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Bretez is a virtual reality project currently (as of 2021) in development by Mylène Pardoen. The goal is to recreate 18th-century Paris, specifically in the 1730s, in a virtual reality environment that focuses on historically accurate visuals and audio. Although the project is not finished, progress has been made as recently as September 2021. The project is named after Louis Bretez, who created the Turgot Map of Paris.


People and Institutions

The head of the project is Mylène Pardoen, a French musicologist and sound designer who has previously done audio-focused projects for museums and other history-related initiatives. Pardoen is a researcher at CNSR, le Centre national de la recherche scientifique (The National Institute of Scientific Research), an organization dedicated to research for the public. Other notable members and institutes include:

  • Natacha Coquery, Modern History Professor
  • Anne-Sophie Clémençon, Researcher
  • Kévin Jacquot, Architect and Architectural Sciences Assistant Professor
  • MAP-Aria
  • University of Lyon

A full list of project members can be found here.



Bretez visual creation process

The visuals created in the project are based on historical documents such as architectural plans, paintings, and writings from the time period, as well as mapping data and existing historical sites in Paris. Although the project site does not go into detail on which specific engine is used to create the virtual environment, it does mention using video game engines to create the environments. The visuals are currently incomplete. The project is also currently focused on specific areas of Paris, with plans to expand to the rest of the city in the future. A video showing some of the visual creation processes can be viewed here.


Bretez focuses on the idea of "sound archaeology"; that is, creating a historically accurate soundscape to heighten the immersion of a historic virtual reality. Like the visuals, sounds are based on documents from the time period and historic research. For example, if you wanted to create a historically accurate soundscape of a marketplace, you could:

  • use documents to figure out what kind of products were sold, and create voice acting clips of people selling these products
  • record footstep noises by walking in period-accurate shoes on the original road material of the marketplace
  • record the acoustics of the space if the original buildings are still in-tact, or use another historic site with similar building materials to record similar acoustics. These acoustics can be applied to any other recordings you make

Although the project site does not go into detail on the recording processes used, there are some common electroacoustic, soundscape, and interactive audio techniques used in this project:

  • Binaural audio. This is a stereo-recording technique where you have two microphones acting as human "ears"; this creates the illusion of "3-D surround sound", where you can hear sounds coming from more than two directions despite only listening to two audio tracks.
  • Recording the acoustic reverb of a space. In this technique, you would record a sound in a physical space, including the "echo" (or reverb), and then use digital audio processing to convert this reverb into what is essentially a "sound effect" that can be applied to other audio to make the new audio sound like it is being produced in the physical space you chose. This is important for historically accurate sound since different building materials and room shapes will have different acoustics/reverb.
  • Dynamic spatial sound. There is no actual official name for this technique, but it is commonly used in video games and other virtual environments. Audio is interactive and is programmed to react according to the position of the "avatar" in the virtual world. This can include getting quieter or louder as the avatar moves farther or closer to the source, or modifying the audio playing depending on where the avatar is (for example, changing the sounds of footsteps if the avatar steps onto a different material).

Multiple audio demos are available on the project site, available to listen to here. There is no dynamic sound in these demos since they are not currently interactive, but good headphones are recommended to hear the first two techniques mentioned.


Post-presentation, the project site updated its purpose section to focus on creating a 5-D virtual reality experience using sound and visuals together. The site states that its purpose is to create a new medium for a documentary-style study of history. The site also notes researchers and the public as audiences; for researchers, to understand their research through a recontextualized lens that could lead to new revelations, and for the public, to create an immersive and interactive educational tool about history.

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