3.2 Speaker Panning

 

3.2) Speaker Panning

 
 

 

By default, Speaker Panning is set to Direct Assignment, meaning an Object's channels are assigned directly to the corresponding channels of their Output Bus, regardless of the position or orientation of the Audio Source and Audio Listener. As mentioned earlier, Music is a good example for that. If Speaker Panning is set to Direct Assignment, stereo music is played back through a left and right channel of a stereo Output Bus. You can, however, use the Speaker Panner's Balance-Fade option to balance the Volume of each channel within the Object, so that they can be heard at varying levels through all available channels of an Output Bus. This ultimately gives you, the Technical Sound Designer, the control over the placement of the sound source within the soundscape.

Pic01 Speaker Panning

Pic02 Balance-Fade

Pic03 Center Panning

  1. Click on the robot’s Actor-Mixer and choose the Positioning Tab in the Property Editor.

    This gives you a great overview of all available Positioning options. Right at the top of the View you can see that by default, Speaker Panning is set to Direct Assignment. Choose Balance-Fade in the dropdown menu and click Edit… The Speaker Panner contains a two dimensional graph view with X and Y coordinates that simulate the panning controls of the horizontal field of audition. (Pic01 Speaker Panner)

    It is like a top-down view of the player facing the screen of his gaming device. You can drag the black circle that represents the point source for the sound anywhere within this Graph View, changing the amount of power sent to the channels of the Output Bus and therefore changing the direction the sound is being perceived from. Some players have stereo headphones, some might have 5.1 or 7.1 headphones or even a small surround system for their gaming setup. Depending on the Output Bus but also the playback device of the player, the Positioning can be heard as intended by the Technical Sound Designer. For example, the Y coordinate has no effect when the playback device of the player is only stereo.

  2. In case someone playing your Platformer Game has a surround system, you should drag the black circle all the way to the top. The Panner should then display X: 0 and Y:100. (Pic02 Balance-Fade)

    But what is the reason behind this? The reason is simple: some sounds are key to the gameplay; so, you may want to send their Audio Signals all the way to the front in the middle of the field of audition. This means that they are right in front of the player all the time. Audio Engineers use this to ensure great audibility for important sounds. For all players having 5.1 or 7.1 headphones or even a small surround system, there is an additional Center % control allowing you to define the amount of the signal that will pass through the Center speaker. This enhances the audibility even further because the Audio Signal will then be sent directly through a dedicated speaker instead of being sent through the left and right speakers simultaneously at the same level. (Pic03 Center Panning)

    This way of Positioning is almost always used for important elements such as character voice lines, UI and Player Character foley sounds, especially if they are in First Person. The Player Character of the Platformer Game you are working on is Third Person, but it doesn’t really change its horizontal position throughout the game. Because you want to achieve great audibility and a clear perceived position for these sounds, a Speaker Panning with X: 0 and Y:100 and Center turned all the way to 100% is exactly the way to go. The good thing here is that because you have an Actor-Mixer Object on top of all Player Character sounds, you only have to adjust the Positioning for the parent Object and all child Objects inherit the Positioning.

Example01 No Man’s Sky, Hello Games 2016

This example shows the negative effect Positioning can have, if it isn’t done right. The developer was using Wwise, but the Sound Designer didn’t use Speaker Panning, Balance-Fade on the Player Character to bring the sounds all the way to the front in the middle of the player. The perceived position of the Player Character’s sounds is diffuse, somewhere on the left side of the screen. This inbalance doesn’t seem like a problem at first, but it gets distracting soon.

Example02 Overwatch, Blizzard 2016

This example shows the positive effect Positioning can have, if it is done right. The developer was also using Wwise and the Sound Designer did use Speaker Panning, Balance-Fade on the Player Character to bring the sounds all the way to the front in the middle of the player. The perceived position of the Player Character’s foley, weapon shot and -handling sounds is very precise, which makes these sounds good to read in this dense and buzzing soundscape.