5 of 13
emotional bent on a scene."
Sound Effects Dialog editors are usually considered problem solvers rather than creative contributors, but there's considerable room for artistic input in choosing and editing sound effects. For one thing, sound effects tracks are normally built from scratch. We would not want to hear everything that really could be heard in a given space, Even if it were possible to record only the appropriate noise on the set while the film is being shot, it wouldn't sound right psychologically. Sound is very subjective and dependent upon the visual context and the mood set up in the image. The soundtrack of real life is too dense for film. In the real world, our minds select certain noises and filter out others. For instance, we mentally foreground the person speaking to us even if the background is louder. On film, the sound effects editors and rerecording mixers have to focus for us.
Focusing on selected sounds can create tension, atmosphere, and emotion. It can also impart personality to film characters. Walter Murch (the doyen of sound designers) once described the character sounds (in a film he directed) as "coronas" which can magnify each character' s screen space. A figure who is associated with a particular sound (often suggested by his or her clothing), has "a real presence that is pervasive even when the scene is about something else or the character is off-screen."
Indeed, sound is a major means to lend solidity and depth to the two- dimensional screen image. Furthermore, new digital release formats allow filmmakers to literally "place" sounds at various locations throughout the theater. Thus sound can expand space, add depth, and locate us within the scene.
A crucial difference between visual and aural manipulation of the audience is that even sophisticated audiences rarely notice the soundtrack. Therefore it can speak to us emotionally and almost subconsciously put us in touch with a screen character. In a film like Hitchcock' s The Birds, for example, any time we see a bird we know we are being titillated. But by merely adding a single "caw" to the soundtrack on occasion, Hitch was able to increase the tension without our being aware of his manipulation.
To understand the manipulability of effects it is useful to know how effects tracks are created. A regular source of effects is a stock library, where sounds are stored on CD. The rest have to be recorded or combined from several sources. Foleying is the "looping" of sound effects by a specialized department in a studio designed for watching the picture and creating the sounds at the same time. The process is named after its developer, legendary sound man Jack Foley of Universal. Because virtually all footsteps are replaced, a foley stage usually includes several pits with
6/24/04 7:55 PM