The Virtual Acoustics and Auralization Database

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Electronics

Abstract

The buildings we inhabit everyday affect us all in terms of how we communicate, project our voice, listen to our environment, and respond to excessive noise. The sound of the built environment and good acoustic design is critical in modern architectural practice and this is in part based on a clear understanding of what has gone before, hence the fascination with, for example, the great concert halls and opera houses of Europe and their influence on modern design practices. More recently there has also been interest in the research and preservation of the acoustics of heritage sites which presents additional opportunities for both understanding and interpretation of the past as well as developing new audiences for work of this nature through novel virtual reality style interaction. Acoustic data also provides additional opportunities to inform issues relating to preservation and measurement of degradation or change over time. A key example being the destruction by fire of the Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice in 1996, and its subsequent restoration, where acoustic measurements taken just prior to the fire played a key role in the acoustic redesign. The main application for this data however is in music production, where the acoustic effects of real spaces, played back around a listener or audience over many loudspeakers presents exciting, dramatic and highly realistic acoustic environments in which recorded musical works can be contextualised.

Developments in measuring the acoustics of concert halls and opera houses have resulted in standardised methods of impulse response capture for a wide variety of auralization applications. The impulse response is the acoustic fingerprint for a given space and uniquely defines its acoustic characteristics for particular sound source and listener positions. From these measurements objective acoustic parameters, as used in the design process can be determined. The result can also be used to create a virtual acoustic representation of the space so that a listener can experience the same aural sensations remotely as if they were actually there - this is what auralization is, a term derived as the audio equivalent to visualisation. These techniques are now commonly used in both architectural acoustics and in the field of acoustic archaeology (archeoacoustics). Measurements of existing real environments can be further extended by analogous techniques employed for virtual sites that only exist as part of a 3D computer model - these latter techniques are highly applicable in the field of acoustic archaeology where an existing site may have little resemblance to how it looked or sounded at the height of its use.

Researchers at York currently have extensive acoustic survey data for 12 actual sites and 2 3D computer models. This work was initiated through an AHRB/ACE Science/Heritage Fellowship in 2004 but to date only a small part of this work has been made more widely available. The aim of this project is to produce a sustainable online repository for this data and a more general resource for research in virtual acoustics. This will consist of a database of high-resolution acoustic impulse responses for sites across and beyond the UK, starting with the 14 that have currently already been completed. These measurements will be supported with software to enable third parties to conduct their own acoustic surveys, upload the impulse responses obtained and audition the final results using specially recorded anechoic audio material that will also be made available.

This resource will have significant impact in music production as well as in the fields of architectural/archaeological acoustic studies. There will also be related impact in the field of audio engineering where auralization and its effective delivery to the listener are key issues relating to, for example, the development of interactive entertainment and communication, high definition television, and computer game audio development.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?

The main beneficiaries for this research will be those computer musicians and composers interested in working with the highest quality or most realistic options for rendering acoustic space. Additional beneficiaries include acoustic consultants working in industry who will be able to use new software, acoustic data and recordings to inform their work with the possibility of demonstrating new or extended auralization techniques for their clients.
Also benefitting will be the owners and custodians of the sites themselves. An acoustic snapshot of the space in question will provide a record for posterity which may be of use for future restoration or act as an additional means of measuring degradation or change. This data, if appropriate, may be used in the development of visitor interactives, audio guides or VR representations.
Finally, the new experiences and enhanced understanding that will result from this work together with the development of new means for interacting with a site through its acoustic representation will ultimately be of benefit to the wider public as the visitors to these sites, and the consumers of the new music and interactive virtual experiences that may well result.

How will they benefit?

The outcome of this research will provide computer musicians with an expanded toolset for the capture, exploration and auditioning of acoustic spaces. The developing library of acoustic impulse responses will help to expand creativity through an increased palette of acoustic environments in which musical works might be contextualised.
For acoustic consultants and architectural acousticians the additional data, robustly measured and validated can be used to inform current design strategies through a better understanding of existing practice. New software will enable beneficiaries to conduct their own measurement work more effectively and the expanded library of anechoic material will be invaluable in developing new auralization demonstrations.
Site owners and custodians will have new data available to inform curatorial, building management and environmental decision making. Where the acoustic environment is more critical (e.g. concert halls, performance venues, classrooms, public spaces), the acoustic data will provide an invaluable record of current performance against which possible future changes, planned improvements or natural degradation might be measured.
Auralization and VR applications, audio guides, or site interactives will demonstrate the potential for new means of engagement and provide another important dimension alongside more usual visual presentations. Hence there is also the potential for developing new audiences for these sites.
The public will ultimately benefit from the development of new musical works, the opportunities to listen to and experience important architectural or archaeological spaces in new ways, the potential for new means of visitor understanding and engagement with these sites and through their acoustic preservation for future generations.

What will be done to ensure that they benefit?

This whole project is focused on the wider dissemination of this existing and future work and the valuable resource that is generated as a result. All aspects will be documented and made available online for all potential users to interact with. All new procedures and workflow practices will be tested for efficiency and effective ease of use. To highlight the potential benefits of acoustic simulation for a variety of applications and as a means to explore, audition and interact with acoustic space, a demonstration of walk-through auralization will be prepared and made available for all visitors to the site. We will make use of the University of York press office to announce the launch of the completed website and target potential user groups through
 
Title OpenAIR at AHRC Common Ground 
Description Early results from the "WEb Audio Virtual Environment Rendering (WEAVER): Online Virtual Acoustics for Sonic Art, Digital Heritage, and Broadcast" project were presented as an immersive audio-visual soundwork at the AHRC Common Ground event in 21 June 2016. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact This work was presented to highlight the software toolbox and acoustic database that we had developed as part of this project. 
URL http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/documents/agendas/common-ground-programme/
 
Description The aim of the project was to source all of our research data and make it accessible via a single, online database. This has been the case. All spaces surveyed up to and including the project are now online and more are added as and when they are completed making this a live resource. Software for Pure Data is available for download to enable convolution using these impulse responses, a walkthrough auralisation video has also been prepared to demonstrate the potential of this work. The site has been accessed and used by individuals working in the creative industries internationally and cited in numerous third party materials.
Exploitation Route Our work has succeeded in being made available online to creative communities in music, gaming and heritage. it continues to be a valuable resource, evidenced by the three companies using the database currently, and our collaboration with a third UK gaming company.
Sectors Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.openairlib.net/
 
Description 1. The data prepared for the OpenAIR website has been incorporated in the Ableton Live 9 software release under a Creative Commons License. Ableton Live is one of the main software applications used today for music production, recording and audio processing. 2. The data prepared for the OpenAIR website has been incorporated in the Presonus Studio One v2 software release under a Creative Commons License. Presonus Studio One is a relatively new software application used for music production, recording and audio processing. 2. The data prepared for the OpenAIR website has been incorporated in the Propellerheads Reason software release under a Creative Commons License. Propellerheads Reason is a relatively new software application used for music production, recording and audio processing.
First Year Of Impact 2010
Sector Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Economic

 
Description AHRC Follow on Fund for Impact and Engagement
Amount £93,433 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N00356X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2016 
End 12/2016
 
Description Creative Media Labs: Innovations in Screen Storytelling in the Age of Interactivity and Immersion
Amount £5,544,079 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/S002839/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2023
 
Title Open Acoustic Impulse Response Library (OpenAIR) 
Description A collection of modelled and measured acoustic data from locations across the world, with data available in a variety of spatial audio formats. Also supported with a set of online anechoic recordings and acoustic analysis tools. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2010 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This work has resulted in one AHRC follow on project, a license to three audio software companies (Ableton, Presonus, Propellerheads) and collaboration with a UK computer games company. 
URL http://www.openairlib.net/
 
Title Open Acoustic Impulse Response Library Database (OpenAIR) 
Description Database of Acoustic Impulse Response Measurements have been made publicly available via Creative Commons License to a number of audio/computer games companies. 
IP Reference  
Protection Copyrighted (e.g. software)
Year Protection Granted 2012
Licensed Yes
Impact Database included in Ableton Live 9 Software Database included in Presonus Studio One v2 Software Database included in Propellerheads Reason v 8.3 software Credits on Codemasters Grid Autosports Game for University of York Researchers
 
Title OpenAirLib 
Description This is a Javascript library, written using the Web Audio Framework to enable OpenAir audio data from our online website (www.openairlib.net) to be used more freely in third party applications. The application receives commands from the client-side classes, performs queries on the OpenAIR internal database, formats the data and returns it to the client classes. Ultimately this library enables OpenAIR acoustic data to be easily integrated into other online applications that use the Web Audio Framework. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact This work was prepared in collaboration with colleagues at BBC R&D, with a view to being used in some of their future online broadcast work. 
URL https://github.com/UoYWEAVER/OpenAirLib
 
Description 1.618 Immersive Sound Podcast 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I was interviewed about my research in immersive sound for the 1.618 Digital podcast series.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://1618digital.com/immersive-audio-podcast/
 
Description AES/IoA Midlands Section: Sound Design in Our Sound Environment: Soundscape Design, Auralisation and Evaluation in Environmental Acoustics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact This presentation was invitation to speak to a joint meeting of the Midland section of the Audio Engineering Society and Institute of Acoustics, for their Christmas lecture, held at University of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus, on 6-Dec-2018. It was an opportunity to present a series of case studies from our group in the area of environmental acoustics and soundscape to an audience of mostly industry practitioners, but also including researchers and students.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Institute of Acoustics: Sound Design for our Sound Environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact I was invited by the Midlands Branch of the Institute of Acoustics to present on my research as part of their ongoing series of professional lectures. The title was - Sound Design for our Sound Environment, University of Derby, 20 Jan. 2016. It prompted discussion and debate, and the invitation arose from the Acoustics team at AECOM, an ongoing collaborative partner for our work in Environmental Acoustics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Sound Design in Our Sound Environment: Soundscape Design, Auralisation and Evaluation in Environmental Acoustics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation was invited as part of a seminar series around a PhD defence at the Department of Media Technology, KTH, Stockholm, Sweden. It was an opportunity to present a series of case studies from our group in the area of environmental acoustics and soundscape to an audience of researchers, peers and industry, and to promote our recent work in this area at a leading international research group.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Wired for Sound: Engineering future audio experiences and new sound worlds through creative digital technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An invited seminar as part of a regular series at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for an audience of academics, students and industry colleagues, disseminating recent audio and acoustics research and related to trends in immersive audio content.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.kth.se/en/2.81829/calendar/seminars/wired-for-sound-engineering-future-audio-experiences...
 
Description York Talks - Sound Design for our Sound Environment 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact YorkTalks is the University of York's own TEDx style presentations of key research. This talk resulted in a piece of written work for 'The Conversation' which reached a much wider international audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL https://theconversation.com/shaping-up-our-soundscapes-can-improve-our-lives-37175