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The Journal of Sonic Studies
Journal of Sonic Studies, volume 6, nr. 1 (January 2014)Iain McGregor; Phil Turner; David Benyon: USING PARTICIPATORY VISUALISATION OF SOUNDSCAPES TO COMPARE DESIGNERS’ AND LISTENERS’ EXPERIENCES OF SOUND DESIGNS

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3.3 Design 03: Simulation

A variety of systems exist for simulating soundscapes and/or acoustical environments. The simplest is to record an auditory environment using a multichannel microphone or multiple microphones and then to reproduce the recording through multiple loudspeakers (Bertet, Daniel and Moreau 2006; Holman 2000). More complex interactive systems are available, where a sound designer records all of the original samples and composes, or creates, a set of rules and parameters for real time soundscape generation (Schirosa, Janer, Kersten and Roma 2010; Valle, Lombardo and Schirosa 2009). Procedural audio systems, where all of the sounds are generated artificially, are also available and are commonly found in video games (Farnell 2011; L. J. Paul 2010).

A 7 minute and 25 second simulation of the soundfield of a multimedia laboratory and its immediate environment was created for this soundscape (Audio 2). A soundfield can be defined as the auditory environment surrounding a particular sound source. A soundfield represents the quantifiable characteristics of a sound source or event (Ohlson 1976). The simulation was created using a non-linear sequencing model called GeoGraphy (Valle et al. 2009). GeoGraphy had previously been tested by comparing simulations with recordings from real environments and asking listeners to identify which was which. Each sound event is a single zone, and the descriptions represent the sounds that were used to create the zone (see Table 7).

The designer considered the content of 9 of the sound events to be informative, 5 neutral and 5 uninformative. These were visualized as in Figure 6, showing different shapes to represent the different content. Sound events such as the photocopier and the film were informative, the sounds of people’s actions such as drying their hands or footsteps were neutral, and room tones were uninformative. Listeners were unaware of two of the sounds associated with the washing of hands (AJ and AK) (see Figure 7). The listeners thought that 14 sound events were informative, 1 neutral and 2 both informative and neutral. Listeners might have been trying to make sense of what they were listening to and constructing a narrative in order to understand the sequence of sound events. This could be attributed to the number of sound events that the listeners found to be clear (15), which contrasts with the designer, who rated 9 of them as clear and the remaining 10 as unclear.

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Table 7: Key for figures 6 and 7

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Figure 6: Designer’s simulation visualisation

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Figure 7: Listeners’ simulation visualisation

The sound types were consistent (see Table 8), with all of the sound events being categorized identically by both the listeners and the designer. Four of the sound events were considered to be speech, with the remainder (15) being sound effect. There were no instances of music. The designer considered the sound events to have a greater difference in dynamics: 7 were loud, 7 medium and 5 soft. The listeners found 3 to be loud/medium, 1 soft, and the remainder (16) medium. This might suggest that the variation in dynamics is too subtle and that a greater difference needs to be applied in order to convey the range intended by the designer. More sound events were considered clear and informative by the listeners than by the designer, which is probably due to the artificial nature of listening out of context. The Aesthetics and Emotions aspects of the sound design were not communicated effectively, with almost all of the sound events being neutral.

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Table 8: Summary of classifications