straight down the line

Week Four: Audio Reflection

Last semester in my film studies class, we went into great detail on sound. One exercise we did was having the screen blank of the opening shot of a film with only the sound continuing on. We had to attempt to guess what was happening in the scene without visuals. Even when I was reviewing the Orson Welle’s opening shots, I caught myself going to a blank screen the second time around to really focus in on the sound. This allowed me to be fully immersed in the sounds that were helping to convey the story. When we would write up screening reports in that film class, sound was one of the four elements we would go into when discussing a shot sequence. My favorite had to be when we analyzed a shot sequence in Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring” (which overall, I believe that is a terrible movie) and the sound that was used in this shot sequence was so interesting to me. I discussed how the sparkler-bottle has almost sound fidelity in the way the soundtrack seems to go with the movement of the sparkler, opening up the scene. The sound becomes more ambient as the scene progresses, suggesting that this moment of glory may not last forever and it coincides with it being set in slow motion; how we replay the happiest moments in our lives since we don’t want that moment to be gone. I also went into how the non- diegetic soundtrack creates this dream-like effect, giving the sense that the characters feel invincible and truly joyous. Sound in any film, show, etc. has the power to create mood and the story itself if it is utilized precisely. In other words, sound/ audio is a crucial element in storytelling.

When comparing the restored and non-restored versions of the opening shot in “Touch of Evil,” one can note the differing audio choices/selections. In the restored version, the shot opens up the ticking bomb as the music resembling ticking plays. What is interesting is that this serves as a constant underline tempo for all of the other street sounds and jazz music that cover it. This seems to show that the city is in a constant bustle and alludes to the notion that no one is aware of the bomb’s presence in the trunk. The ticking noise from the opening shot is more audible again near the end of the shot when the couple is standing together as the one car recently passed through. In the non-restored version, there was a dramatic theme song that played throughout the shot. To me, this took away the sense of building up tension and did the job for the viewers; having this music told the audience how to feel rather than for them figuring it out themselves. Using this non- diegetic soundtrack excluded viewers rather than included them in the world of the film since it is only played to build our suspense. The restored version captures the ticking in the beginning and detracts away from it by covering the sound with diegetic jazz music and city movements as a way to subtly build suspense, constantly wondering, “What will happen to the couple in the car?” This restored version of the opening shot is stronger in the way that it immerses the viewer into the world of the film rather than having them feel excluded from it; the viewers are more than just watching the film and they are more involved in it with the characters themselves. The links below contain the restored and non- restored versions of this opening shot:

1. Restored (

2. Non- restored (

The importance of sound in film is discussed in great detail in “The Ambience of Film Noir- Soundscapes, Design and Mood.” Sound and image are quoted to be a symbiotic relationship and therefore, the recording engineer must have a thorough understanding of the scene they are applying sound to. Sound is also a key resource for establishing the setting and mood of a story through the manipulation of its pace, tempo, and sensation for the audience. Prior to the reading, I never encountered a “soundscape,” which seems to be the environment of sound itself in the film just as a landscape is a visual. I think of soundscape now as just hearing the sounds being used altogether without looking at the image. It was interesting to see that in noir, sound can be associated with a specific location, such as a night club, city streets, docks, etc. One specific example of this would be in the city streets with the protagonist wandering alone, only their footsteps are heard, placing emphasis on that character. Even with the night clubs, I found it interesting that the night club singer is the character that seems to ease tension through the soft music they bring out; bring the “oasis” feeling. In the future, I would like to hear some of the sounds within the library of sounds that film creators have. Also, the idea of combining multiple sounds within a shot or scene is fascinating because I know as a viewer I don’t always feel I hear everything, but all of those sounds together again establish a mood or setting we may not directly pick up on, but each one counts. Sound/audio has more power than we may realize, but in the end, it is not something to be overlooked.

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