Playstation VR Virtual Worlds: Composing Music For VR
Joe Thwaites, composer for PSVR’s Virtual Worlds, today, released a blog post outlining his approach to composing music for virtual reality.
Virtual Worlds, for PSVR, is built up of five different experiences, some of which include taking the role of an ‘east-end’, London, gangster, all the way to playing a light-hearted ‘face-paddle’ game.
Audio is an integral part of creating a convincing and immersive experience in VR. The new medium mirrors our expectations of ‘real space’ in such a way that the absence of well thought out audio can be detrimental to the overall product. So getting it right is important.
Interestingly, Thwaites uses a variety of compositions to connect the adventures. He explains in the blog that he decided to go for a uniformed structure by using the same or similar elements across the varying parts of the composition.
“The biggest challenge was creating distinct styles that complimented each experience whilst also maintaining a consistency that brought everything together as a whole package.” Said Thwaites.
Designing sound for virtual reality goes slightly beyond traditional design for games, in the sense that, as well as creating the music itself, you may also be required to give sounds a position in ‘space’. One of the standard practices to achieve this is called binaural audio – a recording process that mimics the positioning of human ears, or an adjective that effectively means: to listen with both ears.
The way we understand the direction of sound in the real world is based on the way sound travels. If a sound comes from the right of us, the sound wave will travel across that ear first, after which, it will make its way across our head, to our left ear. This difference in time allows the brain to interpret the direction of the sound, thereby giving us an understanding of where it lives in real space. Producers and sound designers can replicate this real world phenomenon in the digital world by spreading the audio across a stereo image – traditionally played back through speakers or headphones.
An example of this technique, presented in the work for Virtual worlds, can be noted in the elements used for the Jellyfish that exist in the underwater experience, Ocean Descent. Which, according to Thwaites, generate “binaurally positioned tones when you look at them”.
There are also more traditional aspects of the composition. Most notably in the Scavenger’s Odyssey part of the app, as it consists of “a full-blown orchestral epic, using Wagner tubas and a big string section to capture both the alien nature of the environment and the drama of the combat.” Thwaites wrote. The music from which has also been scored by, renowned orchestrator, Jim Fowler, with the intention of performing the music live at Air Studio’s, London.
Producing the music for Virtual Worlds employed the use of a 60 piece orchestra and four piece punk band, and was recorded across four days – showing the scope of this particular production.
Playstation and Virtual Reality fans can look forward to experiencing Virtual Worlds in October, 2017, when the debut VR headset for the company mentioned above makes its way to the global market. In the meantime, you can read more about Joe Thwaites work with PSVR over at playstion.blog, or you can check out some exciting titles coming to the platform, here.