Dislocations in sound design for 3-D films: Sound design and the 3-D experience

Damian Candusso

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Since the success of James Cameron’s Avatar (2009),1 the feature film industry has embraced 3-D feature film technology. With 3-D films now setting a new benchmark for contemporary cinemagoers, the primary focus is directed towards these new stunning visuals. Sound is often neglected until the final filmmaking process as the visuals are taking up much of the film budget. 3-D has changed the relationship between the imagery and the accompanying soundtrack, losing aspects of the cohesive union compared with 2-D film.
Having designed sound effects on Australia’s first digital animated 3-D film, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010),2 and several internationally released 3-D films since, it became apparent to me that the visuals are evolving technologically and artistically at a rate far greater than the soundtrack. This is creating a dislocation between the image and the soundtrack. Although cinema sound technology companies are trialing and releasing new ‘immersive’ technologies, they are not necessarily addressing the spatial relationship between the images and soundtracks of 3-D digital films.
Through first hand experience, I question many of the working methodologies currently employed within the production and creation of the soundtrack for 3-D films. There is limited documentation on sound design within the 3-D feature film context, and as such, there are no rules or standards associated with this new practice. Sound designers and film sound mixers are continuing to use previous 2-D work practices in cinema sound, with limited and cautious experimentation of spatial sound design for 3-D. Although emerging technologies are capable of providing a superior and ‘more immersive’ soundtrack than previous formats, this does not necessarily mean that they provide an ideal solution for 3-D film. Indeed the film industry and cinema managers are showing some resistance in adopting these technologies, despite the push from technology vendors.
Through practice-led research, I propose to research and question the following:
 Does the contemporary soundtrack suit 3-D films?
 Has sound technology used in 2-D film changed with the introduction of 3-D film? If it has, is this technology an ideal solution, or are further technical developments needed to allow greater creativity and cohesiveness of 3-D film sound design?
 How might industry practices need to develop in order to accommodate the increased dimension and image depth of 3-D visuals?
 Does a language exist to describe spatial sound design in 3-D cinema?
 What is the audience awareness of emerging film technologies? And what does this mean for filmmakers and the cinema?
 Looking beyond contemporary cinema practices, is there an alternative approach to creating a soundtrack that better represents the accompanying 3-D imagery?
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Australian National University
Award date30 Apr 2015
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Dislocations in sound design for 3-D films: Sound design and the 3-D experience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this