Research & Development EN blog

Creating an inspirational video with archival bird songs

Sound and Vision’s Research and Development department is always looking for new and innovative ways to make audiovisual heritage open and searchable. The institute holds a collection of over 800.000 hours of material, of which a portion is also available for creative re-use. The Open Images project provides access to over 4.500 videos and Sound of the Netherlands allows re-use of over 2.600 Dutch soundscapes. As part of the Europeana Creative project, Sound and Vision commissioned Australian artist Andy Thomas to create an inspirational digital sound sculpture re-using two bird sounds from its archive. The result is a visually mesmerizing artwork that has been very well received. If you would like to know more about how this video was made and how it went viral, please continue reading!

Still of the Nightingale & Canary animation - Andy Thomas (CC-BY-SA)

How was the video produced?

We asked Andy to briefly explain how he created this beautiful artwork. “I start by listening to the sound carefully, going for a walk, and concentrating on the sound, then I do some sketches, and search the internet for inspiration, nature related inspiration, such as flowers and insects, whatever I feel suits the sound vision that I see in my imagination.Then I experiment with forms in my 3D software to try to emulate these visions. I take the waveform of the sound run it into 3ds Max and activate simple geometry with the audio float controller then use the geometry as either an emitter or a surface constraint. Then I use a variety of different particle effects: FumeFX, KRAKATOA, RealFlow, Phoenix FD, and I especially like the XSI ICE system. Finally I render with Vray.” Check out Andy’s website for some more visuals of his inspiration and the software he used.

Viral video alert

The video was put online mid-August and shared via different channels, such as Facebook, Twitter and email. The most successful channels were Vimeo and YouTube. The video was chosen as a Vimeo Staff pick a few days after the upload, which resulted in a whopping 285.000 video views to date. The artist had interviews with Wired Magazine and reviews on several major blog sites such as Vice and Colossal. He also received offers from several large studios about producing concept art and video content for projection mapping projects. The video will shortly be featured on the French National TV channel Canal+ in ''l'Oeil de Links", which is a weekly program that highlights every aspect of the internet used as a creative and social tool.The video was also uploaded on Europeana’s YouTube channel and added by YouTube to their Google+ page a week later, resulting in nearly 30.000 views to date. With 2,917 likes on Vimeo and 457 likes on YouTube, we can say that the video was very successful.

Nightingale and Canary from Andy Thomas on Vimeo.


Inspiring creative industries

The initial aim of the Nightingale & Canary video was to inspire creative industries to submit their own ideas to a Europe wide competition, organised by the Europeana Creative project. This objective was achieved as there was a noticeable amount of submission for the Challenge coming Dutch creative industries. The video also stimulated collaborations outside the EU. Andy was invited to the planetarium in Melbourne with the possibility of doing a show next year. He is also teaming up with a fellow digital designer to create an installation for the White Night event in Melbourne in February next year, which is a projection festival that spans the entire city. 

Europeana Creative
The objective of the Europeana Creative project is to stimulate creative re-use of cultural heritage materials available via Europeana (Europe’s Museum, Library and Archive). Five pilots are developed in the themes of (Natural) History Education, Tourism, Social Networks and Design, demonstrating exciting and innovative applications that can be built with open cultural heritage content. The bird sounds video is part of the Social Networks pilot, called “Sound Connections”, which is led by Sound and Vision. It allows communities to enrich a variety of soundscapes (birds, aviation and city sounds) on an interactive map. See for instance the bird songs pilot page.  Further information about the Europeana Creative pilots can be found here:

Sound Connections pilot using archival bird sounds - Europeana Creative project (CC-BY)



- Bird sounds from Sound of the Netherlands: Nightingale and Canary

- For more details about how Andy created this artwork, please visit his webpage:

- See the video on Open Images, YouTube or Vimeo

Contact: Lizzy Komen 

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