When Iosono, a spin-off of Germany’s famed Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology, brought its 3D sound system to Hollywood in 2005, it was an interesting–but unproven–concept.

There was proof galore on Oct. 14, when Iosono came back to Hollywood–more specifically, to Stage 2 at Todd-AO in Burbank–to show off what the newly evolved system can do. If you love immersive, realistic sound, Iosono’s 3D system is your wildest dream come true.

Todd-AO Stage 2

Todd-AO Stage 2

I sat in Stage 2 and listened to NASCAR racers rev, race and wreck around me. I sat in the airplane as it landed, the flight attendant right next to me as well as a crying baby (that is mixed to be next to everyone). When we all went river rafting, the sound of the waterfall was so real, so immersive, I was surprised I hadn’t gotten wet.

Although the Iosono system was originally targeted at 3D stereoscopic movies and theme park attractions–and its abilities are certainly of greater interest as 3D movies show they can deliver at the box office–the immersive sound system is also ideal for 2D movies of a certain genre.  Transformers with 3D sound anyone? The creative possibilities are immense,” said CSS Studios senior vp of engineering Bill Johnston. I couldn’t have said it better.

CSS Studios, a subsidiary of Discovery Communications, is the parent company of Todd-AO Burbank, which just became the first sound facility in the U.S. to aquire the ability to mix feature films in the Iosono 3D immersive format.

Iosono CEO Uwe Karbenk described how when the system was first shown in the U.S. in 2005, it was a prototype. “We wanted to expose it to the creative community,” he said. Karbenk also revealed that the company is working with a few individuals at several motion picture studios. “We’ve found an increasing number of people receptive to having audio that lives up to the promise of 3D stereoscopic pictures,” he says. “In the end, we think we can also add a lot to 2D pictures.  We can recreate a real scene and the result is so much more live.”

The system was demonstrated by Iosono senior vp of studio technologies Brian Slack, on Stage 2 at Todd-AO. Based on the principle of wavefield synthesis, the Iosono system is comprised of speakers (which Iosono doesn’t make), software and a network that transmits the sound to the speakers.

CSS Studios’ Johnston explained that Iosono’s algorithm and large speaker array “create sound waves in free space that audiences perceive as sounds originating from anywhere within the 3D sound space.” According to Karbenk, the system enables the mixer to have a line of dialogue appear to be whispered into every movie-goers ear.

On Stage 2, Todd-AO Burbank was outfitted with an array of 672 speakers, reproducing 224 audio channels and delivering 44,000 watts of amplification. Iosono also added four render PCS and an Iosono Spatial Audio Workstation (SAW), the authoring tool that enables a mixer to create all this aural magic. It’s important to note that the Iosono sound system does not require anything different in production; it is entirely a post production process.

“The SAW is designed to be easy to understand for any mixer who has used a multi-channel panner,” said Slack, who showed a visual on the screen that represented the “listening area,” with 32 focus sources that could be placed and moved anywhere in the room.

To make Iosono’s solution even more appealing, Slack reported that it is compatible with any other sound system out there and that the Iosono sound system scales to any theater. “If you place something just outside the listening area it’ll end up in the same spot in any installation on earth,” said Slack. “That’s anything from a 5 foot to a 100-foot screen. If I put a bird chirp in the corner, it stays in that corner.”

One of the attendees was Academy Award-winning mixer Mike Minkler. “I really believe in this system,” Minkler said. “This could be fantastic. I love the 360-degree experience. I really want to do a film with this. There are types of films that would be phenomenal with this. It’s not for every  movie. But there are about 15 to 20 films a year when the soundscape demands this. The 5.1 system really isn’t adequate.”

Post production supervisor Chris Connolly agreed. “It’s fascinating to add perspective and depth and to  place sounds in particular places in the room,” he said. “Some films would benefit from this.”

In addition to mixing stage, theaters must also be adapted to playback Iosono 3D sound, including the array of panels around the theater. To date, says Karbenk, several venues have been adapted to support Iosono’s 3D system including the Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. He expects another 50 theaters to install the system in the U.S. in advance of its formal launch next year.

Iosono GmbH was founded by Karlheinz Bradenburg, the leader of the research team that invented the MP3 audio format, in 2004.