Sound is the most effective method for reaching audiences and touching them on an emotional level. Some Directors credit sound with being 50% of the image whereas others such as George Lucas believe it is more like 70%.
1. We as humans can process sound ten times faster than visual information which makes sound the ideal tool for progressing story lines
2. Sound can be used effectively in a variety of ways to suggest visual imagery.
e.g. Establishing Sound :
You hear the sound of a busy market place and the sound of horses hooves on cobbled streets. There is a general buzz of people and occasionally a few words may cut through the general noise to add more context – perhaps it could mention a familiar name e’g The Sheriff of Nottingham and all of this could be happening over the opening title sequence The first actual graphic may be as simple as a zoom in on a door where we hear a voice from within saying something about the new taxes that the Sheriff has just levied and how its going to be impossible to pay.
The inference is that it is probably an English peasants home in the time of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham has once again increased the taxes that are already crippling the ordinary people of the land.
If this was an animated film about Robin Hood that would amount to a lot of information communicated and a great deal of work saved drawing unnecessary images. The context and scene having already been set very efficiently in the minds eye of the viewer and this is a very powerful device.
think of some of the great Pixar characters e.g Woody and Buzz from Toy Story – without sound they would just be nice drawings i.e it is the sound that gives them their personalities and creates an empathetic bond with the audience. It is also the sound that enables the interaction between the characters and allows the viewer to suspend belief and engage with them and the world that they inhabit.
Smoothing transitions between scenes
Music or dialogue can be used to overlap scenes and help smooth the joins e.g
Detectives are in a Police station where they have just received information about another murder – the scene then cuts to a long shot of the city with dialogue of the detectives discussing the new developments playing over the picture, it then it cuts directly to the new crime scene where the same detectives are now discussing the position the body was found in. Once again sound has effectively enabled the rapid progression of the storyline and enough information has been communicated to the viewer allowing then to mentally fill in the gaps .
Off Camera Sound
e.g The sounds of unseen heavy machinery just off screen can be simulated to give the impression of a larger space.
Sound can be used in many ways to enhance a project but should not be seen as a separate entity. The goal is to create one experience and one piece of media that incorporates both the sound and visual elements. Sound generally should be used to enhance the picture elements without making too much of an impact itself. When used successfully the viewer is unaware of the soundtrack but very aware of e.g the heightened drama of any given situation. There are of course exceptions to this rule e.g musicals etc.