Sound Design: BMW Tunnel Experience by Andrew Spitz

Sound Design for the BMW Tunnel Experience by Andrew Spitz

This time, I want to get into the more technical stuff of the Sound Design and illustrate with an Interactive Sound Design project. Andrew Spitz is a designer, interactive designer and lecturer based in South Africa. To find out about Andrew, please visit his website -

The Project

Few months back, Andrew was invited to participate on a great project for BMW. BMW announced they would sponsor the South African rugby team – The Springboks. with Mann Made Media. The brief was to simulate the feeling a rugby player would experience as they walk into a packed stadium. The brief was well received and we were finalists at the Loerie Awards 2011.

General Overview

Participants enter the event through a dark 30m long tunnel. As they walk, the sound builds from a distant stadium stomping their feet in unison, to the South African anthem being sung. As they go deeper into the tunnel, the sound keeps developing and getting more exciting, loud, and present. Around the bend, a motion detection system picks them up and the whole “stadium” erupts sonically and visually. We had six LCD wall panels displaying a stadium full of animated people standing up and cheering. We also hacked the flashes of disposable cameras to augment the experience.

Check out this video to get a feel for the installation as a whole:

BMW Tunnel Installation from Mann Made Media on Vimeo.

sound design

The goal was to quickly and effectively give participants a feeling of excitement and pride. I was going for an army-like collective – a stadium is the perfect venue for this. There’s nothing quite like a packed stadium cheering and singing an anthem to unify a country. Fortunately the Soccer World Cup happened recently, so I had lots of material. Also, for the commercial I had gathered a small crowd of 20 to sing the anthem and also had them stomp their feet together, which is the sound stomping you hear in the first two mixes below (with lots of processing). All and all, each loop is made up of a gazillion layers!

I used a combination of sounds I recorded specifically for this, sounds from my personal library (mentioned above), and I crowd sourced a little on Social Sound Design to fill up the stadium crowd stuff. These sounds were donated by Rene Conorado and Kurt Human – Thanks so much guys! I also found some really useful sounds in the blastwave FX library.

For general rugby crowd sounds (eruptions, claps, screams, singing, etc.), I did a recording trip to a rugby match. My gear consisted of an MKH 418s, a stereo pair of DPA 4060s, and a Zoom H4n (which turned out useless). I have to say, those little DPAs sounded amazing with crowds – beautiful spatiality and clarity! I have two Sound Devices 702, which is handy to split up perspective. Thanks to Wesley Mace for helping me record!

Here are the loops. They really don’t give any justice to the experience, as they were mixed specifically for the space and to the system in the venue. There’s some serious low end going on, which massive subwoofers were dealing with. When listening in the venue, the loops sound a lot more accurate to how it would actually sound.

Distant South African anthem. At the entrance of the tunnel. As you’re waiting in the reception area, you can hear this sound very distantly.

BMW - Distant Shosholoza by SoundPlusDesign

More present South African anthem. From one third into the tunnel. Synced to first loop.

BMW - Shosholoza by SoundPlusDesign

Picking up the pace and excitement with this loop. Close to the exit of the tunnel.

BMW - Wild Loop by SoundPlusDesign

The climax as you step out of the tunnel and “onto” the pitch. This loop is triggered by a motion detection system.

BMW - Climax by SoundPlusDesign

This transition allows the loop to reset itself and go back to the idle “excited” state.

BMW - Transition by SoundPlusDesign


I programmed the software to control the loops in Max/MSP. Each section controls several speakers lining the tunnel. Below is a screen grab of the program. The tricky bit was to have all the loops work rhythmically and sonically together, transition smoothly, and not be too obnoxious so that people already inside don’t go crazy from the repetition. I also had to create a basic dynamic mixing system to avoid all the sound just piling up on top of one another and creating a wall of noise.

Our control room, I’m on the left, Stephen Buchanan (realtime graphics programmer) on the right:

sound in the venue

I sent the sound engineer six channels, and we distributed it to a total of 12 speakers and two subwoofers lining the tunnel. The tunnel was made of material that diffused the sound and made the speakers sound way less directional – handy! Once out of the tunnel, when the stadium erupts, we had a speaker array right above them. Sadly, because of the position and huge cost of the LCD panels, we could only safely fit one set of speaker arrays, so we didn’t get that big and wide surround feel I wanted. It still sounded alright.

It was tricky getting all the levels and frequencies right, as each section had to not conflict with the next, and not be too loud for the people that have either already experienced the tunnel or waiting in the entrance.

Link to Andrew's Portfolio -

Andrew's Twitter - @SoundPlusDesign

Andrew's Blog -

Written by

Gustavo Guiotto

I'm an audio enthusiastic from Porto Alegre, Brazil. I've been working with audio since 2006. I'm a fan of sound design, film score and recording techniques. Follow me on twitter: @gustavoguiotto

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