Urban Soundscapes of the World
The Urban Soundscapes of the World database currently contains about 130 high-quality audiovisual recordings performed within 9 cities worldwide. The csv and json files contain the recording locations.
Each recording consists of a 360-degree video file (4096 x 2048 resolution, 30 fps), a 4-channel first-order ambisonics (ACN/SN3D) audio file and/or a binaural audio file. All audio files have a sample rate of 48 kHz and are 24-bit PCM encoded. All audio and video files are time-synchronized.
Recordings are made during the day, in favorable weather conditions with little to no wind. Note that the recordings always present a snapshot in time. Combined and simultaneous audio and video recordings are performed using a portable, stationary recording setup as shown on the picture. The setup consists of the following components (from top to bottom):
- First order ambisonics: Core Sound TetraMic with windshield and Tascam DR-680 MkII 4-channel recording device;
- 360-degree video camera: GoPro Omni spherical camera system (only available upon request).
- Binaural audio: HEAD acoustics HSU III.2 artificial head with windshield and SQobold 2-channel recording device;
The ears of the artificial head, the video camera system and the ambisonics microphone are located at heights of about 1.5m, 1.7m and 1.9m, respectively. At each location, the recording system is oriented towards the most important sound source and/or the most prominent visual scene—this orientation defines the initial frontal viewing direction for the 360-degree video and ambisonics recordings, and the fixed orientation for the binaural recordings.
All audio files are calibrated to the same reference, so once you have your playback setup calibrated, it can be used to play all files. The csv and json file contains the one-minute LAeq values of the binaural recordings (average of left and right channel and left and right channels separately). These values are the most representative for the LAeq at the location. The second column presents the LAeq of the mono mix (superposition) of both left and right channels of the binaural recording. Note that this is not necessarily the same as the (energetic) average of the LAeq's of both left and right channels separately, because both channels are to some degree correlated (depending on the diffuseness of the sound field). This explains why the (energetic) average of the third and fourth column will not always exactly correspond to the value in the second column, but the difference is usually small. Roughly speaking, the larger the difference, the more the sound at both ears is correlated.
More details on the recording setup and protocol can be found in our publications. Note that some publications contain LAeq values that were calculated from the ambisonics recordings (W channel). There is not really a standard way of calculating LAeq values from ambisonics recordings, so these are maybe less suitable to use in most cases.
Cities comprise of many types of outdoor spaces, each with their distinct soundscape. These soundscapes contribute to the quality of those spaces, and eventually identify cities and communities. Over the past decades, awareness of the transience and the heritage value of urban soundscapes has risen, and more and more efforts are spent to record and catalog urban soundscapes for research and posterity. In this light, soundscape data collection methods have even become a subject of standardization efforts within the ISO 12913 series of standards.
Ambient sounds evoke thoughts and emotions, may have associated meanings, influence moods or steer behaviour, and impact upon the ease of communication, as well as upon comfort and health. Urban outdoor spaces that have a fitting soundscape therefore contribute to the well-being of inhabitants and visitors.
The challenge of designing urban acoustic environments has attracted sporadic attention since long. During the past decade, research interest in this field has risen considerably, driven by the advent of realistic and affordable immersive audio-visual reproduction systems, and backed by increasingly efficient and realistic acoustic simulation and auralization models. However, architects and designers still commonly work by example.
A main goal of the Urban Soundscapes of the World project is to create a reference database of examples of urban acoustic environments, consisting of high-quality immersive audiovisual recordings (360-degree video and spatial audio), in adherence to ISO 12913-2. Ultimately, this database may set the scope for immersive recording and reproducing urban acoustic environments with soundscape in mind.
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- Head Genuit Stiftung