Interview: 3DA Entertainment’s Todd Hamilton Bacon

We speak to the creator of 3DAudio
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Creator of 3DAudio Todd Hamilton Bacon speaks to API to discuss his passion for audio and the future of his new creation.

Utilising MDSF (Multi Dimensional Sound Fields) technology, Bacon has created an audio experience that he believes could well change the way in which the world listens to sound. With the potential to be utilised across a vast array of applications, 3DA (3D Audio) is something, which Bacon has devoted many years of his life to. Even as far back as his infant years, he has been trying to achieve a unique and specific audio experience, which, to his ears, has so far eluded the pro audio industry.

“I started playing guitar at six years of age and heard guitar in the magical acoustic environment of a cathedral. I wanted to be able to hear my guitar that way in my home,” he explained.

It was during his adolescent years that he began to specify the particular sound he was after, while also developing a greater understanding of audio and its behaviour.

“I started working on 3DA at 15 by studying acoustical engineering, recording, mixing and testing my theories in the field. I first heard surround sound in a movie, The Who's Tommy. I saw that movie 30-plus times but still felt surround sound was not natural on music. The overhead dome of sound I had heard in a cathedral was missing. 

“The first thing I did was to learn how human hearing really locates sounds. I knew that I had to stay away from any attempts to fool the ears, so I decided to obey the laws of acoustics and how human hearing works. This meant that phase manipulation and similar approaches that change the frequency response were out of the question.”

One of the key elements to achieving 3DA is the utilisation of MDSF technology. So, how exactly did this technology present itself to Bacon? He elaborated: “MDSF was a term created by one of my associates after I created 3DA. I had tried many ways of creating 3D audio that led to dead ends or very limited success. I knew if I got it right, the limitations I had experienced (limited number of sounds that could move through the air, limited sweet spots, etc.) would not be an issue, so I kept going for 33 years before I had real success.”

Having finally been able to create 3DA, Bacon set about putting his creation to the test, ensuring its compatibility with just about every imaginable application.

“MDSF, or 3DA, once it was working, was tested with a protools HD-3 system and it was able to move over a hundred sounds in their own movement path at the same time with no sonic degradation or phase anomalies, etc.” he explained.

He then went on to discuss the future for 3DA in the world of pro audio, citing its flexibility and compatibility as major assets in its potential for widespread use across the industry: “3DA will be a huge tool for the pro industry,” he stated. “It works wonders with almost every plug-in, effects processor and the applications are anything and everything in audio. 3DA tracks sound great (overhead, on the ground, below the ground, and anywhere between) on standard (decent or well mixed) CD's DVD's, Blu-ray disks, video games, all forms of broadcast audio, live concerts, theme parks, etc.

“The real magic is in a true 3D recording or remix of older songs, film, etc., where the limitations of the standard formats is not an issue. I do expect to see this technology used across the industry for years to come since the home set top box or (chip set) can convert standard media to 3D audio and we are working on many other inventions that are all 3D audio based.

“3DA recordings are downward compatible with surround sound, stereo and mono so 3DA media can play on television, radio, etc., in any other format. However, to get full 3D audio, at least four speakers are needed.”

He continued: “For music, I see no need for more speakers and for film, four speakers or 4.1 (if you chose to use a subwoofer) is stunning and a maximum of a 7.1 can be used as well.”

One of the most important aspects for Bacon in the creation of 3DA is the natural quality of the sound and the unique experience on offer depending on where you are located in relation to the source of the audio. “It is natural sounding to the point that you can experience sounds in true 3D space. Watching a music video or film is far more interesting when each seat in the house gives you a different experience. Just like in life, if you are watching a bird fly directly over your head you will hear it that way. And if the bird were ten feet to the right, you would not hear it "directly" over you head.”

While the emphasis of 3DA currently lies with music, Bacon is keen to point out that the possibilities are vast with regards to the future direction of the technology. He said: “Music is our main focus right now, but we have been approached by film companies who are looking for a 3D audio that won't break the bank in retrofit costs.

“We are very excited about 3D remixes and remastering of rock legends and new recordings in 3DA as well. Live performance can be captured in a purist manner (putting you there). And live concerts can be made to be much more exciting when the guitar solo flies by directly overhead while a keyboard line orbits the room as a crash cymbal seems to have been hit so hard that it is flying off the stand right at your head.”

With such a broad spectrum of possibilities and applications for 3DA to be used alongside, Bacon’s creation certainly looks set to be one of the most interesting introductions to the pro audio market in 2012.

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