Field Expedition

Capturing immersive nature audio with custom microphone arrays.

Take a moment to listen to a natural environment and you will quickly notice how sounds surround you from all directions.  A robin calls from your left, a distant stream flows to your right, from behind the wind picks up and passes overhead.  How can these sounds be recorded so the immersive qualities are reproducible in the built environment?

We had a chance to address this question through our continued work with Habitat Soundscaping.  Habitat is a unique audio system created by that brings the immersive sounds of nature into open office floor plans.  Introducing nature sounds into work environments reduces unwanted office noise and increases focus.   For this project, our goal was to create an immersive, authentic representation of nature by recording sounds in the field. We scouted a pristine natural environment and deployed a custom designed microphone array to gather audio for Habitat’s overhead speaker system.

Site: Opal Creek Wilderness

The chosen location was Opal Creek, an ancient old growth forest in Oregon with backcountry off-grid cabins that are only publicly accessible on foot.  Far from industrial and human-made noise, this site was chosen for its remoteness and for its rich acoustic environment of forest life and flowing water sounds.

Forest Floor Grid Microphone Array

Using a portable field recording rig, we staked sensitive microphones in a grid formation over a 2500 sqft area in the forest.  These microphones were setup before sunrise to capture a dawn chorus of birds, as well as the sound of wind as it moved through the trees.  A rare summer rain was also recorded using this unique immersive microphone setup.

Stream Bed Linear Microphone Array

To capture realistic water flow recordings, multiple microphones were positioned in a linear sequence along a creek bed.  Each microphone picked up a different acoustic aspect of the flowing water. 

Immersive Playback in the Built Environment

Playing back the microphone grid recordings over a similarly spaced grid of speakers resulted in an incredibly realistic immersive audio experience.   Similarly, the linear stream recordings could be positioned to recreate the sounds of a meandering stream winding its way across a floor plan. The final result literally transferred the spatial sounds of nature into the office environment.  The soothing and refreshing sounds of the outdoors are carried indoors in an immersive and authentic way.