Lesson Plan: Soundscape Narration

With audio technology becoming both more advanced and also more affordable, the options for understanding and exploring the ways in which sound and image interact with one another are becoming ever more practically available.

Historically, many film directors have been fascinated with the possibilities of different approaches to the use of sound in their work. Famed Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein saw the possibility of a sound-film conflict, one that could create new meanings not inherent to either component individually. French director Robert Bresson insisted on capturing sounds from natural environments, refusing to score his work. Robert Altman frustrated many viewers with his layered and somewhat indistinct overlapping of simultaneous dialogues.

This assignment is intended to demonstrate to students how slight manipulations and variations in a given soundscape can drastically alter the viewer’s/listener’s experiences and constructions of narrative

Learning Objectives

The objective of this lesson is to teach students the possibilities of writing with audio. They will explore the ways in which different recordings from the same soundscape environment can be manipulated to change the story being told. In summary,

  • Record Multi-Channel Audio
  • Manipulate the Recorded Channels
  • Montage of Sound and Image

Assignment Length

This project consists of three phases: Filming/Recording; Editing; and Presentation.

Required Materials

Camera, Zoom F4 Field Recorder, Microphones, iMovie, Audacity

Skills Necessary

Familiarity with the physical equipment and the editing software[

Access and Adaptability

All of the materials necessary to complete this assignment are available as free rentals from the DWRL. The software necessary to complete the assignment is installed on all lab computers. Students should be encouraged to work on editing outside of the classroom, as most PCs have basic editing software sufficient enough to complete the assignment.

Assignment Description

For this assignment, students will record a brief scene that they either set up or observe naturally. While doing so, they will simultaneously use a series of mics to take in at least four different audio recordings.

In groups, they will then edit the sounds that accompany the video. They should produce several versions of their video in which the different audio channels are manipulated to create different stories using the same visual material.

Instructor Preparation

  • Familiarize with Zoom F4
  • Basic iMovie tutorial
  • Examples of audio manipulation and a presentation on soundscapes
  • Student Preparation
  • Brainstorm narrative ideas
  • Familiarize with Zoom F4
  • Check out equipment

In-Class or Assignment Instructions

Develop a shooting script

Skills Workshop

The Zoom F4 Field Recorder has many inputs and outputs that require familiarity with the equipment to use properly. See this video for a basic introduction to the recorder. All of the required equipment can be rented from the DWRL lab. Here is a useful tutorial on microphone placement.

Here are some other basic tutorials that will familiarize students with the software necessary to edit the video and audio material:

iMovie editing tutorial

Sound mixing in Audacity

Assessment Suggestions

The final project should be graded according to how well the students have manipulated their video using various different audio channels. Successful work should demonstrate the altering of meaning in the same visual material through audio manipulation. Work can be posted to Canvas or shared on a class YouTube channel.

For portfolio-based assignments, the instructor should require students to present their videos to the class. They may also be encouraged to share their work online, where both the instructor and fellow students can comment on the work. Additionally, all materials may be uploaded online, so that students can make collaborative videos. In this case, they would be able to use any of the audio or video obtained from all class members to further manipulate the narrative meanings of their videos.

Traditional assessment could be provided through written feedback (one or two paragraphs) highlighting the strengths and/or weaknesses of the project. This feedback should explain to the students what was or wasn’t successful in their attempts. You may also offer suggestions for improving. You may also wish to offer them a chance to resubmit their video for a better grade.

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