South Fork Snoqualmie River, Washington

Walk Date: October, 2022

This is going to be a slightly different and relatively technical post – if you want to try out my new type of gallery with 360 audio, feel free to scroll past to the bottom and enjoy!

I have been experimenting with Ambisonics – audio that is recorded in 360 degrees meaning that the recording contains spatial information. For VR this means that the audio is able to be positioned in space, meaning that a sound source appears to come from a particular location, and when you move your head, the source of sounds will move along with the rest of the scene. In the gallery today, for example, a river can be heard in front of you and to the right, and if you turn your head towards the river the sound of the river will appear to now come from in front of you.

I use ambisonics when recording VR180 videos, and YouTube does a great job of just enabling this out of the box. Since starting this gallery, I wanted to use ambisonic audio along with single images to create one-off scenes. My aim, right at the beginning, for what I wanted to create in VR was peaceful and relaxing experiences – and I believe audio will help increase immersion, even for a VR photograph. Integrating ambisonics has been a little more complicated for this site than simply uploading a file (as was the case with YouTube), but I finally have an immersive, ambisonic, VR experience to share!

As a slight aside, the practicality of recording this threw up some interesting factors. I guess I had never really stopped to think about how I experience sound, but in the case of this trip, while looking at the river in front of me, the sound actually was strongest to the left. I instinctively angled the microphone so it would sound as though the river was in front, before realising that actually, it was natural for it to sound off to the side as that’s where the current was strongest. (I took a number of photos and recordings at this location, so the one in this gallery is not what I am describing here.) In the end, I angled the microphone and took photos directly above it, so the sounds you hear are the exact sounds from this position. An additional benefit of ambisonics recording is that there were sounds from multiple angles, a smaller pooling brook of water was to the left, with some noises from the forest further left. The river ran over fairly large stones which you can hear dislodging beneath the surface to the right.

In the gallery below you will first see a title card giving the location – and a reminder that a good pair of headphones and a VR headset will be the best possible way to experience this (although the affect should work even from a mobile’s speakers)! Once you click, tap, or use VR controls to get to the next image, the audio will begin and no more interaction is needed as this is a single “scene”.

I would love to hear comments below if people find this relaxing or enjoy this style – or if there is anything about it that doesn’t work for you. I have other scenes that I am going to create including one from Snoqualmie Falls (which was featured in my last regular post). I set the audio level relatively low, so this can be turned up in headphones, but I can tweak settings easily!

I hope you enjoy:

VR Ambisonics Experience – South Fork Snoqualmie River

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