Voice remaining in the non visualised field

[…] Where it remains not-yet-seen, even an insignificant acousmatic voice becomes invested with magical powers as soon as it is involved, however slightly, in the image.”(Chion, 1999)


  • 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.


Micheak Haneke’s “caché” provide a great example of the acousmetre.





It is soon after revealed that the image we see is actually also seen by the character offscreen.





And a little later, it is revealed to be a video tape being played in the main characters’ living room.





Related effects: Acousmatic sound
Opposite effect: Source connected sound
Similar effect: Source disconnected sound

(Chion, 1999)

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