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Perfecting Synthetic Sounds For Animated Worlds

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Synthetic sounds

Why break it just for the noise?

OJO Images / Plainpicture

If computers can generate the imagery in animated movies like Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me, why can't they also generate the sound effects to go with them? Adding sound effects to an animation is still no different to dubbing it onto filmed footage: someone has to record the sound of a glass smashing, say, or trudge through a tray of gravel to mimic footfalls, then sync the noise with the action.

It's an additional drudge that technology may soon eradicate, or so delegates to SIGGRAPH, the annual computer graphics conference, will hear in Los Angeles this week. Two teams of U.S.-based computer modellers will unveil acoustically enabled animation software that can compute sound effects by harnessing the same physics used to render the animations.

Automating the generation of sound effects should make it cheaper to produce video games, ads, and movies. "This is liberating because it will free the sound designers' human talents to concentrate on more important, focal sounds," says Andy Farnell, an independent specialist in digital sound synthesis in Bournemouth, U.K.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hengchin Yeh, William Moss, and colleagues have built a system to synthesise sounds associated with liquids flowing or splashing. When water is poured into a glass...

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