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Music – The Language of Emotions

Sonic Branding Part 1

In this series of articles we’ll dive into the essential concepts of sonic branding in today’s rapidly evolving experiential and multisensory media landscape, examining everything from immersive audio, music and sound design within campaign strategies, to the importance of sonic identity assets and enhancing brand look and feel via a multisensory approach.

“As mathematics is the universal language of the mind, music is the language of the heart”

Robert Schumann, Composer (1810 – 1856)

Music is one of the most important aspects of audio branding. We’re hardwired to rhythms and patterns, with science suggesting that hearing is the first of five senses that develops in the mother’s womb, an embryo perceiving its mother’s heartbeat around 18 weeks. Music is so important to us that we constantly and consistently make it part of life – whether through daily routine or during milestone events. From simply driving a car to work to graduation ceremonies, weddings and funerals, music plays a crucial and significant part in how we experience events and the emotions we perceive around them. As perhaps one of the most ubiquitous forms of social interaction after spoken language and gesturing, music is another way of expressing emotion through communication, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it forms the backbone of many successful audio branding strategies.

As we’re rapidly transitioning from the informational era to the experiential, the classic model of product, price, placement and promotion is no longer a cutting edge approach when placed in the context of today’s tech-savvy and advertising-weary consumers.

Aspects such as authentic emotions, a novel experience, direct engagement and sense of exclusivity play an increasingly pivotal role when it comes to “turning customers into fans”.

“When modes of music change, the fundamental laws of the state always change with them”

Aristotle, Greek Philosopher and Scientist (384–322 BC)

In fact, for decades a number of research programmes have shown that when purchasing expensive goods, for example fashion items, a new gadget or a motorbike, we rarely use a pragmatic approach. Dr Gottfried (2014), in her publication The Hormone Cure, states that it is a purely emotion-driven experience that makes our hypothalamus release the hormone oxytocin, giving us a sense of social connection, bonding, trust, generosity and overall happiness. Only after we’ve calmed down do we tend to try to rationalise the decision from a more practical standpoint.

Unlike spoken language which is processed primarily by the left part of the brain, music tends to engage the more creative and emotional right side of the brain, suggesting that music is a language which communicates directly to our feelings rather than our logic.

In this way, communication through music enables us to communicate emotions, thus creating more memorable experiences and encouraging more thoughtful conversation by tapping into our increasing need for authenticity and direct engagement. In doing so, music is capable of assisting brands in building a special position in their customers’ minds.

Music also plays a significant part in sonic branding when it comes to getting customers to buy into the values a brand stands for. When engaging people through authentic emotions, you need to tap into their passions, and music does that for the majority of the global population.

Brands like Pepsi have understood the power of audio branding for many years and have spent extortionate amounts of money featuring stars such as Michael Jackson, whilst producing tailored music and lyrics as part of their marketing campaigns dating back to the 1980s. The result of those campaigns enabled Pepsi to win a large market segment consisting of young Americans from the much established Coca-Cola.

The great news for thousands of brands around the world is that working with superstars is no longer the only option – any young and aspiring brand can accelerate the process of connecting with their audiences by taking advantage of intelligent branding and marketing strategies that fully utilise both sound and vision.

With a rapidly growing global ubiquity of mobile devices and VR headsets, along with an increasing choice of affordable or even free options of music streaming, apps and immersive content platforms, the power of music within branding is only set to increase.

‘Music is the shorthand of emotion”

Leo Tolstoy, Writer (1828-1910)

In the next installment of our sonic branding series we will continue to discuss the concept of exclusivity, the perceptual self-identity of a consumer in relation to a brand, and purchase decision-making based on a sonic branding strategy.

1.618 Digital

What YouTube’s Heatmap Is Really Saying About 360 Video

YouTube recently announced a new analytics tool for 360-degree and virtual reality content creators: heatmaps that illustrate where viewers are actually looking. The new tool allows creators to see exactly what parts of their video are holding a viewer’s attention, and for how long.

YouTube has also released some enlightening early statistics on how – and this is important – viewers currently engage with immersive content.

“Surprisingly” (says YouTube), viewers spend 75% of their time focused on the front 90 degrees of an immersive video. Understandably, this figure has a lot of people questioning the point of VR content if the audience is only willing to engage with a quarter of it.

It’s an easy argument to make, but perhaps what these numbers are really saying is that VR content creators need to learn new ways to grab viewers attention in a 360º world?

Ever since moving pictures became something we watched for entertainment purposes, our eyes have been guided by camera angles to tell us where to look. For over a century that’s what the viewing audience has come to expect.

Virtual reality reminds us very much of the 2D world of film and television, but it’s an entirely different medium with its own set of rules that are still being written. Nothing is set in stone.

And camera angles? Well, those are up to the viewer to choose.

Content creators in the virtual reality space have the difficult task of catching the attention of an audience with over 100 years of collective viewing experience of looking straight ahead.

Does this make virtual reality a fad? A gimmick? No, of course not. It simply means that VR can’t rely on the same tools that have been used for film and television to engage an audience in a fully-immersive format.

That’s a lot of unlearning to do for content creators, and a lot of new learning to do as the format develops. It’s an exciting new frontier.

Back to YouTube’s statistics: the most popular VR videos had the audience looking behind them almost 20% of the time. Markers and animation are what the company suggests will help draw attention to other parts of the surrounding space. In our day to day lives our attention is constantly guided by signs, so it’s a helpful suggestion. But think about this: what’s the one sure thing that will make you stop whatever you’re looking at and focus your attention elsewhere?

Sound…

We are programmed to react to sound. In a split second we must figure out where that sound is coming from and what it means. It is as true in the virtual world as it is in the real world, which is why 1.618 Digital is passionate about high-quality spatialised sound.

Spatial audio can be an effective tool to lead or surprise your audience.  By being in the habit of looking in one direction at any given time, the viewer can easily miss out on what is happening behind or beside them. Through the creative implementation of sonic cues within an immersive environment content creators can control or suggest a narrative. Ultimately, this encourages the audience to engage with specific elements – or viewing angles – within the experience.

Virtual reality is an effective form of visual storytelling. What YouTube’s early heatmap data points to isn’t VR’s failure to engage its viewers. It’s the bigger picture of where audience attention currently is, and the gaps content creators need to fill to direct it elsewhere.

1.618 Digital Team

1.618 to join the panel at The BVE 2017 Excel London

1.618 will be taking part in a panel of 3D audio experts at the BVE 2017 Expo Excel London on 2nd March. Join us as we discuss the next generation of immersive audio, covering everything from future technologies to next generation audio. We’d love to see you there!

Discussion topics will include:

Insights into the current and future technologies that will be taking the industry by storm

The role of object-based audio – how this will improve the customer experience.

Binaural audio – creating a really immersive sound for your audience

Will next generation audio take off – how far away are we?

The panel discussion takes place at 12.30-13.30 on Thursday 2nd March. You can get your free ticket here: Ticket Registration 

Check out what else is taking place at BVE on Thursday 2nd March here

See you soon!

1.618 Team

 

Discussing the importance of spatial audio on happyfinish.com

Importance of Spatial Audio In VR Content

Hearing is fundamental to our perception of the surrounding world.  Achieving this effect in virtual reality requires audio that sounds real and authentic.  Implementing spatial audio to create full immersion in 360° video or interactive VR requires capturing audio or a physical acoustic modeling of the space where the scene takes place.  An appropriate soundscape can provide the quickest path to immersion for just about any VR experience, and even removing the visual element, still enables us to sufficiently perceive the surrounding world – giving us a sense of space, time, and presence.  In contrast, the silent experiences, or the ones with incongruent sound would break the sense of presence and immersion, thus immediately removing the suspension of disbelief, and as a result substantially degrading the overall experience.Hearing is fundamental to our perception of the surrounding world. Achieving this effect in virtual reality requires audio that sounds real and authentic. Implementing spatial audio to create full immersion in 360° video or interactive VR requires capturing audio or physical acoustic modeling of the space where the scene takes place. An appropriate soundscape can provide the quickest path to immersion for just about any VR experience and even removing the visual element, still enables us to sufficiently perceive the surrounding world – giving us a sense of space, time, and presence. In contrast, the silent experiences, or the ones with incongruent sound would break the sense of presence and immersion, thus immediately removing the suspension of disbelief, and as a result substantially degrading the overall experience.

Spatial sound recording or let’s do it in post?

The use of conventional industry formats such as Mono (single channel) and Stereo (two channels) are a basic requirement, although they are limiting and no longer sufficient to offer full immersion in 360° videos or interactive VR experiences.  The use of spatial audio is the only way to create true three-dimensional audio, which utilises higher number of channels, be it capturing sound on location or through the means of sound design and mixing in post-production.  Depending on the nature of the project both methods are important.  Often to design the full sonic experience in VR, it requires spatial sound recording on set along with sound design and spatialisation of individual elements in post-production such as atmosphere, dialogue, foley, sound effects, and music.

Ambisonic format is the most effective method to capture location sound

There are a number of ways to capture the location sound.  However, the most effective method is to record in an ambisonic format which utilises four channels capturing the sound in all directions, along with discrete sound sources such as dialogue or any required diegetic sounds that are part of the scene.  The latter can then be positioned accordingly within the 3D soundfield by employing specialist spatialisation software within audio editing application or a game engine.  This approach enables VR audio content makers to work with an adequate resolution within the virtual space for positioning sound components across eight, 16 or more virtual or physical channels.

Ambisonic sound offers a number of significant benefits that play a crucial role in making experiences as realistic as possible.

-Firstly, sound that was captured in all directions then enables the user to move their head and body while wearing any head-mounted display, and with a use of head-tracking system perceive their own dynamic position within the space in relation to the surrounding environment.

-Second, greater channel count offers more accuracy in positioning individual elements within the 3D space. This avoids everything coming from the same general direction as is common when listening to music, but lacking in realism when comes to creating a metaverse or offering your audience an authentic 360° video experience.

Why is this essential?

The considerations mentioned above are essential due the phenomenon described as a head-related transfer function (HRTF), which is a response that informs how our ears perceive sound from own position in space.  Collectively, head-related functions for both ears give a perception of binaural sound, enabling us to effectively identify a location and a distance of sound sources by constantly receiving sonic information to measure sound intensity and the time difference between sounds arriving to both ears.  We re-create this psychoacoustic process in post-production to then achieve a latency-free, real-time binaural rendering via a close approximation of personal HRTF.  It is essential to take human physiology into consideration when making audience fully immersed and enjoy their experience, be it a story, game or cognitive therapy etc.

The use of audio in marketing campaigns to guide your audience in 360° content

Unlike 2D content where a viewer can see the entire field of view in one direction, the 360° environment presents challenges as well as the opportunities for creative content makers when it comes to constructing the narrative.  Spatial audio can be an effective tool to lead or surprise your audience.  By looking in one direction at any given time, the viewer can easily miss out on what is behind them or sidewards, by implementing sonic cues within the space we can control or suggest a narrative.  By helping our audience to navigate through their point of view, we can ultimately guide them to and encourage them to engage with a specific element within the experience.

What is more important?

When combined effectively, fully integrated visual and sonic perception work in perfect harmony that enables us to see, hear, feel and appreciate the beauty and richness of our world.  Virtual reality already proved its effectiveness in video storytelling, gaming, educational training, social interaction and medical applications.  In order to make any of the above experiences successful, it requires a coherent approach of applying sound and visual content to make it as effective for its purpose as possible – more immersive, more authentic and as the result more engaging, more memorable, more empathetic, more fun and ultimately good enough to have a desire to come back and experience it again and again.

1.618 Team