How Sound Design Can Change the View of Audience

free essayWhen watching films, the audience does not usually understand what happens behind the scene. Perceiving a picture, a sound, or other effects as something natural and which does not need any explanation, many people leave behind one of the most important features, all sound presented in movies is added after a picture is shot and all the sounds are created synthetically in the studio. Watching a film, the audience is usually interested in the whole picture and it does not divide what they see and what they hear in two different ways; people just perceive the whole film. The problem of sound design discussed in this study will focus on the issue of natural sound and how sound influences the understanding of the main idea of the film. It is a common knowledge that sound in movies is produced in studios. Filmmakers try to influence human perception of the scenes using sound and different sound effects. Watching a movie in a cinema is much more spectacular than watching the same film at home. One of the most important aspects in this case is the sound. People expect to hear what is happening and sound designers do all that is possible to make the sounds as natural as possible. However, in all the cases studio sound is different from natural sound, even if most people cannot differentiate between the two. Most sounds in modern films are made in studios and most of them have nothing in common with original sounds.

Statement of the Problem: The problem focused in this paper is the difference between natural and studio sound and the influence it has on human understanding of the image. Film sounds may be composed of natural tracks and these natural tracks sound more effective in comparison with studio made ones. Having created a substantial library of sounds it is possible to design a professional and impressive sound track composed of the sounds one hears in real life. The use of innovative technologies may be helpful in this aspect. The use of natural sounds during foley creation may change the perception of the scene for better. Nowadays, audience is interested in getting the full emotional satisfaction from watching a film. Sound is an important part of the film. People do not notice the amount of the sound they hear everyday. That is why it appears as a real problem for a filmmaker to apply sound that might impress the audience (Gibbs 2007, p. 85). Listening to studio foley people do not receive the full impression from the movie. The problem is that natural sound is always richer in sound. The human ear hears numerous outside sounds and when creating these sounds in studio much of the sound is lost. Often filmmakers use music in an effort to substitute noise in order to create the necessary mood. It involves the audience in the necessary mood, but also distracts from reality.

Purpose: The main purpose of the study is to stress on the importance of using natural sound in filmmaking. Sound in filmmaking should be not a set of pre-recorded sounds applied every time in similar situations. The main idea of modern cinematography is to impress the audience. Having created top quality sound systems, film creators make the audience listen to already recorded false sounds. Most of the modern sounds in films are created in studios. It does not add to the impression from the film. Of course, music perfectly adds to the atmosphere and helps directors create the necessary mood. However, the use of natural sounds recorded on the street may be a very good start for making natural sound in filmmaking. It would have a greater impact on the mood and understanding of the scene if the audience hears natural sounds of the mountain stream rather than water poured from the jar into the glass. Natural sounds would create a particular atmosphere of the reality and the main purpose of this paper is to prove that the use of natural sound is going to improve the human mood and the understanding of the film and will also create the necessary atmosphere in the films faster than foley and music can do, which is the regular method of modern filmmaking.

Significance of the Study: The significance of the research is to prove that the use of natural sound in filmmaking will add to the perception of the atmosphere as in most cases the surrounding sound is omitted, while the human ear can hear it and lack of the outside noise in movies creates the impression of a false reality. Using natural sound in films may help create more life-like situations. If filmmakers refer to natural sounds, they would not need to use false music tracks that help create the mood, but restrict the audience from reality. The use of natural records in films may help achieve the creation of reality in front of the TV. All modern sound systems and video innovations in cinematography are aimed at assuring that people watching a film are involved in a new reality. New sound practices will help the audience become involved in this reality without false music, which may create the necessary mood, but also reminds the audience that they are watching a movie. No realistic parallels are created that helps the audience achieve a real satisfaction from the films.

Limitation: The main limitation of the offered strategy of using natural sounds in foley is that the use of original tracks and sound from the streets makes the process of sound design a complicated and costly procedure. Moreover, the fight scenes may be recorded with some ethical complications as some people may stand against the recording of the sound of a boxing fight or other similar fights from a realistic source. It is more ethical to use the sound of a hammer hitting the meat than the sound of the actual beating of people.

Foley Sound Studio Work of Producing Fake Sounds

Sound Designers’ Vision to Accomplish Their Work: Artistic Way, Exaggerate, Fear, Moody

Working with sound, sound designers use various strategies aimed to make the picture as realistic as possible. Mark Roberts, for example, is one of the well-known natural sound recordists on BBC. Using the sounds of nature in the movies may be a new step on the way to connecting the audience to the events in the film (Donnelly 2014, para. 1). Modern strategies in making sound in the studio exaggerate natural sounds as in this case the perception of the movie will be affected. Charles Maynes has focussed on creating a library of natural sounds of the city. Going to different places and recording the sounds of the street it is possible to get a valuable collection of the street sounds (Ejnes 2014, para. 17), which may be used in future films. The sounds of the city are a very important track in any filmmaking. Modern sound designers refer to numerous technologies when creating sounds; however, the sound of the nature cannot be substituted. Jana Winderen, for example, tries to get the sound from the most unexpected places. She is fond of oceans, ice crevasses, and glaciers. The sounds these mute objects release may be used as the natural examples of various studio-made sounds.

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It is not a secret that all the sounds people hear in the movie are created in studios. One of the goals of the modern sound designers is to please the audience (M?ller 2008, p. 88). The sound of fights is substituted by the sound of smashed meat by the hammer. All the sounds are created after the movie is shot. To assure the reality on the screen, careful attention is paid to synchronizing the visual track and the sound track, so that the actor’s spoken words correspondence with moving lips will create the semblance of a natural performance rather than a recorded, artificial one. This fusion of image and sound tends to generate full-blown analyses of actors’ performances-analyses that tie the vocal or sound aspect of the performance to the physical or visual one (Marcello 2006, p. 60).

When creating movies, a lot of people work on the sound design. Low financed films combine the duties of many people into one person. Films with better financing have many sound designers, editors, and other positions that work on sound. The main goal of each sound designer is to create the sounds, record dialogs, and background noise to assure that the situation may be imagined without the pictures. The raw video in films should be supported by sound and vice versa. The video needs the sound, which will create an impression that the audience does not just see the picture but also feels that they are there due to the sound (Middleton 2006, p. 74; Irving & Rea 2013, p. 286). Additionally, the volume of the sound plays an important role.

Sound in Different Genres: Horror, Action, Drama

One of the significant aspects in foley is the creation of sound that helps the audience to perceive the scene better. For example, while watching the horror movie Wolfen, the sound of a crying child in an abandoned house seems creepy and adds to the consternation. The audience does not see what happens inside and the lack of sound makes this scene scarier, but not to that extent. The use of a crying child makes the scene horrifying. Another example about the role of sound in understanding the scene may be discussed by using the film The Godfather. For example, when Michael Corleone prepares to kill his victims, the sound of a rushing train may be heard. No train appears on the screen, however, this very sound adds to the understanding of the inner world of the main character. Overall, “music goes a long way toward setting the mood for a scene, but even more subtle and powerful are the sounds that the audience does not notice” (Vineyard 2008, p. 143). These sounds do not refer to the scene itself, but they add to the understanding of the characters’ thoughts.

Sounds in horror films, action movies, and drama add to the mood more than to understanding of the surroundings. For example, Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s appearance in the film is preceded by an “abundance of subterranean sound: in the antechamber to the row of prison cells where Lecter is located, we hear a recurring, high-pitched beep, the sort ordinarily heard in the sonar room of a submarine; in the background, the normally unnoticed room tone is heightened to a loud hum” (Marcello 2006, p. 66). The impression of a closed space is created. The main feature of the horror films is sound. Having created accurate effects, sound and music can influence the understanding of the picture, to affect the human vision of the film and impact human emotions.

Action movies require more sound and music. The influence of sound on the human perception of the idea and the action is great. The development of technologies has created many various strategies for creating sound for an action movie. Drama movies also require much attention in terms of sound creation. Music and appropriate background sounds influence human perception and the understanding of the main idea of the movie (DiMare 2011, p. 1005). Obviously, sound plays an important role in human understanding of the images on the screen and the main idea of the scene.

Sound in Scenes, Fake Sounds Different from What People Hear in Real Life

When creating a movie, sound is recorded separately. Watching, for example, footsteps and hearing the sound people usually think that the sound editors have recorded the footsteps. However, in reality absolutely different sounds may be recorded. Also, background sounds may differ greatly. For example, creating the footsteps in one of the scenes in the movie Mon Oncle, Tati, a very talented French sound designer, referred to various kinds of noises for human footsteps. Also, he used the sound of ping-pong balls and glass objects included in this scene. Jacques Tati, like many other sound editors and sound designers, referred to exaggerated sounds to assure that the scene is understood correctly. Jacques Tati used sound to stress particular images. For example, shooting a dialogue scene with the ping-pong playing in the background, Tati creates such a sound stress that the audience pays attention to the ping-pong playing directing the views of the audience to the background image (Oumano 2011, p. 32). Thus, using foley correctly, sound designers can point the attention of the audience to the correct points. Recording foley in absolutely different settings where each sound can be controlled, Tati, like many other sound designers, create fake sounds to assure that the sound one sees is different from what one hears.

When film directors shoot films on-location, they have a lot of background sound, which may be different from what a movie should show. Redoing foley, sound designers may refer to absolutely different strategies. Depending on the place, footsteps will sound differently. Footsteps may be created artificially using various objects, like ping-pong balls according to Jacques Tati. Creating foley and designing sound for a particular scene, the sound designers and sound editors are focused on the final outcome, but not on the methods how various sounds are created. One of the best examples of the discrepancy between the sound and its origin is in the sound in fight scenes. In most cases meat and a hammer are used.

Psychological Effect of Foley and Natural Sound in the Movies on People

Humans Are More Visually Focused, so They Hear that the Sound is Important in a Film but Do Not Realize It

The issue of listeners and spectators has been considered in many psychological studies. Scientists have conducted several studies in terms of understanding how the human ability to hear sounds is related to their possibility to see the image. According to a recent study of Mitchell and MacDonald (2014), “the percipient or perceiver becomes aware of things through the senses, and seamlessly integrates multiple sensory experiences to interpret the world around them” (p. 115). Separately, an image or a sound makes it difficult for people to understand what is happening, what they perceive, and how to explain it. But quality images and ideal sound helps to see the whole picture and to enjoy it. When seeing an image and when hearing a sound one may perceive the combination of a picture and a sound as one whole, real vision. In reality, “there is an implicit assumption that listeners can identify individual music performers, but there is little evidence to support this assertion” (Mitchell & MacDonald 2014, p. 114). Additionally, the authors state that “visual and auditory person identification studies offer some instructive real-world models in the visual and auditory domains respectively, investigating listener or viewers’ capacity for individual person identification” (Mitchell & MacDonald 2014, p. 114). Pictures are important in the understanding of what happens and listening involves the audience emotionally in the situation. While listening to the piece, people usually spend time on understanding and interpreting it. The same is with matching an image individually. However, while watching and listening in combination, people should just perceive what they see and enjoy it emotionally (Silveira & Diaz 2014, p. 236). Influencing human emotions, sound helps to interpret the picture and to understand it. Also, the involvement in the piece occurs and one is able to feel the reality of the moment. Thus, the sound plays an important role in human perception of the picture. However, having gotten used to numerous sounds people do not notice it in an appropriate way and do not pay attention to it. Still, the changes in sound, the deletion of some important aspects, or the reduction of something people are used to will be noticed.

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Watching any scene in the movie, people have a particular idea of what a sound should be. For example, looking urban and rural landscapes, people expect to hear particular sounds that will help them feel the reality. Thus, when watching a scene set in the central streets of New York, the audience knows for sure how this place ‘sounds’. When sound designers use foley for making raw sound in a movie, they are sure to be wrong. It is almost impossible to reflect the real sound of the place without recording it there. George Watters, who worked on the movie The Red Corner, refers to real street sound, which allows sound designers “to get the same reverberation from the walls of the buildings, the natural sounds in the alleys, etc.” (Sonnenschein 2001, p. 37). Also, George Watters, in the film Gone in Sixty Sounds, wanted to record the sounds of a car driven at high speed. A real ’67 Shelby 6500 GT 500 was used for this purpose. The real sound included “horns, door slams, hoods, even the alarms” (Sonnenschein 2001, p. 37) to assure the audience hears the top quality real sound.

The eye and ear should work together in order to understand the exact point of view and to understand the meaning of the scene (Hsieh 2005, p. 31). This is very important when sound designers want to assure that the audience listens to the sound and can recollect the place without looking at it.

The Natural Sounds of Nature for Delivering Emotions

One of the best examples of the effective use of natural sound in influencing human perception of the image is The Tree of Life (2011). The movie seems to lack the sound at the very beginning of the presentation; however, after some scenes are shown, one understands that this is the real sound one may hear in particular situations. For example, the contrast between the rural and the city scenes is obvious. The sounds in the rural setting, where the family of the main character lives, remind the viewer of the time, when they visited the countryside. In other scenes, the sounds of the city also take a person to the business centre. The movie’s sound designer states that the film is not like one sees a waterfall and is sure to hear it: “Things wash from one image to the other. There are underwater shots, shots from space, places where it isn’t really possible to record. In that sequence, there’s a big hand-off between music and FX going on that’s really interesting” (Jackson 2011, para. 11).

One of the main peculiarities of The Tree of Life (2011) is the natural sound used in the scenes. However, the images presented in the movie created a number of complications for the sound editors as the film directors used creatures in the movies that did not exist, so it was a great challenge to record. The sound designers were to record CGI dinosaurs. Much research was conducted in order to understand the appearance of the creature and to try to refer it to any particular animal in the modern life in an effort to at least start from something. The professionals referred to the original recordings in the library materials including frog and insect sounds captured on an expedition to the jungles of Cambodia (Jackson 2011, para. 1). Other scenes with the actors seem to lack foley. Since the sound designers aimed at paying attention to the natural sounds and how it occurs in real life, some scenes seem to be sound ‘off’. Being used to watching movies with numerous background sounds and noise, this film is aimed to make the sound realistic stressing on the most important aspects. Craig Berkey tries to explain it as follows, “Like playing a scene where you’re inside a house and most of the Foley sounds are taken out, but the crickets outside are really, really loud—there’s a continuous bed of crickets and there’s a voice-over on top of that, so it almost makes you look at that scene as if you’re floating above it rather than cut-to-cut” (Jackson 2011, para. 3).

Each viewer watching the movie is sure to have personal absolutely different opinions about the role of the cosmic images in the movie. Obviously, the changed images of the natural phenomena like an eruption, a mountain stream, and other cosmic images can represent the emotions people experience after the death of a son. The changes of these pictures took place right after the funeral. It might be difficult to explain the feelings of people in such situations. That is why the film directors tried to show the parallel between human emotions and natural phenomena. The creation of the sound of the cosmic images was one of the main challenges for Craig Berkey, a supervising sound editor, sound designer, and mixer, and Erik Aadahl, co-supervising sound editor and sound designer. Explaining the sound of the cosmic images, Aadahl pays much attention to “cosmic breath”. He says:

I recorded myself breathing and took that sound into Pro Tools and manipulated it to get this feeling that you don’t perceive so much as an actual physical sound as much as a conceptual thing. There’s a tonal rumble that weaves in and out, with silence in between. Hearing it, you wouldn’t know what it was necessarily, but subconsciously there is that feeling of a timeless energy cycling (Jackson 2011, para. 2).

This particular sound gets a special place in the movie as watching this particular scene a viewer does not even understand what it is, but considers this sound as something familiar. One of the film creators called this sound “the sound of eternal silence” (Jackson 2011, para. 2). The effect from watching this scene cannot be explained. The audience sees the images they can see on the picture only and at the same time hears the familiar sound they unable to explain. This particular scene helps the audience to catch the reality in the movie, to become closer to the actors and to the situation.

The expression of the emotions in the film may be seen in one of the first scenes. The camera shows a close-up of the main character who is talking on the telephone in an airplane. Then, he walks away from the airplane. Modern cinematography creates such scenes with the possibility to hear the conversation, the sound of airplane engine in the background, the steps when the character moves, etc. In The Tree of Life (2011) the sound designers used another strategy, like it is in reality. Even though the close-up camera move takes place, the dialog is not heard. The main sound is the voice of the airplane engine, like it should be, and “this weird instrument called The Beam [which has piano wire strung across a metal frame and is amplified to create unearthly tones]” (Jackson 2011, para. 4). Such a particular strategy helped the sound editors get the feeling right in this scene. Of course, the question about why one cannot hear the voice of the main character appears; however, it is not that important. The filmmakers managed to show the feeling of the father who has just heard about the death of his son, the feelings which shut down anything that occurs right away.

Sound has a very important impact on the emotions people experience and how they understand the feelings of the main characters. Listening to the sounds of the film, the audience usually tries to communicate those sounds to get the information one needs to know and to feel. Aadahl comments this particular aspect as follows:

You have the space and time in the film to actually create emotions that aren’t just on and off in two seconds, where you can really build these feelings—and very simply sometimes, maybe with the right lonely wind sound or the right distant single bird in the forest. Each of these sounds has an innate evocative essence that triggers something emotionally (Jackson 2011, para. 6).

The main purpose of the sound designers and the image on the screen is to give the audience the space to feel things on their own (Jackson 2011, para. 6). The sound allows for feeling each emotion; each move that occurs on the screen to make the audience understand the main idea of the movie in order to get the goal the filmmakers wanted to deliver.

All is Lost (2013) is another film which deserves attention in the meaning of sound and its natural origin. The whole movie is based on sound. It almost does not have dialogue, and the viewer perceives everything that is happening in the movie via sound. It is notable that there is almost no music in the film, but when it is heard, it adds to the dramatic effect of what one sees on the screen (Macnab 2013, para. 6). It adds to the reality and helps the audience not only to see the scenes but also to perceive what occurs in the movie. The very beginning of the film Brook characterises as follows, “All the old man can hear is the slap of the waves and the creak of the ropes. All he can see is the far horizon: the flat sea meeting the flat sky with barely a join between the two” (Brooks 2013, para. 2). All Is Lost (2013) is a movie which shows the image through the sound. “Buffeting waves and storm clouds” (Macnab 2013, para. 6) image are shown through the sound editing, which is amazing using the natural sounds of the sea and wind. Also, the film is close to being silent; there is no dialogue and the only voice one can hear is the desperate scream of the main character, “the ocean is far from silent” (Desowitz 2013, para. 1). Each wave, each water move is heard in the movie. Obviously, the main idea of the movie in the relation to the sound is to show how the ocean can speak. The ocean in combination with the wind makes the audience feel that breeze and smell the salt of the ocean.

One more moment in All Is Lost adds to the reality of the movie. According to Bradshaw (2013), the only character of the film “when he finally says something into the sputtering radio transmitter, there is an amusing moment when he has to cough and clear his throat, like all people who try speaking after protracted silence” (para. 5). Unconsciously, a viewer looks at the main character and sees a person who does as one may do in the same situation (meaning being silent for some time). It affects the viewer and helps to become more greatly involved in the movie. Also, hearing one particular sound that happens close is obvious. At the same time the sounds which occur in the distance or beyond the human ear are not heard. This is the same in reality and the films All Is Lost and The Tree of Life are spectacular in this way.

The Effect of Music on Scene Perception in Films

The effect of music in The Tree of Life (2011) is important, even though music does not play great role compared to other sounds. However, the role of music and especially the classical tracks should not be ignored. According to Hillman (2012), “the sheer range of moods, types and historical contexts of classical music in Tree of Life creates a sense of the sweep of time, and blurs the once territorial boundaries of ‘classical’ music” (para. 14). The film easily combines the music of a French composer Hector Berlioz from 19th century and the music of Gy?rgy Ligeti, a modern composer. One of the main ideas of the musical editing in this film was minimalism. Even though the film contains images from space, the film director never wanted it to be like a science fiction. The scenes were to be understood via vision more than via sound. However, the soundtrack was incredible. Referring to the strategy of minimalism, the film composer wanted viewers to pay attention to the sound but not the music. Thus, the role of music was just to add to the sensitiveness and delicateness of the picture. Another reason for having a very few number of music tracks in the background is the focus of music in the very plot of the movie. Bradshaw (2011) assures us that Pitt tried “to force them to appreciate music, yet also challenging his boys to toughen up, demanding that they hit him in sparring sessions in the front yard and having no scruples about hitting them for the smallest discourtesy or disobedience” (para. 5).

According to the music composer of the film, the director never wanted anything big in relation to the music. The idea of minimalism was great. Desplat, the film’s composer, insists that “it was always about the serenity, the purity, the innocence more than anything” (Kaufman 2011, para. 10). Also, no big orchestra was initially planned. The sound of the nature was more important than the music. The film creator wanted to show the natural sound without any background music arrangements. The music composer confirms the following, “I remember when I was in Austin in his editing room I asked for a piano to be delivered, so I could try some things. Sometimes, it was just one note repeated that would suffice” (Kaufman 2011, para. 10). One of the effects of the music was to be absent. The film was presupposed to be big in relation to the picture and very small in relation to the sound. It was expected to help the audience to be involved in the film actions more than usual due to music. Sometimes, however, it seemed that the music was used to substitute some dialogue to allow the audience to imagine what was said. Thus, the audience is not only made to feel the reality of the movie, it is also involved in the movie development in some way.

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The role of music in All Is Lost is absolutely different. The music is substituted with the sound of the ocean and vice versa. A melody in this film sounds as a kind of elemental sense. Music is one of the characters in the movie. In some cases the music represents the voices in Robert Redford’s head, in other cases a musical translation appears just for the audience to be heard. When Robert Redford finally hears the music, when he writes the letter, this very sound disappears. The background sounds like wind, ocean, or light have a great impact on music. One more function of the music in the film is the creation of tension (Rosenbloom 2013, p. 22). Music appears in the moments when the main character is in danger. It helps the audience to feel this tension, to be involved in it, and to become closer.

The Strategies for Film Sound Design

Diegetic, Non-Diegetic, Meta Diegetic and Objective Sound

To create the best sound in a film, the composer should be aware of a lot of theoretical aspects. Diegetic, non-diegetic, meta diegetic and objective sounds are the theoretical concepts aimed at creating the sound in any film. Diegetic sound refers to all the sounds the audience can see in the movie. These are the voices of the characters, the sounds of the objects on the screen; the instrumental music played which can also be seen on the screen (Goldmark, Kramer, & Leppert 2007, p. 184). Non-diegetic is the sound, which appears behind the screen. The voice of a narrator and the mood and background music are all the examples of non-diegetic sounds (Laing 2007, p. 24). According to Gorbman (1976), meta diegetic sound is the sound imagined or hallucinated by a character, for example, inner voice of the character, the story told by the main character, or another sound, which may be understood as a story within a story (p. 449). Objective sound is explained as the sound a character really hears no matter whether it has occurred or not. For example, when the tree falls in wood, it is expected that one may hear it. However, if a person does not expect to hear it, it may occur that he/she will not hear it. This is the main essence of objective sound (Holman 2012, p. 1).

The Power of Natural Sound in Film Sound Design

The film Requiem for a Dream is a very hard movie in relation to sound design. Even though the movie contains dialogue, many silent scenes are present that are explained by sounds. Listening to the sounds in the film for several times or even with closed eyes it appears to be very difficult to notice any false sounds. It seems the sound editors in the movie referred to numerous strategies to apply the sound in the movie. Only in the last minutes of the film is it possible to see a drug injection. Using natural sound, the filmmakers expect people to become closer to the audience. This is an example when sound and picture go together in an ideal way. The sound without an image would have no meaning just like an image without sound. The sound adds power to the film. The strategies used for sound design impress. The sound follows the image exactly. Thus, if the character appears on the left hand, the sound comes from this very side. The music usually appears either from the left or from the right sides depending on the source of the sound. Sometimes very loud sounds of streets, some words, and music are substituted with silence. The abrupt changes and skips of the images on the screen are supported by the sounds. This particular sound design strategy helps the audience remain attentive and under the pressure of another abrupt sound from any side. When the image on the screen splits the sound also splits. This direct following of the sound to the image adds to the understanding of the movie. Paying attention to the fact that the sounds are original but exaggerated, it is possible to predict that this particular use of strategies is aimed at compounding all the possible sounds. The examples of diegetic, non-diegetic, meta diegetic and objective sounds are present in the movie. However, the stress the sound designers do on the natural sounding and impressive music loudness, which helps both to see the reality in the film and to understand the meaning of the scenes.

The leader of the sound design team tried to explain how the sound in this movie was created. Using the example of the mother’s fridge, he says the following:

  • The fridge is really a very simple thing. It’s just a matter of the fridge you choose—no two fridges sound alike. If we had taken a fridge which was just a Westinghouse or Whirlpool made a year ago, it would sound like a well-oiled machine. It wouldn’t have had the same impact. You need something that has an old compressor, that really growls, that’s what gives it character. We’re always referring to personality. Everyone wants personality. It’s the courage to try something different that gives it a different feel (Shetty 2012, para. 12).
  • Requiem for a Dream is a psychological film where the role of sound and music is important. The whole movie seems to be based on abrupt repeating sounds. The dialogue is present, but even though it is the centre of attention, it seems to be in the background, just for telling some necessary information for understanding the plot, not for the development of the plot. This effect is especially noticed in several scenes when the dialogue is supported with the image of moving lips. In this case the attention from the words is distracted and the audience only looks at the lips.
  • The repetition of the sounds and actions can be observed. Repeating the same sounds of cash registers tallying, metallic echoing, metal doors being slid shut, a phone off the hook, and some other oddities, what sounded like a sword being removed from its scabbard in the drug-dealing sequence, the overall effect unsettling and haunting (Ratner 2001, p. 9), the effect of routine and boring life is achieved. Trying to influence the psychology of the audience, it’s as if the sound designers are trying to say that no one would be satisfied with such a life.

The Use of Sound in Understanding the Film

Sound is very important in understanding the main idea of the movie. Taking as an example Requiem for a Dream, sound plays a very important role. The movie is about two addicted people. The addiction of each person is explained by the sound. For example, no word “heroin” is heard in the film, even though the son has a heroin addiction. The snapshots on the screen are joined by sounds of smoking, bubbling, and sharp cutting sounds, and are used to influence the audience’s thinking. The sounds are exaggerated as only in this way it is possible to understand that the drugs are taking effect in scenes. Seeing young boys in the room and then hearing extremely terrible repeating sounds is very impressive. The sound is stressed in these snapshots to assure that the audience understands the strength of these moments. The drug-taking scenes are followed by sounds of relief and exhaling. One of the reasons why the sound editors refer to exaggeration in this case is the fact that in reality these moments may have no sound. But being a psychological film, the sound designers have selected these addiction sounds for stressing attention on these moments. Impacting an audience, the sound helps people understand the nature of the sound and to assure that the audience has understood the importance of the moment.

Another sound line in the film is the mother’s addiction to TV. The sound of turned on TV, of her eating and drinking, the opening and closing of a mail box, and opening and taking pills are repeated with the purpose to show that this is not just a period, this is the way of life. The sounds show that these are the only actions a person does. The TV with the constantly repeated word “winner” and loud sounds of other daily actions are presented in an exaggerated way. This is made in order to show how important these actions for people. The sound represents the thoughts of the main characters. Like the sounds while the son takes drugs, the sound of the turned on TV and the mother are the sounds they live with, the sounds they are thinking about. This is their lifestyle.

Watching a film it is possible to notice that sometimes sound and dialogue are louder than the rest of the film. This may be in several reasons. Remembering that this is a psychological film, it can be predicted that this strategy is selected in order to stress the important moments and impress the audience. Another reason is that such a sound strategy differentiates between reality and imagination. Addicted people have two phases in their behaviour, they may be either in a dream (under the influence of the drug) or in reality with numerous problems. The sound helps to understand when the characters are in a dream and when they are in reality.

The role of the music is exceptional in this film. Each episode, each scene, and sometimes even each movement is supported with the music. Bianco (2004) calls such music editing as stops, intrusions, edits, shots, lenses, and close-ups. The sound is created under the best rules of hip hop culture and the words Bianco (2004) states confirm it. Having created discomforting and cold music, the stress on power of this music is made (p. 394). The extremely powerful notes of Mozart and Verdi are used for creating the film remix. The music is very emotional. In combination with the sound it creates a very serious pressure and the audience can feel this pressure.

Apart from very powerful and loud scenes in the movie, the episode when Harry comes to Sarah and informs her about the TV as a present may be considered as the calmest scene in the whole movie. Watching this scene, the miscommunication both characters experience and the extreme sadness a viewer can notice that feeling of despair. The mother and the son become too distant from each other and nothing can be done. This is an important scene in the movie from the view point of the sound and music. No abrupt changes are made and no loud sounds are incorporated just to show the casual nature of the scene and the inability to do anything. This is a reality. It depicts the emptiness and loneliness of the characters.

Speaking of the understanding of the film by means of sound, the music in Requiem for a Dream must be mentioned. A very close consideration of the music helps differentiate the violin and the moments it is played. The violin is involved when the addiction topic is touched. The son and the mother perform their daily actions and they are already addicted to the sounds of violin. This is a very powerful means of sound design. The sound of violin can be heard when the characters feel pain or appear in agony. The importance of the sound is that is does not reflect what is happening on the screen. For example, the sound of violin may represent pain and agony, but the characters do not experience these feelings, they are in a trap of euphoria. The more powerful sound of the violin is used in episodes when the characters feel pain and understand it. The final scenes of the movie are all interspersed with pain. The sounds of violin become stronger and louder and in some scenes no sound is heard but violin.

The volume in the movie plays a very important role as well as in the understanding. The beginning of the movie does not have any high volume sounds, but with the development of the plot, with the development between the relationships between the characters, the volume increases. The increase in the volume shows the development of the relationships, in the development of the scene showing the beginning, and in the climax of the story. The louder volume of the music is in the last scenes, when there is no step further as there is nothing further. The violin music reminds the audience that all the actions and all the relationships in the movie are based on the addiction. The harder the addiction is, the stronger the relationships become and the higher chance of an abruption to these relationships.

To see how music connects all the characters, the filmmakers have created the montage scenes at the end. Marion is at a sex party to have a change to get another dose of drugs. Harry has been brought to the hospital to have his hand cut off. Tyron is in jail. Sara experiences shock therapy. All these people are brought to these circumstances because of their addiction and the sound of the theme which has been used during the whole movie becomes louder and strengthened to show the final stage of addiction, to nothing. One more sound in the movie, which repeatedly adds to the understanding of the addiction theme is techno music. It is also repeated during the drug scenes and can be heard at the end.

The violin and other sounds in the movie are aimed at helping understand the main idea of the film. The filmmakers help the audience live in the dream that the main characters live in. Trying to show the inner world of each character, the sound designers have created the soundtrack of their minds and souls. This is very important in seeing the inner intentions of the main characters and their destiny in that addicted reality.


Sound design is one of the very important aspects of film creation. Appropriately designed sound helps to understand the main idea of the movie and to relate the image on the screen with the sound which helps to see the whole picture of what is happening. There are different strategies in sound creation. Foley is mostly recoded in the studio under a very attentive control of the sound designers and sound editors. Much attention should be paid to the source of the sound. Many contemporary sound designers prefer to use the natural sounds. It requires more time to record natural sounds in an appropriate setting. Background sound is difficult to record, but the use of the natural wind flow, steps on the grass or the sound of water falling is much richer than the use of human blowing, fake steps and the sound of pouring water in a glass. Sound plays a very important role in the success of the movie. Any movie contains various sounds, diegetic, non-diegetic, meta diegetic and objective sounds. Each of the sounds is necessary for creating a real world image. If the sound has been effectively created it means that the audience feels itself in the movie and a film becomes a real world for them until the very end.

Having conducted thorough research on the topic, it becomes obvious that the use of only natural sound in the movie is impossible due to many reasons. Some sounds cannot be recorded in the natural settings due to the absence of such settings. The sound of cosmos, the sound of dinosaurs, and other sounds are impossible to record in real settings. However, it is possible to use artificially created sounds to substitute the effect. The research under consideration has contributed to the development of the sound design theory. Having analyzed several films from the point of view of sound design, the conclusions have been made that natural sounds are more effective. Still, to achieve the necessary effect the sound editors have to apply the strategy of exaggeration to assure the audience’s correct perception. Different sound effects, loudness and strategies for sound presentation keep an audience in stress and influence their psychological and emotional perception.


The sound design requires changes. The innovators in the sound approaches are doing everything possible to fill the sound libraries with various natural tracks. Audiences become more demanding and when watching a movie they expect to hear everyday sounds as they are in reality. People want to be satisfied with the movie and they want to be inspired by the variety of images and sounds. Sound designers should work on making sure that they have applied to the most recent strategies in sound design and can assure those in the audience top quality sound. Sound designers should search for more sounds and follow the latest tendencies to create the best films, which influence human perception and film understanding.

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