PSYCHO!

psychoacoustics

And by “psycho,” I mean acoustics, of course! Not ringing a bell? It should; psychoacoustics has extreme importance when it comes to studying and pursuing a career in the audiovisual industry, specifically in the discipline of audio. (It can be applied to video too — that’s for another day.) For those who have already been versed in this level of audio nerd status, read on my fellow friends. You audiophiles, see if you agree with my context; I hope we can evolve this conversation.

Let’s begin by discussing the idea of “good” sound. How do you quantify what sounds good? Do you have scientifically measurable data sets and plottable points? What are the hardware defects and assets? How do we then factor in human perception? Are there measurable parameters? What are the collective human defects and assets? Lastly, how and why does perception change when accurate and detailed frequencies can be reproduced and accurately measured? It’s challenging to say the least.

This really is when the rubber hits the road in AV and we encounter one of the many precipices of science and art colliding. For me, psychoacoustics keeps the mystery alive in audio design (but the quest is always on to find ways of leveling up my experience and truly understanding this in practice). Before I jump off on this, let me clear up any confusion of the term “psychoacoustics” by giving you the basic definition according to Wikipedia:

“Psychoacoustics is the branch of psychophysics involving the scientific study of sound perception and audiology—how humans perceive various sounds. More specifically, it is the branch of science studying the psychological responses associated with sound (including noise, speech, and music). Psychoacoustics is an interdisciplinary field of many areas, including psychology, acoustics, electronic engineering, physics, biology, physiology, and computer science.”

And here you thought you could escape art and science in AV — nope!

To me, psychoacoustics is so relevant right now because it’s the great quantifier of why AV. It even offers an argument about converging, transporting, consolidating, and possibly simplifying…? on a modern IT infrastructure — AV, by no means, is IT.

Said it. Wrote it. Mean it.

But first, as a Canadian, I must say sorry to my fellow rAVe writer Scott Tiner, who has written about how AV is IT. Go with me here, eh Scott? This conversation may offer a new perspective.

Audio is one of the great playgrounds of intuition, feeling and unquantifiable perception. Sound can give people chills. It can transport people to a different time and space. It can change the tone or mood of a room; it can elicit a visceral response from anyone and everyone from any and every background. Its magic can create and bring back memories, places and eras of life!

IT, by contrast, is information moving from one point to another point. It’s based around black boxes with processors and the inherent cabling that does the unspoken work behind its magic. It’s comprised of various transport protocols and programming languages based around a system of ones and zeros or on-and-off data sets. There’s definitely no perception to any of this in practice. The code works or it doesn’t. The switches, servers and routers work or they don’t. Someone’s feelings or interpretations do not alter the logic of any of this. The digital domain of IT is solely that — a digital domain (information, accuracy, quality and speed).

So, when an assertion is made that “AV is IT,” psychoacoustics is here to remind us that it simply isn’t. AV is everything that happens before and after IT. It lives in the realm of perception and feeling with a healthy sprinkling of human interpretation. AV can drive people to cry, laugh, mosh, scream, jump and yes, dance! Let’s face it, not too many people — outside of programmers, of course – can say that happens when the ones and zeros successfully pass through some fiber and copper to the black boxes. Keep the champagne iced and move the code from the beta team.

Audiovisual keeps it real. It’s the greatest tool to communicate, navigate and connect. It’s creating a plot in time and history that can be brought back and recreate a feeling within someone that’s palatable. With all that said, yes, IT, we love you. We use your super highways and clog up your packets with our demanding needs. We challenge you to push harder and we are increasingly dependant on the logic and accuracy of your language. But, we are not you, and you are not us; we are just partners in this journey.