When designing audio we are often thinking of time across a large variety of units: samples, milliseconds, frames, minutes, hours and more. This article is inspired by a conversation I had with Andy Farnell about a year ago at a pub in Edinburgh, right before a sound design symposium, where we discussed about time and the role it plays when it comes to designing audio.
Like most other audio designers out there, I started twiddling the knobs and sliders well before I had an understanding of the underlying DSP. It was eye-opening experience to realise that almost every single DSP effect is related to time. So let’s start looking at a few common DSP tools used in everyday sound design and analyse how time and the precedence effect plays a role, starting from hundreds of milliseconds all the way down to a single sample.
The precedence effect is a psychoacoustic effect that sheds light on how we localise and perceive sounds. It has helped us understand how binaural audio works, how we localise sounds in space and also understand reverberation and early reflections. From Wikipedia:
The precedence effect or law of the first wavefront is a binaural psychoacoustic effect. When a sound is followed by another sound separated by a sufficiently short time delay (below the listener’s echo threshold), listeners perceive a single fused auditory image; its spatial location is dominated by the location of the first-arriving sound (the first wave front). The lagging sound also affects the perceived location. However, its effect is suppressed by the first-arriving sound.
You might be familiar with this effect if you’ve done any sort of music production or mixing. Quite often a sound is hard panned to one of the two stereo speakers and a delayed copy (10-30ms) of the sound is hard panned to the other speaker. Our ears and brain don’t perceive two distinct sounds, but rather an ambient/wide-stereo sound. It is a cool technique for creating a pseudo-stereo effect from a mono audio source.
The first 30 seconds in the video below shows an example of the precedence effect in action. The delayed signal smears the original signal with phasing artefacts after which it seems to split from the original signal and become a distinct sound of its own.
Echos And Reverb
Echos are distinct delays. Reverberation is made up of early reflections which are delayed sounds that arrive first at the listener (right after the direct sound) followed by a tail that consists of many such delays diffused into a dense cluster. Artificial reverbs are quite often approximated using networks of delays that feedback into each other (convolution reverbs behave a differently).
The third edition of the Sonic Arts Award is accepting submissions until 20 January 2015. Sonic artists, researchers and sound designers, and others, are encouraged to enter their work into one (or more) of four categories: Sound Art, Sonic Research, Soundscapes, Digital and Media Art. Each category winner will receive €1000.00, and there are additional prizes, including an artist’s residency at the Cardelli and Fontana gallery. The cost of submitting one work is €25.00 and full details of the awarding jury and entry criteria are available from the website.
A free album featuring some of the best entries from the 2014 edition is available to download.
The Berkeley Film Foundation has established a new grant in honor of sound designer Alan Splet. From their website:
Please join BFF in honoring Alan Splet by donating to a new grant that we have named for him.
Alan was a well-known and extremely admired sound designer who collaborated with David Lynch, Phil Kaufman, Peter Weir, Carroll Ballard, Frank Oz and numerous other filmmakers. Many Bay Area editors worked with Alan on Blue Velvet, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Henry & June, The Elephant Man, Rising Sun, The Black Stallion, Wind, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Dead Poets Society.
He was a visionary who not only created a unique sound for each film, he also helped to establish the Bay Area as a highly regarded locale for post-production sound for film.
The Berkeley Film Foundation is proud to honor Alan’s legacy by granting a deserving filmmaker the Alan Splet Award, beginning in 2015.
These are the kinds awards that encourage filmmakers to think about the use of sound in their film. As such, it’s very existence benefits us all. If you would like to contribute to the grant, you can visit their website (linked above), or go directly their donation page on Paypal.
While it has been out for a while now, I finally got my hands on a review copy of Dehumaniser from Krotos LTD. Dehumaniser has gotten a good bit of buzz in the professional sound design community and rightly so. It is a rock-solid solution for quick and easy monster voices. Dehumaniser is “a software standalone vocal processor that allows the production of creature / monster sounds, efficiently in real time. It is designed to produce studio–quality sounds by using multiple layers of sound manipulation techniques simultaneously. Connect a microphone to your sound interface or even use your computer’s built-in microphone and create astonishing creature sounds in seconds, using your voice.”
The TL;DR version of this review is: Dehumaniser its pretty fantastic and you should probably get it. The speed and quality you get is definitely worth £199. What you make with Dehumaniser you might not use alone, but as a layer in an overall creature/monster vocalization. That said; it is certainly possible to only work in Dehumaniser and get exactly what you want for a vocalization. To do so you will have to dig a bit into the Advanced Mode and take advantage of the Animal Convolution, Pitch Shifting, Dual Plug-ins and many of the other 8 processing channels.
Want to see something that’ll mess with your head?
Now, you may not have noticed anything all that strange watching the video, but mute the sound and watch it again. After that, close your eyes and listen to just the audio. Notice anything strange now? You’ve just witnessed one of the more interesting perceptual illusions, the McGurk effect.
A short film about a lifetime of field recording from Lawrence Barker.
Best heard with headphones to appreciate the full stereo field.
This film is a personal reflection of my own passion for audio field recording over the past 45 years.
“Audio field recordings act as a powerful trigger, transporting me back to the original place they were captured………they are more powerful than any image captured on camera and even surpass those caught on video – they are quite magical!”
Blindfolded character seemed appropriate.
For this month’s topic of “Psychoacoustics” I thought I’d stretch the definition a bit and finally write an article I have wanted to for a while now, and discuss the sound design of World of Warcraft. Specifically the unscientific observations of someone (me) who has regularly experienced these sounds for fully 1/3 of their life. What I would like to discuss are my own assumptions and observations about what and how they work in a constantly evolving MMO as someone who has played this game extensively. I feel I am in a semi-unique position in having played such a long-running game, while during most of that time having some amount of sound education, and I also write articles for this here site on the interwebs. This article should be viewed in an opinion or editorial context rather than a scientific or academic context.
Online sound effects library Soundsnap has unveiled a brand new website. Whilst the main objective was to refresh a website design that had undergone only hairline changes since launching in 2007, the cosmetic overhaul also boasts a new user interface for searching and downloading sounds. Some of the improvements that users can benefit from include bigger and more detailed waveform graphics, a more intuitive presentation of file metadata, and an increase in the number of search results per page.
The redesign also coincides with a big effort that the company has recently put into driving new content onto the site, with new sounds and custom libraries being added to Soundsnap’s portfolio.
You can watch today’s webinar here on Designing Sound,
or…if you’d like to ask questions…you can join us over on Google Hangouts to participate more directly. If you’d like to ask some follow up questions, please reach out to us through our contact page, ping me on twitter or drop a comment below.
Additional media used during the presentation after the break.
A two-day sound event will take place in Brighton, England later this week, 5-6 December. Presented by Lighthouse and Creative Skillset, The Sound of Story will feature talks and workshops from from of the UK’s top sound practitioners including Ray Beckett and Stuart McCowan, plus many others.
For more information and to buy tickets, go to: http://www.lighthouse.org.uk/programme/the-sound-of-story