Point of listening = POL

Perspective - sound centre - shaping the sound picture


 Fixed sound centre - the centre of the sound picture remains fixed in the same place (usual in Standard production)
 MOVING SOUND CENTRE - 'we go with' - the sound centre moves along with the characters as they talk (going 'up the garden path' so as to speak)

 The following discussion is both useful for production and is also academic (theory-based).

(Term coined by AB) The point of listening (POL) is the area within the sound picture to which the listener is to focus his listening. It is the answer to the question, in production, of "in what direction is the listener to direct attention?".

The POL is only approximately equivalent to the film visual POV, because the ear does not focus to one point as accurately as does the eye in its operation.

Ears however, receive sounds coming from all around us, irrespective of the direction of our field of vision. The POL is to be considered as a small area with relatively clear boundaries.

The POL can be in many cases a definite point, especially if the sound frame or sound picture is a two-way conversation in standard production. That is a frequent situation. But the POL is more often to be regarded as a certain area. And the question is, how wide are its dimensions? The POL can be an area either as a circle, an arc, or its boundaries defined by a room interior.

A fundamental point is that there is a distinction between the sound centre and the POL. Often they are one and the same, and they coincide. The POL is the aspect as far as the listener is concerned, and the sound centre as far as production is concerned.


There must then be considered the cases where the POL and the sound centre are not identical, or are not coterminous. There are two ways in which this occurs. The first is where the sound centre is on the move. The POL may move too, but not always. The second case is rarer, and this is where there is more than one sound centre at the same time within the sound picture. There are usually no more than two sound centres, at most. The moving sound centre, and the case of two or more sound centres, will be discussed in relation to the POLs below.

Sound perspective depends on the creation of a clearly determined POL. For example, in a two-way dialogue in standard production, the POL is usually a point equidistant from the pair. The director makes a choice of perspective, either about four feet away (close shot, CS, applied to radio production conditions), or 10 feet (mid shot, MS). The director can also give more prominence or 'focus' to one of the speakers by placing the sound centre nearer that speaker, to give more 'colour' in that stretch of dialogue.

In standard production, much of POL is objective, and the sound picture created is that almost of a stage, set up in front of the listener to visualise. The mike is not as flexible as the camera and it records aural signals not visual ones.

Subjective POL is often used as a technique. Take the case of the radio play phone conversation. The production convention is that most often the POL stays with the main character. The second character's voice is electronically treated so that the audience hear it sounding as down the phone line. The switch in turns between speakers is not rendered by a strict ping-pong cut from one to another at the end of each turn. Another production technique available is to switch this POL to the second character mid through the phone dialogue. This shift in focus is useful for plot reasons. It is usually done by cross-fade in the middle of a turn, rather than by a cut jump, which might be confusing for the listener.

Mostly in standard production, the POL is static. But the POL can also be moving. This raises other theoretical problems in discussing the moving POL.

Perhaps radio plays have solved for the sound medium what remains a technical problem for film.

Radio can shift instantaneously and in flow, with instant changes of POL to POL. It can shift from long shot to medium shot, or to close shot, in terms of aural perspective. Also to internal shot, inside the head. These are four options more flexibly accessed on radio.


Further discussion
There remain the two problems of the moving sound centre, and the situation of two or more sound centres in the sound picture. This will also lead to analysis of the serial aspects of the POL, how it can be considered through a play sequence or a whole play scene.



  See Point-of-listening in radio plays - Beck, Alan, 1998, Sound Journal
  See Perceptual filling-in - necessary compensation by the listener for what is blurred or indistinct or omitted
  See Cognitive Mapping and Radio Drama by Alan Beck - monograph




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