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FocusBlur™

Our proprietary sound processing chain that defocuses the signal, blurring the directionality of individual sound sources within a recording, while preserving immersion and character.

A fresh perspective on classic practices

Common ambience and music libraries come only classically mixed, with every sound source within the recording or mix having having clear directionality. In fact having high directionality from the sound sources is considered of high value in classic audio engineering and music production practices.

This is not the case when it comes on creating audio compositions that need contrast between the layers, to ensure that listener’s focus is preserved only on the elements that matter.

Audio engineers experienced on immersive formats like surround, and music producers trained in psychoacoustics, use to separate any mix into two distinctive categories, background and foreground, just as it is done in graphic design and visual compositing.

The layers that we want as generic backgrounds are the ones that describe the ambience of the scene but we do not want to steal the attention of the listener or viewer.

Examples from the visual arts

Here are some very good examples of the techniques used in the visual arts, as common practices to direct attention and preserve immersion.

Photography and cinematography

In photography and cinematography, artists usually blur the background, or any part of the environment they want to move away of focus, by changing the camera lens settings or later, in post-production, using software tools.

That helps to keep the focus on the main subject or foreground, while on the same time it keeps the composition in context, without allowing any background element to steal the viewer’s attention.

Image titled FocusBlur woman walking in between road example 1920w 1080h

Painting

The practice of contextual aesthetics had also many followers from the painting arts.

As illustrated in the painting titled “Impression, soleil levant”, or in English “Impression, sunrise”, created in 1872 by Claude Monet, you can communicate the generalities of a subject, by blurring the forms and colors, and also normalizing the luminance. Not very different than what we do with FocusBlur™ in sound.

This painting set the name of the artistic movement which is known as ‘impressionism’.

An interesting fact is that impressionism was born by artists who closely followed the scientific discoveries made at the time, regarding the mechanics of human vision, and specifically, how peripheral vision works and what peripheral-vision-only renders should look like.

Image titled FocusBlur example of painting Impression soleil levant by Claude Monet 1920w 1494h

The difficulties of audiovisual coherence

Let’s see an example that could be easily applicable on games, film, or even virtual reality applications.

Imagine that you have a scene from a skateboard park, and your main character is the skateboarder right in the middle of the screen.

You need an audio loop to use for the ambience of the scene. One that resembles the setting. You find one, it seems to loop alright, so you import it in your project.

By using a loop that has strong directionality from the sound sources that are included, you cannot be sure that the location of each source fits the location of the respective visual elements of your scene.

Specifically, here is what happens to your audiovisual result:

  • As the visual elements change place, there is no link with sound, which doesn’t follow the visual elements.
  • Sound elements may change place around the listener, again with no link with the visuals.
  • Some visual elements have no sound related with them.
  • Some sound elements form the loop, have no visual equivalents, so if the sound becomes dominant and steals the listener’s attention, the listener’s eyes will start scanning the place to find the sound source.
  • All audiovisual searching that happens by instinct is amplified when the sound comes from behind the listener.

The final verdict is:

  • Bad audiovisual coherence. You may still have something passable, but not something you can call ‘professional’.
  • What really happens in the minds of your listener’s or viewers, is that the level of immersion in the experience is lowered by the incoherence between visual and auditory cues. Even subtle anomalies can completely break the experience. And this is out of your control, a small sound from the surroundings of your listener can break an experience with a low level of immersion.
  • You can go back and spend hours and hours of editing our the elements of the loop that you don’t want, but you still have the problem of directionality from the remaining elements. You cannot change the picture or your game’s level, just to be compatible with a loop you use as ambience.

So you are stuck with a final quality decision that you actually didn’t take yourself, and will be in your final product. That’s not good.

Enter FocusBlur™

By using an audio asset pack from SoundFellas that also includes a FocusBlur™ version, you are freed from obeying the directionality of the sound sources within the loop’s content.

FocusBlur™ is a cool psychoacoustic process, that ensures each audio asset fits in the scenery you want to build, without being restricted by the directionality the elements in each sound has.

And voila! No immersion break, no time wasted in re-editing your sounds or looking for new ones!

In the example of the skateboard scene we used above, you can quickly import one sound loop that fits the scene, and then move on to focus on the main character’s sounds, which you want your listeners of viewers to focus on.

Here’s a mockup of the composition with or without the use of FocusBlur™ ambience loops for the background layer:

Image titled FocusBlur skateboard scene example FocusBlur On 1920w 1080h Image titled FocusBlur skateboard scene example FocusBlur Off 1920w 1080h

Actually FocusBlur™ is not only saving you from re-editing the ambience and music loops of your project, it’s saving you from an even more difficult and many times impossible process of removing elements with spectral editors and other techniques that require expensive tools, expertise, hours of manual labor, and usually introduce artifacts and lessen the quality of your loop.

FocusBlur™ offers another unique advantage: Using a FocusBlur-ed loop in the background will help you achieve more contrast with the foreground sounds.

We process all our ambience audio packs with FocusBlur™, both the stereo and the surround loops that are included in each pack. We also include the isolated elements of all the scenes, so you can compose your acoustic environments and dynamic scenes.

Let's talk about music

But wait, we also offer versions of FocusBlur™ processed loops in our music audio asset packs.

Music after all is used as non-diegetic material in almost all cases, and regular instrument cues have strong directionality which is not needed in the case of a soundtrack.

In our music packs you will find both stereo and surround versions of the music loops to use depending on the nature of your project.

Using music that surrounds the listener without being distracting, will allow you to add on top any elements needed to focus the listener’s attention.

In games

  • Interface sounds.
  • Foley cues of friends and enemies surrounding the player.
  • Dialog and the location that its coming from.
  • Point-of-interest sounds.

Suddenly all those sounds have enough contrast with the background, that can be quickly located around the player as intended by the game designer.

In film

  • Dialog.
  • Character Foley.
  • Special sound effects.
  • Directed sounds like thunder from above (or a spaceship fly-by for that matter).

Become the main focus point of the audience, together with the music soundtrack in the background, amplifying the story with the drama and action it needs.

In virtual reality

  • All audiovisual cues.
  • Carefully rendered sounds with distance filtering.
  • Acoustics simulation like reflections and occlusion.
  • Fast changing sounds due to intricate head movement of the player.

Gain the distance and difference they need from the soundtrack, to create the reality that will enchant your players and transfer them into fantastic virtual worlds, or life-like accurate simulations.

Find audio packs that feature FocusBlur™

Image titled Icon AmbienceAmbience

Combine de-reverberated loops, noise prints and isolated sound elements, to create infinite variations of dynamic sonic environments that render accurately on any channel configuration.

Image titled Icon MusicMusic

Use spherical mixed surround tracks to enhance the atmosphere of your project. Easily interchange between them, to effectively alternate between moods.

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