Acousmatic sounds

Sound heard without visualising the source; can be applied to any sound (vococentric or not).


  • Deprived of any visual magnetisation, the spectator actively seeks the sound source in the diegetic space. Mental images can be created by the viewer in order to compensate the lack of visual information. The context plays a consequent role.
  • Then, the detection and localisation of the sonic occurrence depend on the spatial information displayed by the sound (effects exposing spatial coordinates such as back voice, colouring, point of audition, etc… will help the viewer in situating the event).
  • Visual information allows certainty in the general recognition of the event context and spatial setting.
  • Other characters’ reactions can provide spatial information on unfolding events.
  • Sonic density can potentially harden recognition and localisation (masking, superimposition, etc…). Audible parts can be hard to differentiate to the whole. Prone to the ubiquity effect in that situation.
  • The degree of visual information can become detrimental if too vast.

Related induced effect: De-acousmatisation
Related inductor effect: Acousmatisation
Opposite effect: Source connected sound
Similar effect: Source disconnected sound

Lieutenant Fontaine during his escape in “a man escaped”. Sound plays a big part in situating the whole sequence as very little visual information is being shown.






The sound of people heard from the pipes in “Delicatessen” can also be considered as acousmatic. See offscreen





(Chion, 1994)

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