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Promotional ideas and technique. Always radio, always positive.

Horror on Headphones

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Sound can be incredibly powerful and this Halloween the team at BBC Radio 4 is using binaural audio to put the willies up us.

It isn’t just scary movies on TV that will get us scared on Halloween this year. Thanks to ‘Fright Night’ on Saturday 31st October BBC Radio 4 will use creative sound effects, strong acting and 3D binaural sound mixes to frighten us.

As horror and supernatural stories go, Ring and The Stone Tape are cult classics. Ring is Japanese horror at its best, whilst The Stone Tape – first broadcast on Christmas Day in 1972 – was written by Nigel Kneale, the British screenwriting talent best-known for Quatermass.

On Saturday 31 October for Radio 4’s Fright Night, these two dramas will take over the late night schedule.

Perhaps what is more exciting is how the BBC Research & Development team will be creating a truly immersive, spookier enhanced listening experience with innovative 3D binaural sound mixes available online of the dramas.

See it in action

Watch what happened when a group of people listened to horror on headphones in a dark crypt. This is a clip of the audio playback of The Stone Tape, using 3D binaural sound mixes to really enhance the cult paranormal thriller.

Technique

Techniques such as arranging the actors on separate mono mics so the movement could be created using the binaural software was used instead of the traditional way of recording around a stereo pair. A Neumann binaural dummy head was used as well to achieve a very close whispering in-ear effect in the recording.

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You can read more in depth about the project, techniques and 3D sound mixing process from Catherine Robinson who did the sound design and mixing for The Ring, on the BBC R&D blog here.

How to listen to Fright Night in binaural

The binaural mixes will be available online and in the iPlayer Radio app. For the best experience, it is recommend to stream using a desktop computer connected to WiFi or downloading the programme before listening, as well as using the highest quality headphones you have available to you and sitting in a quiet and preferrably dark environment. This will ensure that you can hear the full detail (and horror) in these binaural mixes.

Listen to Ring in binaural

Listen to The Stone Tape in binaural

Jonathan Jacob is Content Solutions Group Head at Global Media and Entertainment with varied experience across commercial radio S&P, events, marketing and PR. He was listed in the inaugural Radio Academy 30 under 30, is a Student Radio Awards judging coordinator and sat on the Events Committee for The Radio Academy. Views are personal.