THE ART OF SOUND
by Michael Chasin
We know that filmmaking is the art of what, when, and how things—are seen.
Less realized, filmmaking is also the art of what, when, and how things—are heard.
And what is heard is the province of sound design.
After the pristine sound stage—sound design is vital—to create plausibility.
What would a coffee house be without snippets of conversation, jingling coins, growls of the grinder, poured coffee, and hum of the air conditioner?
And it is the placement and volume of these ambient sounds that makes sound design artistry—such as:
- The strategically placed bar slam to dramatize important prison dialog
- A distant explosion to heighten poignant military dialog
- A baby’s cry, to trigger a torture flashback
Sound can be as important as visuals in telling a story.
Star Wars invented the sound of the whoosh of the light saber.
The clacking of typewriters in Mad Men is inherent to its period authenticity.
The savagery of fighting dramatized by a distorted horse shutter and elephant bray inserted into boxing matches in Raging Bull.
And sometimes, silence is best.
Such as in establishing the point of view of a character after an explosion—when hearing is lost…
When reality is the silence of space, as in Gravity.
Again in Raging Bull, when Jake must face his beating by Sugar Ray Robinson—and all sound is gone, awaiting the first blow…
So listen to your film—and be certain it sounds—as artful as it should be seen.