I’ve been working on a VR game for the past six months; I’m freelancing at Sony in London at the moment. The audio team here has been one of the first to get involved with VR as this project has been in development for about 2.5 years now – I’ve only come in towards the end to help it out of the door.
So while I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic, I have to say I really enjoy doing audio design for VR. The sense of presence you can create is quite a blessing for any audio designer. I would say though, as a blanket statement, that it’s often quite a bit trickier than traditional ‘2D screen based’ game audio development. (Again, I realise I’m generalising). But in summary, VR requires audio to be extremely precise, so a lot of the old dirty tricks don’t quite cut it (a basic example being that you need way more emitters to make things believable).
One of the most interesting aspects for me so far has been hooking audio into particle systems to create sound for swirling elements; sound that is truly 3D / all around you & highly dynamic. On the flipside however, the binaural processing itself does pose its own set of problems as it’s by definition filtering your audio, which makes the raw asset creation process a little different. At times, it’s turned out to be sonically better to bypass the binaural system altogether and go for basic stereo for some elements (which perhaps seems contradictory).
Just a few basic observations, one could go way more in-depth on this topic, but my bottom line thoughts are that VR is the most audio design fun (yet also the trickiest) I’ve ever experienced.
For anyone doing linear cinematic VR, it’s worth checking out the FB360 Spatial Workstation (formerly TwoBigEars Spatial Workstation). Simply put, it’s a free set of VST plugins, a 360 video player that slaves to your DAW and an encoder that outputs a .tbe file. The FB360 engine needs to be integrated into the VR platform to decode the audio. Anyway in terms of workflow it’s easily accessible and allows you to work right out of your DAW, so quite a simple solution for non-interactive, linear experiences. The encoder also outputs in Ambix format which can be used on Youtube.