Our project is a radio theatre that explores space through different places, intended to sound realistic and evoke spatial illusions. However, there are mystic/fantasy elements that are placed in real-world settings.
We mixed ‘pure’ nature sound without unwanted noise together with real-world sound environments, containing traffic sound and more.
The main figure in the plot has the first person perspective and is wandering from one place to another without a clear motivation rather forced through exterior circumstances.
The plot for the scenes was developed collaboratively, we decided beforehand what is happening. The realization of the scenes was processed individually.
The play starts when the person is on the way to the train station and realizes that it is about to miss its connection. The ascending train is audible through the Horn and the train breaks. The person runs and stumbles on the floor, continues running while the train is about to leave again. The movements are accompanied by footsteps and breathings, but also short elements of speech, from the first person.
For this scene an ambisonic recording from the train station Lilleby was used and stereo/mono recordings placed around it. The footsteps for example or the breathing (dog breathing turned out to be the most realistic for the running sequence).
The person runs into the forest and goes for a walk. The sound of the city is replaced by a tranquil forest with birds and trees. Some of the birds fly close and around the person, and the soundscape follows and rotates to follow the birds. Suddenly, the weather changes, and thunder can be heard in the distance. The person escapes from the storm into a Cave.
The start of this scene uses field recordings done at NTNU botanical garden at Ringve, which being close to the city also had a lot of urban sounds of traffic and construction. A dog park several hundred meters away could also clearly be heard from where we recorded. The rest of the scene is made with samples from Freesound.
CC attribution for sounds from FreeSound: Ambience_forest_austria_w4tel_thunder_light_rain.wav by magedu Long Birds Forest Ambience.wav by Motion_S Birds Chirping.wav by Motion_S
You hear your footsteps, water dripping around you, and a low sounding stream of water in front. The stream of water moves closer and to the left, where you should perceive that you are walking closer to the source. Wing flaps (maybe bats) are moving past your head, rocks are falling behind you, a drone bass sound gets louder accompanied by a ticking clock. The drone and clock sound spins around your head, and you are portalled to the shore.
The sounds are made up of layers, and sent through a convolution reverb to create the sense of a bigger cave space. The impulse response used was from a tunnel, which I thought sounded more like a cave than the cave IR’s I had available. Two people in the audience still experienced it as more of a tunnel than a cave though. Maybe I have never been in a cave.
Being transported from the cave through the portal, the spinning, filtered sounds imply the dizziness and disorientation. Then the full range hearing comes back and the ambient sounds can be heard (Sea and Sea Guls). The intention was to use a convolution reverb, but regarding the unpleasant results from the beach impulse response, and the sounds being reverberant enough, it was not used.
Subject’s breathing and walking are the constant sounds available. Then she walks towards the sea and suffers from a bird attack. For making the scene the sound’s gain and pannings has been automated. Subject runs into the sea and goes underwater and hears the whales. In the end, an unrealistic digital reverb is being used to imply the sense of space. The mix of reverb has been automated to imply the distance. The scene finishes with the song: Praise Blindness Eye.
Take home message and Challenges
We realized that it is less time consuming to work with samples instead of capturing sound for every scene with ambisonic recordings.
An important feedback we got from the audience was to explore the possibilities of synthesizing early reflections.
In making the composition we have used various spatial audio tools with Reaper. For encoding mono sources to Ambisonics we used several IEM plugins: MultiEncoder, RoomEncoder, DirectivityShaper, AIIRADecoder and BinauralDecoder.