We were given this project because our tutor felt we needed to understand the sync of sound and what sound effects do to help the progress of a film/animation etc. We were asked to research sound and to give a short presentation on the information we had found.
What we were asked to look for was “How many levels of sound in film design?”
- Diegetic sound and None Diegetic sound
- The Score
- Beat Track
- Scratch Track
For the research we were asked to stay within our groups; the group and I discussed our own points of sound and composers to research.
Composers – Danny Elfman, Alexander Desplat, Hans Zimmer and Bernard Hermann.
We were given a few examples of good video references for sound – King of the Sun (Emperor’s New Groove)-Snuff Out the Light Featurette and The Jazz Singer.
The Jazz Singer was the first film to have sound in it.
The Sound of Music
Music cannot directly communicate narrative in the same way that dialogue can. However, it can provide a backdrop to visual events and dialogue and it is this subtlety that may position an audience in a way that dialogue cannot. Music is representative and emotive. It can engage an audience at a different level and capture their emotions rather than their conscious mind. It is difficult to avoid the emotive of a well-executed score.
Ways of Working with Music
There is one mode of storytelling that exists in cinema beyond that of showing and telling: music. This facet of cinema can have a dramatic effect on character. Music can impact on our emotions and as such can limit what emotional impact a scene has upon us; and this is different in every film. It doesn’t matter whether it is the incidental music, a popular soundtrack or a themed score; it all affects us as an audience. This use of music has been treated by theorists as an aspect of narration, but it cannot tell, it can merely aid focalisation in relation to that which is being shown and told by affecting mood. This is the aspect of film that acts as a backdrop and some film-makers, such as Ingmar Bergman, feel it should not be included as it clearly breaks with presentation of both characters and events in terms of relating them directly to the real world.
Whatever the use of music is within any film it is complex to identify its precise meaning – such is the nature of music. However, to ignore it is to ignore a powerful part of the signifying practice of cinema.
Manipulating sound – Redubbing a film is always an interesting exercise. In doing this you can see how the replacement of, say, a specific score with tangentially related popular music tracks fundamentally impacts on your ability to read the film, even down on the point of being able to view who the main characters are and what they do.
Sound in the Cinema
Loudness – The Sound we hear results from vibrations in the air. The Amplitude, or breath, of the vibrations produces our scene of Loudness, or volume. Film sound constantly manipulates volume. A dialogue between a soft-spoken character and a blustery one is characterized as much by the difference in volume as by the substance of the talk. In many films, a long shot of busy street is accompanied by loud traffic noises, but when two people meet and start to speak, the volume of the traffic drops.
Loudness is also related to perceived distance. All other things being equal, the louder the sound, the closer we take it to be. This sort of assumption seems to be at work in the street traffic example already mentioned: the couple’s dialogue, being closer to us, is sensed as louder, while the traffic noise recedes to the background. In addition, a film may startle the viewer by exploiting abrupt and extreme shifts in volume (usually called changes in dynamics), as when a quiet scene is interrupted by a very loud noise. Changes in loudness may be combined with cutting or camera movement to reinforce our sense of moving toward or away from the source of the noise.
Pitch – The frequency of sound vibration affects pitch, or the perceived highness or lowness of sound. Certain instruments, such as tuning fork, can produce pure tones, but most sounds, in life and on film, are complex tones, batches of different frequencies. Nevertheless, pitch plays a useful role in helping us pick out distinct sounds in a film.
Timbre – The harmonic components of sound give it a certain colour, or tone quality what musicians call timbre. When we call someone’s voice nasal or a musical tone mellow, we’re referring to timbre. Timbre is actually a less fundamental acoustic parameter than amplitude or frequency, but it’s indispensable in describing the texture or “feel” of a sound. In everyday life, the recognition of a familiar sound is largely a matter of various aspects of timbre.
Filmmakers manipulate timbre continually. Timbre can help articulate portions of the sound track, as when it differentiates musical instruments from one another. Timbre also comes forward on certain occasions, as in the clichéd use of oleaginous saxophone tones behind seduction scenes. Loudness, pitch and timbre interact to define the overall sonic texture of a film. For example, these qualities enable us to recognize different characters’ voices. Both John Wayne and James Stewart speak slowly, but Wayne’s voice tends to be deeper and gruffer than Stewart’s querulous drawl. This difference works to great advantage in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, where their characters are sharply contrasted.
Knowledge Nugget: When Bernard Herrmann obtained the effects of shrill, birdlike shrieking in Hitchcock’s Psycho, even many musicians could not recognize the source: violins played at extraordinary high pitch.
REFERENCE BOOKS: Film Art: An Introduction, Tenth Edition, David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson – The Language of Film, Robert Edgar-Hunt, John Marland and Steven Rawie.
SOUND EFFECTS ARTISTS
An American sound designer who has worked on various films including: the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, including the “voice” of R2-D2, the lightsaber hum, the sound of the blaster guns, and the heavy breathing of Darth Vader.
Burtt also used a recording of his wife, who at the time was suffering from a minor cold and was sleeping in bed, for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He created the “voice” of the title character and many other robots in Pixar’s film WALL-E (2008), about a lonely garbage-compacting robot.
Sound Effects Artist and voice of Mickey Mouse (1947 – 1977). Sound Effects Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The Score Composer has to be focused on the story and the emotional content of the film. All the artists have worked hard to tell the story with their performance or artistry. If their work does not evoke the desired emotion, the composer won’t be able to help it much, but if everything is working well, then music can take the project to a whole new level.
A French film composer; he has five Academy Awards nominations, six BAFTA nominations, and two Grammy nominations, Desplat won his first Golden Globe for The Painted Veil in 2006 and his first British Academy Film Award in 2011. Among various projects, Desplat has worked on a variety of Hollywood films, including independent and commercial successes like The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, New Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2, and The King’s Speech.
An American composer, from 1976 to 1995 and later for scoring music for television and film and creating The Simpsons main title theme as well as the 1989 Batman movie theme. He has scored the majority of the films for his long-time friend Tim Burton.
He has since been nominated for four Academy Awards and won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media for Tim Burton’s Batman and an Emmy Award for his Desperate Housewives theme. Elfman was honoured with the prestigious Richard Kirk award at the 2002 BMI Film and TV Awards. The award is given annually to a composer who has made significant contributions to film and television music.
An American composer known for his work in motion pictures. An Academy Award-winner (for The Devil and Daniel Webster, 1941; later renamed All That Money Can Buy), Herrmann is particularly known for his collaborations with director Alfred Hitchcock, most famously Psycho, North by Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Vertigo. He also composed scores for many other movies, including Citizen Kane, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Cape Fear, and Taxi Driver. He worked extensively in radio drama (composing for Orson Welles), composed the scores for several fantasy films by Ray Harryhausen, and many TV programs including Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone and Have Gun–Will Travel.
An American composer and conductor best known for his many film scores. Newman has received a total of eleven Academy Award nominations, although, as of 2013, he has yet to win the award. He has won two BAFTAs, five Grammys and an Emmy, and has been nominated for three Golden Globes. Newman was honoured with the Richard Kirk award at the 2000 BMI Film and TV Awards. The award is given annually to a composer who has made significant contributions to film and television music.
Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton always wanted to work without literal songs, but with a score that could capture the etheral universe under the sea. He not only listened to other soundtracks, but also cut representative pieces of music into the story reels to see how it felt with the story, including some by composer Thomas Newman.
Newman the composer of The Shawshank Redemption and Pay It Forward, turned out to be the perfect fit for Finding Nemo.
Diegetic – this use of music was the only type used in films in the early sound era. Any background music, which did appear, was used during the transition from one scene to another. The first is that the coming of sound added a further layer of reality to film: characters became more fully realized; sound effects, such as everyday noises, created a verisimilitude which audiences had not encountered before. Within a few years, however, background scores were added to restore the emotional involvement which had been removed by its omission.
Scratch Track – Final music composed after completed animation – rough soundtrack (scratch track) created before the animation begins. Scratch Track is timed to animatic – example of an animated feature film specifically composed to music is Fantasia – entire point of the film was to create an animation that reflected the story the music told. – easier to edit the animation to better fit the music than it is to completely re-compose a track to fit a change in the animation. – sound effects added to later – not part of the scratch track – full length scores, easier to plan the animation to match the music.
Mix – The adjustment of individual sound elements to create a pleasing, final combination of sound.
Dub (also called Dubbing or Mixing) – Process of combing sound together until the right balance of dialogue, music and sound effects is achieved.
Sound Reading – A frame-accurate transcription of vocal performance. The sound reading will be used by the animator to move the character in sync with a line of dialogue.
Foley – Process of recording live sound effects while the film is being projected. A Foley Artist performs sound to match the picture. Footsteps, movement of cloth or paper, and any other sounds that have to synchronize closely with the picture are often recorded this way.
Sync (short for Synchronous) – Elements of picture and sound being played together at the same time.
Monologue – A long speech by one actor in play or film, or as part of a theatrical or broadcast programme.
“Songs are everything in a true musical, because they are used to express the major turning points in the story. In fact, the story has to move ahead of the songs, or it will seem as if the movie has stopped dead just to give the characters a chance to sing.”
Reference: The Alchemy of Animation: Making an Animated Film in the Modern Age, by Don Hahn.
We were then given a sound clip; my team and I were given, “Suddenly” starring Frank Sinatra. The sound clip our tutor had given us had the audio/sound taken out of it; so, our task was to apply it with sound etc. We were asked to make it different to the original.
Our Script was…
Policeman – Return fire!
Policeman – Hold you’re fire!
Man at back of room – Kid!
Gunman – It didn’t stop! It didn’t stop! It didn’t STOP!
Gunman – No! Don’t! No! No! Don’t!
The first thing the team did was to make a list of films we thought would be best to reference for inspiration of our clip. We looked at…
- Public Enemies
- Gangster Squad
- Django Unchained
- The Great Gatsby
Sound effects artists we talked about were Ben Burtt – Wall-E and Starwars SFX Artist, and Jim MacDonald – Disney SFX Artist.
We downloaded most of our sounds from freesound.org.
We even made a list of SFX we needed for the clip… and wrote them out on a plan out sheet.
Sound Clip 05: Suddenly (1954), starring Frank Sinatra
Sound Effects Plan-Out Sheet
ACTION: People in room, gun fire begins; some are hostages and two men are gangsters. One of the gangsters is shooting out of the window down into the street at some policemen outside.
DIALOGUE: No dialogue at this point.
SFX: Machine gun / gun fire, people moving around the room. One gangster screaming madly.
MUSIC: very pacey score – created in Garage Band.
DURATION: 1 secs.
(This is an example of how we planned and laid out the Plan out sheet.)