Playing with Slow Scan TV – sound to image #sstv


, , ,

On Thursday I met LHTrevail, one of the speakers at Dorkbot, who had a box that turned images into sounds. It turned out to be an SSTV (slow scan TV) scanning device (they used the same technique to transmit some of the Moon landing images so I’d heard of it but that was the extent of my knowledge). You can transmit and receive images via sound directly from a speaker or carried over a radio signal.

Sonically it’s like a much prettier version of the chirps from Ye Olde Modems, you can hear some examples of what files sound like from the mp3s here: Essex Ham: SSTV The Basics Explained.

One nice thing that you can do, if you have a ham radio set up (I don’t, and this seems like a personal failing haha), is to capture via radio a sound file emitted from the International Space Station as it whizzes over – how cool is that!

I’ve now spent far too long on YouTube etc catching up with older methods of television-ing including the Nipkow 32 line spinning disc jobs (plenty of working examples and modern re-creations) and the whole John Logie Baird early TV work. The vids I’ve watched are below.

Possibly I should mention at this point that the television I watch in my flat is an old CRT (Cathode Ray Television). This isn’t because I’m keeping the old ways alive or am unusually nerdy (accidentally true on both counts) but it’s simply that it was there when I moved in, in 2005, and it works fine. It would be quite the palaver to replace it (I rent) and I’ve no real inclination to do so – the picture is good (also old TV programmes fit on it perfectly). Works fine with Freeview via a SCART lead. Anyway…

I spotted that there’s a smartphone app (search for SSTV and it’ll come up) which converts audio into picture so £2.99 later I now have it on my phone. Playing the files through my laptop speaker into my phone brought up some delightfully fuzzy images and fiddling with the Phase and Skew got the best picture available. It felt a bit like that moment in the film Contact when the team listening to a signal realise something else is being broadcast and it turns out to be a TV picture+sound. Oooooh!

(Content warning: this clip features a broadcast of the opening of the 1936 Berlin games with Hitler speaking, a flag with a swastika on it and Nazi saluting)


While playing around on the app I spotted a button that lets you transmit an image from your camera roll as sound! Very on board with that, so after a bit of testing (trying to work out where the mic is on my laptop for best recording) I am ready to share this image from a holiday I went on in 2015. It was broadcast as a “Scottie S2” format – literally no idea what that means but that’ll be something fun to find out later.

If you have an SSTV scanning device on your phone or anywhere else you might be able to pick up the image I’ve shared, a copy of what I transmitted is here.

– by the way to get the m4a file from Voice Memos on Mac so that I could upload it here I first had to drag the file onto my desktop and then drag it into the editing window of this blog post (or could have put it into a File Manager / Finder file hierarchy). I tried using the native upload function on Voice Memos but couldn’t work out what to do next so I’m glad the plan B worked. Not sure if I could airdrop it to myself on the same computer 😉

Right, I’m off to see a film with lots of sound design in it…

Mechanical image acquisition with a Nipkow Disck – Hackaday


Jo’s podcast playlist


This post is mostly for me. I enjoy a podcast or other audio when I have certain admin tasks to do and so to save me searching for where I’ve bookmarked them I thought I’d put them all here. I will be adding to this page, there are only a couple of things here for now.

Tracking the Lincolnshire Poacher (Nov 2006) – Simon Fanshawe (programme website)

How to write an instruction manual (August 2009) – Mark Miodownik (audio) (programme website)

The Foghorn: A Celebration (Feb 2011) – Peter Curran (BBC Sounds – audio) (programme website)

Into the Music Library (April 2011) – Jonny Trunk (BBC Sounds – audio) (programme website)

The Bird Fancyer’s Delight (July 2011) – Sarah Angliss (BBC Sounds – audio) (programme website)

New Weird Britain – Radical Rural (June 2019) – John Doran (BBC Sounds – audio) (programme website)

Other sonic resources
Speechification Vol.002
02 Feb 18 – dig your fins

#BunkBed: all episodes online on BBC Sounds, S6 on Radio 4 on Weds


, , , , , , ,

tl;dr – Get your Bunk Bed episodes here.

“The acclaimed Bunk Bed with funny, intimate in-the-dark conversation and the voices of the famous dead. Peter Curran and Patrick Marber let those crazy disconnected thoughts before sleep float into the air.”

The sixth series of Bunk Bed is currently being broadcast on Radio 4 on Wednesday evenings at 11pm. It’s a rather lovely thing that’s a little difficult to describe. Or rather it’s a very easy thing to describe (it’s two men lying in bunk beds having random chats, with occasional guests) but it’s possibly not very obvious – unless you’ve heard it – why someone might go looking for that. But I recommend that you do 🙂

You won’t have to look very far because the lovely BBC have added all the previous episodes from Series 1 to 5 to their BBC Sounds platform, and they’re adding Series 6 episodes after they go out. I love the gentle (sometimes sharp), funny ruminations and observations accompanied by the occasional rustling sound of a duvet.

You can subscribe to the whole thing (new episodes will wing their way to you) or you can listen on the web or via the app, and even download the episodes.

On a browser go here to access all the episodes, or download the BBC Sounds app on a phone.

Screenshot 2019-03-23 22.13.04

Here’s what it looks like on an iPhone on the BBC Sounds app

img_9607  img_9612

Search for the show …                     … visit its page and Subscribe

img_9608    img_9614

Once subscribed click on My Sounds, then ‘Subscribed’ to listen to the episodes.

Further reading

Queen Mary 2 ship’s whistle test cc @sarah_angliss @curranradio


, ,

A recording made of the Queen Mary 2 ship’s whistles (they call them whistles but they sound like horns to me) at 11:59AM (ship’s time) on Friday 15 June 2018, from the observation point on deck 11.

The first four sounds are individual blasts from whistles located at various points around the ship, the final is all whistles at once. It was quite loud.

Recorded using the iPhone 5S voice memo, dead space at start and end trimmed off.

I was quite lucky to catch this, and from such a good audio vantage point, as I just happened to be up there when an announcement was made that the whistles were to be tested. I’d popped into both of the scenic elevators to leave a note (postcard) for other passengers using those lifts, to tell them that they could take these lifts to the 11th deck after dark and – if cloudless – could see lots of stars there at night as it’s the darkest point on the ship. It’s not the highest point on the ship (that’s deck 13) but that area is well-lit so too much light pollution. You need to wait a few minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted in order to see much though.

Anyway, it’s a gorgeous ship and I’m having a lovely crossing. I’m yet to hear back from anyone on-board (I’ve put in a question) about whether or not it’s even possible to see the Milky Way from the North Atlantic (the QM2 and other Cunard ships do a variety of other cruises and it’s definitely possible to see it in Dubai).

Hopefully this post works – I’m using satellite internet and this post is being sent up to satellites 44,000 miles away so it might get stuck up there.

[Free @QMEECS talk] Do you hear what I hear? The science of everyday sounds.


, , , , , , ,

Josh Reiss is giving his inaugural (on becoming a Professor of Audio Engineering) lecture at 6.30pm on Tuesday 17th April 2018 in Arts Two at Queen Mary University of London, on Mile End Road.

It’s free. Tickets:

“The sounds around us shape our perception of the world. In films, games, music and virtual reality, we recreate those sounds or create unreal sounds to evoke emotions and capture the imagination. But there is a world of fascinating phenomena related to sound and perception that is not yet understood. If we can gain a deep understanding of how we perceive and respond to complex audio, we could not only interpret the produced content, but we could create new content of unprecedented quality and range.

This talk considers the possibilities opened up by such research. What are the limits of human hearing? Can we create a realistic virtual world without relying on recorded samples? If every sound in a major film or game soundtrack were computer-generated, could we reach a level of realism comparable to modern computer graphics? Could a robot replace the sound engineer? Investigating such questions leads to a deeper understanding of auditory perception, and has the potential to revolutionise sound design and music production. Research breakthroughs concerning such questions will be discussed, and cutting-edge technologies will be demonstrated.”

Mycenae House gardens – birdsong


, , , , , ,

Mycenae House gardens

The birds in the gardens of Mycenae House (the café and community centre in Blackheath [map], nearest station: Westcombe Park, nearest bus: 386) are undertaking some fairly determined chirping in the clip below, possibly they spotted me with my recording device.

In the early part of the clip you can hear someone playing piano for a class and some other background noises, but it’s mostly birdsong.

Mycenae House gardens

Odd sounds from the internet: software-defined radio receivers


, , ,

Thanks to this video I came across a collection of websites where you can listen in to audio ‘webcam’ versions of sounds coming in from various radio antenna. On some it’s conversations, on others weird and wonderful sounds. I don’t really understand what I’ve been looking at or listening to but heres a recording I made of one – it’s quite a pleasingly unearthly sound.

1. – it says my browser doesn’t support downloads… but it did.

Screenshot 2017-12-09 16.38.52.png



This one let me hear the Chiltern aviation beacon which signals the letters C, H and T (forever) in Morse code. Heard it one night on a detuned radio at home at my parents’ house a few years ago and have been a bit obsessed with tracking it ever since.

Screenshot 2017-12-09 17.06.40.png

The above recording is pretty much as it sounded at my parents. In the one below I pressed the button saying ‘CW-narrow’ and that cleaned it up quite a bit, but also I think it changed the pitch..(!)



Adding “Hello, I’m…” audio snippets from people who have a Wikipedia page, to their page


, , , , , , ,

One of the loveliest things I’ve heard was a talk by Ian Rawes (London Sound Survey) in which he let us hear examples of his vast collection of audio recordings, stretching back over a century (some originally recorded on wax cylinders) while he told us their story. It was absolutely magical to hear street callers hawking their wares, and young children from fifty or sixty years ago singing playground songs. We also heard, from 1888, a very wobbly recording of a massive 4,000-strong choir singing Handel’s Messiah in London.

Most of the people in the recordings are dead but their voices live on. I don’t have any recording of my parents speaking (beyond the ridiculous clip below of my dad sounding like a chipmunk thanks to a buffering error on Skype) and, obviously, I wish I did…



More cheerfully, my friend Andy Mabbett (pigsonthewing on Twitter) has been encouraging people who have a Wikipedia page to record a short open-licensed* clip saying who they are and what they do – this is the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project or #WikiVIP. This clip can easily be uploaded to Wikipedia and then added to their page – so anyone visiting it can click on the audio track to hear them say, in their very own voice, their name and a tiny bit about them. I think it’s a great idea.

(*”In the spirit of Wikipedia, all such recordings would be open-licensed, to allow others to use them, freely.”)

Here are a couple of examples –

Emma Freud’s Wikipedia page with a screenshot showing the audio clip.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.01.26.png

Similarly, Stephen Fry’s Wikipedia page has audio and a copy of his signature.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.06.53

There is now a database on Wikimedia Commons of notable people (people sufficiently well-known to have a Wikipedia page) who have made recordings themselves, or got someone else to record it. Here’s page one of English-speaking people. You can also hear from people speaking in their native language, here are people from the Netherlands.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.27.37

Example screenshot of some of the English speaking people’s recordings

Recording a short voice clip is very easy, on a computer or smartphone or any recording device that lets you export a file. If Andy asks you to make a recording, please consider it 🙂

He’s written more about the project, including extensive information about how to make and share a recording with Wikipedia.

I’m not remotely notable so no Wikipedia page for me but I had a go at making a recording using the free online Vocaroo tool.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 11.29.02


Bat chirrups recorded at Wilderness Festival 2017


, , , , ,

This year I went to the marvellous Wilderness Festival for the first time, hopefully not the last. I absolutely loved it and when my 400 plus photos have finished uploading I’ll link to them below.

One thing I did was pinch my friend Helen’s bat detector and listen intently after dusk near my campsite, which was very near a river and definitely had at least one bat flitting to and fro. In the recording below I was pointing the detector up, set at 55.7MHz, and could clearly see the small bat flying overhead. I’ve had the detector for a few months at home in London and completely failed to get a confirmed sighting and hearing (seen plenty of bats and not heard them but also heard plenty of bats and not seen them) but this worked perfectly.

Given the frequency it’s likely that this is a Soprano Pipistrelle.

Nailed it :) Perfect tinkling shingle beach sounds near Greenwich Pier at high tide


, , , ,

Happy new year! 🙂 I took the ferry to Greenwich today and walked along the pavement above the foreshore to the very convenient (and still open at ~4pm!) Waitrose. The tide was very high at that point, so much so that the walk off the ferry and up the pier was on a flat surface and it’s usually a bit of an incline. The tide was also hitting the walled walkway area en route to Waitrose with sufficient force to spray the pavement, which I’d not seen before.

There’s a strange little fenced off shingle beach area from which I’ve taken a few sound recordings in the past but I think today’s is the best one. The tide flushed up along the shingle and stones and in receding dragged back across the top all the tiny little fragments, which make the most lovely shimmering tinkly sound – one of my favourite sounds. It’s quite similar to the sound of someone playing with or turning over broken crockery. My previous recordings have never quite got the full effect and you can hear an earlier one below – the sound is there but it’s not as easy to hear against the other sounds.

Previously, in beach sound recordings…