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Steve Whitford

The Truth of Sound: Recording Realist Documentaries - 'Being There'

18 May 2024   4:00 PM - 6:00 PM BST


Zoom Event

Observational documentary and realist (scripted and unscripted) location sound recording is a much under-explored area of film sound, despite its very large employment opportunities. I seek to address this by drawing critical attention to the intricacies and skills involved in location sound recording within realist filmmaking – both scripted and unscripted. I show how this art continues to be central to the creative process of production, in driving the narrative and shaping the text’s influence, within the pro-filmic space.

Steve Whitford is uniquely placed as a documentary sound recordist who, after over 25 years of production experience, entered academia and created a body of insightful research exploring the role of sound recording.

In this two-part series Steve draws upon his extensive experience as a documentary recordist to explore both the historical and conceptual background that informs location sound followed by a detailed explanation of current sound recording techniques.


The Truth of Sound: Recording Realist Documentaries
Part 1: Being There

In this talk, location recordist Steve reflects on his industry experiences working as a Film/ TV Sound Recordist for realist filmmaking. He describes and demonstrates his best practices and philosophy for this often-overlooked art/craft section of production. By deconstructing scenes he recorded, he explores the relationship between sound recordist, cinematographer and subject. Steve uses his own work as a model for how documentary recording has evolved since the 1950s and the origins of Direct Sound.
(Topics: Industry practices, location recording techniques, case studies, documentary modes/types, innovative techniques of American documentary filmmakers Wiseman, Leacock, et al.)

90 minutes followed by Q&A.
Each ticket includes free access to a recording of the event for 6 months.

Saturday, 25 May 2024
Part 2: Ambisonics and the recordist as author

Steve Whitford is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Portsmouth teaching the MA in Sound Production and is Course Leader for the MSc and MA Film and TV Production. Since 1984 he has recorded sound in the film/tv industry across a wide range of programming for international broadcasters and independent TV companies. Though his first love is documentary Sound Recording he has compiled extensive experience in drama as well as corporate productions. He won the RTS Award for Sound Recording on BBC2′s ‘Fighting The War’ documentary series for which he was embedded with the Black Watch (7th Armoured) during the invasion of Iraq.  Full credits can be found at whitford.net.

He is currently writing his PhD: “The ‘Truth of Sound’: Exploring the effects of an immersive location sound recording methodology, within Realist filmmaking”. His research includes articles for The Soundtrack, The International Journal of the Image and International Journal of Creative Media Research, as well as presentations at Mapping Spaces, Sound Places: Geographies of Sound in Audiovisual Media (Cremona, Italy, 2019), Ambisonic-centred Location Sound Recording: Reinvigorating the Observational Documentary (ObsDoc) Genre? for AVANCA | CINEMA 2020, and Teaching ‘Otherness’: Reflections on film production pedagogy and political agency for MeCCSA, South Bank University, London (2020).


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