Nathan Gallardo

Sound Design || Music || Audio DIY || Game Dev

Binaural dummy-head microphone [Part 2 – The Dummy Head]

You’ll need a shell on which to mount your ears and microphone. I found a shop fittings store in London that sold fibreglass heads and so that’s what I’ll be illustrating here. Polystyrene heads are available on eBay for <£10 and they can also yield good results, but are presumably harder to work with.

Introducing, Blank Frank:

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“Blank Frank is the messenger of your doom and your destruction.” – Eno

It’s important your ears are located appropriately on the head. I did this by overlaying an anatomical diagram of the human head over a photograph of Frank. I drew a grid on either side of his head so that I could pinpoint exactly where the ear hole should be situated and then marked this on Frank.

Lateral head anatomy Ear position overlay

You’ll need to cut a hole for the ear to poke through and mounting holes. So, using your ear cast make a template. Cut out a hole in the template big enough for the ear to fit through.

Creating the templates

Line up the hole in the ear with the marked ear hole on the head, and mark where the mounting holes will be drilled. Look at some anatomical pictures and just generally people in profile to figure out how the ears should be positioned. Then, line up the template according to the drill holes and mark out the hole the ear will poke through.

Lining up the ear position Using the template to mark the ear position Ear position marked and ready to cut

A Dremel or similar cutting tool will make cutting the head a hell of a lot easier, though a mini hacksaw will eventually get the job done. Fibreglass dust doesn’t belong in your lungs, in your eyes or all up in your pores, so don’t do this step in your lounge room, wear goggles and a mask, and if you’ve got a pal handy, have them point a vacuum cleaner at where you’re cutting or drilling. Fibreglass can be nasty stuff, so heed my warning.

Holes drilled and cut

Do a trial fitting with your plaster ears to see if they protrude nicely from the side of the head and are in the right location. You may find at this point you need to file down the base on your plaster ears so they stick out far enough, or you may need to widen the hole for the ear to poke through. 

Checking the placement

You may also want to cut an access hole in the head, although if your dummy’s head is open at the neck like Frank’s you probably won’t need to.

If you’re happy with the ear placement, you can go ahead and cast your silicone ears.

Next: Making Silicone Ears

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