Film chap 7 notes.docx

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Innis College Courses
Corinn Columpar

Chapter 7: Sound in the Cinema I. Sound decisions Sound is very hard to study. We usually ignore sounds in our environment. It is often a background for our visual attention. Sonic information draws us into the story. II. The powers of sound Meshing of image and sound appeals to something deep in human consciousness. 1. Shapes our understanding of images Sound can shape how we understand images. The audience will construe the same images differently, depending on the voice-over commentary. 2. Directs our attention Sound can direct our attention within the image It can guide us through shots It can clarify image events, contradict them or render them ambiguous It cues us to form expectations It also gives a new value to silence (creates unbearable tension) III. Fundamentals of film sound 1. Perceptual properties  Loudness: The amplitude or breadth of sound vibrations produces our sense of loudness or volume. The soundtrack of a film seizes our attention through contrast. Loudness is also perceived distance (the louder the sound, the closer we take it to be). A film can startle the viewer by exploiting abrupt and extreme shifts in volume (we call this a change in dynamics)  Pitch: Refers to the perceived highness or lowness of the sound. Pitch helps us distinguish music and speech form noises and it serves to distinguish among objects. Thumps can suggest hollow objects while higher-pitched sounds can suggest smoother or harder surfaces and denser objects.  Timbre: The harmonic components of sound give it a certain color or tone quality – what musicians call timbre. It is indispensable in describing the texture or “feel” of a sound. Loudness, pitch and timbre interact to define the overall sonic texture of a film. 2. Choosing, altering and combining sounds There are 3 types of sound in cinema: speech, music and noise (or sound effects)  Choosing and manipulating sounds: A soundtrack is created through selection and assembly (you can choose what exact bit of sound will best serve the purpose). Sound can be processed to change its acoustic qualities, we can join 2 sounds end to end or place them one over the other. Many sound effects are generated by the Foley process. Also, wholly new sounds can be made of old ones (by overlapping for example).  Selection guides our attention: Usually, the sound track is clarified and simplified so that the important material stands out. Sound effects are usually less important than speech – they supply an overall sense of a realistic environment and are seldom noticed. Sometimes, however, dialogue doesn’t rank as most important (sound effects are central to action sequences and music can dominate dance sequences). The filmmaker guides our perception of the action by choosing certain sounds. Often, sound is used quite unrealistically to shift our attention to what is narratively or visually important.  Sound mixing: Guiding the viewer’s attention depends on selecting and reworking particular sounds, as well as mixing (combining) them. The sound track is an ongoing stream of auditory information. Sometimes the current carries auditory elements to the surface, other times it sinks them out of awareness as time rushes on. Dialogue overlap = when the filmmaker continues a line of dialogue across a cut, smoothing over the change of shot. This can provide a sense of auditory continuity. Also, the sounds flow in layers (not only waves). The mixer can control the volume, the duration and tone quality of each sound, weaving them in and out, making them momentarily clear or pushing them out of hearing. In modern filmmaking, a dozen or more separate tracks can be layered at any moment. The filmmaker can create a mix in which each sound blends smoothly with the others (which is usually the case when music and effects are mixed with speech). Sneaking in and sneaking out = when music comes and goes without being noticed. Sound perspective = the closer the camera is to a source, the louder the sound.  Sound and film form: Choice and combination of sounds can create patterns that run through the film as a whole (ex: A melody or musical phrase can be associated with a particular character, situation, setting or idea). A single musical theme can change its quality when associated with different situations. IV. Dimensions of film sound Sounds consist of and how the filmmaker can select among the different kinds of sounds available. Sounds can also guide the viewer’s attention and create patterns across the film. 1. Rhythm Sound unfolds over time -> it has a rhythm. Rhythm involves a beat (= pulse), a tempo (= pace), and a pattern of accents (= stronger and weaker beats). We also find rhythmic qualities in sound effects Speech has rhythm (people can be identified by voice prints that show not only characteristic frequencies and amplitudes but also distinct patterns of pacing and syllabic stress) The movements in the image have a rhythm as well. Even editing has a rhythm -> succession of short shots creates a rapid tempo while longer shots slow down the rhythm. In most cases, the rhythms of editing, of movement within the image and of sounds all cooperate. Filmmakers try to match visual and sonic rhythms to each oth
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