Ambisonic-centred location sound recording: reinvigorating the Observational Documentary genre?

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Scholarly writing on Documentary film often prioritises the image over sound, as is the case with scholarly film analysis in a more general sense. The art of location/field Sound Recording, as opposed to music, scores and post-production Sound Design has been even more neglected as an area of academic research. This piece seeks to address this gap by drawing critical attention to the intricacies and skills involved in location/field Sound Recording within Observational Documentaries. It will seek to show how this art has an integral and vital function within the creative process of production, and in driving the narrative and the shaping of the text’s shaping of the filmic space.

I will also consider the future of Sound within the Observational Documentary genre and its place in a new multi-platform, multi-screen consumption space. Through examining several case studies, I will seek to develop and define a new working methodology and aesthetic for the craft and art of location/field Sound Recording techniques, predicated on an anticipated resurgence of the genre, centred around opportunities afforded by the emerging technologies of immersive sound: ambisonic microphone arrays being a vital part of that development. Ambisonics is a method for representing a full three-dimensional sound field, and its genre-bridging adaptability means it can be converted to a dynamically steerable binaural format. Opportunities afforded by deploying an ambisonic-centred location/field Sound Recording methodology, utilising the craft and art of recording unscripted actuality Sound within the pro-filmic geographic event space, will have profound prospects for Observational Documentary makers and crucially, tomorrow’s Documentary audiences. Offering audiences an exciting new ability to experience the sense of geographical places and physical spaces that immersive audio delivers, bears the potential, I argue, of re-invigorating a content-driven Observational Documentary market, and foregrounding the primacy of neglected storytelling capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2019
EventMapping Spaces, Sounding Places: Geographies of Sound in Audiovisual Media - Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage, University of Pavia, Cremona, Italy
Duration: 19 Mar 201922 Mar 2019


ConferenceMapping Spaces, Sounding Places
Abbreviated titleMSSP
Internet address


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