BBC’s Doctor Who is back on the television sets of the millions who watch and relish the adventures of The Doctor with his TARDIS. Those who watch the show on BBC’s iPlayer, though, will have the choice to experience this week’s episode with binaural audio.
Binaural audio, also known as 3D audio, works by carefully timing the audio relative to its listener in the three dimensions of space. Simply put, a pair of microphones placed to mimic the human ears capture audio as it would be captured by human ears.
If something makes a sound on the left, the sound waves will reach the left ear slightly before it reaches the right ear. This difference in time is what the brain uses to judge the sound’s direction with remarkable precision.
This also means that binaural audio doesn’t work well with external speakers – they may be placed at varying distances from each other – but is immersive with a standard pair of headphones, which the BBC recommends as well. Additionally, the headphones need to be stereo, and mustn’t use artificial surround sound.
Knock Knock will air this Saturday, at 7:20 PM GMT in the UK. The episode will be available to stream on BBC's iPlayer in both audio versions 8:10 PM GMT onwards.
The wonders of binaural audio have been around for decades, but the technique never quite caught on for mainstream entertainment. The British broadcaster started researching binaural audio in 2012, and since then have produced some Radio 3 programs with the technique, including one explaining it. If successful, hopefully, this experiment could become a trend, perhaps at least for The Doctor and his adventures.