3rd International Conference

Digital Culture & AudioVisual Challenges

Interdisciplinary Creativity in Arts and Technology

Online, May 28-29, 2021

Maintaining Spatiotemporal Continuity in Field Recording
Date and Time: 29/05/2021 (12:30-14:20)
Theofanis Maragkos, Andreas Mniestris, Theodoros Lotis

The term field recording is widely used, particularly during last decades, by various academics and artists such as biologists, environmentalists, ethnographers, sound artists, cinematohgraphers etc. Each one of these disciplines sets particular specifications regarding the methods and criteria of what is an acceptable recording of sound captured in situ. In the case of environmental sound research, a discipline that is developing rapidly, particularly after the 90’s, a persistent factor related to the acceptability of a field recording is not only the good quality of the temporal variation of a soundscape (i.e. the static sonic capture) but also the spatial variation (i.e. the changes related to the different aspects of a soundscape according to a specific point of observation). Thus is revealed a new type of problem: what makes a field recording acceptable as a soundscape recording; considering that a soundscape is a spatiotemporal phenomenon, it's verisimilar reproduction would entail the capacity of field recordings to be able to render soundscapes as continuous spatio-temporal sonic variations.
In this paper we are proposing a method of recording continuously in motion through trajectories within soundscapes transparently, i.e. without the intrusion of unwanted sounds caused by the movement itself. The objective of this method is the reproduction of the soundscape as a spatiotemporal entity and not only temporal, as it happens with the majority of field recordings today. The sound recorded in this manner captures the finest details of the changes of soundscape due to its spatial variability that should be otherwise artificially calculated (based on a series of static sonic captures coming from a distributed network of points of capture). For this method we present “The Moving Sound-Receptor” (MSR) which is the outcome of an extended research project that proposes a deeper and more systematic approach to sound recording, where the idea of “moving observer-recordist” is introduced. This system allows a recording process while the receptor (microphone) moves along horizontal or vertical trajectories. In addition, the sonic capture is realized with ambisonics techniques which allow potentially for an immersive experience of the soundscape reproduction.
In this paper we will introduce in brief the MSR from its design and realisation perspectives. We will analyse the principles its structure is based on, while discussing about the two important problems that have been resolved during the process in order to achieve transparency during the recording process and hi-fidelity reproduction. We will refer to the components of the prototype equipment which have been used and we will further explain the key solutions that were proposed in order for the MSR to function efficiently, i.e. without the intrusion of unwanted noises. We will also discuss about the results of the MSR and its responses during actual field tests as well as to what extend the final results fulfilled initial expectations.
In regard to the MSR recording techniques, we explain in detail the choice of ambisonics as our recording method, the advantages and disadvantages of this technique in relation to its decoding for hi-fidelity reproduction systems aiming to maximal immersion experience. We will provide many recording examples related to three types of recording movement trajectories, i.e. horizontally on land and water and vertically above land. The former recordings were realised at the northern part of Corfu island at Antinioti Lake once every season near equinoxes and solstices. For the latter, the MSR was able to move up to 20 meters along a tall Aspen tree (Populus) at Rematia river in Chalandri, Athens.
Complementary we will present the details of the inclusion and function of the MSR within an artistic project realised during the 11th international academy, co-organised by the Electroacoustic Music Research Lab [EPHMEE] of Ionian University in July 2018. There, the MSR was introduced for the first time at the entrance of the “People’s Garden” at the center of the old town of Corfu. The system had a twofold function: a) to record the soundscape, in motion and b) to record four musicians who were improvising, situated at four corresponding points distanced along the linear trajectory of the microphone's movement.
To conclude with, the MSR is a proposed system for rendering the finest details of the spatiotemporal variations soundscapes, albeit for - relatively - short distances in linear movement. In Summary, we present the factors that make the use of the MSR system an innovative method to realise field recordings in motion, in any open air space, as well as a beginning to develop and evaluate new standards for recording soundscapes.


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