Projects - Ghost Town (2014-2016)

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Kevin Gray Photo: Elizabeth Miklavcic
Kevin Gray is an Industrial Designer who has over 34 years experience in toy design as well as electronic and animatronics design and engineering. He has acted as handler to several electronic toys for commercials and presentations and his RC tank 'Gizmo' was featured in Modern Marvels opening for the show 'Models'.

In his spare time Kevin enjoys working with remote control cars, planes, ships, and tanks. He also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned places with his wife Jennifer.

Artist's Philosophy
I have always been fascinated with the recording and playback of sound; for a science project in my second grade class, I built an "artificial ear" from instructions I found in the World Book Encyclopedia. It would "hear" sounds and create ripples on the surface of a cup of water, analogous to the cochlea of the human ear. In later years, I bought and listened to a wide array of audio equipment, from entry-level to genuine audiophile gear. Along the way, I designed and built my own speakers, created home-theater installations, and collected a number of unique pieces of audio equipment.

One of these is a pair of binaural headphone/microphones, which can record an astonishingly realistic three-dimensional stereo sound field around their location into a stereo audio track. They do this by utilizing a mechanical simulation of the human head, outer ears, and ear canals, which creates complex phase and level relationships in sound waves as they encounter the human analogue head and the simulated left and right outer and inner ears. These 'encoded' sound waves are then sensed by microphones located in the ear canals, exactly where the eardrums would be. The resulting electrical signals from the twin microphones are then recorded--in this case, as a high-bit-rate digital stereo audio file.

Another interest I have always had is that of special photographic effects. The ability of the human brain to perceive a simple stereo pair of photos as a dimensional image is, while an illusion, still a very powerful effect. My experiences with stereoscopic viewers and later head-mounted video displays (used to remotely operate radio-controlled vehicles), have resulted in a useful base of knowledge about human perception of depth and dimension. For this project, I selected the technique of Autostereogram photography, since it allows the viewer to see the dimensional images with no equipment needed on their part.

I have attempted to combine both of these areas of interest and experience in creating my Ghost Town Project. Binaural recordings of the near-field ambient sound environments in various locations at Standardville are combined with autostereogram digital photographs of the same locations, allowing both three-dimensional sounds and images of the selected locations to be experienced by the viewer.

When visiting an abandoned and remote location such as Standardville, one of the first things one tends to notice is the complete absence of man-made sounds; then the subtler, natural sounds of wind, water, and animal life become apparent. Also, the location of Standardville at the mouth of a rocky canyon creates a different ambient soundfield from a location in an open area, such as a flat section of desert, with far fewer sound-reflecting surfaces. As such, the binaural sound recordings I have obtained will give the viewer as much of the feeling as possible of being onsite at this ghost town; all that is necessary to fully experience the dimensionality of the audio is to wear headphones or earbuds. The autostereogram photos will require no glasses or lenses to view.