The sound of being there
With a soundscape produced in Berlin, Colin Ross invites his cinema audience to experience everyday life in a village on the island of New Guinea.
In Germany, as in the USA, the advent of standardized sound film around 1930 was a boost for the travelogue’ popularity.1 When Colin Ross left Germany on his trip in December 1928, sound film was no consideration yet. But back in Berlin in the summer of 1930, he decided to make a sound version Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! (1930) after all; production company Ufa advanced the money to record what was then a fairly complex mixture of voiceover narration, non-diegetic music, and sound effects.
This clip from the film highlights his use of sound to stress his role as a reporter traveling around the world on behalf of his audience. The voiceover spoken by Ross himself emphasizes his and his family’s privileged access to faraway places, including the inside of a New Guinean hut. More remarkable is the soundscape heard in the beginning of the clip, where the spectator is enveloped by a number of sounds, a semblance of being-there. A general background noise of voices is blended with sounds that are more distinctly synched with the shots: a pig oinking, a child laughing. The sounds in those passages were very probably not mixed in post-production, but recorded all at once. Admiring reviewers praised the film’s ‘plasticity’.
Thanks to Craig Smith (CalArts).
Colin Ross. Australien - Indien - Neuguinea - Neuseeland [archive title]
Excerpt from: Colin Ross. Achtung Australien! Achtung Asien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens. Germany: Ufa/Ullstein; 1930.
reel 2: 35mm | b&w | sound | 522m | 24 fps | 19’
Master: 0001-01-0926_Australien_ROSS_Colin_XY_Omnimago_2016_PR422HQ_2048x1768_PCM_24fps.mov; 0:19:41,21-0:20:47,11
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30
1 For early sound travelogues in the USA, see: Dana Binelli. Hollywood and the Attractions of the Travelogue. In: Jeffrey Ruoff (ed.). Virtual Voyages. Cinema and Travel. Durham-London: Duke University Press; 2006; 177–194.