SOUND in FILM (adapted from Studying Film, Abrams, Bell and Udris, 2001) FM1 Exploring Film Form Micro Element Sound Handout Content: expanding contextual knowledge of sound Purpose: to expand depth of analysis in appreciation of sound as producing meaning and generating response/s. Use: 1. As a reference point for general interest. 2. To consider how certain sound functions to create meaning in student’s practical work (the Imaginary Film Sequence). 3. To view possibilities for the Written Analysis (Micro Essay) with the idea of exploring how sound is used by the filmmaker to generate response and create meaning. THE HISTORY OF SOUND IN BRIEF The transition from silent to sound film was not harmonious one. Experiments with sound began with the birth of motion pictures itself, between 1900 and 1925 sound systems increased in number. Studios were unwilling to invest – they did not want to tamper with an already profitable business. Two studios, however, perceived the situation somewhat differently, acknowledging sound enhanced the viewing experience, but that full-scale pit orchestras and Wurlitzer organs were too expensive. Fox Film and at the same time Warners, began developing their own sound system in studios and cinemas to compete with the pit orchestras of their rivals. (see Warner’s Vitaphone and Fox’s Movietone) In 1888 George Eastman developed the first flexible film made of paper, then celluloid – he called this ‘Kodak’ Before sound - film ran at 16 or 18 frames a second (fps) (Remember Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Francis Ford Coppola tried to represent this?) After sound was introduced in the years 1927-29 it ran at 24 fps.
In the years 1926-27 audiences declined – this was a bad year for Hollywood. Audiences were bored of the formulaic production methods and heavily promoted stars. (1927 saw the release of The Jazz Singer heralding the introduction of sound – it grossed $3.5m) Cinema was facing competition with the availability of radios and cars. 1929 (Wall Street crash) America saw a recession which further affected the film industry. 1932 silent films were almost forgotten and ‘talkies’ helped distract America from the harsh realities of everyday life. The effect of sound was radical – the Marx Brothers and W.C.Fields replaced Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.
Film is both a visual and aural medium. The most important sound in a film is likely to be the dialogue, plus any accompanying sounds such as those caused by movement of characters or objects. These sounds will give us a lot of information, helping us to follow the story and complimenting the images we see on screen. However, it is likely that other sounds will be added to the film to further emphasize the meanings it is hoped the film will communicate (i.e. the intended meaning, and/or the preferred reading).