Welcome to Spatial Studio 101!
What is Spatial?
Spatial is a series of systems that are used to create, manage and power immersive sound experiences that transform the places we work, play and stay. Architects, interior designers, experience designers, retail designers, exhibit designers and audio creators can use Spatial to enhance the audio aesthetic of any indoor or outdoor environment.
Spatial enables you to scale audio experiences to spaces of nearly any size, with flexibility and ease. From an intimate retail experience to large venues like museums, theme parks or performance areas. With Spatial, you can design once and deploy anywhere.
There are no rigid requirements for speaker locations when using Spatial. You can install speakers in any location or configuration—indoors or outdoors—and Spatial will adapt in real-time for optimal realism. This creates opportunities in places like retail storefronts, immersive entertainment, health and wellness and at home.
Spatial consists of three primary software tools that work together to create the Spatial ecosystem.
Spatial Studio: The Mac development software that lets creators develop immersive Spatial experiences called Scenes. A Scene might represent a forest coming to life in the morning, or an abandoned train station. Spatial Studio can also be used to manage which Scenes are made available to various Spaces. Spaces are virtualized physical locations like a retail store or an outdoor shopping mall where speakers are configured to reproduce the sounds of a Scene in the real world.
Spatial Control: An iOS app that has three important functions.
- It can select which Scene that is playing and what other Scenes are available to a Space.
- It can manage who has the ability to control or create what plays in a Space.
- It can help you create and manage Spaces.
Spatial Reality: The back-end software running on a Mac that powers the playback of a Scene in a given Space.
To play a Spatial Scene in a Space, a Mac computer running Spatial Reality pushes audio through conventional non-proprietary audio interfaces of your choice with as many output channels as required to address individual speakers placed throughout the Space as in, a 16 speaker Space requires 16 output channels.
The system adapts the Scene to best render itself with the resources available. It could be 8 speakers or 80, or more! There is support for full range speakers as well as subwoofers. With Spatial, the size and specific positioning of the speakers is flexible, although there are some recommended guidelines.
For more information on speaker placement within your Space, see our guide.
How Does Spatial Work?
Sound as Objects
Spatial uses an Object-based approach to creating and mixing sounds, a stark contrast from conventional audio mixing that uses a channelized approach. In a conventional mixing environment, sounds are routed directly to channels that output to speakers expected to be in a certain position relative to the expected listening position, such as left, right, center, left surround etc. Using Spatial’s provided tools, the content creator designates sounds as Objects that are given X, Y and Z coordinates relative to the center of a Space. That Space contains any number of independently addressable speakers, and the playback environment’s processing system, a computer running Spatial Reality, determines which speakers should be utilized to render the Object in that particular space. This approach is very similar to how sound is represented within 3D video games.
A big advantage of an object-based approach is that an authored collection of objects, known as a Spatial Scene, can be played back in a variety of spaces with different speaker configurations, and Spatial's renderer will accommodate the varying positions and speaker count in each individual space. Authoring the Scene in the Spatial toolset only has to happen once.
Object based mixing is not new. Film technologies such as Dolby Atmos have used Objects to similar benefit, however Spatial takes the concept and scales it to support many more speakers and with more variance in where they are deployed. More importantly, Spatial provides more tools related to how sound propagates through space. Within Spatial, sound Objects can be given varying physical sizes and shapes, and these Objects can exist far beyond the speaker boundaries of the Space. In such cases, it can automatically factor in distance effects such as volume change, frequency filtering and reverberation. Motion paths can animate an object's position over time, and the Spatial playback engine can analyze the speed of an object and apply appropriate doppler pitch-shifting effects.
Besides Object position, there are various features for controlling when a sound plays. Looping, sound selection randomization, timing randomization, and nestable timelines offer significant options for when sounds are heard. These features help to ensure that the space is always dynamic and evolving instead of unnaturally repetitive.
Inputs & Outputs
Spatial also provides ways in which external inputs can trigger sounds to play. Contact sensors, motion sensors, or just about any type of data can tie-in to Spatial and be used to activate or modify sounds within a Spatial Scene. This is accomplished using network APIs such as OSC and MQTT. While this course does not cover the specifics of implementing external input, it does cover how to set up the receptor Input Events for testing within the Spatial Scene, as well as how to utilize these functions in the Spatial Control app.
Inversely, Spatial can output commands to external systems to impact lighting, animatronics and more. This provides opportunities so that when Spatial randomly plays a thunder clap, associated visual effects in the environment can react. Sending output signals is beyond the scope of this course, but we’ll touch on event triggering in Lesson 7.