Film Techniques – Sound

The first sound films were known as “Talkies.” They used synchronized sounds and were essentially short films. In 1927 The Jazz Singer the first feature film was released. It was a major hit and soon films with sounds became popular.

Types of sounds

Today sound is an important feature of a film. It is used to improve the overall presentation. It is used in the form of words as in dialogues, sound effects and music. Technically there are two kinds of sounds. They are Diegetic and Non-diegetic.

Diegetic Sounds

These include all sounds that come from the objects and characters we see on screen. The source of sound is visible. They include words and dialogues used by different characters, sounds of the door slamming, footsteps, dog barking etc.

Non Diegetic sounds

They are sounds from sources outside the screen/story. The source of this sound is invisible. They include musical scores, sound effects, commentary, voice of god, mood music etc.

Use of Sound effects

Sound effects are necessary to get the plot moving. The mood of the film can be altered by the use of varied pitches and volume. Sound effects also prepare the audience for the next important occurrence in the movie. For e.g. the sound of sudden brakes and screeching tires are used to create an emotion of anxiety. Muted sounds can be used for a mystery or crime setting. Similarly different types of sounds are used to create nostalgia, romance, adventure etc.

Today sound effects are created using computers. Animal sounds, explosions, sound of rain, storm etc are all easily possible. There are libraries with computer sound effects. Sound effects are usually added after the entire film is shot.

Use of Silence

This is an interesting use of sound. Silence is used by many directors to create a great effect. A sudden silence heightens audience awareness and expectation. They are used like freeze frames in scenes of shock, impending doom or extreme sadness. The use of silence must be properly used and rarely or the effect will fall flat.

Use of Music

Music has been used in movies almost from the beginning. Music is an excellent method to provide sound effect. Without music a film appears lifeless and static.

Music is often used to predict upcoming events. The music is different when used to build up tension or when used to depict a comical or romantic moment. Ethic music helps in depicting a particular country or culture. When the film shows travel the background and country can be emphasised by the music used in the background.

Overture music is used as a backdrop for sound credits. A special kind of music like signature music is used to depict some characters. A typical example is the James Bond score. They are also popular in parodies.

Use of voices

Voices are used as background narrative in documentaries. In fiction movies they are used to carry the story forward or sometimes as the voice of God. Typical accents, characteristic features of some actors are used to associate the character they play.