Item 1: 300 word statement. Action Space - Defining Sound Design in low budget documentary film

2018-12-03T15:32:44Z (GMT) by Simon Connor
Action Space - Defining Sound Design in low budget documentary film

The term ‘Sound Design’ was originally conceived by Walter Murch for his work on the Francis Ford Coppola films of the 1970’s. Murch’s role went beyond the technical responsibilities of the films soundtrack, to more artistic and aesthetic sonic considerations (Buhler, Flinn, & Neumeyer, 2000). However this ideal has been difficult to realise in modern day Hollywood, which with its inherent divisions of labour and industrialised processes, has been resistant to the idea of the sole sound designer having responsibility across all aspects of the soundtrack (Kalinak, 2015).

In contrast, low budget documentary film relies on minimal crew who are manoeuvrable and adaptable, the sound department often consists of one person responsible for many roles. Can such imposed financial limitations provoke a more creative, consistent and holistic approach to film sound, more akin to Murch’s ideal as sound designer as overall sonic architect?

This question is investigated via practice in Action Space (2016), a low-budget documentary film in which I acted as sound designer. The research inquiry is investigated via technical and aesthetic approaches to the sound and by taking overall creative control of the soundtrack. This was made possible via the democratisation of digital audio technology, affording a sense of ‘play’ and experimentation, utilising techniques more associated with the sound design of fiction film (Rogers, 2010). Involvement through every stage of the film’s production allowed me to develop a tacit understanding of the whole sound design process.

This research is explicated in detail in Item2, the accompanying book chapter; Auralising Action Space: Channelling a Sense of Play in Documentary Sound Design.

The findings from these practice-based outputs reveal that channelling a sense of 'play' and adopting audio techniques used in non-documentary film allow sound to enhance the multisensory aspect of documentary. Furthermore, financial restrictions imposed from low budget filmmaking can afford a more creative and holistic approach to film sound design.


Buhler, J., Flinn, C., & Neumeyer, D. (2000). Music and cinema. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.

Kalinak, K. (2015). Sound : dialogue, music, and effects. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Rogers, H. (2010). Composing with Reality: Digital Sound and Music in Documentary Film. Zdok. Retrieved from