The 360° AV Standing in the Stones exhibit immerses visitors in a virtual Stonehenge
Immersive soundscapes add that extra dynamic for awesome audiovisual exhibitions and gallery spaces. Audio designer Peter Key tells us how to deliver the best in show
udio is a becoming an ever more compelling component of immersive exhibition design at visitor attractions and museums. Audio adds to the experience – a dynamic soundscape or two sets the scene, location, era. It’s a must-have for large screen audiovisuals. All visitors enjoy a bit of theatricality! Now imagine a trade exhibit or arcade chockablock with competing soundscapes. To cope with the cacophony, visitors start to block out the “white noise”. So figuring out your audio design is quite simply paramount to engage, and not alienate, your audience.
A Riot of Noise It’s often the way that exhibitions starring distinct soundtracks are placed side-by-side in the same gallery. Each
soundtrack is played simultaneously across the open space and the gallery resonates with a discordant mish mash of sounds. To prevent this from happening, a common misconception is to adopt directional speakers so that visitors can walk from one audible sound zone to another without cross-interference. Unfortunately this idea is misconstrued. Within the quiet surrounds of a production studio, each new soundtrack broadcasts a smooth voice, emotive music and suggestive sound effects. But when it’s heard within the general ambient sounds of the gallery walls, competing against an adjacent exhibition playing another dynamic soundtrack, the graphical illustration of how sound is contained and emitted using directional speakers isn’t quite so accurate or simple in practice.
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Unintelligible Audio Choosing the correct type of loudspeakers and designing the best acoustic environment are also key to creating an engaging audio visitor experience. Again, all too often, loudspeakers are added to a design specification without any consideration of their positioning. A black box fixed to a well-designed feature either side of a screen may not in fact be the best aesthetic solution. So ask yourself: “Do you really need a loudspeaker next to the screen?” In an enclosed cinema, yes of course, but in an open gallery perhaps the sound source should be positioned as near as possible to the listening position, above the visitors’ listening bench. After all, the criteria is to hear the audio track clearly over-and-above all other intruding sounds. www.attractionshandbook.com
photo: © English Heritage
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