Sound In Film

March 12, 2020
  • Shweta Raman
  • Sound, Psychology, History, Impact

Sound is a tool that every filmmaker uses to manipulate the audience into feeling the mood of the scene.

In 1895, Edison began working with the ‘Kinetophone’ – the aim of which was synchronised sound and vision.

Even though Edison did not invent film, he always conceived that this visual medium and his phonograph would mesh to make sound film, and was busy trying to invent sound film almost from the birth of cinema—from about 1885—more than a third of a century before sound film became commercially feasible.

Inventors and entrepreneurs needed to overcome several obstacles before sound could be accepted. At first, silent film audiences seemed perfectly happy with silent movies, perhaps because the movies were never completely silent, almost always accompanied by music of some kind: from a multi pieced pit orchestra for big openings, to a single piano, or even a guitar.

By the 1920s, silent film writing, acting, photography, and music had reached its aesthetic peak: very subtle emotional and plot nuances could be conveyed without the use of any accompanying dialogue. In fact, as the era of silent film drew to a close, filmmakers were able to convey their stories with a bare minimum of intertitles.

Have a look at the Filmmaker IQ’s very first lesson on sound for a comprehensive overview of how sound became one of the greatest contributions to films.

© 2020 by Film Maker IQ

If you watch a film that is not stitched with the sound, you will observe that the visuals suddenly lose all momentum. Sound can completely change how the scene feels to the viewer.

It gives the visuals emotion, context and energy. The same scene with different sound in its background leaves you feeling completely different emotions with the same visuals. Here is an iconic sequence, which is rendered absolutely ineffective once the music is gone.

© 2020 by UnSound Jones

Sound can not only create the mood for a specific feeling, but it can also create very specific imagery in our minds, because of its sub-conscious associations. It is the key factor that sets your scene. It has the capacity to compliment a character’s emotions, what they are feeling but also let the audience and viewers know how they should be feeling.

We gathered a few examples to help you understand the subject better. Each of these classical pieces creates its own little world. It gives you very specific imagery. These pieces are used till date to display a certain context or mood in modern cinema, and you will be able to recognise almost all of them.

Each one of these sounds will evoke a specific feeling or emotion within us. How does sound have such a big impact on us?

Sound is undoubtedly an important part of every individual’s life! It brings out emotions that one may have suppressed right back to the surface.

One of the most natural sources of sound is of course, nature itself – the crashing of waves, the chirping of birds, the gentle rustling of leaves in a tree. Natural sounds have been used since time immemorial as tools for healing and meditation. The healing takes place because of the frequencies in sound and the different vibrations that affect human beings subconsciously and psychologically. Each one of us has our own individual taste in sound that mirrors our unique emotions.

The beauty and power of sound is so transcendental that even a moment of silence or a pause in audio at the right juncture can have a great impact over the audience. It is therefore a tool that every filmmaker needs to value greatly.

So how does a movie sound get stitched? Here is a visual representation taking us through the process of syncing audio and video:

Not only does sound situate the viewer within the scene, it also has the power to symbolize the movie itself. A movie theme soundtrack builds the brand of the movie. By simply hearing the first few notes of the theme track, you can recognize the movie, and be transported right into its world.

Here is a video that encompasses all that we have discussed above:

© 2020 “True” by Spandau Ballet, Composed by Gary Kemp

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