Producing Soundscapes for Light Trails
Virtual and Studio
By Penny Sandford-Hughes
Producing Soundscapes for Light Trails

Crafting Mesmerising Soundscapes for Light Trails

We recently supported Westonbirt Arboretum for the 5th year on their Enchanted Christmas light trail, and alongside our talented production team having a huge part in designing the visual spectactle of the light trail itself, our content team here at PYTCH also produces the soundscapes that help mould the trail together. Our Creative Director, Tom Benoy recently discussed some of his top tips when it comes to visually scoping and designing the trail itself (read more here), but a huge part of building an atmosphere within the trail is the audio aspect.

The first step in crafting a soundscape for light trails is selecting the right audio elements and vibe for the composition. What is the theme of the installion? – is it a lively and animated Christmas scene, a serene audio-visual installion, or even an abstract artistic piece? The audio must match the visual,

For example, in ambient or ethereal spaces, we may incorporate sounds of wind or environmental noise. For nature-inspired light trails, we may blend in sounds of rustling leaves, chirping crickets, and flowing water. In conjunction we will experiment with electronic, futuristic tones, with synth elements.

Just as light trails guide the viewer through a visual journey, the soundscape should complement and enhance this experience. We have previously used audio elements strategically to mimic the ebb and flow of the light patterns, sync up beats with the pulse of the light trails or introduce subtle crescendos to coincide with moments of heightened visual intensity. This also works really well for interactive pieces where audiences control the visual direction through physical input, matching up audio shifts to coincide with the visual display.

We recently used this in our Lumaplay piece at Westonbirt, where user button inputs controlled high, mid, and low notes on a synth, and these inputs controlled the intensity and motion of moving head light beams.

PYTCH have also experimented with spatial audio techniques to create a three-dimensional auditory experience. This can be achieved through the strategic placement of sound sources in the stereo field or by utilising technologies like binaural recording for a more immersive effect.

Several tools and techniques are important for producing soundscapes that synchronise seamlessly with light trails. Here at PYTCH we predominantly use software such as Ableton Live or Logic Pro. Exploring the world of ambient sound generators and synthesisers to craft unique textures, and incorporating recorded sound effects or foley adds an extra authentic touch to the composition. We also use many effect processes to enhance the ambience, atmosphere and feel of the composition, for example, reverb, delay, EQ and compression.

By carefully curating a soundscape that complements the visual poetry of light trails, we can engage audiences on a multisensory level, leaving a lasting impression.