Soundscapes

Last week, we ran a couple of tests of our recent audio prototype, specifically testing the rough-cut audio tracks we’d made that expose the stories

Last week, we ran a couple of tests of our recent audio prototype, specifically testing the rough-cut audio tracks we’d made that expose the stories of the cinemas that used to stand in Castle Park.

The prototype was an audio tour of the park that’s triggered by GPS, with audio and old photographs that introduce the landscape of the park when it used to be Castle Street, one of Bristol’s main shopping centres. The audio in the current version are simple recordings of Charlotte and myself walking through the park, and relating the geography and stories we’ve collected about each cinema, to get an initial idea of how people relate to the type of content we’re planning on creating.

But, one interesting idea that came out of the tests we’ve done so far, is that our guinea pig users seemed to enjoy the informal style of the scratch-audio we’d used, and the ambient sounds in the tracks suggested that we’d recorded the tracks in the same place they were standing - which we had. From previous projects with AppFurnace, we know that people want a narrative that connects them to the location, and that recording audio on site gives a much more authentic tone of voice and the level of detail is much greater.

These ideas have lead us to think a bit more deeply about how we’re going to deliver the audio in our next prototype, and in what ratio we should be including ambient sounds, informal directions, and more “cinematic” retellings of stories.

In line with our recent research, we also saw the progress of the some of the other projects in REACT’s showcase day last week, and whilst helping the Bristol Old Vic project team test their audio prototypes, we began to think more formally about the questions that had been raised in our own tests.

Bristol Old Vic’s tests aimed to find out what tense people preferred listening to memories in - some were told in a reflective past tense, others were more inclusive present-tense versions. Since we haven’t yet developed our audio beyond the initial rough-cuts, we found this was the ideal time to start thinking in more detail about where we might want to go next.

Considering the Castle Park aspect of our prototype relies mainly on audio tracks, it seems like creating a more immersive soundscape could be a good direction to take, especially for the manual mode (when users aren’t on location). The question is how we should marry a cinematic soundscape, with the tour-style directions and historic stories, and how best to connect users to the location using audio devices, like binaural recordings, to add depth to audio tracks and provide a much more personal effect to the sound.

We’re not sure where our ideas will go next with the audio production, but for now, we're taking some inspiration from the cinematic soundscapes of Circumstance, and looking at how Guardian Street Stories and Soho Street Stories tackled some of the challenges we're facing.

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