Email thread – feedback

Sent from myself to Kenny on 29th September:
Draft 1: The project aim is to find the link between sound design in cinema and the way in which it affects an audient emotionally.  The goal is to find out if this element of cinema creates an emotional connection with the viewer psychologically, and how this affects the immersion of the film as a whole.  This will be recorded using both qualitative and quantitative analysis of the audient.

 
Draft 2: Sound design plays a vital part in cinema.  Sound design makes up the soundtracks of cinema excluding the music, so this includes ambience, sound effects and any extra sounds the sound designer feels necessary to add to enhance the film and add to the immersion for the audience members.  Most people don’t connect as much consciously with sound design, and I would like to highlight the immersion that it brings to people sub-consciously.  I plan on taking several scenes from various films, which I feel excel in exceptional sound design, and playing them for an audience, to then comment and complete a questionnaire about.  I want to see what specific elements of sound design evoke certain feelings in the audience.  I will show these scenes to several people of varying gender and age to get an accurate representation, which will be highlighted at the beginning of the questionnaire.”
Reply from Kenny on 29 September:
“1. No real context or problem – why study this? The way your question is written, isn’t the answer obviously yes? I can point you to several films (some of which we studied last year) where the sound design has emotional impact. What other more nuanced questions might you ask about sound design in film that would give you something to investigate?

2. This is better – certainly going in the right direction. A little too personal, though – try to avoid writing in the first person. The way that this draft is written, it sounds like all you’re going to do is grab some films, show them to an audience and ask them some questions. Where does your practice fit in? If this is a first step, and you plan to identify good practice in sound design with a view to carrying it out in your own short film or animation, then great, but otherwise, why? What are you going to use this information to do?”
Sent from myself to Kenny on 16th October:
“Hey Kenny, this is the third draft of my project aim, just wondering if you had any pointers for me before the feedback week meeting next Thursday, just so I am prepared. Thanks in advance.

‘Sound design plays a vital part in cinema.  Sound design includes ambience, sound effects and any extra sounds the sound designer feels necessary to add to enhance the film and add to the immersion for the audience members.  Manipulating real life sounds in a digital audio workstation creates many of these sounds.  Most people don’t connect as much consciously with sound design as they do with music, and I would like to highlight the immersion sound design brings to people sub-consciously.  I plan on taking scenes from films, which I feel excel in exceptional sound design, and playing them for an audience, to then comment and complete a questionnaire about.  I want to see what specific elements of sound design evoke certain feelings in the audience.  I will use the results to create an accurate database of what sound design elements can evoke certain feelings within an audience member, to be used to help sound designers in the future as well as myself.'”
Sent from myself to Kenny on 10th November:
“Hi there Kenny I was wondering if you could have a look at my project aim as it is just so I know if there is anything else that I should add or take away just before this hand in in two weeks.

Sound design and ambient sounds plays a vital role in films but most people overlook it.  They only listen to the music in the soundtrack.  I want to bring conscious attention to the ambient sound and sound design elements of cinema for the modern audience, as I feel it brings a lot of immersion to the audience sub-consciously.  I will screen what I think are excellent examples of ambient sound and sound design and ask a questionnaire on how if makes the audience members feel.  I want to highlight which sound design techniques and styles evoke certain emotions in the audience, which can be used by people in the future to create sound design or ambient sounds to evoke certain feelings.”
Thanks Kenny, Regards, Danny”
Reply from Kenny on 10th November:
“Is it really fair to say that most people ‘only listen to the music in the soundtrack’? This assumes that: the sound design and ambience isn’t part of the soundtrack (it is), and that people don’t listen to it (they do). I think maybe what you mean is that people aren’t consciously aware of the effect that it has – it’s the unsung hero of the film?

With that in mind, then, why do you want to draw attention to it? Back to that idea of something like special effects in film – once you start to become aware of them, the film isn’t working properly. If you’re aware of the sound design, the sound design isn’t working the way it should.
Why not just make this a project that explores effective sound design and sets out to explore how it works on a subconscious level to create the sort of immersion that you’re talking about without the viewer being consciously aware of it?”

 

Case Study 4 – Primer

Primer is a 2004 sci-fi film written and directed by Shane Carruth.  The main idea of the film is that two scientists are trying to make a machine that reduces the weight of an object without affecting mass, they manage this, but in turn the object travels back in time.  The two scientists then use the machine to send themselves back in time to place bets and make money.

Honestly there is not much in this film which can be used in my project and I don’t think I will create a full scene case study for this.  The opening scene shows a group of 4 people working in a garage, we see a lot of hustle and bustle and metals being moved around, but we instead hear a phone call.  We do not hear the sound effects from inside the garage we hear the main character/narrator of the film speaking to the audience through an old phone.

The next good scene in the film is when they are testing the box for the first time.  We are aware that the box is creating a magnetic force as it is explained, but instead of the hum you would expect, there is the sound of wind instead.  This does not take away any of the effect which is trying to be created, as the wind works with the visuals well.

The next effective use of sound design is around 40 minutes in.  This is after the first time Abe uses the machine on himself for the first time, and he is driving away from the site.  We are aware that Abe is feeling bad as it is discussed before he goes into the box too.  He is driving around suburban streets but we hear sounds as if he is underwater.  I think this is used as he is having a head rush after being caught in this magnetic current for 6 hours.  So the water sounds work effectively.

Week 10 – Lecture 10

Scientific method.
This applies to the positivist research paradigm.

Using this method it is essential that you start from the existing theories. Scientific methods require a hypothesis; you cannot conduct research without one. Exploration is inductive (Qualitative) not deductive (Quantitative). Independent variable is the cause and dependent variable is the effect.

Questionnaire.

Measures respondent opinions, attitudes or preferences using a series of carefully designed questions. Your questions should seek answers that are numerical eg. Pick a category, rank the following, indicate your answer on a scale etc. You may select a questionnaire if you want to collect data that can be generalised to a wider population.

Experiment.

Measure participant cognitive response to stimuli you present them with. Measure participant ability under certain circumstances.

Grounded Theory.

Qualitative.

Level 1 coding – Large amounts of raw data are focused and labelled

Level 2 coding – Re-examines level 1 codes and further focuses the data

Level 3 coding – Previous coding is studied to develop highly refined themes

Level 4 – Theories can emerge from saturated categories and themes.

Elicitation – John Crosser

Use case studies everyday. With reflective writing.

Immersion.

A key characteristic of qualitative research is immersion. In this case the researcher must remain distant. The researcher ought to be immersed or involved in the study in some way.

Back up all your work. Always remember your project aim and objectives to be sure that everything can be related back.

Theme.

Qualitative researchers are interested in themes. You don’t know what themes you will encounter beforehand.

Empirical evidence.
Sweeping statements that need evidence to back them up.

Week 10 – Class 10

Concept development document.

Your journey of development. Talk in the document about all of the original ideas that you had, or the narrowing down of your idea. Third person passive. Before you try to write always make sure you know what it is you are trying to say. After you refine your ideas you will have an idea of content and structure. Thinking of your timeline chronologically will help you recall your journey better, as you can see the order and influence of each thing you did. At each stage in the chronological milestone, you should discuss each point in a hierarchy, with the most important parts first. Create a timeline of your project subject from the first stages till now, for example, start at Jack Foley to modern films and everything important in between.

Case Study 3 – The Babadook

The Babadook is a 2014 Australian horror film written by Jennifer Kent, and is her first film.  It is the story of a mother and son who are haunted by an evil entity called the babadook.  The film is chilling in its soundtrack and features a style of sound design that I have not seen before in a horror film.

In the opening scene we immediately can tell something is not right as we see a woman breathing heavily, yet we do not hear her breathing.  Instead we hear the screeches of train tracks and brakes.  We can tell that because of this it is not the norm, and it is clear that the woman is in a nightmare.  In the dream we then hear her son saying her name and it has been very heavily effected by a low pass filter which gets louder and clearer as she is waking up to reflect the transition between her dream and real life.

On the first night when the son first asks to be read the book, mister babadook, is when we first hear the sound design theme which personifies the babadook.  As they are reading the book, there is a sound which volume rises the nearer the end of the book they get.  The sound sounds like a mixture of a bike wheel getting spun and bugs chirping.  There is a point halfway through reading the book where the mother closes the book, and the noise stops.  The noise is reintroduced as she begins to read it again.  This hard cut of noises is also reintroduced a couple of scenes later as when the mother puts the ripped up book in the bin, the noise is immediately cut out as soon as she closes the lid, just like when she closed the book the first time.  Later in the film the book comes back to the house, and then the sound is reintroduced again and swells to an uncomfortable level and makes the watcher feel very uneasy.  The mother this time burns the book instead, the sound this time fades out quickly with the fire engulfing it, as opposed to the hard cut we hear before, it reflects the on screen visuals more accurately this way as we can still see it as it burns compared to the first time in the bin where is disappears completely from sight.

The babadook’s voice in the film is created very well.  We first hear it in the scene after she burns the book, on the phone.  The voice is breathy and sounds almost like an inhalation rather than an exhale of voice.

The scene where the babadook first visits in the night creates real intensity, we first hear a scratching at the door which puts us on the edge of our seats immediately, but we then hear a barking and realise it is just the family dog trying to get into the bedroom, but once the dog is in the room, we hear exactly the same extended scratching noises at the door.  Once the door opens we hear the entrance of the bug like, bike wheel whirring that represents the babadook, letting the audience know that the babadook is present.  We then hear the scuttling on the roof and the whirring appears to get faster and louder until the babadook attacks.

We hear the babadook sounds in the scene as the mother is driving around and it takes over her consciousness.  The sound at this point is accompanied by cockroaches crawling on the mothers clothes.  And again it gets louder as the scene comes to its conclusion which is two cars crashing.

The film was very effective in making the watcher feel tension as it was done mostly through sound design rather than gimicky jumpscares.  The film has a bad ending, but until the final couple of scenes the film is a spectacle in modern psychological horror.

Reading list for christmas

After research into the subject I am basing my project aim on, I have come up with a definitive reading list to finish before my hand in before the Christmas break.  The list below contains books that I have either read in full, read the relevant excerpts from or are planning on doing one of these two things before hand in.

Film Sound: Theory and Practice – Elisabeth Weis and John Belton (1985)

Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen – Michel Chion (1994)

Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema – David Sonnenschien (2001)

Audio in Media – Stanley R. Alten (2007)

Film Music – Peter Larsen (2007)

Sound Effects Bible – Ric Viers (2008)

Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound – David Lewis Yewdall (2011)

Electronic Music and Musique Concrete – F.C. Judd (2013)

All of these books contain relevant information on my project aim, and will hold great information I can put towards my project.

Project Aim – Draft 4

Sound design and ambient sounds plays a vital role in films but most people overlook it. They only listen to the music in the soundtrack. I want to bring conscious attention to the ambient sound and sound design elements of cinema for the modern audience, as I feel it brings a lot of immersion to the audience sub-consciously. I will screen what I think are excellent examples of ambient sound and sound design and ask a questionnaire on how if makes the audience members feel. I want to highlight which sound design techniques and styles evoke certain emotions in the audience, which can be used by people in the future to create sound design or ambient sounds to evoke certain feelings.