What is the importance of sound in TV or Film, and how can it be used creatively in driving the narrative forward?
‘More than half a century after the coming of sound, film criticism and theory still remain resolutely image-bound. Early filmmaker’s scepticism about the value of sound has been indirectly perpetuated by generations of critics for whom the cinema is an essentially visual art, sound serving as little more than a superfluous accompaniment.’ (Altman 1980 Pg 45) In this essay I will analyse why sound is important in film and how it is used to drive a narrative forward. I will start with an introduction to sound history and progress to the fundamental element that sound is in the film industry and how music, sound effects and dialogue are significant in films. I will then proceed to how Orsen Wells used sound to drive the narrative forward and the importance of the right type of sound. Then by using the film Hugo as an example to strengthen my research.
Sound was first introduced to film in the 1920s and by the 1930s mostly all films where talkies (‘If you put natural sound corresponding to visual image and in particular on the human voice you make a “talkie”’ (Braun 1985 Pg 97). Sound was introduced to film by Warner Brothers in 1926 as most of the more successful film studios such as FOX were making enough money with their silent films they didn’t feel they had to incorporate sound to their motion pictures. Warner Brothers were not making as much as the other film studios so they took the risk of adding sound to their films. The public became interested with Warner Brothers after their first sound integrated movie; they then went on to release ’The Jazz Singer’ in 1927. Sound in films continued to be successful but didn’t become feasible to the public in till the 1950’s when they started having sound in cinema by Fred Waller’s Cinerama system. This used 35mm projectors creating image and 35mm film strip with seven channels of audio.
Sound is a fundamental element to movies, the audience expects there to be sound when someone moves there mouth or drives a car. “Only colour as an available re-source can we regard the use of black and white photography as the result of a conscious artistic decision. Only in the sound film can a director use silence for dramatic effect” (Perkins 1985 Pg 184) There are three main types of sound that are important when creating a film and are most commonly used; they are dialogue, sound effects and music. These three elements are used to drive the narrative forward as films use sound to shift our attention, they do this by having the sound in background loader so we focusing on that part of the screen and the sound then switch’s to what is happening in the foreground which then takes our attention. A sound editor would choose tracks which they feel are important to layer on top of the chosen images in a film, such as room ambiance this is important as it makes the film more applicable to the audience we usually disregard irrelevant noise such as people talking in the background or cars driving by, but they are still there and it is the same in film. Speech and dialogue are important in sound they are used in many different ways. Speech is used to bring the audience’s attention to certain character. More they anything dialogue helps to tell a story and move the narrative forward, certain actors can get cased purely for the sound of their voice and how there accent and tone relates to the character. Depending on the film genre depends on how much dialogue is used in most comedies it is important to use a lot of dialogue to go from gag to gag but in drama such American Beauty it is not as important to use a large amount of dialogue as the audience should be able to relate to the characters by their actions. Music is another important use of sound in films most films include background music to add dramatic effect and rhythm, music is commonly used in horror films to create a...
Bibliography: Weis, Elizabeth and Belton, John (1985), Film Sound: Theory and Practice, NYC: Columbia University Press.
Murch, Walter., ‘Touch of Silence’, in Sider, L., Freeman, D., and Sider, J. (eds.) Soundscape: The School of Sound Lectures 1998-2001. London and New York: Wallflower Press,
Knowles Marshall, Jane, (1988), An Introduction To Film Sound, FilmSound.org, http://filmsound.org/marshall/, (accessed 24th November 2012)
Happe, Bernard, (1997) The History of Sound in the Cinema, http://www.cinematechnologymagazine.com, July/August 1998, http://www.cinematechnologymagazine.com/pdf/dion%20sound.pdf (accessed 22nd November 2012)
Hugo, (Martin Scorsese, USA: Paramount Pictures, 2011)
Touch of Evil, (Orsen Wells, USA: Universal Studios, 1958)
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