Conversations with a Dummy Head
After the recent birth of Dumbert, my DIY binaural dummy head, I did what every over-eager ‘momager’ would do and cast him in a podcast project aptly titled; ‘Conversations with a Dummy Head’ (CWADH).
The first episode of CWADH is an informative discussion centered around binaural audio, the origins thereof, how to reproduce it and where it will hold a space in the future. The show is delivered in a conversational, ‘radio-esque’ style and is packed with some fun featurettes, inserts and a few cute dummy head parodies to boot (because they don’t have real feelings).
Projects are fun when you’re given all the free reign in the world, and this was no exception. I had an enormous amount of fun creating this podcast with my fellow colleagues, Khalid, Paul and Oliver. After an initial production meeting we threw ourselves into the creative zone, did some research, wrote a few fun scripts, turned a living room into a fully-fledged podcasting soundstage and then hit record. I felt like I was living a dream vicariously through the abilities of my binaural spawn. The momager in me felt alive.
A living room podcast, at it's finest.
Binaural podcasting 101… and then some
The first rule of podcasting an episode on binaural audio is…. To deliver binaural audio of course. Our recording process involved 6 microphones:
4 x Rode NT2A’s
1 x Soundfield ST450
1 x Binaural Dummy head (Dumbert)
Side Note* For those of you who have that slightly annoying ‘mathematics-boff’ trait; technically speaking the above would be 10 microphones if you consider the tetrahedral mic configuration on the Soundfield and both of Dumbert’s electret ears.
The Rode NT2A’s were powered through a Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 rigged up to my laptop running Avid ProTools. These were our source microphones for each of our monaurally recorded dialogue. During the podcast, you will hear a demonstration of point source recording and binaural panning using these microphones and Dear Reality’s Dear VR Pro Plug in. Binaural panning is fun. And using Dear VR to do so is even better.
Because neither myself, nor my fellow podcasters are fans of half measures, we also rigged up the Soundfield ST450 to a Zoom H6 portable recorder, to demonstrate what first order ambisonics sounds like when it’s reproduced in binaural stereo using the Soundfield By Rode plug-in.
Lastly, we had Dumbert (the star of the show), rigged up to the ever-so-ergonomic and handy Zoom H1N portable recorder, recording our entire discussion in binaural stereo. You’ll get a front row seat to hearing the world through Dumberts ears during the podcast. Spoiler Alert: There is an easter egg excerpt of this demonstration at the end of the podcast.
Side Note* If you don’t have a Zoom H1N recorder, go and get one. It’s not completely sh*t. And it’s small enough to fit into your pocket or a sunglasses case, for those impromptu recordings. They are especially fun to record your drunk mates’ ridiculous monologues, after a wild night out.
The Soundfield ST450 with Dumbert looking on
Knowledge is power. Experience is everything.
On a more serious note, something that really captured my attention on my quest for binaural knowledge, is how it currently being used as a tool for education.
Given the current state of the world during this global pandemic, work and study from home orders are the norm. This becomes problematic in situations such as when medical students are required to do their learning in residence… but they can’t physically be in residence. A study led by a professor at the Cardiff University School of Medicine went on to show that the immersive nature of binaural recording could aid students in their conditioning and learning whilst they are unable to be physically present in a clinical setting.
To learn more about this intriguing study and to access the in-ward binaural recordings, click on the following link: https://blogs.bmj.com/spcare/2021/04/20/the-sound-of-covid-19-binaural-recordings-of-a-palliative-care-ward-round-in-a-cancer-hospital/
I found this all completely fascinating. Binaural sound reproduction is tantamount to a real-life auditory experience and that, in turn aids learning, conditioning and experience. Pretty neat, this binaural stuff huh?
To listen to a few cool, somewhat-nerdy but insanely awesome tidbits on binaural audio, sit back, relax, PUT YOUR HEADPHONES ON and listen to the first episode of our podcast; Conversations with a Dummy Head.