Man listening to Binaural

20th December 2018

Creating Immersive 3D Sonic Journeys

There is something very special about visiting a heritage site. These pilgrimages to our ancient selves can be powerful experiences and this interest in past human endeavours seems to be a cross-cultural and cross-generational phenomena.

When I enter into a Cathedral’s main atrium or look out from a castle’s ramparts, I like to be armed with some knowledge of when and why it was built, who occupied it over time and what it was used for. Then I can begin to let my imagination build a picture of the past, to try and conjure up the sights and sounds of what might have occurred in the very spot that I am standing on. This can be a challenge sometimes with visual and sonic distractions all around. For me, this is where audio and multimedia guides can really come into their own, especially if they can help us leave the present and become immersed in the past. One of the most effective elements to achieve this is the use of Binaural sound.

Binaural sound is a technique used to give the listener a 3D sonic experience through stereo headphones. It can generate the sensation that sounds are coming from all around you, that you are present within the same space as the audio you are listening to.

This is achieved in two ways;

  1. Binaural recording is a method of recording sound using 2 microphones positioned the same distance apart as one’s ears. These microphones are often placed within rubber moulds of ears and attached to a dummy head (ours is called Ed). Our ears are designed to filter sound so we can tell the position of sonic objects with great accuracy, and these dummy head recordings mimic that with brilliant clarity.
  2. Once these positional filters have been analysed we can now use software to make a sound appear to move around our heads.

With a combination of these 2 techniques, it is possible to transport the listener to other places, to other times and envelope them in a rich and complex sonic landscape.

Binaural Head

Binaural Microphone – ‘Ed the Head’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage interpretation and storytelling seems an ideal fit for Binaural sound where often a wide range of visitor expectations need to be met. It is non-invasive, yet fully immersive and transformative. It allows the stories of a place to be told in a way that connects emotionally whilst still delivering factual information. A space can come alive with activity, moving all around you, allowing you to experience it in real time and garner knowledge as an ear witness to the past.

Put on your stereo headphones and have a listen to a demo.

 

Lewis Gibson is a sound designer and theatre maker.

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