A fine art piece by Ed Atkins, “Refuse” was a new and fascinating context for designing audio. Produced and rendered in realtime using the Unreal game engine, this art installation was unveiled at the Gavin Brown Enterprise art gallery in New York City. It exists across two floors, with a wall-sized screen on an upper and lower floor. Items are dropped through the top screen, and crash into a chaotic mound at the bottom screen. Every run through the piece is a little different, with physics landing things a little differently each time. This required the audio to be responsive and reactive. A pre-rendered soundtrack would not work.

A large library of individual hits, as well as designed flybys, collective fluttering, and massive impacts, make up the asset catalog on this project. The implementation allows for objects to have one sound when they are whole, and then as they break apart in the physics simulation they create different shards of sounds. The simulation runs in one Unreal scene, captured by two different viewpoints visually for the upper and lower floors. Traditional multichannel audio layouts do not match this arrangement, though, so a custom four-channel audio plugin was written to route and render audio appropriately across the two floors. This included options for separate effects processing per floor, and the ability to bleed audio or reverberation between them.

Artist: Ed Atkins

Production: 2n Studios

Audio Design: Chris Lane