At this year’s Tribeca Film Festival there was something entirely new: a music experience in virtual reality, Alleluia, a Within Original created in partnership with Lytro. The group chose EccoVR, the virtual reality arm of Man Made Music, to create the spatial sound experience. This, together with Lytro’s Volumetric Light Field VR solution, Lytro Immerge, offered viewers a live virtual reality experience. Audiences were captured by the VR imagery and the audio experience captured in high quality detail by Sennheiser microphones, including the AMBEO VR mic.
Featuring an a cappella rendition of Leonard Cohen’s classic song “Hallelujah” arranged and performed by Bobby Halvorson with the help of a 16-person choir, viewers first find themselves in the midst of five instances of Halvorson, each of which performs a different voice part of the song in harmony on a black background. At the climax of the experience, once the verse is over, the lights in the virtual space quickly turn black and the performance stops. The spectator is held back in a dark void. After a few seconds, the lights come back on and viewers face Halvorson and a 16-person choir in a magnificent, grand cathedral as a powerful sound echoes through space for the final choir.
Faced with the challenge of capturing a studio-quality live recording of 17 singers in an acoustically complex and reverberating space, EccoVR / Man Made Music called on Sennheiser for their expertise. The companies collaborated to formulate a quality audio capture strategy using Sennheiser’s AMBEO VR microphone complemented by Sennheiser clip and shotgun microphones.
The AMBEO VR mic, developed by Sennheiser in cooperation with VR content producers and refined through their feedback, can capture a fully three-dimensional multi-channel sound field that can be played binaurally, simulating the experience of listening to sound in a three dimensional space delay using only headphones. Featuring four matching KE 14 capsules, the AMBEO VR mic also excels at capturing detail, making it an ideal choice for recording the performances of singers and the surrounding space with remarkable precision.
To further ensure studio-quality vocal recording, standard Broadway Sennheiser MKE 1 clip mics were placed on Halvorson and each member of the choir, reinforcing their individual voices. Their compact size allows them to be placed out of sight of the virtual reality camera. An MKH 416 shotgun mic was secreted out of sight along with a backup capture for the lead singer. Sennheiser’s 2000 series wireless transmitters and receivers were used to transmit audio from the MKE 1 microphones to the recording system.
The audio performance was recorded entirely live without editing, then integrated into an audio post-production workflow in which the team positioned each individual MKE 1 microphone in the right place in space to match the 3D capture of the AMBEO VR micro for a cohesive sense of space.
For the final experience, viewers were equipped with both a VR headset and a Sennheiser PXC 480 headset. While playing the film, they are able to turn their heads and move around in responsive 3D space, perceiving completely natural sound and visual changes as they get closer to each singer.
The resulting experience was well received. âMany viewers were moved to tears by the performance and the incredible immersive sound,â said Joel douek, co-founder of EccoVR and head of VR Man Made Music. He also congratulated Sennheiser’s contributions for EccoVR’s success in this project. âSennheiser’s involvement has been at the heart of EccoVR’s success on Hallelujah. As well as providing an incredible range of high-end microphones perfect for the situation, including the AMBEO VR mic, it was invaluable to have them on hand with us during the recordings to provide support and ideas. A live volumetric VR capture of a musical performance had never been done before and having all hands on deck was an incredible asset.
This experience fulfills the promise of the AMBEO VR microphone as a good tool for creating immersive sound in movies and other media. âFor Hallelujah, a Within Original created in partnership with Lytro, our AMBEO VR mic excelled in capturing every detail of the physical space,â says Brian glasscock from the Sennheiser AMBEO team, who was on hand to help with the recording. “The result is a first-of-its-kind Light Field VR experience using new audio capture techniques that transport the listener to a truly immersive and original performance of the song.”