Does sound need more respect?

I have just read an article on Filmsound.org about designing for sound by Randy Thom, and something he covered in this article is how some people within the industry aren’t giving the amount of focus they should be on sound, and that the expectation is that sound can simply be saved in the post production process with little thought to what went on before. “Many directors who like to think they appreciate sounds still have a pretty narrow idea of the potential for sound in storytelling” (Film sound.org, Thom, 1999) The main question appears to be, are people within the same industry regarding one of the most important aspects as a last minute resort.

During my time studying sound at University I have had moments where people questioned my wanting to specialise in Radio. The amount of times I heard “But what are you going to do with a degree in Radio?” or the “Oh so you want to do sound so you’ll just get a job at a radio station” NO!!!!! I don’t think people quite understand the amount of opportunities and the many ways you can experiment with sound. Just look at BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a whole department dedicated to experimental sound. So instead of a long angry post moaning about the lack of respect regarding my choice of working in sound, I am going to show you two scenes that will prove to you how important and essential sound is when telling a story.

Blackadder

Taken from BBCWorldwide on Youtube

So our first scene which would seem like an odd choice is from Blackadder, where they are going over the top. Yes this is a comedy programme, but let’s focus on the exact moment where they do go over the top. As far as visuals go it’s simple and to the point, and what makes this scene emotional is the sound behind it. The theme music for this show is iconic. The music is dramatically slowed down and it uses a higher pitch, in contrast to the bellowing lower pitched bomb sound. The brief use of the men screaming is enough, making the sound of the scene very simple and to the point. This scene gradually becomes a field of poppies, with a gentle calming countryside ambience. The sound very much makes the point that this is now a place of peace. Not half bad for a comedy programme.

Doctor Who

This taken from Doctor Who on Youtube.

So yes, I couldn’t write something like this and not use Doctor Who. It’s my favourite scene in all of Doctor Who, the scene where Rose and the Doctor say goodbye. Even at 14 and not being into sound at the time, even I could say back then it was the sound of the scene that makes and tells the story. Well, with a greater ability to analyse sound I can tell you exactly why. First of all we have the very simple atmosphere of a cold beach. It rises in volume to match when music lowers in volume. Now the music has been created and edited in such a way that changes of melody match the change of conversation between the characters. Part of the importance of this scene is the way in which the lines are delivered. Another thing worthy of mention is the attention to detail. This is a sci fi programme and everything must have a standout sound effect to it, even including the vanishing of the Doctor. As far as scenes and sound details go this will always be my favourite.

So I think I have proved my point. Two different scenes, with varied ways of using sound to convey a message and to tell a story. Now come on film makers, let’s make sound just as important as the visual.

Reference

Filmsound.org (1999). Designing A Movie For Sound. Retrieved 27th October, 2014, from http://filmsound.org/articles/designing_for_sound.htm

 

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