Hearing DV realism: Sound in millennial convergence cinema (1998-2008)

Johnston, Nessa (2013) Hearing DV realism: Sound in millennial convergence cinema (1998-2008). PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.


At the turn of the millennium, some commentators hailed the advent of new digital video and computer technology as precipitating a ‘digital revolution’ in movie-making. However, this has been discussed and theorised primarily in terms of the image, with no consideration of sound. Adopting a sound-centric perspective, this thesis examines key feature-length works of digital movie-making over a ten-year timespan that share aesthetic and production characteristics, most of which have been critically positioned as a low-budget, digitally-enabled response to a perceived mainstream or precedent. Writing in 2002, Lev Manovich identified these works as a reaction to “the increasing reliance on special effects in Hollywood” (Manovich 2002: 213), and used the term DV realism to position the aesthetics of this cycle of features in opposition to the aesthetics of films heavily reliant upon digital special effects. These works tend to be characterised visually by the use of shaky, hand-held camera suggestive of unpredictable, documentary-like shooting conditions; moreover, they tend to eschew post-production special effects in favour of capturing the pro-filmic action as it spontaneously unfolds.

I argue firstly that the lack of consideration of sound and its earlier digital turn in the late 1980s and early 1990s leads to over-emphasis of the ontological shift in image-making from celluloid to digital. Secondly, I demonstrate that the use of digital video to shoot features does not necessarily determine the aesthetics of sound in low-budget DV movies; in spite of this, the feature-length works analysed in this thesis share a stylistic approach to sound that I define as DV realist sound, after Manovich. Chapters 2 to 6 use textual analysis of sound-image relations in sets of sub-categories of DV realist digi-features. I argue that DV realist sound design uses the material qualities of location-recorded sound as a means of ‘authenticating’ the images accompanied, as well as sonic characteristics that intertextually reference other media. Now that shooting digitally is commonplace, this formal analysis represents a shift away from discussion of digital movie-making as ‘new’ and argues for millennial convergence cinema to be discussed quasi-historically, as a millennial trend within feature film-making reacting thematically and aesthetically to perceived shifts within media production.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: sound, film sound, realism, digital media, convergence
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Garwood, Dr. Ian
Date of Award: 2013
Embargo Date: 25 July 2019
Depositing User: Dr Nessa Johnston
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4432
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2013 15:00
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 10:16
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/4432

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