Sound in Film &Television“Sound is the input we take most for granted when watching a flick. We take the explosions, kisses, gunshots, and thunderstorms as simple recordings when there is a whole set of technicians and technologies put in play to give you a sense of what a Jedi light saber sounds like in action.”1
The Importance of Sound90% of a motion picture is sound.Picture is far less important than the sound. The audience can only look at one picture at a time. Yet the audience can hear dozens of distinct sounds all at the same time and separate and process all that information... if it is done correctly. 2
Using Sound in FilmAs sound editor Marvin M. Kerner says in The Art of theSound Effects Editor, "the function of sound is three-fold": 1. To simulate reality. The simulation of reality can be something as small but distinctive as the sound of a door opening and closing on the Starship Enterprise, to the extremely complex creation of a language for the Star Wars series Ewoks. 1. To add or create something off scene that is not really there. 2. To help the director create a mood. Besidessetting the mood, sound can introduce important elements of the plot, or even intentionally confuse or mislead audiences.3
Types of Sound in TV & Film 1. Dialogue 2. Ambient or Natural Sound 3. Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR) 4. Narration 5. Sound Effects (SFX) 6. Score 7. Soundtrack
DialogueThe sound of people talking while onscreen. Usuallythey are talking to each other.
Ambient aka Natural SoundBackground noise in a scene. One part of ambiance is room tone. This is the background noise on the movie set. The sound of a background crowd is called Walla.
Additional Dialogue Recording (ADR)Dialogue recorded after the movie is done shooting. This is done if something ruined the dialogue during shooting, such as the noise of a plane.
NarrationThe voice of a person heard speaking, but not seen oncamera. Usually the narrator is telling the story.
Sound Effects (SFX)Any sounds that are created for the movie, such asfootsteps, alien sounds, wind, etc.
The Foley Process“The Foley artist creates sound effects on a Foley stage, whichis simply a production room in which everything is a soundprop, including the floor, which can provide different kinds offootfalls. The film rolls on-screen, and the Foley artist matchesthe kind of sound the filmmaker wants to the imageprojected.”5 The Foley Process was created by Jack Foley.
The Foley Artist“Foley artists begin their workby watching the film todetermine which sounds needto be replaced, which need tobe enhanced, and which justsimply need to be added. Atthis time, the sound on thefilm includes all of the dialogueand sound effects createdduring the actual productionof the film. These sounds arerecorded on a production trackor guide track.”6
The Foley Stage“In a Foley studio, youllfind different surfaces forwalking on, a splash tank,echo chambers, and a mixingbooth where the soundengineers record and mixeverything. Foley artistsspend hours huddledaround a microphone,reading cue sheet, andwatching a huge screen asthey meticulouslysynchronize their noises tothe action.”7
Foley ExamplesBreaking Bones Slap or PunchSupplies: Very fresh carrots and celery Supplies: Piece of raw steak. Technique: To emulate a person gettingTechnique: Break the carrots and celery in slapped in the face, hold a somewhathalf in front of the microphone. Usually,you have to break the carrots separate thick (about 1") piece of raw steak withfrom the celery and then combine the one hand and hit it with an open palmsounds on tape later. The combo makes a in the center of the meat. To simulate anice snapping-crack sound (the carrots person being punched (on a part of theand initial celery snap) and then a slight body without clothing, such as a face,peeling-breaking away sound (the strands neck, naked arm, or naked chest) useof celery tearing away) that finishes it off the same basic method, but choose aand adds to the "realism." thicker slice of steak depending on the part of body you are simulating being hit and punch the meat with a closedNotes: This trick can be used for a variety fist action.8of sound effects, from toes being run overby a car, bones being crunched or broken,or even knuckle cracking.8
ScoreOriginal music that is created for the film and plays atdifferent points throughout the movie.
SoundtrackMusic included in your film that wasn’t createdspecifically for the film (for example, a song by a popularartist).
Synchronous vs. AsynchronousSynchronous sound: Synchronous sound includes all noiseswhose origins can be seen on-screen.Asynchronous sound: Asynchronous sound is any noise whoseorigin you cant see.
Mix it up!“The edited dialogueand ADR, soundeffects, Foley andMusical elements thatwill comprise thesoundtrack areassembled.” 10
Now Add Some Sweetener“Sound Sweetening simplymeans enhancing a soundeffect. Rooster Rooster Create copies of the sound and apply various sound effects filters (reverb, echo, With Echo With Echo pitch shifting compression etc.) and then combine them all together until it sounds good. With Reverb With Reverb You might have half a dozen different layers in a single sound effect. Total trial and error.”11 All three combined All three combined
Terms to Know 12 Cue sheet: a list of all the necessary sound effects, along with their "cues"--time code and/or film footage signals that indicate when the sound begins and ends Echo chamber: a box or container used to create the illusion of distance and reverberation Incidental: casual, everyday sounds. Special sound effects that arent necessarily "special." Mixing console: a machine capable of taking in several different sounds, then mixing them at different levels to create a single, unified sound Reverberation: a reechoed sound which fades until it becomes inaudible Rough cut: the "first draft" of a film Score: the background music throughout a film Splash tank: a container filled with water for wet sound effects Walla: the film industry term for background crowd noises in a movie
Listen up!“From now on, when you exit the theater, you should notsimply sing the theme song and promptly forget the restof the sounds in the film. Rather, you should be askingwhat kind of theme music was used, what other use ofmusic within the narrative, what sound effects werecreated for which situations, whether certain effectswere synchronous or asynchronous, and why. So get outto the local multiplex and start listening with both ears!” 13