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55.8 million consumers will have adopted a version of a virtual reality platform by year’s end. This article includes info on upcoming conferences that may help composers & sound designers learn more about our role in the creation of VR music and audio.

Winifred Phillips, Blogger

January 19, 2016

14 Min Read

In a new report released January 5, 2016, the research analysis firm SuperData issued a forecast of the future of Virtual Reality gaming in the coming year.  Among the results: 5.1 billion dollars are predicted to be spent on VR hardware in 2016, and 55.8 million consumers will have adopted some version of a VR platform by year's end.  The report also predicts that inexpensive VR gaming on mobile devices will prove the most popular in the short-term, dominating the market in 2016. The report also suggests that small indie studios may benefit by jumping into VR development early (since the top publishers are proving to be a bit more reticent). These are awesome times to be in the video game industry, and there will certainly be lots to learn as we go boldly into the world of VR.  In this blog, I've collected information about upcoming video game conferences - some that are already famous and some that are brand new.  These events might help us game audio folks (composers and sound designers) to learn more about our role in the creation of VR music and audio.

Audio Engineering Society: Audio for Games 2016

Time/Place: February 10-12 2016 | Royal Society of Chemistry, London

Event website: http://www.audioforgames.net/2016/

Event description: The nature of game-audio continues to evolve. This conference focuses on the latest challenges and changes that the industry has faced in most recent years. The conference aims to reflect the needs and interests of all professionals working in or around the area of game audio, further the dialog between existing industry experts, create a forum for sharing techniques and technology, and help advance game audio on current and future platforms.

Presentations that discuss music/audio for VR:

Tales of Audio from the Third Dimension!

High fidelity and non-repetitive sound effects, music, dialogue, and ambience are only the beginning of a compelling in-game sound experience. Spatialization (hearing sounds from where they are perceived to occur) is increasingly critical for traditional gameplay and virtual/augmented/mixed reality experiences alike. This talk surveys real-time 3D sound manipulation techniques in use today and on the horizon: dynamic simulation of position, distance, interaction with game geometry, environmental reverberation, and more. WeÍll offer a primer on topics both technical (HRTFs and other processing; spatial formats; middleware integration) and creative (placing non-diegetic audio in a mixed reality game; mixing techniques; evolving best practices for spatial implementations for headphone and speaker solutions).

Speaker: Scott Selfon | Senior Audio Specialist, Microsoft

Virtual Reality Spatial Audio

In this workshop our panel of experts will present practical workflows for mixing and rendering 3-D sound for VR. The workshop will explore different production techniques for creating immersive mixes such as Ambisonics processing and Head-Related Transfer Function rendering. It will also explore the importance of environmental rendering for VR as well as outlining workflow challenges and pipelines for dynamic spatial audio over a variety of VR technologies and applications.

Speaker: Varun Nair | VP Products, Two Big Ears Ltd.
Speaker: Gavin Kearney | Lecturer, University of York
Speaker: Marcin Gorzel | Software Engineer, Google Inc.
Speaker: Alper Gungormusler | Software Engineer, Google Inc.
Speaker: Pedro Corvo | Sr. Audio Programmer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Speaker: Jelle Van Mourik | Audio Programmer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Music for Virtual Reality Applications

Virtual reality (VR) provides new ways of presenting sound and music to the user, and this has implications for composition and sound creation. After working with the Playstation VR Headset for two years, we have begun to collate guidelines for creating music for VR applications. This talk will discuss new possibilities offered by the VR medium, as well as revisit traditional approaches, considering among other things: content creation, implementation, and mixing. As consumer VR products are still in an infancy state, this talk aims at sharing gathered insights, exposing misconceptions, and offering practical advice for composers seeking to design music for VR applications.

Speaker: Joe Thwaites | Composer & Music Production Assistant, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Environmental Audio Effects in VR and AR

The emergence of commercial VR and AR hardware and applications has placed renewed emphasis on the fidelity and performance of positional and environmental audio rendering engines and creation tools for games. In order to support the expected sense of immersion and suspension of disbelief, the reproduced audio scene must be spatially and acoustically congruent with the first-person visual presentation, and accurately respond to the player’s head rotation and navigation movements. In addition to the oft-discussed technological challenges associated with HRTF-based binaural rendering technology, these applications highlight the need for plausible reproduction of the natural effects of acoustic source directivity and orientation, obstacles, reflections and reverberation. Following the initial adoption, in the late 1990s, of basic parametric effect models for “sound cones”, “obstruction”, “occlusion” and “environment reverbs”, continued research in physics-based acoustic environment simulation methods has led recently to commercial solutions designed for integration in game audio rendering engines and tools. In this session, application developers, sound designers, technologists and researchers will review and discuss the principles, practical implementation and ongoing challenges of environmental audio effects in VR or AR applications.

Chair: Jean-Marc Jot | Sr VP R&D, DTS.
Speaker: Lakulish Antani | Co-founder, Impulsonic
Speaker: Scott Selfon | Senior Audio Specialist, Microsoft
Speaker: Simon Ashby | Co-Founder and VP Products, AudioKinetic
Speaker: Simon Gumbleton | Technical Sound Designer, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

Vision Summit 2016

Time/Place: February 10-11 2016 | The Loews Hollywood Hotel

Event website: http://visionsummit2016.com/

Event description: Vision VR/AR Summit is an all-new cross industry event for artists, engineers, programmers, designers, musicians, directors and producers, hardware manufacturers and researchers. It will be a unique event focused on furthering the knowledge base of anyone developing virtual and/or augmented reality content.

Presentations that discuss music/audio for VR:

Audio challenges in virtual reality

Most audio content in virtual reality so far has been created using relatively simple, short-term 3D audio solutions that can ultimately limit the quality of the end-user experience. This session will focus on some key problems faced by audio content creators when capturing and mixing virtual reality content and the tradeoffs between artistic control and physically-based audio rendering. It will also address efficient representations and environment-aware playback of immersive audio content for improved virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Speaker: Nicolas Tsingos | Director of E-media, Dolby Laboratories

Plugin Into RealSpace3D Audio

RealSpace™ 3D Audio is the virtual placement of sound anywhere in 3-D space with pin-point accuracy, creating the perception of real source direction, distance, depth, and movement relative to the listener and heard through standard stereo headphones. It recreates the auditory ambience of the environment, creating a complete immersive audio experience. VisiSonics’ developed the proprietary science-based algorithms and hardware giving the listener the experience of actually being present in the scene.

Speaker: Rod Haxton | Lead Software Engineer, VisiSonics

Game Developers Conference 2016

Time/Place: March 14-18 2016 | The Moscone Center, San Francisco

Event website: http://gdconf.com

Event description: The GDC attracts over 26,000 attendees, and is the primary forum where programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers and others involved in the development of interactive games gather to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry. This market defining conference features over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts.

Presentations that discuss music/audio for VR:

Audio for Cinematic VR

Audio workflow for Cinematic VR is evolving into a hybrid of game audio and linear post-production, borrowing the best ideas from both worlds. This session covers audio post, mixing techniques and rendering tools and technology with workflow examples from LeBron James: Striving for Greatness (Dec. 2015) and the Philip K. Dick inspired VR short film I, Philip co-produced by European broadcaster Arte (Feb. 2016). The session will conclude with a look at the future and how both the tools and the technology need to evolve to make the most of VR and ultimately craft better sounding stories.

Takeaways from this session will include the current state of post-production in Cinematic VR, mixing techniques, best-practices, workflow tools, the state of rendering technology and the future for VR storytelling with audio.

Speaker: Varun Nair | VP Products, Two Big Ears Ltd.
Speaker: Jean-Pascal Beaudoin | Lead Sound Director, Headspace Studio

Composing Music for VR Games: "Adventure Time" Case Study

How is the music for virtual reality games different from traditional 3D games? What are the differences between the music for the game, and the music for the hit TV show on Cartoon Network? How are instruments and sound effects localized within the sound field for VR? This talk will review the process of composing music for "Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games" with Turbo Button and Cartoon Network. Starting with how the job was acquired, through the process of composing the music, and finally mixing and mastering the unique soundtrack in 3D for a VR release.
The talk will include a music video of gameplay footage that adds video inserts to feature and demonstrate the different instruments used in the recording of the soundtrack. It then focuses on mix techniques for 3D VR audio and Binaural sound processing as well as implementing the adaptive music.

By seeing how the music was composed and mixed for "Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games," attendees will learn about the process of writing music for Virtual Reality Games. From tips on instrument choice, to mixing, localizing, and implementing, they will gain an understanding of 3D music for VR.

Intended Audience
Composers, Sound Designers, Audio Directors, Developers, Designers and Producers who are interested in music and mixing for VR games, or games with quirky soundtracks.

Speaker: Erik Desiderio | CEO, Erik Desiderio Music

End to End Cinematic VR Production Best Practices

Producing content in VR requires a whole new way of thinking - from the film capture to post production processes. It requires a unique way of thinking to produce experiences that are high-quality and completely immersive. Not only do you have to think of a story concept in a completely new light, but you also need to think of how to capture your audience with visual and audio cues that traditional film and television editing provides automatically. Learn cinematic VR production best practices and lessons learned from a leading purveyor of totally immersive live-action VR experiences.

Learn VR best practices from behind the camera to the edit bay. With experience developing, editing, and writing VR content, Patrick will discuss working with leading creatives, including, Sir Paul McCartney, The North Face, Conde Nast, Warner Brothers, Oscar-winning Director Ian Hunter, Emmy-nominated Visual Effects Supervisor Matthew Gratzner, etc.

Speaker: Patrick Meegan | Producer, Jaunt

Evaluating Binaural and Ambisonic Audio Capture and Playback

This session provides a comparison of binaural and ambisonic audio in the context of 360 video - covering multiple aspects including the method of capture, storage and transmission, and technical limitations. On the capture side: a look at the required hardware and the cost of equipment, workflow, and audio post-processing. For storage and transmission: a look at 3D audio compression considerations and compatible video container formats. From a technical perspective: a look at qualitative differences such as artifacts when blending binaural, and the spatial resolution of 1st-order ambisonics.

This session provides practical information to assist content creators in choosing between binarual and ambisonic audio for 360 video. Attendees will gain an understanding of binarual and ambisonic capture technologies, the workflow, as well as the practical capabilities and the technical limitations.

Speaker: Pete Stirling | Software Engineer, Oculus

Hedgehog Noises in VR - Audio for Oculus Story Studio's 'Henry'

Oculus Story Studio's 'Henry' is one of the first fully binaural real-time VR short films. As the project's Audio Lead, Tom Bible will give an overview of the process and decision making behind the creation of the audio for 'Henry', and detail some of the opportunities and limitations of our approach to content creation, implementation and mixing for the medium of interactive VR movies.

Attendees will get an understanding of the process used to create the audio for Henry and some key basics such as how to approach asset creation, implementation and mixing for binaural audio in VR.

Intended Audience
Game audio professionals of any level who have little experience with VR or binaural audio, and more junior level game audio professionals who have some experience of VR or binaural audio.

Speaker: Thomas Bible | Audio Director, Thomas Bible Audio


Time/Place: March 11-20 2016 | The Austin Convention Center

Event website: http://www.sxsw.com/

Event description: Fostering creative and professional growth alike, SXSW® is the premier destination for discovery. Year after year, the event is a launching pad for new creative content. New media presentations, music showcases and film screenings provide buzz-generating exposure for creators and compelling entertainment for audiences. Conference panel discussions present a forum for learning, business activity thrives at the Trade Shows and global networking opportunities abound.

Presentations that discuss music/audio for VR:

Virtual Reality and the Rebirth of the Music Video

The Music Video heyday has long passed since stations like MTV and VH1 shifted focus to Reality TV and Original Programs. Yet the earning potential of the Music Industry is more reliant on creating experiences than ever. With album sales down, touring and sponsorships have become key. Artists need to provide fans with immersive concert experiences and high value productions to sell tickets, but concerts will never provide the same potential reach as the Music Video once gave. This discussion will delve into how the growth of VR provides a new platform for immersive music content, from Music Videos to Virtual Concert experiences, giving Artists a new outlet to share and monetize their music.

Speaker: Jake Lee-High | CEO/Creative Director, Future Colossal

Game Design for VR Pioneers

Virtual reality is a tidal wave that’s about to hit mainstream gaming. For developers willing to dive in to this tremendous new field, solutions have to be invented, not found. There are few forums and resources that solve the problems presented to designers in this immature industry. I’ll speak to the innovations my team has devised to create Bazaar, Silver winner of the Oculus VR jam. In a platform with 360 degrees of visual freedom, manipulating gaze is essential to keep players on the right track. Find out about new solutions such as coaxing gaze with visual effects and 3D sound. This session will explore the novel decisions that are driving game development on VR platforms.

Speaker: Theresa Duringer | Cofounder, Temple Gates Games

VRLA Winter Expo

Time/Place: January 23 2016 | Los Angeles Convention Center

Event website: http://www.virtualrealityla.com

Finally, if we're simply impatient to get started, we can get some hands-on time with the VR gear and roam around some VR worlds before the devices officially hit retail at VRLA Winter Expo.  This one-day event will take place on January 23rd at the LA Convention Center (Petree Hall).


Winifred Phillips is an award-winning video game music composer whose most recent project is the triple-A first person shooter Homefront: The Revolution.  Her credits include five of the most famous and popular franchises in video gaming: Assassin’s Creed, LittleBigPlanet, Total War, God of War, and The Sims.  She is the author of the award-winning bestseller A COMPOSER'S GUIDE TO GAME MUSIC, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.  As a VR game music expert, she writes frequently on the future of music in virtual reality video games.

Follow her on Twitter @winphillips.

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