Aural Landscapes: Designing a sound environment for screen

Damian Candusso

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Cinematic environments are created through image, dialogue, music and sound, but the craft involved in creating an environmental soundtrack often goes unnoticed by the film viewer. Soundscapes are rarely just background: they are powerful storytelling vehicles in their own right, of equal importance to the visuals. This article examines the process of creating an environmental soundtrack for cinema from the perspective of a sound designer. Particular attention is given to how sound is created and layered to enhance, embellish and produce the film's narrative. Using contemporary Australian films, notably Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008) and Happy Feet (George Miller, 2006), the article examines the different challenges in creating an environmental soundscape for both an animation and a live action film. The films Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), Little Fish (Rowan Woods, 2005) and The Magician (Scott Ryan, 2005) are also cited to highlight various approaches to environmental representation in film sound. While both Australia and Happy Feet rely on the landscape and environment as integral storytelling components, the approach to creating their respective soundscapes requires not only natural recordings, but also the creation of many previously unheard sounds using synthetic sound design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-133
Number of pages13
JournalScreen Sound: The Australasian Journal of Soundtrack Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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