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nhaudio

good talk on doc sound design

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I found this slow going at first but I'm really glad that I stuck with it. Absolutely worth a couple of hours.

 

People might find it helpful to know the following marks, because some of the clips involve various versions of the sound for a particular part of the film. It's worth going back and comparing them more carefully than one can the first time around. Also, the two Q and A sessions are quite good.

 

Putin's Kiss

 

Clip 1: 5:10

Clip 2: 19:30

Clip 3: 28:18

Clip 4: 33:48

Clip 5: 40:22

Clip 6: 43:00

 

Putin's Kiss Q and A: 46:59 to 1:10:00

 

White Black Boy

 

Clip 1: 1:10:45

Clip 2: 1:22:43

Clip 3: 1:30:17

Clip 4: 1:31:33

Clip 5: 1:32:32

Clip 6: 1:36:23

 

 

White Black Boy Q and A: 1:38:58 to the end

 

In the context of White Black Boy, Albrechtsen talks about working with a Danish sound artist. It's hard to catch the name and the name of the contact microphone he uses. The artist is Jacob Kirkegaard, who has a web site at http://fonik.dk. He has a couple of shows at the moment in California at the Berkeley and Torrance art museums. His work will be at MoMa in New York from August through December, and he has an opening at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art on September 30. The microphone that he sometimes uses is an accelerometer.

 

Doc House - http://dochouse.org - which hosted this talk, has other videos on Vimeo, including more on sound.

 

Thanks to nhaudio for posting this link.

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Early on, Albrechtsen quotes a director to the effect that the only difference between fiction films and documentaries is that in fiction films the actors get paid. This idea grates on me, but how this point of view, which Albrechtsen believes in, translates into the creation of a documentary sound track, is very much the main theme of his presentation.

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The clips were beautiful, but in more than a few places I found myself taken out of the film/story by the sfx/design.  This kind of thing works differently in a doc than it does in a fiction film, I think.  Just as Albrechtsen objects to the use of music in some situations because it makes him conscious that he's watching a movie--a distancing effect, his sound design often does the same thing, for me, at least in those clips.

 

philp

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Hi Philip,

I wish that someone had asked Albrechtsen how far he is prepared to manipulate, and add to, the location production sound to tell what he, hopefully with the support of the director, considers to be the story.

It is interesting that he made the decisions about sound for White Black Boy without ever going to Tanzania, let alone meeting the subject of the documentary. This would be less troublesome were it not for the number of times in the presentation when he talks overtly or implicitly about manipulation (his word).

I want to see both these documentaries to find out whether the sound comes across as manufactured as it does in some of the clips. Putin's Kiss is available for download, with White Black Boy apparently to come.

I'm unsure about what manufacturing documentary sound means. The question is a lot like asking about the ethics/legitimacy of Capote's book In Cold Blood. Is what Albrechtsen, and presumably his directors, are doing that far from so-called New Journalism, and if it isn't, is any discomfort just the result of documentary conventions that need to be challenged? After all, New Journalism as a journalistic trend happened forty years ago.


My reaction to the presentation is discomfort, but that doesn't necessarily mean that my discomfort is justified.

Cheers

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Great observations Stewart.

At USC, the doc program pushed for more narrative conventions to doc storytelling, at times greatly pissing me off. Albrechtson's description of the "headmaster" and his term "subjective documentary", are not too far from my experience in grad shool.

But his use of "manipulative" didn't freak me out, because documentary is just as manufactured, contrived, subjective, and manipulative as any other form. The doc form just seems to hide all those contrivances, because of the way the form is percieved.

All the recent performative docs (Moore, Spurlock, etc.) are waaay out there as far as being manipulative and taking great liberties when compared to an older observational doc (Wiseman, Maysles, etc.). Albrechtson's manipulation of sound doesn't worry me too much.

Really great video, I'm gonna move through some more.

best

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I accept that a doc CAN be very manipulative of the of the real situation seen in the film, and whether or not to BE that manipulative is up to the filmmaker.  My observations about Albrechtsen's work really had more to do with some of the sounds calling too much attention to themselves, I thought, which I felt distracted from the story, as in his objection to some sorts of score.  Maybe I'd feel different if I saw the clips in the context of the whole film.

 

philp

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I think a doc (or a fiction) IS always manipulative. It's part of the essence of the medium.
What I like about this type of approach to sound design though, is that it adds a layer, a new point of view to the image (which is per se one point of view at a time). It's done in a lyrical way as opposed to the usual hyper-realism way. To a certain extend, it lets the spectator decide where to go. It requires a sort of active viewing/listening. 

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I thought Michael Moore wrote the book on manipulation in documentary movies..?

 

or did he just invent it ??

Right, Leni Riefenstahl was telling the unvarnished truth. So was the U.S. Resettlement Administration and the Farm Security Administration.

 

Did you actually watch Albrechtsen's presentation? If you watched it, do you have anything to say about it, intelligent or otherwise, or is this just another opportunity for one of your uninformed drive-by cracks?

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I thought Michael Moore wrote the book on manipulation in documentary movies..?

or did he just invent it ??

In either regard, I put him closer to reality TV, than documentary.

His earlier work is cleaner; The Big One is damn near perfect (Nike still being rather synonymous with sweatshops is partly due to Moore's work).

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