Virtual 3-D Environments

 MSc Sound Design dissertation project Jun-Aug 2011 
(Distinction grade achieved)


Sound, used as a medium for artistic expression, has struggled to find place within a predominantly visually orientated art fraternity. The Virtual 3-Dimensional Sound as Art (V3-DSA) project was developed to explore ways in which people could understand and connect more readily with artworks of this type. A 3-dimensional sonic environment was created for participants to explore, without the aid of vision. Head tracking and a computer game controller allowed participants to interact with the soundscape created, in a self-regulated, non-linear fashion. Participants found, within this environment, that they experienced a significant level of immersion which was enhanced by the utilisation of the movement interfaces used. The V3-DSA project identifies many future possibilities to the utilisation of computer game engine technologies. This could globally connect people in a sonic world that holds potential for bringing sound art to the next level.

I invested a significant amount of time exploring Max/MSP and the FMOD sound design game engine. I used Max/MSP as a communication interface to translate the user’s 360 degree orientation in real-time into the FMOD Sandbox arena. Within a blackened space the participant wore headphones and had complete free rotational movement on the spot. There virtual forward, back and side movement came from a simple computer game crosshair control on the Nintendo Wii controller. This in effect placed the user in a completely virtual 3-dimensional sonic environment, where there actual physical movement rotated their auditory surroundings in real-time. This was made possible through FMOD’s binaural capabilities which gives a real sense of sound location through headphones.
As well as this a unique sound environment needed to been created to make the experience work. FMOD allowed me to explore a unique path of virtual 3-dimensional sound design that has implementations for many areas of application. Complex sound interactions and relationships were investigated through the use of FMOD’s powerful spawn and proximity capabilities that resulted in a 3-dimensional binaural soundscape that deeply immersed those who experienced it. The physical connection made with the virtual world through the use of head tracking brought the user into a place never experienced, providing exciting results which I wish to pursue further in the future.

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