So I want to do some follow ups on the Room To Play exhibit I had a hand in and briefly go over some of the concepts and sound design for what we eventually came up with. As a sneak peak, here’s a little loop with a few of the sounds that I’ll be discussing in the next few posts:
For more info on Room to Play and some looks into what we go up to in the workshops check out this blog post. This post is obviously from my own perspective, but a lot of other people’s work went into creating not only this exhibit but the others that went on display, so do check out who else was involved :).
But veering back on topic: the main concept for Room to Play was combining aspects of music and sound with “play” and “games”. As a sound designer in digital games you would think that a lot of the processes would be similar and easily carried over, but with Room to Play on the whole I wanted to look at the tactile side of things, how people interact with objects that generate sound and how they react to the sounds the objects made.
So with that in mind, one of the ideas for an installation was to use trampolines in some fashion.
Ya know, these things (made to look good by people with art skills!):
After a few ideas (including bouncing musicians!) the basic concept the group came up with was what would happen if a sound played when someone jumped. But we took it one step further.
Team Trampoline had an plan. That plan involved Dance Dance Revolution. Well, the dancemats anyway.
We decided on segmenting each trampoline into five areas (like you see above) and set up trigger points in each segment, a contact point attached to the trampoline itself and and another underneath on a bed of foam. Every time someone bounced on that area, the two contacts connected and BEEP! A sound! Here’s a look at our original test:
It worked! Really well! We used an iPAC as an input device that acted as a computer keyboard along with a lot of copper tape, a lot of wires and precarious maneuvering to stop everything falling to bits, and used Ableton’s Key Map ability to trigger clips in Live.
We just needed to sort out some sounds for the installation, and we had a few ideas there too. When coming up with ideas for our space someone suggested a woodland theme and basing some of the installations around that. Although this visual element didn’t persist, I ended up making a drum kit out of wood and tree samples for use with the trampolines, with each segment triggering a different part of the kit. Here’s a quick listen:
So, there are the basic elements of a drum kit in there. I fashioned a kick drum out of low wood and tree thumps along with some branch breaks, giving it the body and beater sounds respectively. The beater sound is augmented by a squeaky floor I found in a hotel. The snare is made of slightly lighter hits, with a sharper sound to make it more… snare like. I added in a second, slightly duller hit for variation purposes too! The hi-hats are leaf rustles, with the closed samples shortened with some filtering to take a bit of the high end off. They are also a few different samples in there to help with repetition issues. I added in some effects too, such as individual squeaks and more designed sounds from a wood base to bulk out the palette, although we stuck with five sounds for the trampoline.
While the kit itself works quite well on its own and in theory, in practice it didn’t go exactly to plan. When people jumped on the trampoline the kick triggered almost constantly, dominating the soundscape unless the person playing was reeeealllly accurate (pro tip: quite hard to do!) Sound wise I felt this made it a bit less playful than the other two trampolines as a constant mush of percussive hits, even if it sounded like a giant crashing through a tree, didn’t feel quite right. It still had that nice action/reaction to it though!
If you want to test it out for yourself, you can download the Ableton pack. It’s completely dry effects wise, so have fun!
Next time I’ll cover the other two sounds, the festival reactions and some of the other exhibits that people made during Room to Play :). In the meantime, here’s a sneaky video peek: