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Lately, I've seen a lot of people posting about binaural mics and techniques and stuff, which got me wondering. How are people actually using their binaural recordings?

I mean, a lot of people play Video Games with headphones on, so that makes sense. But unless they start giving out headsets at movie theaters and designing TVs that transmit audio via bluetooth or something, I'm somehow not seeing how it can be of any great use. I'm kind of getting that "early days of 3D" feeling, where because it's now affordibly possible everybody's doing it, without knowing what they're doing it for.

I just want to say that I'm not at all poo-pooing the wonderfullitude of binaurality, more wondering if it's something I should invest some money into buying gear for.

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I dunno about practical application, but I remember that sample recording done of the haircut (the dummy's head had a wig and they cut the hair while recording on the dummy's binaural mics) and it sounded uncannily real on headphones. It was insane –  Utopia Jul 29 '11 at 0:28
    
I found that in my second week at audio school. It's how I knew I made the right choice. –  g.a.harry Jul 29 '11 at 0:44
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Currently, the majority of people who record in binaural do so for the shear enjoyment of doing so. In terms of commercial success, there is a very small market at the moment (there are some games for the iPhone which use binaural audio such as Zen Bound and Aves). Personally, I think it's an area of game audio that will most likely develop more in the future, particularly as the smart phone/tablet game industry flourishes, but it will remain a niche market. As for the film industry, it's very unlikely that binaural will play any significant role. But one thing is sure. Die-hard nature recordists will continue recording binaurally for many, many years to come.

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iPhones and Androids and Tablets, oh my! I didn't even think of those. –  g.a.harry Jul 28 '11 at 22:25
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Having studied the last year with a lecturer who is in love with researching HRTFs (Head Related Transfer Functions) I have a few personal thoughts on binaural recording and mixing.

In the lab we had our HRTFs measured. The way we did it was stick a microphone facing out of our ears and record the sound of several speakers at varying heights playing a short sine sweep. After processing and analysis you end up with a frequency response that shows how your head responds to sounds.

This showed me that certain notches and peaks appear when sound is heard from different angles of elevation.

It gave me some good ideas to experiment with filtering those freqs when designing sounds to evoke the feeling that a sound was localised at a certain elevation.

We also ran through quite a few tests where the teacher played back sounds to us over headphones that he had convolved with a range of different peoples HRTFs.

The idea being to use a GUI to say whether one sound was higher or lower in elevation to the previous sound.

This and other tests pointed out to me the two main problems I have with HRTFs or binaural recordings. 1) Everyones head and ears are of different sizes so produce frequency notches and peaks at different points, which therefore affect our localisation skills of sound sources. 2) There are lots of aural blind spots with the sounds of binaural recordings, the main one for me being that sound localisation for front and back sources is difficult, some people in tests said a sound was infront while others heard the same sound at the rear.

However I made a radio play utilising a dummy head. It was a creepy scary story and from what we recorded the best sounds came from being up close to the head, I guess where there is a distinct time and level delay produced by the interference of the head.

I know the above doesn't really answer your question, but I would consider doing some research on HRTFs and using that information to what makes binaural recordings work. Maybe I've been overloaded with learning all this shit the last year that I think buying equipment might be the wrong way to go, considering we went to the extent of removing any colouration of the sound that could come from the microphones, speakers and headphones just so we could get the truest binaural response we could achieve and then I still wasn't impressed with the outcomes.

It was great fun recording with a dummy head though!

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this is very interesting @ofa, especially the part where you say you tried to duplicate/filter those frequencies to reproduce the height of the sound source. Post if you end up with something good! I was trying the same thing when I was in college but after a lot of study and research I ended up with no satisfying solution to the "height" problem of the sound source. –  Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis Aug 5 '11 at 12:12
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Another thing to consider is that most 'stealth' microphones are binaural. I mean microphones like Soundman OKM that look like innocent ear buds, especially to non-audio people. So when recording in a situation where it's key to be discrete and not being seen recording it I often take binaurals without making a specific choice to record in that format.

Also (art) installations in exhibitions / musea etc. sometimes use headphones as a sound medium.

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My opinion here (honestly) – binaural recording it is cool, but it is a stillborn (and even more - egoistical) technology. It is like a flight on the Moon, the outstanding achievement but what about results and profit?

The eventual consumer should use headphones. Right? Are the headphones good for health? (point one)

Point two: You are on the walk at the park. Suddenly, the unique animal! Hurry! Rec! No! The dummy head is a too big for the walk! I've left it at home!

Seriously, where is the sense? Technology or creation? Our lifetime is too short...

PS Sorry my English. I learn it by the use of Hollywood movies and Sydney Sheldon's books.

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I used binaural techniques in my MSC thesis to recreate the history of Crichton Castle in Scotland, we re-created the actual feel of a party that happened inside the room by recording a party piece by piece binaurally in a studio and applying an impulse response from a church built from the same bricks at the bottom of the road.

We also had a six speaker set-up in the castle and used binaural recording to document how it sounded actually within the castle.

Check out the video below!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ih6tJ-LVJQ

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Thumbs UP! cool stuff! –  Nikos Chatzigeorgiadis Aug 5 '11 at 12:13
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