Sound Immersion: Falcon Heavy Launch to Binaural Recording
August 22, 2018 12:15 AM   Subscribe

There have been several posts/comments about Elon Musk’s Falcon Heavy rocket launch from a technological and economic point of view. My interest is sound. This video is about as close as one will come to actually being at the launch and does not merely have a stereo like sound, but instead, is a full immersion sound experience. Sound Traveler posted this wonderful soundscape and video of the launch. Should be of interest to sound junkies as well as photographers. This video had the added benefit of piquing my interest in binaural or sound immersion recordings to wit.

Full immersion has been around for a while with field recorders chronicling outdoor environments. But the trend is now slowly gaining some steam with hobbyists becoming increasingly interested in everyday soundscapes. The basic principle is binaural audio immersion recording with specific techniques and equipment to ensure immersion and not a mere stereo effect. Equipment ranges from the absurdly simple to the highly advanced.

To listen, for proper effect, headphones are a must.

More sample video and recordings can be found on You Tube and by searching Google.

Sound Traveler also has a channel where they post/explore other soundscapes provided by various contributors.
posted by WinstonJulia (9 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting post. I was only slightly disappointed that it's not strictly required to use the dummy head setup to record this kind of audio. I'm guessing the recorder in the video would have gotten a lot more odd looks then...
posted by Harald74 at 4:54 AM on August 22, 2018

Have never managed to attend a launch but the comments on spacex forums are that the deep rumble is an amazing part of the experience.
posted by sammyo at 4:58 AM on August 22, 2018

I grew up in central Florida and am intimately familiar with the deep intense body- and ground-shaking noise of the Saturn V and shuttle launches. I'm curious how this recording will stand up to those experiences, but I'll have to wait until after work to listen.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:09 AM on August 22, 2018

I put on my big noise-canceling headphones here in the office for this. It gave me chills. The rumble on launch and the sonic booms on landing just did it for me.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:36 AM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I never got to watch a shuttle launch, but I remember watching Saturn V launches from the beach miles away as a kid and feeling the ground rumble as the rocket rose on the horizon. Awesome in the most literal sense.
posted by fogovonslack at 9:37 AM on August 22, 2018

I was there! An ace away from getting to be on top of the VAB too.

The experience was truly sublime. The deep notes and sort of full-spectrum roar that develops are just body-shaking, and I was quite a ways off. My recording isn't nearly as good, of course, and you have to be there to experience the full-body rumble, like at a live show or during an earthquake.

The sonic booms really startled me — I was much closer to the landing site than these guys, and was filming the first stages coming down. They appeared incredibly suddenly to me, and I had the impression of UFOs and an understanding of how something so unusual as these ships coming down out of space at supersonic speeds could make someone believe they were from another world. The booms were almost simultaneous and made me jostle the camera, so we couldn't use the shot!

Since then I've been telling anyone who asks that they absolutely should see a major launch if they can. It's very different being on location for a number of reasons - a bit like being in the path of totality of an eclipse. I can see how both can be addictive.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:03 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I mean, unless you have surround headphones what you're getting over headphones is in stereo no matter what . . .
posted by aspersioncast at 8:34 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you're into these things, years ago Bob Katz recorded a shuttle launch.
Four microphones and two independent hard disc recorders at 24 bits, 96 kHz were used, which were sync’d up later to produce a fantastic surround recording. Two spaced omnis at 6 foot left and right distance were DPA 4041s, and on the same stands, “synchronous” Sennheiser MKH-30 figure 8’s. When decoded via dual MS decoders to surround, the outdoor enthusiastic audience should subtend an angle from about 45 degrees left or right all the way around and behind the listener, with the NASA announcements to the right and behind you. The shuttle liftoff commands stage front center, but with doppler waves and echos throughout the front soundstage and distant echoes behind you and the audience largely behnd you. Playing this back in surround is a true “environmental experience.”
posted by mikelieman at 8:43 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Over headphones, I found this recording to be an exercise tolerating the noisy photographers. Why are "shutter releases" even still making sound?

Back in my taping days, I'd haul around an AKG KM-212 studio boom. Over 20 pounds without the counterweight but it did go to over 12 feet easy, which would have gotten the mics far from the noise. Yeah, I get the binaural experience, but my friends would just stick a nerf football on the mic stand and use that for the "head" spacing. Then they could go party, and the stereo image would be static.
posted by mikelieman at 9:06 PM on August 23, 2018

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