We had a chat with Chris Pike, a Senior Scientist of Audio in BBC Research & Development, about this pilot.
What is the most exciting aspect of the pilot?
It’s the use of binaural sound. Binaural is essentially reproduction of sound for headphones that more closely matches how sounds reach our ears in the real world.
These Fright Night radio dramas are the perfect place to showcase binaural sound, using it to make horror even more intense and immersive. It’s great to put this to the test in front of a wider audience than we’ve had before. This pilot shows off a really exciting part of the future of binaural sound – where the listener can actually interact with the sound scene and move the sounds around them in a web browser.
Why did you do it? What were you trying to achieve?
We were working on a binaural version of the full dramatisation of Ring for Radio 4 with producer James Robinson and Sound Designer Catherine Robinson in BBC Wales. Together with Robin Moore from Connected Studio we came up with the idea of creating an interactive teaser that used the new tools in the web browser for real-time audio processing. Instead of controlling the listener’s perspective within the 3D scene we wanted to hand the control over to them. We wanted to find out is this helps to immerse you even more in the action.
Did it turn out as you expected?
The quality of the binaural effects we can achieve in the web browser are not yet as high as in the full drama, but we’re working to improve it.
It’s been great working with Realise again (we previously worked together on the Unearthed pilot) on the UX. Developing a simple and intuitive control interface for moving in an audio-only environment is certainly an interesting challenge.
How was it made?
We mixed the audio in the same BBC Research & Development binaural production tools used for the main drama. From this we exported source audio and position data to the web application developed by Realise so that it can be rendered in real-time by the browser as you turn the ring.
What technology did you use?
We used an emerging technology called the Web Audio API, which allows efficient real-time audio processing in web applications. BBC Research & Development is helping to standardize this.
What else could this be used for?
This technique could be used for different content such as music performances and sports. The interactive aspect of binaural sound is very relevant to the new wave of VR and 360˚ video technology emerging.