Feeling and Filmmaking: The Affect and Design of Film Sound

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Diegetic sound is both functional and expressive. Sound is chosen to accurately match the image and communicate the physical nature of the source of a sound, such as basic information of material and force. The character of a sound further contributes to our sense of the fictional world, its affective qualities communicating whether it is precarious or treacherous, luxurious or comforting, for example. Despite its apparent intangibility, sound contributes significantly to the materiality of the image, fleshing out the movement of objects and bodies through increasingly finer detail. Frequency and amplitude impacts the listening body as hearing itself is a tactile and physical process. The work of constructing a fictional world thus requires a range of very detailed decisions about what sounds should be heard and how they should complement and/or extend the image, what affective qualities and character they can communicate and develop. More than this though, the process of creating the soundtrack can be seen as a sensory, even embodied, process itself. While some personnel might have a more obviously embodied method, such as foley artists who 'walk' a character, literally putting themselves in the place of the body we see onscreen, this paper will consider the extent to which sound design more generally might be considered an experiential and material practice. Drawing on published and unpublished interviews with film sound personnel, I will seek to explore the embodied and empathetic qualities of sound design, how artistic labour is shaped through consideration of the sensory appeal of cinema and how this contributes in turn to our own sensory responses to film.

University of Bristol research seminar series
Period2 Mar 2016
Held atUniversity of Bristol


  • film sound
  • sound design
  • embodiment
  • materiality
  • film design
  • film affect