This handbook is intended for those wanting to use documentary filmmaking as a research method to explore subjects and also as a way of expressing ideas. Its focus is practical rather than technical, aiming to complement the many handbooks that already exist covering filmmaking, digital videography, sound recording and video editing. It concentrates on aspects of filmmaking for research purposes at an introductory level that are not so well documented elsewhere, such as the practical stages involved in the production of an ethnographic film. The underlying principal of this handbook is to broaden the application of ethnographic filmmaking to suit a wide range of research areas and documentary expression, encompassing sensory, fictive, observational, participatory, reflexive, performative and immersive modes of storytelling. I have chosen to avoid detailed discussion of technology as this dates quickly. This handbook aims to assist individuals in their personalised searches using online facilities to develop research methods and also teaching, by decoding technical terminology and explaining filmmaking workflows.
This chapter considers the work of the Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL),
established at Harvard University in 2006 and which has had a dramatic
impact both inside and beyond the academy. Initially, the institutional
context and the ideas informing the work of the SEL are described. This work
is very diverse and constantly innovative, making generalisation perilous.
But allowing for numerous possible exceptions, it is suggested that there
are various continuities between their praxis and that of their
institutional predecessor, Robert Gardner. These are particularly evident in
the attention given to visual aesthetics and to sound editing, and in the
generally high technical quality of their films. Also as in Gardner’s work,
both language and concern for communicating what the subjects think or feel
about the world are of secondary importance. There is typically even less
interest in relating those beliefs or sentiments to social relations,
politics or culture. It is argued that in these regards their work,
collectively, is set upon a trajectory carrying them progressively away from
the conception of ethnography on which this book is based. These
propositions are then explored in relation to some of the best-known works
produced by the SEL prior to 2015.
There is no soundtrack is a specific yet expansive study of sound tactics deployed in experimental media art today. It analyses how audio and visual elements interact and produce meaning, drawing from works by contemporary media artists ranging from Chantal Akerman, to Nam June Paik, to Tanya Tagaq. It then links these analyses to discussions on silence, voice, noise, listening, the soundscape, and other key ideas in sound studies. In making these connections, the book argues that experimental media art – avant-garde film, video art, performance, installation, and hybrid forms – produces radical and new audio-visual relationships that challenge and destabilize the visually-dominated fields of art history, contemporary art criticism, cinema and media studies, and cultural studies as well as the larger area of the human sciences. This book directly addresses what sound studies scholar Jonathan Sterne calls ‘visual hegemony’. It joins a growing body of interdisciplinary scholarship that is collectively sonifying the study of culture while defying the lack of diversity within the field by focusing on practitioners from transnational and diverse backgrounds. Therefore, the media artists discussed in this book are of interest to scholars and students who are exploring aurality in related disciplines including gender and feminist studies, queer studies, ethnic studies, postcolonial studies, urban studies, environmental analysis, and architecture. As such, There Is No Soundtrack makes meaningful connections between previously disconnected bodies of scholarship to build new, more complex and reverberating frameworks for the study of art, media, and sound.
devoted to the soundtrack. The 1980 Yale French Studies special
issue on soundedited by Rick Altman was a key early work (about half of
it dedicated to music), as was the work of the French theorist Michel
Chion (whose foundational 1980s work has been translated by Claudia
Gorbman; see Chion, 1994 and 1999 ). Scholarship in this area has expanded rapidly as
specialists in musicology and Film Studies have explored it, and the
of Pelias) and its attempt
at modernising the narrative, for some it simply ‘retold the story of
the 1963 film at twice the length and with less than half the charm’
(Richards, 2008: 170). Here, the show evidently did not take advantage
of the opportunities provided by the serial format and merely extended
the action rather than aiming for narrative complexity. In 2002, TNT
got in on the act with its Julius Caesar (dir. Uli Edel), another two-part
miniseries. The show received two Emmy nominations, for make-up
and soundediting. It focused on Caesar’s early years
credits, which always feature a long list of names related to soundediting. This took place, along with the picture editing, not at the NFB but in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the EDC was based.
In an aesthetic sense, the films are very low-key: the general style is one of muted observational realism. But this effect has been brought about by very skilful authoring. The framing and exposure is generally immaculate and there are no self-conscious manifestations of
classical cinema was to confirm Soviet anxieties about the
hegemonic power of theatrical and naturalistic modes of expression, the
introduction of optical sound technology also opened up two new strands of
sonic practice that were to have a profound influence on the soundscape of
the twentieth century: the first of these was synthesis, the second was
The primary creative opportunity that soundediting affords
and related strands of sonic practice that were to have a profound influence
on the soundscape of twentieth-c entury western art: the first of these was
soundediting (dealt with in Chapter 6 ), the second,
sound synthesis. As has already been demonstrated by the example of ground
noise, film technology generates as well as reproduces sound. The
sig-nificance of the conceptual shift from reproduction to
useful to get an audience to applaud on cue, ideally simply to smooth over soundedits. Here, the FM makes a large clapping gesture above his or her head without actually clapping. This is repeated to keep the applause going or made more vigorous to increase the volume. To stop the applause and make it end naturally, just lower the arms slowly to the side, palms down. Raising the hands palms up is another way of raising the intensity or volume.
There are other signals, but, in my experience, they are not in wide use.
Ensuring the studio is ready for a rehearsal
subject to its gaze. If anything, the subtle camera movement
and its angles, the teasing and revealing use of framing, the expository but
misleading use of deep focus and the artful soundediting adopt the strategy
of imitating his purpose but making him victim of it too. Thus, although the
film was the target of feminist criticism at the Venice Film Festival, the
constantly shifting perspective complicates the accusation of being shot