2023 Excellence in Immersive and Emerging Technology Storytelling finalist

A Cathedral of Sound

About the Project

We wanted to take readers into an immersive aural experience to understand the efforts to restore the unique acoustics of Notre Dame Cathedral, which were deeply affected by the devastating fire in 2019. The sonic landscape of the cathedral, once described by Victor Hugo as being “fraught with such benediction and such majesty, that they soothed this ailing soul” was an important element that scientists are striving to bring back to life.

Researchers, who had made detailed acoustic measurements of the cathedral in 2015, used these measurements to create a computer model that simulates the cathedral’s acoustics. This model allowed the team to understand the potential impact of proposed changes on the cathedral’s sound.

We worked with this research team and used the acoustic model to give our readers a first person visual and spatial audio experience of what different spots inside the cathedral sound like. The piece takes the reader through different parts of the cathedral and lets them hear spatially-accurate ambisonic audio that is accurately rendered based on the direction the virtual camera is pointed at as they scroll.

We wanted to interactively convey the fact that the sound they hear is not in isolation but entangled with the space itself. Incredible 3D models of the interior combined with a custom ambisonic spatial audio player that was developed in-house, helped us realize our creative vision and tell the story about sound in its most natural form.