Unit 5 Audio

5:1 The assignment

1.1 Analyse the requirements and parameters of a visual based problem in creative media production.

Sound design is the method of stating, obtaining, manipulating or generating audio elements. It is used in all disciplines including film making, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production, radio and video game development.

The designer will start their work by studying the script, gathering as much information as they can about any sound or music it calls for. The have meetings with directors and other people involved in the production to see what mood and style they want to create/portray.

The sound designers’ role is varied but will include:

  • The creation of sound effects, atmospheres, and the ambience that will stimulate audience expectations of what’s to come.  This allows the audience to feel the films’ emotion. Sound can create and change mood.
  • The sound designer may choose, edit and remix music; work with a composer to make original music; or work with live musicians in the theatre.
  • The designer will design a sound system, for the specific production and venue that will give the audience the best experience.

Diegetic sound, otherwise known as actual sound, is where the source of the sound is visible on the screen or whose source is implied to be present by the action of the film.  Such as:

    • voices of characters
    • sounds made by objects in the story
    • music represented as coming from instruments in the story space ( – source music)

Diegetic sound can be either on screen or off screen depending on whatever its source is within the frame or outside the frame.

Non-diegetic sound (or commentary sound) is where the source of the sound is neither visible on the screen nor has been implied to be present in the action:

  • narrator’s commentary
  • sound effects which is added for the dramatic effect
  • mood music.

Foley is where sound is laid down after filming, so that background noise is not heard.  The only sound that will be heard is what the sound designer wants the audience to hear.  Foley artists match live sound effects with the action of the picture.

Foleying is a good way of supplying the subtle sounds that production mikes often miss. The rustling of clothing and a squeak of a saddle when a rider mounts his horse give a scene a touch of realism that is difficult to provide using other effects methods.

The good Foley artist must “became” the actor with whom they are synching effects or the sounds will lack the necessary realism to be convincing.

Most successful Foley artists look at an object and imagine what type of sound it can be made to produce.

The Foley crew will include the artist or “walker,” who makes the sound, and a technician or two to record and mix it.

ADR stands for “Automated” or “Automatic” Dialog Replacement.  It is used when dialog that cannot be recovered from production tracks must be re-recorded in a process called looping or ADR.

Looping involved recording an actor who spoke lines in sync to “loops” of the image which were played over and over along with matching lengths of recording tape. ADR, though faster, is meticulous work.

An actor watches the image repeatedly while listening to the original production track on headphones as a guide. The actor then re-performs each line to match the wording and lip movements. Actors vary in their ability to achieve sync and to recapture the emotional tone of their performance.

Clean sound is where the only sound you can hear is the sound the director wants you to hear – no background noise, no interference or buzzing.  If the sound is not clear, the audience may get distracted or even not be able to hear the dialogue properly.

Wild track, is an audio recording that is going to be matched with film or video but recorded separately. The term “wild track” refers to sound recorded on location, such as sound effects gathered when the cameras were not rolling or extra takes of lines performed for audio only.  The term buzz track usually means general ambient sound, i.e. the background sound of a scene. It is sometimes used more specifically to mean room tone.

Buzz tracks are typically recorded on location before or after the main action has been recorded. It is used as a sound bed to accompany any new sound that is added during post-production.

Music is an important element of any film, especially when it comes to the way the audience responds to a scene. Music help tell the story by adding additional impact to the visual images.  Music can propel the audience to another time zone, past and future.

Sound Recordists record sound on location or in a studio, usually working with the camera, to enable the highest quality ‘real’ sound to be recorded at the time of filming.

They monitor the quality of the sound recording through headphones and work closely with the Director, Boom Operator and sometimes the Sound Editor, often using multiple microphones.  They also record sound effects and atmosphere tracks. They are responsible for producing the final sound mix, so they directly supervise the Sound Assistants and Boom Operators.

The equipment they may use:

  • Small mixing desk – if the budget allows, a Portable Field Mixer
  • Various microphones.
  • A boom and boom pole.
  • Headphones.
  • The timecode slate.

A boom is a long pole with a microphone attached to it, this is usually held over the person talking but out of shot.  The ‘dead cat’ is placed over the microphone to cancel out sounds that are not required, for example wind.  It is specially designed so as to minimise wind noise while remaining acoustically transparent.

In the film ‘Once Upon a time in the West’ 1968, there are many leitmotifs that relate to each of the main characters.  A leitmotif is a recurring musical idea (a melody, chord sequence, rhythm or a combination of these) which is associated with a particular idea, character or place. Leitmotifs are manipulated to match the action and mood of a scene. With the exception of about a minute of the “Judgment” motif, before Harmonica kills the three outlaws, no soundtrack music is played until at the end of the second scene. At the beginning of the film, a number of natural sounds, are heard, these are the diegetic sounds.  Examples of these are a turning wheel in the wind, sound of a train, grasshoppers, shotguns while hunting, and wings of pigeons.

The opening scene shows the audience that the train is getting closer by the way that the sound of the train gets louder.  This creates apprehension in the audience – they know something is going to happen because the sound is reaching a crescendo.



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