We recently blogged about the power of mise-en-scene and how exhibiting a control over all the elements within the frame could shape the viewing experience of your film or video production, but we didn’t mention how important sound can be to that process, too.
For instance, when John Carpenter first screened his classic 1978 horror film Halloween for producers, before the score had been composed, it was apparently considered very much un-scary, which obviously isn’t the kind of criticism that tends to bode too well for a scary movie.
But when Carpenter then went back, added sound, and screened it again, the film was immediately considered one of the most terrifying experiences in cinematic history, and still is. Such is the power of sound. Read on to learn more.
They are called motion pictures, aren’t they?
Let’s face it. Sound tends to play second fiddle to the visual aspects of a film or video. People just naturally refer to films and videos and the experience of consuming them in terms of sight, not sound.
Movies are referred to as motion pictures or moving images, and people watch and see them; they don’t go around saying that they just heard a great flick. The bottom line is, to many people, sound is considered secondary, a mere accompanying element to the primary attraction: the visual.
But the truth is that sound packs a punch, perhaps more so than any other aspect of film or video production when it comes to the bang you can get for your buck. It’s just that the world of sound is an invisible one, but just like with all the visual elements, every choice you make concerning sound will absolutely affect the ways viewers experience your film or video.
Just think of a basic phone conversation scene with two characters. Yes, you have the option of letting both be seen and heard, whether by cutting back and forth or via a split screen, but that’s if you want everything crystal clear and fact-of-the-matter.
You can also restrict the narrative more by allowing just one character to be shown and heard and then only revealing the audio of the other, or by keeping one character out of sight and sound completely, which would create even more mystery and suspense.
How does sound shape the viewing experience?
The short version: a lot. Sound doesn’t just help to make for a more fun, engaging experience for the viewer. Like mentioned above, the choices you make in sound will definitely help shape the viewers’ understanding of what they see on screen.
Just like the mise-en-scene, sound can help to direct the viewer’s attention to where you or the film or videomaker wants it. For example, the mere presence and/or absence of sound can help to guide viewer attention around any given scene.
And while sound can help to clarify the events playing out on screen, it can also be used to contradict or help to make them even more ambiguous, if that aligns with your objectives and the experience you’re trying to create.
You may want to use sound or music which parallels what’s being shown on screen to enhance the mood, for instance, or you may want to use sound or music which contradicts it, a technique sometimes referred to as contrapuntal sound.
Sound can also help to form expectations in viewers, or to redirect or manipulate them, if need be. Horrors films, for example, often use sounds from unseen sources to engage interest and create suspense.
The point is that the sounds you initially choose to use or create for your film or video project as well as the way you arrange and mix them will go a long way toward molding the viewing experience in the fashion you see fit.
Music can create patterns and motifs.
Many film or videomakers use certain musical phrases along with specific characters, settings, scenes, etc., to further mold the viewers’ expectations. It creates a more memorable and distinctly recognizable experience.
In that way, sound will help to guide the viewers and their emotional response the next time they come across that specific character, setting, etc., on screen. And you can also make changes to the same musical theme, depending on the events playing out on screen, and then use it in the same way.
For example, you may want to use a softer version of a musical phrase for a scene with a lighter tone and then a heavier, more intense version for the scenes in the project which have a darker mood.
The bottom line is that finding the right music to accompany the scenes in your film and video is extremely important and is not a process that should be taken lightly. For more on that, check out this post, Tips for Choosing the Right Music for Your Next Video Production.
Sound and sight are on equal ground in film & video production.
As you now know, the right sounds and songs can make all the difference in the tone of your film and video, which is why it’s so important that you know exactly why you’re making it as well as the particular people you’re trying to reach.
Just remember that sound is too powerful a tool to use the wrong way. Just as the right choice can make for a richer, more immersive viewing experience, the wrong one can serve as a huge distraction, or worse, it can lead to confusion in the viewer.
So, make sure that every decision you make is properly motivated.
About Us: KVibe Productions has been doing video production in NYC and NJ for years and is fully equipped to handle every aspect of the production process. Whether it’s a commercial, a corporate video production, or a feature film, at KVibe, we create to inspire.