Glossary of SOUND terms
Soundscape: the whole set of sounds used - a version of ‘mise en scene’ for sound
• Diegetic sound – sound that comes from a person or object in the diegesis
(the world of the story) and seen within the field of vision.
• Ambient sound – background sound belonging to the diegesis but not
always in the field of vision. Ambient sound within the field of vision may
include the hubbub of a crowd or the quiet sound car radio or engine over
which the dialogue takes place. Ambient sound outside the field of vison
might be a juke box downstairs, traffic outside or birdsong.
• Non-diegetic sound – sound that comes from nothing within the field of
vision and has been added afterwards in the editing process. The clearest
examples of this are soundtrack music or a voiceover (see below). Sound can
be added non-diegetically but still belong to something within the diegesis –
eg the blaring car radio in Criminal Justice may have been added afterwards
in the editing stage.
• Synchronous sound – where the sound is synchronised with the object
emitting that sound –as in lip-sync where the actor’s mouth moves exactly in
time with the words we hear.
• Asynchronous sound – this is where the sound track is deliberately out of
sync (out of time) with what we see. It is a rare effect in TV Drama. A good
example, again at the end of The Graduate is where we have a montage of
faces and voices in the church, all shouting at Ben but the voices do not
synchronise with the faces we see.
• Sound effects – sounds added to the visuals in editing. They may be
naturalistic – the sound of traffic outside the window added to a shot filmed in
a studio – or unnaturalistic, perhaps for comic purpose (eg a ‘boing’ sound) or
to remind us we are watching a construct (eg the ‘whooshing sound that
accompanies crash zooms in the Bleak House extract).
• Sound motif – a sound associated with a character or a place. This could be
the humming of machinery associated with a factory or the threatening
buzzing of a power station or clicks, whirrs and beeps in a computer lab. A
character might have a particular musical figure that plays when they appear
or when they sort out a problem. James Bond films have four related motifs in
the theme tune, each indicating a narrative turning point eg, the start or the
resolution of a chase sequence.
• Sound bridge – this is where the sound (either diegetic or non-diegetic)
continues across one or more cuts/transitions. Examples include the music
running under the montage of a day’s work in The Street or the phone ring
tone we hear when Joe Miller dials his phone in Criminal Justice and
continues when we cut to shots of his empty house when the phone he has
called is ringing.
• Dialogue – the sound made by characters talking to each other. Sometimes
this is re-recorded in a studio with the actors attempting to lip-sync to the
footage: this is called Foley recording.
• Voiceover – where a voice from outside the diegesis gives the audience
information. Often this voice tells us the story and may be a character within
the story – a detective, for example. This device was popular in American
Film Noir in the 1940s/50s: in the film Sunset Boulevard (1950) the voiceover
is given by a character who is already dead at the start of the film!
• Mode of address – this covers the manner in which the narrative comes
across to the audience. This includes the style of language used by the
characters or the narrator. If characters of an educated class are represented,
the mode of address will involve higher register language than characters of a
lower class. The mode of address might cover the accent or dialect used by
characters of a particular regional identity. Mode of address would also cover
the way in which a commentator or narrator speaks directly to the audience.
• Direct address – when a narrator or a character speaks directly to the
audience, not to characters within the diegesis. This technique breaks
verisimilitude because it acknowledges the presence of the audience.
• Sound mixing – mixes sound from various sources using a multi-track mixing
desk. Much of the dialogue can be remixed afterwards because the spoken
words are recorded using one or more boom microphones and can have their
volume changed relative to other sounds during post-production.
• Sound perspective – sound recording that helps us place a sound as either
near or distant or coming from a particular place within the diegesis.
Soundtrack – sound added entirely in post-production, usually a mixed music track
• Score – music composed, arranged and played specifically for the
• Incidental music – non-diegetic music that accompanies events or changes
• Themes – music that always accompanies this particular programme or even
a particular character (see ref to the Bond theme above) and suits its mood or
• Stings - musical Stings are short bursts of music. They were originally used
in TV and Radio to bump together different sections and chapters of a show.
• Ambient sound – can be recorded on location or can be added to the