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95 using sound

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95 using sound

  1. 1. 1 Number 095www.curriculum-press.co.uk Understanding and Using Sound M tudiesSedia The aims of this Factsheet are to: • explore different ways that film and TV producers use sound • offer advice on how to use sound effectively in your own practical work • discuss the kinds of equipment you might need and techniques for getting the best out of it The first major Hollywood film to be released with sound was the Jazz Singer in 1927. Prior to its release, all films had been silent but, within a few years, silent films were almost extinct as audiences jumped at the chance to hear their favourite stars speak. However, the transition to sound was not smooth and many film makers and critics felt that, far from improving cinema, something important had been lost with the coming of sound as film became less cinematic and visual creativity was hampered by the need to record clean dialogue. This Factsheet will look at what problems recording sound presents to film makers and how those issues can be overcome with the right equipment. It will also consider how sound has been used creatively to enhance film and TV and look at some techniques for improving the use of sound in your own practical coursework. (http://magnoliaforever. wordpress.com/2011/09/22/ bande-a-part-910/) Why is Sound Difficult? For the early pioneers of sound in the cinema, recording sound was a major headache. Film cameras of the time were very noisy and had to be enclosed in huge boxes known as “blimps” in order to muffle the sound they made. Film crews who were used to shooting on location an exciting and getting visually interesting shots, found it very difficult to control background noises like cars going by, which would spoil a recording. Directors, who were used to talking to their actors during a take to coach their performance, had to remain silent during filming so their instructions wouldn’t be recorded. Until the mid-30s, it wasn’t even possible to change a film’s soundtrack after editing so all music and sound effects had to be recorded at the same time as the images were filmed. To achieve this, musicians would often be playing in the corner of a set while the actors performed the scene. These days, film makers are able to control sound recordings with incredible precision and sound can be edited separately from the images to create fantastically creative and precise effects. Sound can be used in many different ways and the following terms will help you describe and analyse the use of sound in film and media texts. Keyword Glossary Diegetic Sound refers to sound that occurs within the imaginary world in which the film is taking place. If a character is walking across a gravel driveway, the sound of the footsteps is happening in the story so it is diegetic. Be clear though that this sound need not have been recorded at the time filming took place. It was probably added during a Foley Session (see below). Non-Diegetic Sound does not occur within the world of the film and the characters cannot hear it. Most typically, this might be music that has been added to a scene to help develop atmosphere or show emotion. On-Screen refers to sound whose source can be seen in the frame. It is therefore, by definition, diegetic sound. Off-Screen refers to sound that happens outside the frame. It is still diegetic though as it is happening in the world of the film. Parallel refers to sound that fits in with and emphasizes the images on screen. In Jaws, the approach of the shark is signaled by threatening string music. The scary image is complimented by the scary music. Case Study: Band a Part In his film Band a Part, director Jean Luc Godard has his characters challenge each other to a minute’s silence while they are hanging out in a busy cafe. However, after a count of 3, as well as each character keeping silent, all the noise in the film is removed entirely, leaving an eerie silence. When projected in the cinema, audiences often look at each other at this moment, unsure if the film has broken. Godard is illustrating that there is no such thing as silence. Even when characters don’t speak, there is always background noise. Watch the scene on Youtube by searching for Band a Part, A Minute’s Silence. Jean Luc Godard’s use of silence in Band a Part (1964) draws attention to the fact that there is, in fact, no such thing as silence in film. Contrapuntal refers to sound that works in opposition to, and comments on, the images on screen. Famously in Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Mr. Blonde tortures a policeman while a light pop tune plays on the radio. The images are horrifying, but the accompanying music has a more lighthearted and fun feel. This creates an effect which deliberately challenges the audience’s response to the scene and suggests that Mr. Blonde sees torture as fun. Taratino’s use of the song Stuck In The Middle With You during a torture scene makes a powerful statement about the state of mind of the gangster, Mr. Blonde. Cue: A piece of music that has been written to begin and end at a specific point in a film or TV programme. (http://images2.makefive.com/ images/entertainment/movies/best- quentin-tarantino-characters/mr- blonde-7.jpg)
  2. 2. 2 095.UnderstandingandUsingSound Media Studies www.curriculum-press.co.uk Sound Bridge: A sound effect or music cue that runs across a cut, smoothing the join and linking the two shots or scenes together. Direct Sound is sound that was recorded at the time filming took place. This can create a sound track that is more like real life as all sounds are heard at the level they occur in real life. However, using direct sound can cause problems if something loud happens off camera, the audience will want to see what has caused the noise and may think it is important to the story. Post-Synchronised Sound is added after filming has taken place. In the Italian film industry, films are usually shot without using any sound equipment and the dialogue is recorded afterwards in a studio and matched to the images. Films made in one language are often dubbed in this way into other languages for foreign markets. Foley Session: Virtually all sound effects are added to films in a Foley session. A Foley artist records sounds to accompany the film, ensuring the sounds match with the images on screen. By using post-synchronised sound in this way, the volume of each sound can be controlled so the audience’s attention can be directed to certain sounds. Other sounds can be reduced in volume or eliminated altogether. ‘Foley’ is written with a capital ‘f’ as the process is named after Jack Foley, who developed many sound techniques. Practical Activity Watch a scene from a film you enjoy with the sound turned off. Using any materials you can bring to hand, create and alternative soundtrack in your own Foley session. Record your own dialogue and even add your own music. Make a recording of your efforts and play them back alongside the scene. How has the effect or the meaning of the scene been changed? If you can digitize the scene, import it into a video editing programme like iMovie and add your new dialogue, music cues and Foley with more precision. Scene Analysis: Hot Fuzz Different types of sound work together to create an overall effect in the first four minutes of the film Hot Fuzz. At the very beginning of the film, the central character, Nicholas Angel, is introduced during a montage showing him completing his police training. This is followed by a scene with dialogue in his superior’s office. Virtually all the sound in the first half is post-synchronised which allows the position and volume of individual sounds to be carefully controlled. Direct sound is used for the dialogue in the second part of the sequence as it has been shot in a studio which allows intrusive sounds from outside the set to be minimised. The sequence begins with a long shot of Angel approaching the camera from some distance. The sound of his footsteps is on- screen sound as we can see the source. It is also diegetic as it is happening in the world of the film. Remember though, the footsteps will have been added in a Foley session and will not be direct sound. Furthermore, the sound of the footsteps echoes around, suggesting the emptiness of the building. As he reaches the camera, Angel pulls out his police badge and holds it up to the lens. As he does so, whooshing sound is heard, emphasising the action and giving it more impact, even though it feels quite unreal. This is also a post-synchronised effect as the sound cannot be replicated using an ID card swishing through the air. (http://harrytibbleslcmedia.blogspot .co.uk/2010/09/hot-fuzz-opening- analysis.html) Next, Angel is walking through another police building. This time, however, there are no footsteps. The sound designer or Foley artist has chosen not to add them, perhaps because they might compete for the audience’s attention with the music and the voice over which begin here. The music and the voice over are non-diegetic, they have been post-sychronised to help build the character and exist for the audience only. The subsequent montage gives the audience a lot of information about Angel’s character very quickly and sound is used to help get that information across. Key sound effects are emphasized, such as the ticking of his answer book in the exam, the click of the stop watch in the athletics and the skid of tyres in the driving sequences. These sounds help the audience to understand each of the achievements as they are being shown. Note too that the screech of the bicycle tyres is not realistic (it sounds more like a car screeching to a halt). This noise has been used for effect, not realism. As Angel turns a corner in the building, he looks up as if looking at a lift indicator. As he does so, a ‘bing’ sound can be heard which seems to suggest that the lift has arrived and he enters. Although the audience does not see the lift, sound is used to suggest its existence and to imply that Angel is going to see somebody important who works on a higher floor, indicating their position in the hierarchy. The same sound is used in the latter part of the scene every time a more important policeman is introduced, suggesting that they have come down from their offices to see Nicholas Angel. The non-diegetic music is brisk and gives a sense of how quickly and efficiently Angel has succeeded in his police career. The song has also been carefully chosen too. Goody Two Shoes by Adam and the Ants is used to reflect on Angel’s character, suggesting that although he is a success, his abilities make him the object of derision, not admiration. This music also works as a sound bridge, linking all these very quick shots together into a smooth sequence. The voice over is also non-diegetic and is used to give information to the audience quickly. Voice overs are often used by film makers as a last resort when they have struggled to communicate the story through other, more visual means. Here though, it feels appropriate and adds to the comedy. At the end of the montage, the film cuts to a dialogue scene in the sergeant’s office. The music ends abruptly which creates an effective contrast between the loud, fast paced montage and the quiet, slow scene we are now in. Initially, there is no non-diegetic music in this scene, but there is plenty of off screen sound. For example, the viewer can hear telephones ringing and background chat. (http://superzeroproductions. blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/ analysing-film-openings- general-2.html) Although the audience cannot see the source of these sounds, they are still diegetic as they come from the world of the story and create the impression of a busy office. Notice how the volume of these sounds is kept down though, so as not to distract from the dialogue. This suggests that they have been post-synchronised and are not direct sound. (http://www.wearysloth.com/Gallery/ ActorsC/43141-27300.gif)
  3. 3. 3 095.UnderstandingandUsingSound Media Studies www.curriculum-press.co.uk By using off-screen sound in this way, it is possible to create the illusion that the office is very busy without the need to hire lots of extras to make it look busy. Think about how you can use off screen sound in your own practical work in this way to make a scene more realistic. Further into the scene, non-diegetic music cues are used to highlight key moments in the narrative and help let the audience know how to react. When the sergeant reveals that Angel is going to be made a sergeant himself, some angelic sounding strings with a rising melody are used, suggesting that this is the news that Angel has been waiting for. The music stops abruptly when he finds out where the position will be however, letting us know that he is disappointed. When he asks to speak to the inspector, an ominous, deep note is heard which builds to a climax when the inspector arrives. This use of music is parallel as it is used to reinforce the meaning of the images and dialogue. Coursework Hint Film and Media coursework will often require you to provide an analysis of scenes you have looked at for research and looking at the use of sound is an excellent approach for such an analysis. Make sure you offer the kind of detail that is given in the example above to demonstrate your knowledge. Make sure that you use the key terms appropriately and that you explain in detail how each technique creates meaning for the audience. Activity Use the website www.tellyads.com to watch the adverts listed below. Write a brief analysis of each one to explain the terms you have learned in this sheet can be applied to explaining how sound is used. Burger King – Angus XT – Mmmm! Citroen – Orchestra – Marilyn Manson Persil – Garage Band Nestle – Yorkie – Shopping Bags Go Ahead! – Chocolate Thins – Snack Enlightenment Essential Equipment If your film is going to feature any direct sound, most likely some dialogue, you will need to plan carefully how you will make a good recording. Simply going out to shoot with just a camcorder and no separate sound recording equipment is unlikely to produce satisfactory results. Consider investing in the following equipment to ensure you get the best quality sound that you can. A camcorder with a separate mic input is very useful so you have the option to connect an additional microphone and headphones. You will then need a directional microphone that can be connected to the camcorder. A directional mic will only pick up sound coming at it from a certain direction which is useful for reducing unwanted sound in your recording. Make sure it is pointed at your actor’s mouths. Microphones require power so make sure you have plenty of spare batteries. You will also need to make sure that you have a long enough cable to stretch back to the camera. (http://www.gadgetspeak.com/ aimg/583805-canon%20legria- fs200-controls-lcd-screen-l.jpg) An external microphone will enable you to get your mic closer to the source of the sound. You must use headphones to monitor your sound while you shoot. Before you go out to shoot, do this simple test: connect a pair of headphones to your camera and hold a mobile phone close to the microphone, send a text message and listen to the effect. You should hear an electrical buzzing noise. You should listen out for such interference and other unwanted sounds. Did a plane fly overhead? Did the sound boom get knocked? Your sound person should listen out for such problems and alert the director that they need to do another take. Unwanted noise like this will spoil your recording and is virtually impossible to remove in post production. If you are not sure if you got a good recording, do another take. A boom pole is essential to get your microphone as close as possible to your actors without it appearing in the shot. Your sound person should hold the pole above their head, keeping it parallel to the ground, dropping it just over the actors’ heads. In close ups, it will be possible to get the mic closer by holding underneath the frame. ( h t t p : / / g - e c x . i m a g e s - amazon.com/images/G/01/ musical_instruments/detail- page/B002GYPS3M-1.jpg) Aboompole,fittedwitha‘deadcat’isessentialforrecordingdialogue scenes effectively. A suspension mount will isolate your microphone from the boom pole. Vibrations caused by knocks or fingers tapping on the poll will be, to some extent, absorbed by the rubber mounting that the mic sits in. Simply taping your mic to a pole will mean that any vibration of the boom pole will be transferred to the microphone and cause noise on your recording. (http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Proaim- cage-mattebox-blimp-boom- pole-flycam-body-pod-steady- l e d - l i g h t - c a m e r a - / 400258197763) A suspension mount will screw to the end of your boom pole. The mic sits inside the rubber bands, isolating it from bumps and knocks. When shooting outside, wind can blow into the casing of the microphone and cause a loud rumbling sound that is very distracting. To combat this, use a ‘dead cat’ to cover your microphone. The fur will absorb the wind and reduce the noise. Even better, choose your locations carefully to avoid windy situations altogether. (http://emmedia.ca/?page_id=41)
  4. 4. 4 095.UnderstandingandUsingSound Media Studies www.curriculum-press.co.uk A long cable trailing from the microphone to the camera can be awkward and is also a trip hazard. You may want to consider recording your sound on a completely separate device, such as a Zoom H4n. This will give you superior quality sound and means that your sound recorder can work independently of the camera operator. You will need to clapperboard every shot if you work this way to ensure you can syncronise the sound and visuals in the edit. Coursework Hint While having the right equipment is important, it will only help you if you know how to use it effectively. Use these simple filmmaking techniques for better results. 1. Location Recce. Visit all the locations you are planning to use to make your film and consider how you will control sound. Is traffic noise an issue? Will planes from the nearby airport be intrusive? Is there a noisy air conditioning system you need to take into account? 2. Room Tone. In every location, get your cast and crew to be quiet and record two minutes of unbroken sound in the location. You can use this ‘wildtrack’ to cover gaps in your soundtrack where you have had to cut out unwanted and intrusive sounds without leaving an odd silence, like in Band a Part. 3. Plan your sound design right from the start. Consider what sound effects you are going to need and collect / record sounds as you proceed with the project. What your film sounds like should be as important to you as what it looks like. 4. Make separate recordings of key sound effects so you can post sync them later. Don’t rely on direct sound for your sound effects. Activity In his column in The Independent newspaper, Thomas Sutcliffe has referred to a phenomenon he describes as ‘honking’. This occurs in a film or TV show when a passing car honks its horn for no apparent reason other than to draw the audience’s attention to its presence. Sutcliffe also notes that anyone riding a bicycle in the background of a shot will ring the bell, again for no apparent reason. These things have become clichés of film and TV soundtracks. Other clichés include the fact that speakers always seem to get feedback when speaking into any microphone in a film or the use of cicadas as a background sound at night time. Keep a note of any other sound clichés you spot during your viewing. What is the purpose of the apparently unnecessary sound? Can you use a similar technique in your own work? (http://www.conceptmusic.com.au/ products/Zoom-H4N-Hand-Held-Digital- Recorder.html) Acknowledgements: This Media Studies Factsheet was researched and written by Rob Hind Curriculum Press. Bank House, 105 King Street, Wellington, TF1 1NU. Media Factsheets may be copied free of charge by teaching staff or students, provided that their school is a registered subscriber. No part of these Factsheets may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any other form or by any other means, without the prior permission of the publisher. ISSN 1351-5136

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