Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Sound Control

When adding sound to any model the biggest problem is the repetitive nature of the sound created using recorded sound and the access to flexible control. Recorded sounds  repeated during a operating secession will allow operators to learn the sound patterns and creates a audible “three step” dance in the listener mind.

The type of sounds will effect how quickly this develops but the more distinctive the quicker it will occur. Background environmental sound are harder to learn like a wind sound but add a thunder clap and a pattern is quickly created. The rate that these sounds are detected are generally a function of  the uniqueness of the sound and volume not time. The worst type of sound is the human voice at any volume as we are trained to detect speech quickly. 

Can a three step be avoided? The short answer is no as perceived sound in the real world world is a combination of a series of point sounds that are mixed in our heads via the ears. In real terms sound is so dynamic that there is no way that we can replicate it but it can be simulated and if done carefully the listener can be fooled - its done on theater stages every day.

Power & Control

Power to each module will be supplied by a NCE DB3 Booster that produce 3 amps continuous power. This booster will be used to provide all power to run all the accessory bus hardware in that module. All devices will be connected to bus using a suitable stationary decoder. This allows all elements sound, building light and points to be treated as a digital address allowing all items to be controlled by any device that will connect to the DCC control bus. This allows effects such as lights, smoke generators and animations controlled by a accessory decoder and to coordinate them with sounds.

A final advantage is that power is available immediately for such items as lighting as the decoders supply of 12VDC.

Stage Set Sound Control - Philosophy

The will use a laptop running JMRI to communicate using the NMRA DCC accessory bus to provide the control platform required. 

JMRI running a time based script provides a major control element allowing any NMRA DCC accessory address to be turned on and off.  The scrip can be easily edited and a number of scripts developed that when used over any time would help randomize the specific point sound's so that any operator will not be able to predict a sequence or "three step"

The control of the specific point sound [Foley] is of course not just a time based element it is also a action based so this creates three distinct group's of sounds requiring a different control approach. The three type's of control can be loosely described as scripts as just discussed, operator action based and location based sounds.

This will be best explained by example:

Script Based Sound: Typical sounds are birds, insects and generally these can be grouped as environmental based point sounds that have nothing to do with man or his equipment at any given location. This is why a script is required to randomized specific sounds.

These sound will  require a background to be built on and a winds based theme has proven to provide such a platform. The wind file is just plain wind with the normal fluctuations but no specific sounds. A separate file can be produced to included a thunder storm for that occasional special event.

The  Pricom Dream player is the ideal tool to support this type of background track as it provides a solid state player that loops and provides four [4] separate tracks that can be selected using a stationary decoder.

Operator Based Sound: This group of sounds are based on a operator or human intervention into the environment. In our case the operation of a lever frame will create the sound of the lever and associated hardware all the way to the slap of a point. It can also be off railroad action like the sound of cattle or sheep being loaded onto or off cars in a siding and the list is limited only on the features of the layout as installed in the stage set.

Both examples have a subtle difference's as one will be operator equipment based and the other action based but both will require the operator to trigger the sound using a digitial or analogue interface on a facia

In the case of the lever and points these sounds are attached the the operation of any specific point or lever and use a DCC address to tie the sounds to the equipment. The cattle and sheep will require a push button to be placed near the unload point requiring an operator to push the button to trigger the sound associated with that action.

Location Based Sound: These sounds are created by the presence of locomotives in there operation on the railroad and examples of these are bridge rumble, flange ring etc. and  are triggered by suitable detectors located in the structure or line-side.

Flange ring is a good example of this type of sound and dose add to any railroad as it makes a strong statement and is quickly associated with movement and mass. The activation of these sound are equipment based only and requires a distinct approach.  This involves placing the player into continuous mode and the connecting the detector output to a relay with one of the speaker wires run through the normally open contact. When the locomotive trips the detector the contact closes and the sound starts and will hold while equipment is closing the detector to provide sound on demand. Bridge rumble is another sound can also be included in this category.

Foley Sound Creation

The point or foley sounds require a special type of player some are already on the market but lack flexibility and are difficult to trigger using accessory decoders. ModelFxs has created two new products to meet this specific need.

The ModelFxs Sound-Byte Sound Player allows two prerecorded modules to be fitted each storing 45 seconds of point or foley sound. This unit is fitted with a integrated NMRA compatible DCC decoder allowing single or loop playing of each specific sound and supports 4 sets of distinct address and can trigger a almost unlimited number of player using the MFx control bus integrated into each player. Each sound has it own 1 watt amplifier also integrated into the board to allow more that adequate sound control.

Sound-Byte Player pre production sample

The ModelFxs Sound-Slave  is the stand alone player that takes a single pre-recorded chip and also has a intergrated 1 watt amplifier and a MFx bus. The MFx bus as the name sudjest allow it to be slaved to a digitial address.

Sound Slave pre-poduction sample

The final item that set these apart is that the sound modules [Sound-Blocks] are user recordable using a ModelFXs Sound-Recorder and will capture any sound that can be heard in a device earpeice.

These are due for release soon - end of add for ModelFXs.

Now a very dynamic and flexible environment exists that can as much as possible avoid the “three step” because the mix of sound will be different every time a locomotive is driven onto the stage or when a operator has to preform an action or just because the script has triggered a sound.

What is acheived by this arrangement is that a sound track is created not compiled so it is totaly dynamic and created on the fly and in truth never the same at any given time. The fact is a operator assembles the sounds in his head as in the real world.

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