As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…
This week, I’m returning to the little thread of visual analogs that I had going for a while.
I recently finished reading William Whittington’s Sound Design and Science Fiction, and he had an interesting idea that hadn’t occurred to me before. Background sounds…ambience, the sounds of the space…are sound’s “establishing shot.” The visual establishing shot is a moment of wide perspective. It lets us see the space, what occupies it, and where the characters fit within that space. The blocking and positioning can immediately give us a number of clues as to what’s happening both physically and emotionally in the scene. It’s important to note that the establishing shot doesn’t always happen at the beginning of the scene though.
The background sounds we put into a scene become something similar, an establishing field, and we can do interesting things with that. They let us know what’s taking place outside of the frame, and help us establish the space and the actions taking place within it. This establishing field can precede an establishing shot…picture a close up shot, with the sounds of the environment, while the camera slowly pulls back to reveal the space. That type of combination can create tension. The establishing field can replace the establishing shot entirely, never allowing the viewer to see the larger picture. That can be an excellent way to lock the viewer into a character’s perspective. The polar opposite, which can have the same effect, is to completely deny the viewer of the establishing field. We can transition from an establishing field to a tighter focus on particular sound elements…which has its own implications based on the context.
Just remember that there’s a whole host of narrative effects that can be engendered exclusively through the use of background sounds. How you think about those elements will have an enormous impact on how effectively you use them.
In an appropriately seasonal blog post over at A Sound Effect, Asbjoern speaks to Saro Sahihi of SoundBits, a boutique SFX library and sound design company. Saro, who has released some excellent gore SFX libraries, goes in-depth on how to achieve some truly squishy, wrenching, and disgusting gore sounds for all your horror needs. He even touches on some other horror mainstays, like how to achieve a good jump-scare sound, or crafting dark ambiences.
Head over to A Sound Effect to check out the whole article!
Director David Fincher and sound designer Ren Klyce has worked together for more than 20 years, and their ongoing partnership is one of most acclaimed collaborations in the modern film sound community. Klyce has been nominated for five Oscars – one for Fight Club, one for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one for The Social Network and two for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Their latest work is the very successful marital thriller Gone Girl which has just overtaken The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as director Fincher’s highest-grossing film in the US. The movie is filled with so many twists and turns that you can’t really talk about it without revealing something – and this interview with Ren Klyce also contains spoilers, beware!
Guest Contribution by Jeff Talman
Seong Moy, my drawing professor at City College of New York, had students lightly shade their sketchpads with hand-smeared charcoal to prepare a background for the drawing. This neutral background helped to create an illusory sense of depth in a 2-dimensional medium. The negative space of the drawing was activated by this treatment. Had there been no shading, no defined background, the objects in the drawing would not have existed anywhere, but would have been only representations, floating and free of context. The background helped to create a space in which to work.
Similarly, audio engineers know how important the background silence is in recording. In the early days of Audio CDs engineers learned that absolute silence between tracks created a void that the listener could find to be unpleasant, as if the CD was somehow unnatural because it did not exist in any space itself. The problem was compounded in that LPs had a consistent background sound. So sound on the early CDs seemed to ‘drop out’ between tracks. Soon engineers added low levels of ambient, background sound to fill these voids just as the charcoal smears did for the drawings.
It’s April, and you’d be a fool if you didn’t check out this past month’s freshly released sound libraries. From quiet forests, ocean sounds, and country ambience, to war-torn future soundscapes and the introduction of a new company to the sound design community, plus a BIG contest announcement, Designing Sound’s monthly round up has you covered.