Meet Annabell: Audio below:
All links to purchase peaces for this project are at the bottom of this post.
I first heard a Binaural recording on a BCT podcast created by Neal Ewers back in 2007. From that moment I was fasinated and had to get my hands on a pare of in-ear Binaural mics. To me, Binaural recording is the most realistic method of capturing audio, the way the human ears hear it. Not only do you hear stereo, what is to the left or right, but much more defined than standard stereo recording. You can hear the smallest of movements, the immage is also much wider, more spacial. You can also hear if the source being recorded is above or below the warer of the microphones. On top of all of this if the condissions are right you can hear a source positioned behind the warer of the microphones.
Why a dummy head instead of you just waring the mics?
Several things come into play here. Remember that audio recorded in Binaural is a very life like audio capture. I didn’t realize many of these things until I started recording with the use of the Binaural in-ear technique. In real life, in real time I believe our brains acomidate for these things, but when we’re listening back to a recording they are noticeable.
If you turn your head the audio spins, if you breathe and a semi quiet recording, you hear it back strongly on the recording, when you talk your voice is muffled.
On the other end, and this is a bit wild, we really haven’t heard ourselves from someone elses prospective, in less, we have a friend or family member waring the in-ear microphones, and then you hear them breathing and the other things I mentioned above.
Probably 10 to 15 years ago I started truly researching Binaural audio and discovered that before in-ear microphones were regularly available binaural was captured from a dummy head. My mind thought of a million new ways which I could use Binaural audio, if I myself wasn’t the one waring the mics. In research of dummy heads I found then, and now, that they are very costly between $300-500 without microphones and considerably more with mics. I went to Guitar Center and had my Fianci record me as she wore my in-ear Binaural mics. I had not heard myself from her prospective playing that guitar before. It sounded much different than it does while I am holding the guitar recording with in-ear mics. Much Clearer! I was amazed.
how could I build my own Binaural rig?
I started researching several months ago and found that Amazon cells dummy heads for manicans to display wigs. In further research I found that the best ears may be made of cilicone and that with motifications one could create a Binaural recording dummy head which is much less costly.
I texted my dad a few weekends ago after watching a DIY youtube video and asked if he would be interested in assisting in making the motifications to the head in the video and shipping it out to me. In the video the creator was using a styrophone head, which he had to drill in the ears to place earbud style roland mics. Dad agreed and in some further research, found a head on Amazon with pronounced ears that come off the side of the head as human ears do.
The head is filled with PVC. In research I found that they use PVC in baffles for studios, so I gave dad the green light to give it a try. There were two models of the head from the brand we were looking at that we chose, the female 20 inches, the male 21 inches. The female had the more pronounced ears. In testing we settled with the female, and that’s how the Annabell project began. The only motification dad had to make to the head from stock, was to drill both ear canals a bit deeper for the earbud tips of the Sennheiser AMBEO Smart Headset to fit in. He used a half inch whole bit which creates a perfect hole, instead of a drill bit, and drilled in 1/4th inch at an angle towards the front of the head mimicking the human ear canal. Because the ears come off the head as human ears do, this also acomidates for the over ear hooks of these mics.
I heard multiple test recordings from Annabell. The Before drill, which was incredible as far as the stereo immage left to right, but lacked the third demention. After drilling, it sounds like Annabell is a live human waring the mics and recording. It is breath taking!
Annabell on a pedestal:
To keep the likeness of life she needs a tripod. Of course to display wigs, they have tripods. I got one that allows me to raise her position, from sitting level to standing which will of course change the height perseption in the recordings. The tripod comes pre-built. There are a few attachments. For Annabells mount below her neck, you will easily find the attachment that feels like a screw driver handle. This is what fits inside of the mount/hole below her neck, the other end feels like a small microphone metal grill. This grill should be inserted from the bottom of the ring that is in the packaging down into the poll of the tripod, so that the screw driver handle is in your hand pointing up, and the metal grill feeling peace is pointed down. The metal grill peace is what allows her head to tilt etc on the tripod. Mount this peace and get it stable alined the way you want it, and then place the head on and it will be a tight fit/click into place. Her tripod is mounted to a tripod dolly. This puts her on casters, making it quite easy to spin her around.
Annabell, will you hold my phone please?
On her tripod I have the, Crescendo CR-30 SlimClip Mic Stand Phone Holder which will mount an IPhone on the tripod in an otterbox just fine. It also comes with built-in rubberbands on all four corners to keep the device locked in place. You can use the touch screen easily. The tripod comes with a phone clip but it doesn’t open wide and feels flemzy.
So this of course begs the question for users of Voiceover, how can we hear speech while the mics are in Annabells ears? Probably not very easily. It’s doable in a quiet space, but if things are loud forget about it. Because they should be plugged in before Voice memos or another recording app is launched we may be at a loss here. The speed dots screen protector may assist us especially if we have the app in our doc, and even more especially, if recording launches on app startup like it may in Recup. Because one of my fasinations is to Multi-track music in binaural using an iOS device is at least at this time with iOS audio limitations not doable. So, what to do about it.
The Sinheizer Ambio Smart Headset can of course be connected over USB C, to Android or even Windows 10/11 via the Anker USB-C to Lightning Audio Adapter. I thought about using my laptop to run Annabell into, but what concerned me were devices connected to her off to her side or sides. There’s also the laptop fan noise, and sound bouncing off of the laptop if it’s close If I am moving around her for positioning, especially if I have headphones on, that is two cables already. Headphones attached to me, computer attached to her. Things are going to get tangled, she is bound to fall. She is on a tripod, what is she going to fall into that I’m not even thinking about, and what damage will she also endure.
I’ve searched for a mini PC for a couple years now, all of them with touch screens are quite more expensive than the latter mentioned here. I didn’t know this, MeLE Quieter3C Fanless Mini PC existed. It is just about the same size as an old IPod clasic, or, just bigger than a passport external HD. It doesn’t have a screen. It doesn’t have a battery. It does have two USB C ports, one for powering the mini PC, the other for data and power out to another device. It also has Wifi6, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5, 8 GB of ram, a truly decent speed processer, 256 GB internal storage, a headset 3.5 audio jack, 3 USB A ports and HDMI. The main point I’m getting to though is, that it also fits into the phone clip mentioned above, and on the tripod, becomes the brain/recorder for Annabell. Pare this with a wireless keyboard, and the evatronic Laptop Power Bank, 20000mAh 60W PD 3.0 Portable Charger, along side the, SCOSCHE FMT4R battery powered FM Transmitter, and the worries above go away. I don’t have anything tighing myself to Annabell and she and I are truly mobile. I’m running JAWS and Reaper on the MeLE Quieter3C Fanless Mini PC. I’ve got her audio going in, and JAWS and Reaper audio coming out via FM into my talking book player. I just have to nudge items back in reaper by four and everything is lined up. Reviews on Amazon state the PC gets hot, and therefor will slowdown the processer to cool down. Only time will tell, but one major thing I have noticed is running wireless radios cause the mini PC to heat up a noticeable amount. Turn them off and it cools down within 5 minutes. It is a pretty speedy computer for the recording job at hand.
What does the Annabell project look like?
The tripod has three legs to keep her up right.
Moving up the tripod you have the mount with one small boxe coming off of it in the front. This is the mini PC. Attached to the mini PC are three cables. USBC for power which connects to her battery, this can be placed on the floor under the tripod. Next to the Ethernet port. Audio 8th inch which has the small lightweight FM transmitter hanging off, USB C to lightning connected to the mics, which go up the tripod into Annabells ears.
Annabell, is very detailed, the texture of her feels like a softer soccer ball. She is very light she will not make the tripod heavy She has a head, face and neck. In the bass of her neck is where she mounts to the tripod.
All right, so we’ve talked about a lot here. Lets talk pricing. If you are just looking for Annabell, which is of course, the dummy head, the Crescendo CR-30 SlimClip Mic Stand Phone Holder, and Wig Stand tripod, and you already have the mics, you’re looking at around $100. If you don’t have the mics, or want another pare for this project they are celling for $50 on Amazon. I realize I may be a bit out of the norm here with the fasination of multi-tracking music in binaural audio, so I don’t expect many would need the MeLE Quieter3C Fanless Mini PC and evatronic Laptop Power Bank setup. The price listed above for the DIY Annabell dummy head project without the PC and battery are quite a bit cheeper than $300-500.
Here are audio examples recorded from Annabells prospective.
Multi tracking, binaural music test
The trash bag test
Gas fireplace shut down sequence
Running a winter bath.
Please see all project links below via Amazon.
Amazon.com: Crescendo CR-30 SlimClip Mic Stand Phone Holder, iPhone Clamp Mount, Pole Phone Mount, Microphone, Music, or Drum Stand – for iPhone, Samsung
Amazon.com : Sinheizer Ambio Smart Headset
Amazon.com: HAIRWAY Bald Mannequin Head Female Professional Cosmetology Head Make up Doll Head for Wig Making, Displaying , Eyeglasses, Hair with T-pins
Amazon.com: Wig Stand Tripod Wig Head Stand Adjustable Mannequin Head Stand for Canvas Block Head,Styling Wigs Hair Extensions,Wig Display,Cosmetology
Neewer Photography Professional Heavy Duty Tripod Dolly with Rubber Wheels and Adjustable Leg Mounts for Canon Nikon Sony DSLR Cameras Camcorder Photo Video Lighting https://a.co/d/1NAzNRY
Amazon.com: MeLE Quieter3C Fanless Mini PC Windows 11 Pro Celeron N5105 8GB 256GB Micro Computer with Full Function Type C Small Desktop WiFi6 Ethernet
Amazon.com: evatronic Laptop Power Bank, 20000mAh 60W PD 3.0 Portable Charger, USB C Fast Charging External Battery Pack for MacBook, Dell, iPad Pro, iPhone
Amazon.com: SCOSCHE FMT4R FM Transmitter with 20 Frequency Selections : Cell Phones & Accessories
Amazon.com: Anker USB-C to Lightning Audio Adapter (Audio Only, Does Not Support Charging) : Electronics