Taking Ambisonics into Theatre

Today I was involved in a collaboration between a local theatre company (Tinderbox) and my department at SARC. There are a few Sonic Arts people involved and we’re working with writers to create four scenes/plays that will make use of the Sonic Lab we have here. The challenge is to avoid just doing a radio play (or acoustmatic composition) and find where theatre and sonic arts can meet.

It was great to work with people outside my own (rather technical) field and move into something with a more creative, collaborative dimension. Trying to translate ideas from the writers into a sonic representation and arc is something I’ve never had to do but I’m up for the challenge.

The interesting thing for me is getting to use all sorts of techniques (including Ambisonics) in a practical situation and seeing where they fail and where they excel. For example, it’s already becoming clear that there are certain things Ambisonics isn’t great for on our 3D loudspeaker layout (a lot of sounds appear much more elevated than I’d like). There are other things that work really well, like ambience and atmosphere.

The challenge is to push what we can do technically and still convey the emotional message in each of the plays.

I’ll try to blog as much as possible about the technical considerations we come up against, especially in regards to Ambisonics. If anyone has any tips on what to try and what to avoid with Ambisonics in a theatrical context then please get in touch!

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