Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Virtual Haircut

A while ago I delved into the world of Virtual Surround Sound where an algorithm takes a surround input (like a Dolby Digital 4.1, 5.1 or 7.1) applies sound filters to the different channels to mimic the kinds of distortions that happen to sound naturally when a human hears a sound being sourced from different directions, the output is then played through a stereo output (best results come from using headphones) and this allows listeners who might be commuting by train to watch a film with a full surround sound experience.

Well there is another technique that accomplishes the same thing called Binaural Recording. Where a manikin head, in combination with two microphones representing eardrums is setup so that the manikin head filters the sound as a real head would as the sound is recorded. That way when the sound is played back through headphones the listener is transported to the place of the manikin in sound's original recording environment.

An excellent example of a Binaural recording is The Virtual Barbershop. Best results come from using headphones, even earbuds will be better than a 2.1 setup in this case.