Towards 3-D Sound: Spatial Presence and the Space Vacuum

  • Miguel Mera


This chapter demonstrates the evolution of relationships between sound design and music in cinematic representations of the interstellar space vacuum. Mera provides a framework for understanding how audiences believe they are physically present in the represented environment and argues that, in the late 2000s, we move towards three-dimensional (3-D) sound, an aesthetic and technical extension of the superfield and the ultrafield as defined by Chion and Kerins, respectively. 3-D Sound’s primary characteristic is the emancipation of music from a fixed sound-stage spatialization, resulting in greater fluidity between sound design and music. This chapter examines the relationship between two types of spatial presence, articulating both the audience’s suspension of disbelief within a film’s narrative world and the spatial presence of sound and music within a multichannel cinema environment.


Sound Effect Interstellar Space Sound Channel Space Vacuum Sound Design 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bender, S. (2014) ‘There is Nothing to Carry Sound: Defamiliarisation and Reported Realism in Gravity’, Senses of Cinema, 71 (July),, date accessed 12th December 2014.
  2. Bracken, C. C. and P. D. Skalski (eds) (2010) Immersed in Media: Telepresence in Everyday Life (London and New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
  3. Brown, R. S. (1994) Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music (Berkeley: University of California Press).Google Scholar
  4. Chion, M. (1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia University Press).Google Scholar
  5. Chion, M. (2001) Kubrick’s Cinema Odyssey (London: Palgrave Macmillan).Google Scholar
  6. Coleman, M. (2013) ‘SoundWorks Collection: The Sound of Gravity’,, date accessed November 24th 2014.
  7. Deleon, C. M. (2009) ‘A Familiar Sound in a New Place: The Use of the Musical Score Within the Science Fiction Film’ in M.J. Bartkowiak (ed) Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company).Google Scholar
  8. Dolby (2014) Dolby Atmos: Next-Generation Audio for Cinema, White Paper, Dolby Laboratories.Google Scholar
  9. Ebert, R. (1997) ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’,, date accessed 12th December 2014.
  10. Gorbman, C. (2006) ‘Ears Wide Open: Kubrick’s Music’ in P. Powrie and R. Stilwell (eds) Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-Existing Music in Film (Aldershot: Ashgate).Google Scholar
  11. Grimshaw, M. (2007) ‘Sound and Immersion in the First-Person Shooter’ in Q. Mehdi, P. Estraillier and M. Eboueya (eds) Proceedings of CGAMES’2007. 11th International Conference on Computer Games: AI, Animation, Mobile, Educational and Serious Games, Université de La Rochelle, France, 21–3 November.Google Scholar
  12. Holmberg, J. (2003) ‘Ideals of Immersion in Early Cinema’, Cinémas: revue d’études cinématographiques/Cinemas: Journal of Film Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1, 129–147.Google Scholar
  13. Holston, K. R. (2013) Movie Roadshows: A History and Filmography of Reserved Seat Limited Showings 1911–1973 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company).Google Scholar
  14. Kassabian, A. (2013) ‘The End of Diegesis as We Know It?’ in J. Richardson, C. Gorbman, and C. Vernallis (eds) Oxford Handbook of New Audiovisual Aesthetics (New York: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  15. Kerins, M. (2011) Beyond Dolby (Stereo): Cinema in the Digital Sound Age (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press).Google Scholar
  16. Kermode, M. (2009) ‘Come in Number 3D, your time is up’,, date accessed 12th December 2014.
  17. Kirby, D. A. (2013) Lab Coats in Hollywood: Science, Scientists, and Cinema (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).Google Scholar
  18. Kolker, R. (ed.) (2006) Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey New Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  19. Lipscomb, S. D. and S. M. Zehnder (2004) ‘Immersion in the Virtual Environment: The Effect of a Musical Score on the Video Gaming Experience’, Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Scienc e, 23, 337–343.Google Scholar
  20. Lombard, M. and T. Ditton (1997) ‘At the Heart of it All: The Concept of Presence’, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 3, No. 2,, date accessed 12th December 2014.Google Scholar
  21. Mantovani, G. and G. Riva (1999) ‘Real presence: How different ontologies generate different criteria for presence, telepresence and virtual presence’, Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, Vol. 8, No. 5, 538–548.Google Scholar
  22. McMahan, A. (2003) ‘Immersion, Engagement, and Presence: A Method for Analyzing 3-D Video Games’ in M. Wolf and B. Perron (eds) The Video Game, Theory Reader (New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
  23. Mera, M. (2014) ‘Interview with Christopher Benstead’, Unpublished. Pinewood Studios. 29th August.Google Scholar
  24. Neuendorf, K. A. and E. A. Lieberman (2010) ‘Film: The Original Immersive Medium’ in C.C. Bracken and P.D. Skalski (eds) Immersed in Media: Telepresence in Everyday Life (New York: Routledge).Google Scholar
  25. Recuber, T. (2007) ‘Immersion Cinema: The Rationalization and Reenchantment of Cinematic Space’, Space and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 3, 315–330.Google Scholar
  26. Schweiger, D. (2013) ‘Interview with Steven Price’,, date accessed 12th December 2014.
  27. Sergi, G. (2004) The Dolby Era: Film Sound in Contemporary Hollywood (Manchester: University of Manchester Press).Google Scholar
  28. Sergi, G. (2010) ‘Tales of the Silent Blast: Star War s and Sound’, Journal of Popular Film, Vol. 26, No. 1, 12–22.Google Scholar
  29. Slater, M. and S. Wilbur (1997) ‘A Framework for Immersive Virtual Environments (FIVE): Speculations on the Role of Presence in Virtual Environments’, Presence—Teleoperators and Virtual Environments Vol. 6, No. 6, 603–616.Google Scholar
  30. Smalley, D. (1986) ‘Spectro-morphology and Structuring Processes’ in S. Emmerson (ed.) The Language of Electroacoustic Music (London: Macmillan).Google Scholar
  31. Smalley, D. (1997) ‘Spectromorphology: Explaining sound-shapes’, Organised Sound Vol. 2, No. 2, 107–126.Google Scholar
  32. Sonnenschein, D. (2001) Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema (New York: Michael Wiese Productions).Google Scholar
  33. Wirth, W., T. Hartmann, S. Böcking, P. Vorderer, C. Klimmt, H. Schramm, T. Saari, J. Laarni, N. Ravaja, F. Ribeiro Gouveia, F. Biocca, A. Sacau, L. Jäncke, T. Baumgartner and P. Jancke (2007) ‘A Process Model of the Formation of Spatial Presence Experiences’, Media Psychology, Vol. 9, No. 3, 493–525.Google Scholar
  34. Whittington, W. (2007) Sound Design and Science Fiction (Austin: University of Texas Press).Google Scholar
  35. Winters, B. (2010) ‘The Non-diegetic Fallacy: Film, Music, and Narrative Space’, Music and Letters, Vol. 91, No. 2, 224–244.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Miguel Mera
    • 1
  1. 1.City, University of LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations