Date of Award

Summer 8-12-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Jack Boozer

Second Advisor

Edward (Ted) Friedman

Third Advisor

Ethan Tussey

Fourth Advisor

Rick Altman


The common perception that sound design is a subset of postproduction sound, and that most film sound professionals are more technicians than artists, is an assumption that leads to erroneous conclusions about the nature of film sound as a component of filmmaking. Specific sound designers have been elevated to celebrity status while other film sound professionals remain unknown. Additionally, the computerization of postproduction sound contributes to the misconception that these professionals are workstation operators who merely construct film soundtracks from sound libraries and/or elements designed by the main sound designer. In the 1990s, the initial transition from analogue to digital postproduction sound practices began in motion pictures. The three major American film sound communities—Hollywood, the San Francisco Bay Area, and New York—had developed unique approaches to sound design largely due to cultural, labor, and economic differences between the three cities. The three communities worked from different historical contexts, within different union regulations, and were subject to different economic structures. These differences predisposed the three geographical sound communities to different workflows and attitudes toward sound design. By examining three case studies of award-winning soundtracks from the three regions—Barton Fink (1991), Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), and The English Patient (1996)—it becomes clear that the three communities, when confronted with the initial technological changes of the 1990s, experienced similar challenges with the inelegant transition from analogue to digital. However, their cultural and structural labor differences governed different results. Rather than define the 1990s as an era of technological determinism—which would be a superficial reading of the era—it is an era best understood as one in which sound professionals became more viable as artists, collaborated in sound design authorship, and influenced this digital transition to better accommodate their needs and desires in their work.


Available for download on Tuesday, August 04, 2099