Like Photographers

Consumer camera technology has evolved, but where are we with sound?

Many technological advancements have allowed us all to feel like photographers. The detail capable with the lens on the iPhone 6. The filters on Instagram that lend the images of our lives various qualities and emphases, in turn radiant, humorous, nostalgic. The fact that Twitter, Vine, Periscope, and Meerkat all natively support high resolution video while supporting only low quality mono audio. With such abundant visual innovation, it’s unsurprising that we as consumers approach our experiences, at first, optically.

A Filter For That

Although Apple has added microphones (now 3 in total) to their latest phones, the quality of audio recordings has remained the same.

The iPhone’s camera quality has evolved greatly over time. The iPhone’s microphone quality has not.

As the camera improved, users grew accustomed to features previously available only on professional camera equipment. Apple integrated these features: auto focus, brightness control, a better macro lens for shallow depth of field shots. The lines between professional control and consumer technology began to blend and regular consumers started getting creative with photography on their phones.

If the microphone had evolved alongside the lens, iPhone consumers would have demanded better sound. They would have demanded the same control and creativity that they did with optical quality.

Brightness adjustment? Well that’s mic sensitivity. Auto focus? That’s microphone polarity pick up pattern. Shallow depth of field shots? That’s compression. There is a sonic equivalent to every control we have on cameras. Consumers just don’t know it yet. The present state of consumer microphone technology is the equivalent of having no zoom lens, no brightness adjustment, no auto focus, no filters, and no video capabilities on our smartphones. We want everything and have little to nothing to work with.

Look at how incredibly different a freaking tree can look depending on the filter. Imagine doing this to a sound.

Loud concert? There can be a filter for that. Wind noise? There can be a filter for that. Want to sound like oscar the grouch? There can be a filter for that, too. Technical features on digital cameras have inspired creativity and a variety of different aesthetics at the consumer level. Let’s inspire different sound aesthetics at the consumer level!

Filmmakers and photography professionals are very active on social media. Sound professionals are not.

Why is it so common for sound professionals to be inactive or shy on the internet? They stick to their forums and email lists. They care so much about sound and complain often about how little the world seems to care about sound. But I don’t see any action being made. What steps are being made toward putting sound control in the hands of consumers? Into the hands of the people that matter and care about it?

Sound recording right now is a labor intensive task. Cables, adapters, microphones, shock mounts, windscreens, SD cards, computers, software. It’s very hard for a sound professional to upload high quality audio to the internet without the help of all these tools, let alone your average consumer.

What we need is a microphone that easily integrates with social media. Something that makes it easier just like the iPhone camera made it easier for everyone to look like an adequate photographer.

Our minds are programmed to look for sights. Not listen for sounds.

Sight is one of the most important senses, fighting for first place with sound. It’s hard to tell if we see things or hear them first, but when you think of things, do you usually picture how it looks or how it sounds? We look visually for signs of safety and comfort all around us, and take visual queues to determine what can be good or bad. But the same is said for sound–just like we have visual queues, there are audio ones as well. Communication is vital to survival because we listen for particular changes in volume, pitch, ferocity in voices and sounds. Our brain is trained to rely on these notes, and that is how we can determine feelings and emotions as well.

Last month, a friend of mine went backpacking through Europe. I gave him one of our Hooke Verse prototypes  and said “don’t just look for great shots, listen for great shots”.

When he returned to the states I asked him about what he had experienced. He told me that in the beginning weeks of his travels, he was only looking for sights to capture — churches, monuments, landscapes, etc. But with a product like the Hooke Verse at his fingertips, he began to seek out interesting sound moments to capture in binaural 3D Audio.

All it took was giving him the same control over the smartphone mic that he’s come to have with the smartphone camera.

We at Hooke want to make the experience of capturing sonic imagery as seamless and consumer friendly as capturing visual imagery. And we’re well on our way. To hear even one friend, a consumer, starting to think actively about what he was hearing is a huge step forward.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

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