Asbjoern Andersen


Working with sound for VR poses a new set of challenges in terms of positioning, levels and virtual acoustics - and to address those, Dear Reality's dearVR and Spatial Connect let you work with your sounds and mix, directly in VR and in your DAW.

Here's the story behind these fascinating tools for VR audio work, as told by sound engineer and co-founder Christian Sander:


Written by Adriane Kuzminski. Images courtesy of Dear Reality.
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Hello, Christian. Could you tell us a little about yourself and your company, Dear Reality?

Christian Sander (CS): Hi Adriane, I’m Christian Sander – Sound Engineer, Software Developer and Co-founder of Dear Reality. I have been working with VR/AR audio for over 7 years now. My Co-founder and partner Achim Fell is also a Sound Engineer and Game Designer. Our company has the mission to create exceptional 3D audio technology and virtual acoustics for audio professionals by delivering state-of-the-art tools for immersive audio content creation.

3 photos of men.

Left to Right: Achim Fell – CEO and Co-founder, Armin Ghazar Jazi – Lead Developer, and Christian Sander – CEO and Co-founder

 
Could you give us a quick overview of the dearVR 3D audio engine and Spatial Connect VST and what they’re capable of?

CS: The dearVR engine renders virtual sound sources to a binaural output as well as Ambisonics and loudspeaker formats with a high level of “out of head” localization and acoustics simulation. The plugin is available in all common DAWs formats (VST/AAX/AU) and it also comes as a Unity plugin. An audio middleware version for FMOD is still under development but very close to being finished. You can hear the plugin’s capabilities in this technical audio demonstration:

Video Thumbnail

The dearVR Spatial Connect lets audio professionals like sound designers and sound engineers, and also musicians and composers, mix and create outstanding 3D audio content within VR/AR while keeping their existing workflows, tools and preferred DAWs.

 
What is the experience of mixing audio in VR like?

CS: I guess you’ll have to come to Düsseldorf and try it out yourself! If you use it for the first time, it feels like you are liberating yourself from the limitations of conventional audio tools when it comes to VR/AR. In the past we’ve spent a lot of time mixing 3D audio using only a mouse to align and mix audio VR elements, which was not only cumbersome and tedious but also quite frustrating.

The dearVR Spatial Connect workflow is actually simpler then you’d think: you open your DAW of choice, then import the audio files there as usual and add the spatializer plugin (dearVR pro for VST/AAX/AU) on each source. As soon as you want to start to work with positioning, leveling and acoustics selection, you start your dearVR Spatial Connect on your VR PC that connects to the dearVR plugins (we have an option that you can run the VR application on a separate rig as preferred by audio professionals). After this you put on your HMD device – for instance the Vive or Rift – and you are ready to mix! All your settings and automations are written in your DAW and you can export the mix to binaural, Ambisonics and Stereo or Multi-Channel formats.

 
And the settings you create in the VST can be saved and manipulated in your Unity mix?

We evaluate constantly with our partners in our beta test program to improve & perfect the workflow of various mixing scenarios

CS: Yes, all automations are recorded in the DAW and can be easily accessed at a later point. The first version of it is mostly suited for linear audio (360° video, binaural mixes, Ambisonics, linear parts of VR/AR experiences). The next version will give you access to mix interactive audio as well, which should enable the users to learn the tools step-by-step. This later version then will also include the transfer functionality to bring the mix to Unity, as shown in the video. This approach allows us to optimize & enhance the mixing process first and then extend the dearVR Spatial Connect with the Unity export functions. In addition, we evaluate constantly with our partners in our beta test program to improve & perfect the workflow of various mixing scenarios (linear, non-linear, 360°, VR/AR mixing, video games).

The dearVR audio engine interface for Unity.

 
Straight out of the box, what parameters can be controlled on game objects when mixing in VR?

CS: Currently we identified that the most important parameters for the users are position, level and virtual acoustics. There are more additional parameters which we’re still developing and testing.

 
You also have 45 impressive reverb presets, but are you planning to support convolution reverb or third-party impulse responses?

CS: We are looking into supporting third-party impulse responses in the future, but at the moment we’re focusing on fully optimized presets that sound great out of the box.

 
What separates dearVR from other VR/360 audio plugins by Valve, Facebook/Oculus, Aspic Tech, and G’Audio Lab?

CS: In past years, we got really amazing feedback and compliments which not only confirmed that our tools have a very intuitive workflow, but also approved the pristine audio quality of our audio engine especially when it comes to binaural spatialization, room simulation with its outstanding presets, and the Ambisonics output rendering. We are really proud that we can offer a very unique mixing workflow for our users which enables them to mix high-quality content in VR/AR (dearVR VST -> dearVR Spatial Connect -> dearVR Unity).
 


Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 

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Along with FMOD compatibility, your website says you’re planning a version for UE4 and Wwise, too, though I’m assuming the VST version of Spatial Connect is still the number-one priority?

CS: Since we’ve received lots of requests for the dearVR Spatial Connect 360° version we decided to release this version first. As already mentioned earlier we will provide the full workflow from editing and playback in the DAW with the dearVR pro/music VST/AAX plugin. A positive side effect is that the dearVR Spatial Connect requires that the next generation dearVR engine and its development run parallel so they affect each other in a very positive way.

Although our tech is hardware agnostic, our partnership with Sennheiser empowered us also to provide a perfect end-to-end solution when it comes to recording, mixing and listening to 3D audio (e.g. AMBEO mic, dearVR, ASH headset).

dearVR spatial audio demos:



 
Could you tell us a little more about your partnership with Sennheiser? Are you supporting Sennheiser’s new initiatives like their AR demos on AMBEO headphones (which was fun to try out last GDC)?

CS: Yes, we are very happy that our cooperation with Sennheiser allows us to support Sennheiser’s hardware in the best way possible. For instance, we showcased an AR demo with the ASH system (AMBEO headphones for capturing, adding virtual sound sources and listening) at SXSW with our dearVR Unity plugin, which not only sounded great but also worked flawlessly!

Having (Sennheiser) as our investor helps us to create outstanding products and offers our customers a complete hardware and software solution for all audio scenarios.

We officially partnered with them early this year and we are absolutely amazed to have an experienced strategic partner with such a strong and powerful history when it comes to audio. Having them as our investor helps us to create outstanding products and offers our customers a complete hardware and software solution for all audio scenarios. As an independent company we’re in full control over what we develop but we’re very fortunate to learn from their experience with over 70 years of audio history!

A virtual controller raycasts a reverb zone on a spaceship in Unity.

 
So then how did Dear Reality come to be? When did you and Achim meet?

CS: I was studying sound engineering at the Robert-Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf, and I developed a 3D audio renderer for iOS (rendering up to 27 3D audio sources on an iPhone 4S) as my diploma thesis. My AES paper which I presented at the AES in San Francisco in 2012 got into Achim’s hands as he was looking for a 3D audio mobile solution for his Master of Game Design Thesis at the Cologne Game Lab. Achim then found out that this AES paper being presented in San Francisco was actually written by a guy living only a few kilometers away. We decided to bring my 3D audio engine to Unity to create a 3D audio mobile game for the biggest German radio station (Westdeutscher Rundfunk) that went phenomenally well (over 100,000 downloads). In 2014 we founded Dear Reality to create 3D audio technology and tools – by content creators for content creators. And that’s what we’ve been doing since! :-)

 
That’s fascinating that the person Achim was looking for was just right around the corner. Was the game you developed 39?

CS: Yes, 39 – WDR HörSpiel. It’s in German-only, but here is a clip of the audio capture without visuals of the app. It’s from the dearVR engine from 2014… so a lot has happened since then.

By the way, a lot of German organizations for blind and visually impaired people were very interested in the 39 app, but that might be probably another story for a second interview!

 
You know how much I like to talk about game accessibility ;). But it’s interesting to note how 3D audio engines like dearVR can make games not only more immersive, they can also portray subtle positional informational for people who rely on audio to understand their surroundings. But yes, for another interview…

As far as your personal career, it’s interesting that you’ve gone back and forth between audio production and software engineering. How did you decide to make these transitions?

CS: I was always fascinated by audio and software engineering and recent developments in the last 20 years made the two topics come even closer together, so it just felt natural for me to grow in and learn from both.

We decided to focus completely on software and work closely with production companies to build great tools suited for their needs.

For example: although we had already released the dearVR Unity plugin, we still did VR sound design projects for e.g. Deutsche Telekom during that time. That gave us pretty good insights of what was required from audio developers and sound designers to work in VR. That’s how we realized that there was a huge demand for a tool like the dearVR Spatial Connect. At that point we decided to focus completely on software and work closely with production companies to build great tools suited for their needs.

The reverb presets are shown in the Spatial Connect VST.

 
What companies and studios currently use dearVR?

CS: The dearVR pro/music and dearVR Unity plugins are used by a lot of companies worldwide, from small independent studios starting in spatial audio to big audio production companies, AAA game studios & well-known recording studios and public broadcasting institutions. You can check out very positive quotes from audio producers in the music biz on e.g. our Plugin Alliance store page.

 
Those are some shining reviews! Now, other than the recent AES convention in Milan, will you be showing dearVR at any other conferences or trade shows coming up?

CS: Sure, we’re planning to attend IBC Amsterdam, Tonmeister Konferenz Cologne, and last but not least AES New York this year. If you won’t be able to make it to the conventions I’m sure there will be further chances to try it out yourself! We will also soon open our portal for applications for the next closed beta program.

 
…Is that an open invite to readers who are interested in beta testing? ;)

We encourage everyone in 360°, sound design, music, and game audio to apply for the program

CS: Yes, the dearVR Spatial Connect beta program hasn’t started yet, but we encourage everyone in 360°, sound design, music, and game audio to apply for the program. Anyone interested in the program can contact us with a brief description about their work. They can also stay up to date with our newsletter on our website and Facebook page.
 

A big thanks to Christian Sanders for giving us a look at the dearVR audio engine and dearVR Spatial Connect VST – and to Adriane Kuzminski for the interview! Find out more about Dear Reality on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

 

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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Cars Car Foley II Play Track 130+ sounds included, 30 mins total $50 $40

    Car Foley 2 sound effects library features foley recordings of different actions performed inside 10 different cars. It’s 130 files with a total length of 30 minutes covering actions like closing and opening regular doors, slide doors, hoods, trunks, interior buttons and switches, windows, seatbelts, brakes, gear levers, handbrakes and more.

    Inside you’ll find foley recorded in cars like:

    • Audi A3 8L 1.9 TDI
    • Mazda 6 III 2.0 Skyactive G
    • Nissan Qashqai 1.6
    • Nissan Terrano II 2.7 TDi
    • Porsche Cayenne I 4.8 V8
    • Renault Master IV dci 165
    • Subaru Impreza WRX GD
    • Toyota Corolla Verso 1.6
    • Toyota Rav 4 II 2.0 Diesel
    • Volkswagen Caravelle T5 2.0
    20 %
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    Ends 1580252399
  • Environments Hot Tub SFX (Jacuzzi / Spa) Play Track 10 sounds included, 2+ mins total $10 $5

    There’s nothing better than a nice long soak in a Jacuzzi hot tub… This library will instantly place you right in the middle of a beautiful oasis of warm bubbling water and massaging bubble jets. All sounds are cut into perfectly seamless loops and provided in both .wav and .mp3 to make your use of this library as easy as a trip to the spa!

    These loops make it easy to drop the files into any game development software or to easily support props in a film/tv project.

    Music is only heard in the demo, not in the actual footage.

    Other libraries that pair well:
    1000 Winds Project (Farts.) [The Original]
    Everyone farts… and some people do it in the hot tub!  CAUTION: This library contains the HIGHEST resolution fart winds that exist on this side of the internet… Well, let’s be real, all sides of the internet!

    Chicago – Environmental & Transportation Ambiences
    Depending on the needs of your project, you might just find that you need additional environmental ambiences, which are covered in this library! Recorded in high resolution, this library will put you right in the virtual seat of the city of neighborhoods!

    PWC – Jet Ski – Sea Doo | Volume 1 & 2
    More sounds in the world of water!  Ultra-high resolution Sea Doo recordings utilizing on-board microphone techniques, from multiple perspectives (driver perspective (mid-side, exhaust perspective & engine perspective).

    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1580165999
  • User Interface (UI) Computer Sounds: Sci-Fi Minipack Play Track 180 sounds included $10 $7

    This is a small collection of 180 easy-to-use futuristic interface sound effects.

    All sounds categorized by the most popular cases in production, such as Alarm, Beep, Button, Confirm, Deny, Telemetry, Text, Noise, and others.

    Also, it contains two main sub category: Simple (could be used as a layer in complex sound design) and Complex (which already consists of several layers).

    This library is a fast, easy, effective and extremely affordable way to complete your production tasks.

    Main features:

    • 180 ready-to-use sound effects with alterations

    • Futuristic computer interface sounds

    • Categorized as Simple and Complex

    • Most popular types of effects: Alarm, Beep, Button, Confirm, Deny and others

    • Contains metadata for search engines

    30 %
    OFF
    Ends 1583017199
  • Destruction & Impact Medieval Battle Play Track 100 sounds included $26

    Medieval Battle contains a wide variety of sounds taken straight from the battlefield. Unleash the full force of your army with effects from a diverse range of medieval weaponry, crowds, horses and battle charges. There are also battle cries, screams and shouts to make the audience feel like they are right there on the frontlines. To bring you the most organic and natural battle sounds, we recorded actors performing in a quiet exterior location. All sounds were recorded in 24Bit 96kHz, allowing for further sonic manipulation.

    If you think your sound collection is in need of some reinforcements then this is the library for you! Medieval Battle is ideal for use in Film, TV and Game projects, and will make a perfect addition to your sound design arsenal.

    Here are the included folders:

    Crowds: Crowd rushes and static battle cries in a natural exterior location make these effects perfect for building the bed of a huge Medieval warzone.

    Female Voices: 4 individual female actors perform multiple vocalisations including screams, grunts and efforts.

    Sword & Shield Hits: A variety of sword and shield hits performed by weapons and combat experts.

    Male Voices: 4 individual male actors perform multiple vocalisations including screams, grunts and efforts.

     

  • City Life Countrysides and capitals Play Track 40 sounds included, 57 mins total $89.99

    These group of sounds will help you colour your footage with sounds from the city and the countryside. Packed with 40 sounds to enhance your design

    Recorded with:

    • Sound Devices 633
    • Rode NTG3
    • Rode NT4
    • Seymour Duncan SCR-1
 
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