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Virtual Crashes and Clatters Get Real

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Synthesising clatter. Computer generated objects get computer generated sounds

Doug James / Cornell

The clatter of a dropped trash can and the crash of a cymbal – both easily recognisable sounds.

That's why computer games or CGI movies that feature such noises use samples recorded from life, not generated by software as the graphics have been. It would take weeks of intense computing to synthesise the sound of a single cymbal clash.

New methods developed at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, change that and could make objects in games and movies sound more like those in real life.

The sounds the new method targets are those made by "thin shells": objects like clashing cymbals or falling plastic bottles, whose thickness is much smaller than their other dimensions.

They typically produce loud sounds – think of hail falling on a tin roof – because the thin shell readily vibrates and radiates sound into the surrounding space. But they defy the acoustic computer models normally used to reproduce virtual sounds in games and films, says Doug James at Cornell.

James's team will present their work at the Siggraph Asia conference in Yokohama, Japan, in December.

From New Scientist
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