Archive for February, 2008

Binuaral Mic headset

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

One component for of my thesis is the gathering of city sounds and presenting them on my SoundandtheCity website. As expected I new this would be a challenge given the time and scope. So I just need to get started. First I purchased a HD recorder for the audio. I picked up the Zoom H2 recorder because of its high quality and praised user feedback.

H2 H2 Handy Recorder, 360 sound field, great for multiple applications and supports mp3 and wave formats along with 44.1/48/96kHz sample rates. Great menu options and stores audio to SD card… It also supports external microphones which is key for my binaural mic.

It’s a light unit, runs on two portable batteries - I am using rechargeable Nickel-Metal Hydride batteries - and has a great stereo field. My first test in the streets revealed some flaws in my method of discrete, quick, and casual recording. Because I wanted to record the sounds with a human perspective I had to hold the unit at heads height. There goes trying to be discrete. It was also tiring to my arm and was hard to monitor the signal on the screen. I need something hands free so I decided to make a Binaural Mic Headset.

Sidenote: Binaural microphones are miniature Omni-directional microphones, used in pairs, placed on either side of a human (or artificial) head and placed in, or as near as possible to, the ears. Omnidirectional mics pick up sound in all directional fairly equally, so when they are used in this manner, they pick up sound very much like the human ear does. Note: These same microphones are also capable of making stereo recordingsSound

First step was to find and take apart and old pair of headphones.
Next I rounded up some mic capsules I took out from old answering machines. I figured they should be fine for a first draft.


You can also get these at your local RadioShack.
I then unsoldered the contacts from the headphone speakers and soldered the connecters onto the microphones. Always remember to pay attention to the ground wire…

After testing the mics - quality control - I then proceeded to make holes in the headphones for the capsules. I used a drill bit the size of the capsule and worked it till I got the result I wanted.

Next I fitted the capsules in place and, because I was lucky was able to re-attach the speakers to the headphones making a seamless connection.

Now I can record with a bit more discretion and monitor my signals. i can also have my hands free to take photos, part of the project, and make notes.

Look forward to more updates, hopefully with my standalone mannequin’s head.


My first thesis class presentation.

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Thesis: Sound and the City:

I gave my first presentation today in class. I did a standard presentation, all text and no images, outlining what Sound and the City is.

For a not so polished first presentation it was pleasing to find my classmates engaged and understanding my idea, which spawned many critical feedback which is good for my development. Some of the comments include, researching other sites which off offer sound, particularly free sound project. Some like the storytelling potential - I call narrative. But mainly there were concerns of where I am going with this. Is it an art project or tool. If it’s and art project do something very interesting and focus on my audio engineering skills - Jake’s words (our Thesis adviser and the creator of StoryCorps ). If it’s a tool focus on a model and compare with sites like flickr and youtube. Market research is also the way to go as I should try to figure out how would I garner investments.

Some more of Jake’s comments include:
Analyzing my research and see if there’s a pattern or niche I can develop. Also develop comments and stories. Maybe a tutorial of how to document sound using today’s and tomorrow’s tools. For example, I should document four corners/ aspects of Washington Square Park. Document the process and invite people to replicate the process, thus helping the viral aspect.

As for viral I felt my Sound Agent idea was challenged. I may need to rethink this. Stepping out of the box helps.

I do have a vision of this task but clearly need direction as to where to take it and this is why thesis class is so important. i will have more to say as I gather more information.

Here’s an outline of my presentation to reference:

    Sound and the City

  • ( S.a.t.C. )
    • What is Sound and the City?

    • A sound resource service containing sounds from you city environment
    • It also doubles as a sound archive system
    • Listen…
      Who’s the audience?

    • Anyone who is curious to hear the sounds of a city
    • People in need of sound for their work
    • * * Foley artists
      * * Recording engineers
      * * Students…
      * * YOU!

      Why Sound and the City?

    • Information:
    • - Things we tend to mask

    • Narrative:
    • - There’s always a story over time

    • Surveillance:

    - Analyzing critical moments in time

      How can one use SatC?

    • Browse & Search:

    - Sounds and images
    - Download audio in various formats
    - Leave comments about a particular location

      How will SatC be populated?

    • We will collect sounds from chosen locations
    • Encourage users to become Sound Agents
    • Cite major cities in the world starting with NYC
    • Build a robust and easy to navigate web portal
    • Partner with other sites or companies, e.g. Google, to help propel the SatC service
      SatC’s Summary

    • Build it…
    • Flaunt it…
    • Flaunt is some more…
    • Sell it like it’s the last drop of water…
    • And they will come!
      Sound and the City

    • Questions & Comments?