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Published: 16 November 2016

Immersive audio by CVSSP brings virtual fairy tale to life

An award-winning spatial soundtrack developed by Surrey and partners is at the heart of ‘The Turning Forest’ – an enchantingly surreal VR story produced by BBC R&D and launched on Daydream, Google’s mobile VR platform.

The Turning Forest has been made possible by research led by Surrey’s Centre of Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) – in collaboration with partners at the University of Salford, University of Southampton and BBC R&D – under the S3A programme grant. A £6 million programme funded by EPSRC and industry, S3A: Future Spatial Audio for an Immersive Listener Experience at Home aims to deliver a step-change in the quality of home audio, using novel audio-visual signal processing techniques to enable an immersive listener centered spatial audio experience.

The soundtrack developed by CVSSP and partners, which was recorded just one year into the five year S3A project, was premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, New York. The Turning Forest has also won ‘Achievement in sound’ at the TBVAwards 2016, beating ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, the BBC Proms, and Sky’s ‘The Five’, as well as being shown at numerous film festivals around the world.

The Turning Forest pushes the boundaries of what is possible with VR and immersive sound by combining an object-based spatial audio soundtrack developed in S3A with VR to create an enchanting immersive experience for the user. In a magical forest, a young child stares into the eyes of a fantastical creature, and the two embark on a journey that transports audiences into the realms of fairy tale and boundless imagination.

The concept, produced by BBC R&D with virtual reality production studio VRTOV, is aimed at better understanding the potential of VR to inform, educate and entertain. The Turning Forest is now available to audiences on Google Daydream.

Professor Adrian Hilton, Director of CVSSP, commented: “The spatial audio technology we are developing in the S3A project aims to create a more realistic and immersive experience for people in their own homes – without the need for complex speaker set-ups. This work has the potential to completely change the way home audio is produced and delivered in the future, and The Turning Forest project is a very exciting step in this direction.”

Zillah Watson, Executive Producer of BBC R&D, said: “The Turning Forest is unique in that it’s been designed from the sound up, using state-of-the-art audio to help transport people to a magical world. It takes advantage of decades of research and experience from our own R&D team, partners and universities to create a beautiful soundscape that we hope people will love.”

Watch a trailer for The Turning Forest.

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