TECH CASE: THE 3D AUDIO WORLD OF pAPA sANGRE

 

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Above: Somethin' Else has created an innovative software engine for audio.

 

True to its name, Somethin' Else, a creator of content across radio, television and digital media based in Shoreditch, London, has pioneered an original genre: the video game that does not feature any video.

Instead, the company's Papa Sangre games use sound alone to create an eerie world and allow players to move and make out objects within it. The original Papa Sangre game, starts with the narrator - played by screen actor, Sean Bean - announcing the player's death and inviting him or her to return to life via the game. It was followed by a sequel, Papa Sangre II.

"We've created an entire world where you can hear and move and distinguish objects just by where they appear to be. It's called binaural audio, or 3D sound,' said Tom Green, Senior Poducer at Somethin' Else and the manager of the project that led to Papa Sangre II.

The underlying software used for the first game and for a project for Wrigley 5 Chewing Gum was developed to create a software engine, the Papa Engine, that other audio companies could license for their games. With the help of £100,000 funding from the Tech City Launchpad, a competition held by the Technology Strategy Board, the audio engine was completed in March 2013.

The Papa Engine creates 3D sound on the fly from mono recordings and was built to run on devices, such as iPads and iPhones, that use Apple's iOS operating system.

The engine employs a technique known as head-related transfer function modelling (HRTF) to process and adjust the properties of a sound in real-time to give the impression that the sound is coming from a particular direction. This directional effect encompasses all 360 degrees of rotation allowing sound to be positioned all around the listener's head, including behind.

As well as featuring dynamic 3D processing the engine can also play standard mono and stereo sounds from compressed audio files with real-time effects. The engine was used to create over 1,600 individually processed sounds for the second Papa Sangre game.

Green said: "It (the games engine) has been a real showcase. It has led to some leads from major audio players. We believed that the more people there are doing things in this area, the better it is for us as trailblazers in audio."

 

Papa Sangre II

Papa Sangre II (above) was launched to iPhone and iPad users in October 2013 and received positive reviews. It was named IOS Game of the Year by Metacritic, which ranked the 25-highest reviewed games released in 2013 by taking an average of all critical reviews the games received over the course of the year.

The game was also given the award for Excellence in Sound Design at the 10th International Mobile Gaming awards in San Francisco, USA, and was a finalist in the experimental category of the South by South West Interactive Awards.

Somethin' Else, which has a history of supplying hundreds of hours of radio programming for the BBC as well as content for brands such as Red Bull, Virgin and the Brit Music Awards, has also been involved in other innovative technology projects with the Technology Strategy Board, including a scheme for a personalised radio station and a consortium to improve metadata in the Cloud.

Green added: "It (Papa Sangre I) was a big hit that put us on the map for innovation. It's what comes of people who work in audio talking to people who work in digital. I can't tell you where the idea was first hatched but I imagine a pub was involved."

You can read the full version of this case study on the Technology Strategy Board's website.

For more information on Somethin' Else, visit the company's website.