Sound design for non-fiction film and video : a discussion of methodology, perception, and ethics

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


Traditional documentary films, particularly science and natural history works, presume to authentically or legitimately convey accurate representations of historical events that actually occurred at a prior time. Factual and convincing representations are not necessarily congruent, and a film's merit of authenticity is often based on the perceived validity of the visual content represented. While visual imagery dominates a presentation's general delivery, a film's sound design is a fundamental structural element that is often overlooked or less scrutinized with regard to factual or accurate recounting of these same historical events. The purpose of this thesis is to examine methodologies of sound acquisition and reproduction and to discuss how various acoustic contents are perceived in relation to associated visual elements.
While discerning viewers may notice critical discrepancies in picture contents that may invalidate a film's credibility, a complex matrix of sonic elements does not lend itself to deconstruction as easily. Thorough analysis of a science and natural history film must include an examination of its complete sound design. Consideration must be given to the ethical implications of using any synthesized or borrowed audio tracks if such a work is to be considered as "factual" documentary. The standards of acceptance or rejection should be no different than those associated with fabricating unnatural or contrived visual contents, no matter how compelling may be the end product.


Picante: the power of peppers is a film that is part of the student's thesis project.



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