Virtual CES: Sony Highlights New Headphone Tech for Remote Sound Mixing

Japan's Sony headquarters

As COVID-19 places greater emphasis on remote working, Sony unwrapped a pair of developments from its Innovation Studios on its Culver City lot, including notable new technology for sound editors, mixers and sound review.

Speaking during a virtual CES press conference, Bill Baggelaar, exec vp/general manager at the Sony Innovation Studio and exec vp and CTO of technology development for Sony Pictures Entertainment, highlighted 360 VME (virtual mixing environment) headphone technology, which the studio has already put through its paces on several features including the studio’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife and Venom: Let There be Carnage. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Baggelaar said the technology effectively puts the listener in a particular environment, for instance a mixing stage such as the Cary Grant Theater on the Sony lot. “You are truly fooling your brain into thinking you are in the other environment. The possibilities are astounding."

He suggested that by creating that environment, sound editors and mixers could work at home while hearing what their work would sound like in the final mix, whether it be 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos sound. “[Then] when you are on the stage for the final mix, that saves time. When you get there, there’s much less adjustment needed and you are focusing on the creative aspect of the mix.”

Tom McCarthy, executive vp  of the studio's postproduction facilities, told THR that this could potentially support multiple users such as a showrunner and director, in real time, enabling them to participate in a final mix, remotely. "We were starting to test it pre-COVID," he said, "getting showrunners to hear tracks as if they were on the mix stage were additional benefits."

The 360 VME tech was developed by Sony Electronics' R&D team in Tokyo working with the studio’s Innovation and Sound Services departments.

Last week just prior to CES, the professional team unveiled a pair of new Crystal LED modular direct view displays aimed at professional applications including virtual production — an area that has experienced an uptick in interest during the past year and has been used on projects from The Midnight Sky to The Mandalorian. This was also highlighted during Monday's virtual presentation.

Additionally, Sony unwrapped its latest Bravia XR televisions include 8K LED and OLED models. These include what Sony calls Cognitive Processor XR, a feature designed to analyze sound position in the signal to match what's on the screen, as well as upconvert any sound to surround sound. The new models also offer Netflix Calibrated Mode for Netflix content and IMAX Enhanced tech for IMAX remastered picture and immersive audio by DTS.