The world is full of different people, cultures and cities. Thanks to today’s technology, we have access to a great amount of information about the most remote places right in our pocket.
We can use tools to view any street and explore its surroundings, but what about the feeling of that place? The Sound City Project brings you one step closer to that feeling.
By using a combination of a panoramic view with high quality 3D sound recorded using a custom “soundhead” prototype, you can select a city on a map and give yourself a better idea of what it is like to actually be there.
David Vale, Rick van Mook and Caco Teixeira’s site pioneered interactive panoramic audio. — Communication Arts
This was the most challenging project I’ve worked on so far. David asked me to collaborate with him in developing a way to recreate soundscapes in 3D.
Our objective was to record a sound snapshot of a place, allowing the listener to be transported to a different location.
After a lot of ideas and research, I came up with this concept of using a set of four microphones mimicking the biology of a human head.
By spacing a pair of microphones facing opposite sides in an axis by the distance of an average human head, we can capture the three dimensional effect needed to place a sound source in space.
This was a simplification of the head-related transfer function. It relies on the principle that the difference of time that a sound arrives at each ear can be decoded by our brain to locate a sound source, the interaural time difference.
There are many different factors to consider if we want to recreate an accurate anatomic model to capture audio in a perfect exact way. The ear shape, head size and the mouth cavity can all change the way each individual perceives sound.
As we wanted to deliver our project to a wide audience, we have chosen to go with a more simplified experience that could still faithfully represent the sound of the physical location.
With an extra pair of microphone to capture other axis rotated by 90 degrees, we could then be free from the time constraint. If you have a linear recording with only two microphones, your perception is fixed to where the device is facing. Adding the second pair was necessary to allow independent rotation of the panorama.
Rick did an amazing job coding the web experience using the Web Audio API. The result was amazing and I was ecstatic to work with such an amazing team.