Pick A Part is a collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic where you can connect your devices (laptops, phones, and tablets) together and choose which instruments they play. Everything’s synchronised as closely as possible using our audio orchestration software.
Pick A Part is the latest production that we’ve made with our new production tool, Audio Orchestrator. With Audio Orchestrator, content creators can bring together audio files and set up rules to determine how they’re assigned to different connected devices.
We’ve been discussing using audio orchestration with the BBC Philharmonic for a while now—it’s something that we’ve been interested in the potential of, but it’s been hard to actually put together. One of the challenges is that orchestral music is normally recorded with all of the musicians playing together at the same time, whilst audio orchestration requires access to all of the individual parts of a composition that make up the piece. When the country went into lockdown in March 2020, BBC Philharmonic musicians had to adapt to working from home. This included making individual recordings, which we were able to use for this experience.
The other big challenge was that music requires very accurate synchronisation between devices. The synchronisation framework that we use is accurate to within around 10–20 milliseconds, but there’s sometimes additional delay added by devices, which can reach up to 200 milliseconds and beyond. That’s OK for the types of sounds in the drama productions that we’d previously released, but not good enough for music. To get around this, we’ve developed a manual calibration stage so that listeners can more accurately align their own devices.
The same speech content is played from the main device and an aux device, and the listener is asked to adjust the time delay on the aux device until the two devices are in sync.
Pick A Part is the first orchestrated music experience that we've released, so we’re interested to find out about how well this works and how easy it is to use the calibration tool.
Simon Webb, director of the BBC Philharmonic, said: “There are so many potential applications for “Pick A Part”; this is the BBC at its very best, collaborating, innovating and sharing. Whether in an educational setting exploring the inner workings of a string quartet, exploring different audio mixes of a recording, or playing along with professional musicians in your own home, this is a brilliant piece of kit.“