Article by: Erling Hoff — Oct 24 2023

Soundly Supports Sounding Wild’s African Expedition

Soundly is delighted to announce a collaboration with Sounding Wild, led by brothers Axel and Ario Drioli. United by a shared passion for sound conservation and environmental storytelling, the two organizations are joining forces on the “Wings Across Continents” expedition. Following the East Atlantic migration flyway, the expedition captures and shares the beauty of African-Eurasian bird migration using sound recording, spatial audio design, wildlife photography, and videography. Soundly’s expertise in preserving diverse sounds complements Sounding Wild’s ecological mission, creating a harmonious blend of technology and nature.

Background and Inspiration

Axel, could you share a bit about your background and what inspired you to start Sounding Wild?

I come from a Sound Engineering and Spatial Audio Production background, culminating with a deep love and connection for nature thanks to my professional practices. My interests include studying Soundscape Ecology, Ecoacoustics, and Bioacoustics to deepen my understanding of sonic animal behavior. This multidisciplinary approach led to the creation of Sounding Wild. Alongside my brother Ario, we launched the “Wings Across Continents” initiative, which serves as a compelling narrative designed to raise environmental awareness. Through Sounding Wild, I seek to connect people with nature meaningfully, emphasizing the crucial role of conservation and sustainable practices. Our community and partners, including Soundly, fortify our dedication to this mission. Obstacles and surprises, such as challenging environmental conditions, only intensify my resolve to explore nature’s acoustics.

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Ario, could you elaborate on your background and contributions to Sounding Wild?

My expertise lies in wildlife photography, video, and graphic design, fueled by my love for nature. Together with Axel, we founded Sounding Wild to make a real impact on environmental conservation. My role in “Wings Across Continents” is about telling the bird migration stories through pictures and videos, capturing those unique behaviors, and aiming at creating a deep connection between the viewer and these animals. My visual design career helps me frame these birds’ journeys in engaging content on all platforms, making their stories and our message to the world relevant and fun. Sounding Wild is more than just a job; it’s a personal quest to increase environmental awareness and promote a deeper connection with our planet.

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The Sounding Wild Initiative

Could you provide an overview of Sounding Wild’s core mission, key activities, technological methods, and approach to community engagement and future planning?

Our mission is to foster a more meaningful connection between people and the natural world, going beyond mere observation. We aim to evoke a sense of wonder and value for natural phenomena, particularly migratory birds. We use a mix of digital and traditional media in our projects, like ‘Wings Across Continents.’ This initiative follows the East Atlantic Flyway migration route, capturing the beauty and challenges these amazing birds face. Activities like this add to our varied collection of nature stories that align with our planet’s seasons and natural cycles.

We use advanced technology to make our educational initiatives more effective. From cutting-edge sound recording to spatial audio design and visual capture, we offer storytelling experiences that go beyond the conventional. Our Immersive Experience, a VR installation with a portable ten-speaker system, tells local migratory bird stories in a unique way.

Community involvement and strategic partnerships form the core of our approach. We closely collaborate with locals, specialists, visitor centers, and NGOs to enhance our commitment to environmental stewardship. A portion of our earnings from Sounding Wild Records and Sounding Wild Merch goes directly to ecosystem preservation, benefitting all involved.

As we approach conservation challenges cautiously but optimistically, we aim to outline environmental issues without placing blame and advocate for solutions that benefit both humans and nature. Our activities in exploration, documentation, immersive experiences, partnerships, and financial support collectively aim to drive change. We strive to transform attitudes and actions to preserve wildlife and their precious habitats.

The Wings Across Continents Expedition

Can you share some insights about the process, challenges, and unique aspects of your Wings Across Continents Expedition?

The Wings Across Continents Expedition is a unique exploration journey that spans continents, focusing specifically on the East Atlantic bird migration flyway. We aim to capture these migrations’ raw, natural beauty and share them through advanced audio-visual technologies with locals and online communities. We create immersive experiences that transport the audience into the heart of these remarkable natural events.

Language barriers are always a challenge, especially during our Immersive Experience. To tackle this, we developed individual apps in each VR headset for Catalan, Spanish, French, and English, ensuring participants can engage in their preferred language.

Fieldwork is crucial to our process, allowing us to gather authentic, unfiltered content. We often start our days an hour before dawn to capture sound, images, and videos and consult local experts to develop our scripts. We continually refine our storytelling techniques, highlighting environmental issues cautiously, inspiring solutions beneficial to both nature and humans.

In locations like Urdaibai and Aiguamolls de l’Empordà, we initially included many species within an 8-minute timeframe. However, we found that this overload of information didn’t allow enough time for absorption. We now focus on featuring fewer species, resulting in a more enriching experience for our audience.

The expedition has been a transformative experience that has deepened our understanding of nature and our role within it. We welcome anyone who believes they could contribute to our mission to reach out.

Technology and innovation

Can you elaborate on the role of technology in your work, the equipment you use, and how your expertise in spatial audio design contributes to the Sounding Wild project?

At Sounding Wild, we utilize advanced sensor and audio technology to capture, preserve, and share the beauty of nature. Our toolkit is designed to record the ever-changing behavior of wildlife.

For audio capture, our go-to microphones are Reynolds Microphones, specifically the AType 4 and AType 8 models. These 360-degree ambisonic microphones enable us to capture sound from all directions. We pair these microphones with Zoom recorders like the Zoom F4 and F8n Pro, known for their excellent audio fidelity and dependable performance, owing to their low noise floor and high sensitivity. We also record with multichannel arrays, giving us a different sense of space and diffusion, like quad or cube arrays.

In addition to these, we use a Wildtronics parabolic microphone paired with a Zoom F3 for focused captures. This setup increases the volume of the target species and enables long-range recording without disturbing wildlife. For passive acoustic monitoring, we use AudioMoth devices, which can be placed near nests or other specific locations for weeks if necessary.

To extend the reach of our microphones, we employ bespoke 50m and 100m CAT7 ethernet cables designed by Reynolds Microphones and fitted with Neutrik and aerospace-graded connectors. These allow us to place our microphones further away from our location and leave them in place for extended periods.

We use a Sony A7III camera paired with a 200–600 mm Sony lens for visual capture. This combination offers zoom options that range from short to long telephoto, providing flexibility for different shooting scenarios. We also use a Qoocam Kandao for 360-degree videos, capable of capturing 8K video, which is essential for delivering high-quality Virtual Reality content.

We use an iPhone 12 Pro Max attached to a Zeiss Gavia 85 telescope via a Smartscope Vario from Kowa Optics for bird imagery. This setup lets us get bird imagery further away compared to the Sony setup without disturbing the animals.

Regarding software, we have developed a custom-built application for Virtual Reality headsets for our portable Immersive Experience. This application allows us to create virtual video-photographic galleries in a few hours, which is controlled via wifi from our server running the synced audio from the ten loudspeaker system, providing an immersive experience for our audience.

Our technology choices are driven by our commitment to capturing nature as authentically as possible, with minimal disturbance to the wildlife we document. We believe that technology is a key enabler in bringing people closer to nature, and we strive to use it to promote a more nuanced understanding, inviting deeper emotional and intellectual engagement with nature.

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The Collaboration with Soundly

Can you provide some information about your collaboration with Soundly?

The collaboration between Soundly and Sounding Wild was born out of mutually aligned goals and distinct expertise in audio and wildlife technology. Soundly’s sound librarians have the expertise to catalog and edit our recordings while we contribute field recording capabilities. We both see the potential of technology to connect people with nature and tell its beautiful stories. Soundly found a perfect partner in Sounding Wild, a venture ignited by our deep passion for wildlife, sustainable living, and storytelling through field research.

Soundly’s role in the Sounding Wild expedition is important, as their support can, for example, enable acquiring specialized field equipment and running the expedition. In return, they receive exclusive access to a rich repository of audio recordings from the expedition. This has broadened their scope to include bioacoustic research and ambient soundscapes, allowing them to offer their users unique, authentic nature sounds.

Soundly’s commitment to innovation and our dedication to a cause much larger than ourselves have made the Sounding Wild project successful. The exclusive access to our recordings has and will enrich Soundly’s Pro Library and help us reach a wider audience. This partnership is more than a business alliance; it combines technology and a deep appreciation for the natural world, unlocking meaningful avenues such as educational outreach.

Future Plans and Aspirations

Could you share your plans and aspirations for Sounding Wild, including any upcoming expeditions or projects?

At Sounding Wild, our plans are guided by a single mission: connecting people with nature through immersive experiences. Our next steps include further exploration of Worldwide bird migration flyways. Each expedition is planned according to specific bird migration patterns and seasonal data. For Wings Across Continents, after successfully completing Phase 1 in 2022, which covered 4500 km across three European countries, we are gearing up for Phase 2. The next phase will start in Gibraltar in February 2023, aligning with the spring migration into Europe. The expedition will culminate in North-East Europe in June 2023. Following that, we start the West African expedition, starting from Morocco in September 2023 and driving all the way down West Africa to South Africa for around one year.

In addition to our expeditions, we are seeking collaborations with NGOs, academics, film studios, and high-quality equipment producers. These partnerships can provide financial support and expertise, enabling us to expand our research capabilities. We are also eager to continue our successful collaboration with Soundly.

Regarding technological advancements, we plan to provide Dolby Atmos audio and 4K video playback content to provide a more immersive auditory and visual experience. We are also exploring improving our custom Virtual Reality headset application, allowing us to create immersive virtual video-photographic galleries swiftly. We remain committed to our Sounding Wild Records initiative, which underscores our dedication to supporting nature’s sonic creators and the natural environment.

Our core objectives remain steadfast: to deepen our explorations, advance our tech capabilities, establish valuable partnerships, and contribute meaningfully to nature conservation.

Follow the Sounding Wild Adventures

The partnership between Soundly and Sounding Wild has been mutually beneficial, merging technology with a mutual passion for nature. Soundly’s sponsorship has made the Wings Across Continents Expedition possible and granted them exclusive access to unique audio captures. These have and will enrich Soundly’s Pro Library, offering users an expanded range of real-world sounds.

The Sounding Wild team continues to plan and execute expeditions based on bird migration patterns, contributing valuable data and experiences to the field. Soundly supports these efforts and keeps its users updated with news and developments from the expeditions. We encourage Soundly users to follow the ongoing journey of Sounding Wild through their website and social platforms at @soundingwild.

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