SVC on Twitter    SVC on Facebook    SVC on LinkedIn

 

High Beams of Sound

According to research firm Yankelovic, it's estimated that the average adult in today's society sees up to 5,000 advertising messages a day. That seems like an outrageous number but, given the rise of digital signage and multimedia, not an impossible one. Marketers are striving to cut through the clutter and grab attention, and they've turned to advanced AV technology to achieve their goal.

According to research firm Yankelovic, it's estimated that the average adult in today's society sees up to 5,000 advertising messages a day. That seems like an outrageous number but, given the rise of digital signage and multimedia, not an impossible one. Marketers are striving to cut through the clutter and grab attention, and they've turned to advanced AV technology to achieve their goal.

For a Remy Martin outdoor campaign, what folks heard was as important as what they saw--provided they were standing in the right place.

For a Remy Martin outdoor campaign, what folks heard was as important as what they saw--provided they were standing in the right place.

Recently, French winemaker Remy Martin employed the services of New York-based technology integrator Blue Blast Media and customized marketing firm National Media Services to run an outdoor advertising campaign aimed to take the traditional billboard a step further. The unique guerilla campaign used projected images as well as directional audio using Audio Spotlights from Holosonics Research Labs of Watertown, Mass.

"We used guerrilla locations that were picked by our projection specialists for heavy pedestrian traffic," explains Eric Davis, chief operating officer for National Media Services, whose employees run these types of campaigns 50 weeks a year. "We try to avoid projecting any video from outside the vehicles. Each vehicle was outfitted with a standard projection rig of DLP projectors with contrast ratios between 4,000:1 and 6,000:1 and a generator for the power supply."

The Remy Martin campaign for the company's line of cognacs ran for a total of four weeks with projected photo montages on buildings in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta. "The addition of directional audio takes away the stealth [of a guerilla campaign], but it is one of the finest ways to get a client's message out there," Davis adds.

A Beam Of Sound

Directional audio technology uses advances that were pioneered by physicists and mathematicians for underwater sonar more than 40 years ago. It uses ultrasonic sound waves that have frequencies above 20,000 Hz and are thus above the range of audible sound. When transmitted at high power levels, these ultrasonic waves change shape and interact with each other in air through intermodulation to produce lower frequency waves that are audible.

To the listener, the output is best described as a tight beam of sound similar to the beam of light emitted from a flashlight. The concept is that sound is directed towards the specific listener's ears rather than to a wide coverage area.

The idea has given rise to competition in the directional audio marketplace. In addition to Holosonics, American Technology Corp. in San Diego created an ultrasonic audio device called HyperSonic Sound in 2002. Dakota Audio of Bismarck, N.D., is also furthering the market for directional audio devices. However, Dakota's directional arrays use traditional loudspeaker technology rather than ultrasound to direct audio to a small listening zone.

F. Joseph Pompei, founder of Holosonics, is credited as creator of the first modern ultrasonic audio device, which debuted at the 105th Audio Engineering Society Convention in 1998. Pompei also presented a paper called "The Use of Airborne Ultrasonics for Generating Audible Sound Beams" at the convention.

"The Remy Martin campaign is definitely a creative use of the technology," says Pompei, who has seen the market for the Audio Spotlight expand to museums, libraries, offices, retail displays, trade shows, and retail kiosks. "A regular loudspeaker vibrates the air and makes sound waves but the physical limitation is that it cannot create a tight beam of sound. To get around the physical limitations, we create sound indirectly using ultrasound."

The Audio Spotlight has shrunk in size and complexity since its prototype debut 10 years ago. According to Pompei, the sound panel is as familiar to run as a regular loudspeaker and will reproduce any input signal, including signals from a matrixed audio network. "The beam is as narrow as a flashlight–2 to 3 feet in diameter. Once you step outside beam, the decibel level drops by 90 percent," he says.

In the Remy Martin campaign, Audio Spotlights provided the background music aimed at passers-by on the sidewalk. Once they stepped into the finite boundaries of the sound beam and then out of it, their natural instinct was to look around to find the sound source and then notice the projected images on the building above.

"The Audio Spotlight panels were situated on the roof of the vehicle, aimed at diverging angles so there was no danger of overlap," explains JP Freeley, president of Blue Blast Media, which has also used this technique on billboards for retailer Target and cable network A&E. "Sound was coming out of a standard DVD player with an RCA input. Setup was easy because it is so obvious when the sound is on target."

Directional audio devices are not useful in large areas because, as Pompei points out, it would be like lighting up a large room with many flashlights. They also can't compete with the output of a large PA system. Audio Spotlights can be used outdoors but are not officially certified as weatherproof. "People like quiet, and marketers want to use sound in advertisements but don't want to create sound pollution. Using our technology, sound can be used more creatively," he adds.

Pompei contends that it is difficult to provide a specification for coverage distance due to the properties of ultrasound waves, but that rooftop-to-street level is "doable." Freeley adds, "The longest reach with the Remy Martin campaign was sidewalk to curbside but because of the short reach, the sound was more focused. The experience was more intense. From a 300-foot rooftop throw, the area of sound is approximately a 40- to 50-foot-wide circle; but this time it was a 15-foot throw and a 3-foot circle."

Also, by aiming the sound at individuals, the directional audio technology reduced the annoyance of other passers-by and practically eliminated any noise complaints from neighbors or building tenants. "We are in the business of preserving the quiet," says Pompei, "and more and more people are valuing quiet."

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance AV writer and a frequent contributor to Pro AV.



Browse Back Issues
BROWSE ISSUES
  December 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover November 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover October 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover September 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover August 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover July 2014 Sound & Video Contractor Cover  
December 2014 November 2014 October 2014 September 2014 August 2014 July 2014