Spacial audio mixing: ‘The wave of the future’

Mid-Career Scholarship winner’s report: 360-degree video

By Troy Shreve

Editor’s note: The Idaho Press Club’s Don Watkins Mid-Career Scholarship awards $500 for an Idaho Press Club member to use for any training or project that will improve the working press in Idaho; the deadline to apply is Feb. 15 each year. This year’s winner, Troy Shreve of Idaho Public Television, shares what he learned.

A couple years ago at a strategic planning event for Idaho Public Television, I was part of a group tasked with, more or less, coming up with ideas to stay relevant in the ever-changing world of TV. Five, 10, 15 years down the road, what will TV look or be like?

Born from this was my new obsession with 360 video production, showing the full 360-degree view. You can’t broadcast a 360 video over the air, yet, but you can view it on pretty much any other device, including those bulky-heavy-mess up your hair-leave marks on your face-but pretty fascinating and immersive VR googles. Still, this fairly new technology is pretty darn cool. And even though most of us don’t realize its full potential today, it has turned out, so far, to be a great tool to immerse yourself into a place where few people are able to go.

For IdahoPTV, that means getting urban folks to rural areas and rural folks to urban areas, and sending kids on class field trips via the internet. But for those of us who have spent years or decades making flat videos, tackling the 360 world works a bit differently.

Over the course of the last year and a half, I have made a few 360 videos, including tours of EBR1 at INL, Zoo Boise, Craters of the Moon, and collecting and harvesting honey with a beekeeper in Twin Falls.

A side note: On April 12, I (along with Joan Cartan-Hansen) was nominated for a NW Emmy for that Bees 360 video.

Anyway, learning how to approach a 360 video was fun and all, but the big question for me was: Was I really doing it ‘the right way?’ I’ve really been stumbling my way through the process, and learning from my mistakes. And producing 360 immersive audio is a whole other animal, with new tools and new software, and only a sliver of help from Google and the vast knowledge of the internet. Yeah, you can add standard stereo audio to these videos, but where’s the fun in that?

With the help of the Idaho Press Club and the Don Watkins Mid-Career Scholarship, I was able to spend some time in Las Vegas this past April at the PBS TechCon Conference. There were many breakouts across a broad spectrum, but I was especially interested in the 360 session where Joan Cartan-Hansen from Idaho Public Television and others from PBS stations in Georgia, Nebraska, and Florida presented about what they have learned about the 360 production process and its future.

I was able to gather new contacts and talk about best practices and new technologies, and learn a few tips from the mistakes of others. I also piggybacked that trip, attending the next couple days at NAB (the National Association of Broadcasters annual trade show) soaking up knowledge from those that have done this more than me.

I learned more about dos and don’ts for directing in the 360 world, as well as techniques for planning and editing immersive sound, aka Ambisonic audio, which was developed in the ‘70s, believe it or not. Nowadays, technology allows us to tie the spatial audio to the 360 video world, and change depending on where the viewer turns their head. Sounds left, right, above or behind you can be brought front and center by turning your head that direction, like in the real world. Cool, huh?!

Although it took some work and a lot of head scratching, I successfully accomplished that on my last two 360 videos, (Bees and Craters of the Moon), and turns out I was ‘doing it right,’ just in a very novice and basic way. An audio professional I talked to says spatial audio mixing is the wave of the future, not just with 360, but for movies and TV shows. So learning how to do this now will be extremely helpful when this becomes more mainstream. Probably not tomorrow, but maybe by the time I retire.

However, today, with my newly acquired contacts from across the U.S., and my notes on where to take my next steps, the vast world of 360 technology just got a tiny bit smaller, and my approach to the next project will definitely be better produced, better quality, and more immersive. And hopefully another innovative way to connect the folks from around our state.

If you or your organization want to get into the 360 world, it’s relatively easy. Most of us have the latest (or next to latest) version of Adobe Premiere. And most of us have a couple wireless mics. Just add a camera like the GoPro Fusion and a digital audio recorder (or another camera to plug mics into) and you’re pretty much ready. Most entry level cameras come with stitching software, but you’ll need a beefy computer to make things run smoothly. For less than $1000 you can start getting your feet wet with 360 video production. If you want to get into Ambisonic audio, you’ll need some extra software. I use the 360 Facebook Workstation plugins (they are free) with Reaper audio software ($60-$200 depending on your institution), and on my trip I learned many others do too. Start small, start simple and remember when you set up the camera it can see everything, so your location is very important and essentially becomes a ‘character’ in your story.

And if you ever get the chance to watch a 360 in the VR goggles, do it. It’s fascinating. By the way, you can find some samples at or on the Science Trek Facebook page.

Troy Shreve is a director, videographer and editor at Idaho Public Television, based in Boise. For more information about the Press Club’s Don Watkins Mid-Career Scholarship, go to and click on “scholarships.”