Friday, 11 April 2014

Yr2 Week 21 (Fri 28 Mar - Producing and Directing)

Today's session was focused on the importance of Sound in Film. Sound itself can be broken up, mainly during the post production phase, into 'classes'; these are 'Dialogue' (on set, voice over, atmospheric) , 'Sound Effects' (foley, ambiance, hard/cut effects) and 'Music' (diegetic and non-diegetic).

Larry Sider, a veteran sound man and important member of 'The School of Sound', which mainly services film, once said ha sound could also be broken up into two main categories; the 'factual' and the 'emotional'. The former refers to sounds that are a natural part of the environment in the scene, and are what we would 'expect' to hear. The later, however, refers to sounds that can elicits an emotional response from the viewer, creating a sense of atmosphere, ambiance or even through the obvious use of music to create a certain tone.

To really highlight the importance of sound's use, David proceeded to show us three versions of the opening from the 1929 silent documentary Man with a Movie Camera. The opening basically consists of a montage o various activities around a city i.e. traffic, lifts, machinery etc. The first version was  totally silent, and I felt that it fel a little underwhelming, as the images could entrance and hold one's attention for so long before you need that additional element of sound to create a certain ambiance. Without it, it seemed like a mish-mash of different bits of footage without much rhyme, reason or context.

After, we saw the second version, with a score by the 'Alloy Orchestra', which as the name suggests, added a mechanical and by and large, percussion heavy, quality to the sound,. The result created a triumphant mood, very uplifting and giving the footage a context of the progressive, evolving society that embraced technology and efficiency. And then, came the third version, with a synth score from 2000, and not only was this sound harsher than the prior, but the electronic music also created a more unsettled morbid atmosphere, giving the images a sort of chaotic surrealism and somberness that seemed to suggest not all was well in this city.

Next, we more closely examined sound design, looking at the opening from David Fincher's Seven, where Moran Freeman's character is investigating a new crime scene, meets Brad Pitt's character, and then cuts o later  on a night we he's back in his own apartment, getting ready for bed. This sequence has a surprising amount of layers to it, auditiorily, that give you the sense of the broader city even though we don't see it much during this opening. From the sound of jammed traffic to the yells of angry and possibly drunk neighbours, you get the sense of this world being bigger than just the mere sets, and it really enhances the illusion and lets you get into the film more. Also, it's carefully used to plug gaps between dialogue, so that ambiance is continous, and again, lends to the reality.

Then, and lastly, we also looked the sound construction in a scene from Nostalghia, when our main character arrives in his hotel room. For the most part, it's a fairly silent, empty space which in turn, creates a sense of loneliness and isolation for our lead, as well as emphasises the sound of objects within the room, such the running water from the tap in the bathroom, due to the reverberance. Again, serves to highlight the the character's situation and allows the environment to be reflective.

And so, this draws to a close. As I've said throughout, it's often easy to overlook and forget just how vital sound plays a role in the production and presentation of a film. Careful choices of sound effects, dialogue and music and contribute wildly different things to a film, and in turn, affect the perception of the viewer.

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