Mastering hors du studio. Trois experts en design sonore décryptent des nouvelles pratiques (3/5)

Meet Alexander Kassberg, head of studio at Lexter Sound Design, Andrea Cera, composer, and Nicolas Misdariis, head researcher for the Sound Design and Perception team in IRCAM’s joint research lab

What do you do when the audio features of a certain location vary over time (ex. different kinds of background noise during the day, variations in public presence, co-existence of other music programs in neighboring zones, etc.)? Do you use adaptive/interactive solutions? If yes, how do you integrate varying evolutive sonic content in the mixing process?

A. K. : We have developed a sound distribution platform that we use to distribute sound content to our clients. This allows us to schedule different types of content for different times of the day, as well as automation of volume changes. By field studies, regular visits, client feedback and customer flow analysis we can craft a soundscape that follows the daily flow.

The Sound Design of the Mood Stockholm shopping centre, a project realized by Lexter Sound Design

A. C. : An interesting project in this vein that I carried out is the installation “Reactive Ambient Music”. The installation listens/analyzes (via microphones) the sound environment in which it is located (normally, an exhibition, but sometimes it’s a gallery or a home) and produces a sort of vaguely psychedelic, post-modern Muzak in reaction to the sound events detected an in osmosis with certain spectral characteristics in the background noise. My first solution to the problem of interactive mixing is in the preliminary control of all the possible combinations of sound outputs: the mixing can vary within an ensemble that is almost closed to other possibilities. The second solution is filters, macro-controls for different classes of sound components, and analysis parameters enabling manual tuning of the installation. Finally, there is a series of precautions (limiters, compressors, anti-feedback mechanisms, automated routines) to prevent any problems connected to unexpected events (such as a visitor in the exhibition who talks loudly just next to one of the microphones) or deviations (if the synthesis starts to listen to itself).

Reactive Ambient Music by Andrea Cera © Le Fresnoy

N. M. : Generally, sound design solution is truly successful when it is adapted to the context in which it is diffused. In the automotive industry, this degree of interactivity depends on the way the ambient sounds vary with the car’s behavior. For example, the sound level of the human-machine interfaces inside the car are associated with the speed so that they can be heard above the sound levels of the road noise and aerodynamics that get louder with speed. In the case of silent cars (electric or hybrid), the development of external sound alerts (VSP – Vehicle Sound for Pedestrians), used to alert pedestrians of the car’s presence is based on a principle that varies the “vocality”  and minimizes the sonic impact of the car depending on a certain number of exterior environmental conditions such as the time of day, the weather, the location, the probability of pedestrians nearby, etc. We developed the first elements of this process to create the sound design for the exterior of the Renault Symbioz that changes depending on its use (normal driving, in a parking garage, in sport mode).