre-production, engineers can keep working on their existing hardware systems. Since quality is key for Auro-3D, the goal at all times is to efficiently deliver the most immersive sound experience as it was intended by the creators, regardless of the setup or other circumstances.
Last but not least, when integrated into AV receivers, the Auro-3D Engine includes not only the Auro-Codec, to decode all Auro-3D Native content but also the Auro-Matic upmixer plugin. This allows legacy content produced in mono, stereo, or 5.1/7.1 surround to be automatically up-mixed in the Auro-3D format. The result sounds incredibly natural without the addition of effects or other distortions that typically occur in other up-mixing algorithms, instead preserving the artistic intent of the original mix.
Since the conception of the technology, it has been implemented in several markets and applications. First of all, a partnership with the Belgian projection tech company Barco brought Auro-3D into cinema theatres and facilitated the installation of the format in reference and post-production facilities in the US, Europe, and Asia. There is a steady stream of international feature films being mixed and released in Auro 11.1, from Hollywood to Bollywood.
In 2013 the technology was integrated in the Audiokinetic’s cross-platform audio solution Wwise, facilitating the use of Auro-3D in the gaming and interactive media industry. That same year the first partnerships for the home AV market were announced, with Datasat Digital Entertainment introducing the format in their range of high-end consumer audio processors. Many other leading manufacturers in the field followed suit: Trinnov, Denon, Marantz, Amplifier Technologies Inc., Theta Digital, and Steinway Lyngdorf have all integrated the Auro-3D Engine into their devices. Immersive audio on mobile devices is the next step for Auro-3D: Early 2015 a partnership was made with telecommunications provider VuStar to bring the mobile version of the Auro-Codec (named Auro-Cx) and the Auro-Matic to tablets and smartphones.
For home theatre installs, Auro-3D opts mainly for an Auro 9.1 two-layered approach. A second layer of four speakers is installed in each corner of the room, immediately above the familiar 5.1 speaker positions. An optional third ceiling layer adds a single, central Voice of God ceiling speaker to the mix. Initial feedback from the home AV user community has been extremely positive, and over the last year the technology has received numerous awards, including “Best Home Cinema” at the CEDIA and CES events, and no less than four “Best of Show” awards at NAMM.
Auro-3D has proven to be very flexible and comparatively easy to set up in a home theatre environment, with impressive results in immersive audio quality all across the board. Furthermore, there is already a number of quality music releases available, ranging from classical (the renowned label 2L frequently releases audio Blu-rays containing a native Auro-3D mix) to pop music (Mando Diao, Ozark Henry), ambient (the German multimedia collective Lichtmond) and dance (Tiësto reissued his debut album “Elements of Life” in an Auro-3D remix). With the first Auro-3D movie releases on Blu-ray just around the bend, Auro-3D is set to revolutionise the domestic audio experience as we know it.
Dimitri Vossen is an online communications assistant who has been working freelance at Auro Technologies for more three years.