Open City Docs: Documentary Sound With Larry Sider

Open City Docs
University College London

This course was held on 5 Wednesday evenings from 10 May – 13 June 2015, from 6:30 – 9:00 PM.
Plans are now underway to hold it again in Autumn 2015. Look at this and Open City’s website for details.


It is readily acknowledged that sound design is an aspect of fiction filmmaking that any director or editor needs to understand. For the documentary filmmaker, however, sound is still often considered a technical necessity left to post-production. The ways sound can transform a documentary’s narrative – and how it ‘speaks’ to its audience – are too often ignored.

The course will provide you with an understanding of how soundtracks operate in documentaries, by exploring a variety of strategies for working with sound in the continually evolving forms of non-fiction screen production.

In the 5 sessions, we will cover

  • What a soundtrack is and how it is made. What are the components that you work with when recording, editing and mixing a documentary soundtrack?
  • The technical development of documentary sound.
  • The relationships between pre-production, shooting and post-production in creating a soundtrack. How does the way you plan your shoot affect the soundtrack and, ultimately, how the audience perceives your ideas?
  • The workflow from recording to mixing.
  • The relationship between editing and sound design and between image, sound and music. How does editing the picture determine the soundtrack?
  • How to consider sound on a variety of budgets.
  • How sound can change the audience’s perception of images.
  • The variety of techniques for using sound in documentaries including location sound recording, miking techniques, voice-over / narration, metaphorical sound, synchronous vs asynchronous sound, and the crossover between fiction and documentary sound styles.
  • Consideration of the audience or client.
  • The ethics of sound: What are we allowed to hear and what is kept silent?

All this will be covered using a variety of examples from past and present documentaries, different forms and genres, interviews with directors, films I have edited and sound designed and materials I’ve used in teaching sound post-production at film schools in the UK and Europe.

This course is as valuable for directors, producers and editors as it is for sound designers and composers.

Course tutor: Larry Sider is an editor and sound designer know for his work in documentary, fiction and animation, including Patrick Keiller’s London, Robinson in Space and Robinson in Ruins. He was Head of Post-Production at the National Film and Television School and devised the curriculum that integrated the teaching of editing, sound and music. Since 1998, he has been the director of the School of Sound, a forum exploring the creative use of sound in the arts and media. He is a visiting lecturer at film and art schools in Europe and the UK.

The course takes place on Wednesday evenings from 6.30pm until 9pm on the following dates: 13 May, 20 May, 27 May, 3 June, 10 June.

For more information go to the Open Docs website



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