We spoke to Chris Pike, a Senior Scientist for Audio in BBC Research & Development, about the project.
Can you sum up the pilot for us?
We’ve created binaural headphone mixes for some of the wonderful performances from this year’s season. Using normal headphones, listeners should get an enhanced spatial impression of the Proms. It’s like being at the Royal Albert Hall in person.
How was it made?
We rigged the Royal Albert Hall with a new 3D microphone array. Using our custom binaural production tools, we mixed this with conventional microphone techniques to create an immersive listening experience.
Any challenges and what were the solutions?
Traditional binaural recordings would use a dummy head microphone. This has limitations because you have little aesthetic control over the mix beyond where you put the microphone. Dummy head recording also only works well for headphone listening
To achieve more control over the mix of each performance we used post-production tools. With these tools we could apply the binaural effect to a signal from a conventional microphone. Mixing that with our 3D microphone array let us adapt the final audio output to the character of the piece.
We've been able to simultaneously generate a surround mix for loudspeakers. Which is another advantage of this new microphone array and post-production technique. This was not possible before and is a key part of our internal research at this stage.
What are you hoping to prove to and learn from your audience?
We want to give a new experience for the many listeners who use headphones to enjoy the Proms. Hopefully one that gives more a sense of presence at the live event.