Film Sound 232 Theory
To see is to understand...
The biological imperative
What is natural?
Design concepts from Zaza
Terminology for analysis
Essential points for analysis
Figures of speech as descriptions of sound
More recent theory
Doing the work
• It therefore has a visceral effect:
-it informs us of dangers lurking beyond the range of vision (FORESHADOWING).
-our sensitivity to frequencies at 2,000 Hz.,
-our dynamic range,
-wind (invisible except for things that it moves of course)
-rain (often invisible in 16mm or TV)
-space the camera finds itself in
-with low freq. signals - actual physical sensation
-distance from the viewer in terms of level/reverberation ratio
-that which is outside of the frame
-obviously a moment of silence in a film with a sound track can be as effective as a burst of sound in a "silent film" although a lack of sound (except the hiss of the blank track) is very rare.
-this is both a problem to be considered at all times and also an asset which can be put to dramatic use: How often do we hear a sound for which no image can be conjured up or if we do imagine what it looks like - we are wrong?
The logic is created within the shot and has a logic only in relation to screen space and time, not real space and time.
Always: Listen to the sounds themselves, not the source
Sound in pictures often foreshadows the action
• This has a biological source
• It must be always taken into account:
The acoustic analogue between long shot & close-up
Logic is created within the shot: this logic relates to screen space time, not real space time
Room tone is critical in film, we rarely are aware of it in real life
Note here that the lack of track will create hiss or will draw the attention to the sounds of the projection space itself
The position of the audience
A spectator in the shot
The Director’s whim
The sound is crucial to help decode the puzzle of an arbitrary selection and arrangement of shots.
Felt in the theatre
If absent, we hear the hiss of the system or the sound of the theatre itself
It is necessary
to have noise to create silence
Current practice of slavishly creating naturalistic soundtracks where every event has a crescendo of effects (especially action films) he would see as primitive. Sound should be used to explain the content more deeply to the audience.
Sound has a visually identifiable source and sound that does not
2/ PARALLELISM & COUNTERPOINT
Complementing the image and sound that carries a different meaning
3/ actual vs. commentative sound
Arising from an identifiable source from the narrative or not having a source in the narrative
Gorbman expands upon 3/:
1/ the characters may make a noise
2/ sound may originate outside the narrative structure (music themes or narrative v.o.)
3/ sounds may be imagined by characters but not actually heard by their ears
Sound presence can counterpoint a visual presence (visual long shot, audio close-up)
Support or exaggerate visual image (Thatcher library in Citizen Kane)
On/off screen sound
Is sound directly perceived by the ear or inferred; such as when people converse behind a closed window or in a noisy setting
As in cinema’s version of the cocktail party effect
Cinematic space of the location
|sound has a source that is visually identifiable|
|sound has no apparent image|
|sound complements an image|
|sound has meaning itself|
|sound has a narrative source|
|sound has no story basis, but a directorial attitude|
-also important to note that we neither see the apparatus itself nor is its existence revealed; i.e. through shaky camera (except for cinema verité or p.o.v. effect and) likewise for the microphone to give the effect of a "live pick-up" etc.
-The image is directly motivated by the world and therefore possess a wholeness that serves as further testimony to its integrity: It cannot be broken down into smaller elements whereas the sound is broken up into dialogue, sfx, ambiences, music etc.
-Images gain their credibility in terms of their reference to objective reality; sounds, in their conformation to the images of objective reality, to a derivative reconstruction of that reality.
-The soundtrack is a world where every sound has significance - sounds which fall outside the realm of understanding or significance are filtered out. This is what is now so disturbing about "Godard's work" and is used to give the "documentary feel" to the work: Test-type commercials,
-to repeat: the goal/evolution of sound technology is to eliminate any noise (extraneous sound) which interferes with the transmission of meaningful sound.
-or as Walter Murch once described it: "the sound one hears in one's head."
•spatio-temporal universe referred to by the primary narration
•the denotative (i.e. strictly literal) material of film narrative, it includes, according to Christian Metz, not only the narration itself, but also the fictional space and time dimensions implied by the narrative.
•narratively implied spatio-temporal world of the actions and the characters
• flashbacks, dreams, visions, and fantasy)
diegetic or source sound:
•source clearly identified in the story space
-functions to enhance the verisimilitude of the image
-may be off screen
-may be asynchronous
• since many sounds are ambiguous out of context most sfx are diegetic - only music crosses the boundary effectively
diegetic or source music:
• arising from the primary narration
• high quality diegetic music can articulate space: opera in the concert hall etc. (reverberation)
• offers depth cues (loud•near, soft•far)
• in narrative film source music functions primarily as sound
• creates irony very easily (often primary use) -
non-diegetic or extra-diegetic:
• no clear source in the story space:
-point of view
Sound may imply a reality other than what is seen
audience perspective is determined by the sound focus
audience attention is determined by masking
off-track sound (sound is seen but not heard)
screen space is implied by off-screen sound, the source is unseen
sound texture (reflections) defines the characteristics of the space
sounds not heard by the audience: sounds are inferred by the action or reaction of players (may have a comedic or horrific responses)
aural allusions evoke imagery that must be understood as something a character perceives and, therefore, is understood in terms of what the audience must interpret in terms of how the image further develops the p[lot, character or mood
contrast of two elements explicitly compared (scream -> train whistle)
suggest a comparison by application of an element to an object or concept that it does not denote (cream from cheers)
contrast of opposites through the use of the least expected or anticipated form (scream with laughter)
obvious exaggeration (scream with phone ringing)
substitution of one related element for another (scream with screeching winch)
seemingly contradictory sound used over an entity that in reality may express a possible truth (scream over typewriter keys)
representation of an abstract or spiritual image through concrete or material forms ( the actual scream in the movie "The Shout"
this functions to prevent or delay ideological interrogation.
-"There is clearly a difference between a filmed object or action (it is a photograph of the thing or act) and a recorded musical sound. For (the latter) is the sound itself. There is no ontological difference between hearing a violin in a concert hall and hearing it on a sound track in the movie theatre." Gerald Mast, Film/Cinema/Movie: A Theory of Experience NY, Harper & Row, 1977 p. 216
-Also like the gun (as an example) the cinema and radio construct sounds which we as listener rarely hear in real life yet recognize: most weapons, large explosions, other people's lovemaking
What size space
Natural, staged or artificial location/state of mind
Color and shape of elements in the frame
Context: what are we trying to preserve, imply or invent
elements are required to build the larger gestalt/sound event?
|points of sound that make up the entire texture of background to foreground noises that fill in the pictorial space to make it seem real: insect noise, wind gusts, rustling leaves, etc.|
|complex guttural and nasal sounds that are not a part of speech but imply presence, tone or distance to the listener|
|range of sounds that provide depth cues or cues to the relative aural position of the on or off screen source. this can be a train whistle or a door slam|
|class of sounds that reveal planes of action (density of detail) or that isolate an important subject (level of intensity) from a group of subjects and their backgrounds. music combined with nonverbal gestures or sfx provide this focusing of attention.|