Featured Course

Sound Design for Documentary Film

“We gestate in Sound, and are born into Sight. Cinema gestated in Sight, and was born into Sound.”—Walter Murch

Sound design is more than simply collecting adequate sound and piecing it together; it’s planning a film with sound in mind from the start. It’s easy to overlook sound design in pre-production, especially in a documentary, and the result can be a scramble to “fix” sound issues and cover up problems rather than the careful construction of a meaningful and richly woven sound environment.

This course is an intensive study in sound design for documentary film, drawing inspiration from narrative and experimental filmmaking as well as from sound art. First, we will explore sound design theory. We’ll watch and discuss clips and engage in listening exercises in order to discover what makes a soundtrack as powerful, or even more powerful, than visuals. As independent documentarians, we’re often our own sound recordists, editors, and mixers; consequently, we’ll cover the practical aspects of sound recording, effects recording and editing, mixing with Adobe Premiere Pro, and working with music. Finally, we’ll troubleshoot common problems like microphone discrepancies and background sound interference. Footage will be provided for these exercises.

Alexis Bravos is a filmmaker and writer. She is interested in experimental biography, deep listening, and sound design. Working primarily in 16mm film, much of her work involves creating impressionistic portraits of historical figures via the landscapes they lived in. Her films have screened internationally, including at the Ann Arbor Film Festival (where her film Hepworth won the Eileen Maitland Award in 2011), Anthology Film Archives, Other Cinema, Big Muddy Film Festival, Humboldt International, and elsewhere. Her films are distributed by Canyon Cinema. She is a graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of Iowa and has taught film and media production at the University of Hartford and the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor. She lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

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