06 March

Beck Binaural Head

A few weeks back, Legacy got a call from @radical.media to do a “super secret” project with musician Beck, and Lincoln automobiles. We immediately thought, “Please let this be a sequel to the song Sex Laws involving over-amorous automobiles”. While sadly, this was not the case, it actually turned out to be a much cooler, albeit slightly out of the ordinary, project for the Legacy crew. This is Hello Again.


What is the one thing you as a spectator are most deprived of when viewing a concert on television or the internet?  The immersion, intensity and freedom of 360° viewing and sound.  As great as it is to see a recorded concert, you just don’t get the true feeling of the performance unless you are actually there.  Hello, Again is a re-imagining of David Bowie’s classic, Sound and Vision, by critically acclaimed musician, Beck.  This rendition is not meant to be just a rehashed cover of a popular song, however. Director Chris Milk, Beck and Lincoln automobiles, set forth to create the future of sound and recording technology, allowing online viewers an entirely new sensory-immersive experience.  With a little help from Legacy Effects, that is.  Meet the “Binaural Head”.



1 of 3 final binaural heads used in capturing the sound of Beck’s 360° performance.

The old adage, “Form Follows Function” completely fit this unusual project.  Legacy was commissioned to create the functional and artistic housing for this new binaural head. Our design needed to fit around the technology developed for 360° sound recording, while allowing the microphones inside the head to mimic what the human ear picks up.  Not to mention that the design needed to be visually appealing to look at as well.  We explored a few different designs, one of those being a totem-like interpretation.  As awesome as that design would have looked, it was imperative to the director that all the “ears” be on the same plane. This allowed the head to gather the sound in and authentic humanlike way.  Our designers quickly got to work on a new concept; and a mere 34 designs later, a four-faced head with eyes replaced by anatomically correct ears was the chosen design.  This design offers a realistic placement of four sets of human ears facing and picking up sound from four different directions,  creating a piece that is visually stimulating–in a Salvador Dali kind of way.



An early “first draft” print of the head (not final design). Built on the MakerBot Replicator 2




Rapid prototyped head sample, sans ears.

The head itself was designed using digital 3D modeling software, allowing the faces to be perfectly symmetrical on all sides.  Once approved, the digital 3D model is sent to a rapid prototyping machine that creates an actual physical copy of the part which previously existed only in cyberspace.  Once the prototype is cleaned, sanded and polished, it is molded, and cast in a sturdy resin.   The ears, which each house a specially chosen microphone, are cast in lifelike silicone and then are added to the painted head.



The table is listening.



Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your…. ehh, too easy.

Binaural Sound, famous in the 1960’s by the Nuemann Head, was revolutionary for its time and has been evolving and progressing ever since.  Although this type of recording is not new, the technology is always progressing and therefore needs to be updated to keep in step with the times.  Jeff, of  3Dio, has been working on this technology for years and supplied us with replica ears that he developed and uses in his recordings. In order to reproduce Jeff’s ideal ear to fit within our head, we scanned and manipulated Jeff’s ear sample, and then 3D printed or “grew” them, to allow a perfect fit into our design.  The ears were then molded and cast in a special silicone that virtually replicates human skin.  This results in more human-like recordings by allowing the sound to bounce and reverberate around the silicone and into the canal, just like an actual human ear.



A personal message from Beck



On set and ready to rock!

On set and ready to rock!



Live show still with our binaural head center stage as Beck’s main recording mic.




Not only was this incredible performance designed to be heard in a full 360°, it was also designed to be viewed that way.   The team at 360 Hero was responsible for the visual immersion of this 360° experience.  All in all, they provided 18 cameras used to capture the performance from all angles, along with our 3 Binaural Heads that capture all the sound of a more than 160 musical accompaniments to Beck’s rendition of Sound and Vision.  This is truly an exciting experience, and one Legacy will always be fond of and grateful to be a part of.  The performance is viewable now on Lincoln’s website, as a fully sensory-immersive event, allowing you to control what you see and how you hear it with this newly adapted technology.  It is truly destined to be the epitome of sound and vision.  We hope you take pleasure in what you see and hear, and enjoy the experience just as much as we enjoyed working on it.

View the complete immersion experience here and be sure to experience it with a head set on.  Also be sure to check out the write up in WIRED here and a Director, Chris Milk’s Gizmodo interview here.