Week 3 Blog

Categories and Functions of sound

Nadia McRae

ENG225: Introduction to Film

Ryan Ogrodnik

Once sound became an established part of moviemaking, individual elements of it became increasingly important. Indeed, sound production would become as important a part of making a movie as any other—if not as well known or well respected. During the Silent Era, the responsibility for adding music to films (and sometimes limited sound effects) lay with the theaters. Sound technology suddenly enabled the filmmakers to have control over these, as well as adding audible dialogue. The three basic categories of film sound—dialogue, sound effects, and music—require careful balancing to serve the story; because of this, each category is typically recorded separately and mixed together during the final editing process.

Dialouge Characters talking to one another in films, known as dialogue, is now so much a part of the movie experience that audiences take it for granted. But creating scenes in which characters talk to one another as they do in real life is no easy task. This was especially the case early on, when filmmakers often used the new technology basically as a way to show it off. For a couple of years, background music was considered an old-fashioned relic of the Silent Era. Films exploited natural sound effects, but especially dialogue (hence the term “talking pictures”). Now that spoken dialogue could be heard, numerous films were quickly made of stage plays, but the results often looked more “stagey” than cinematic. Settings were generally limited to a few rooms instead of numerous indoor and outdoor locations as with silent films. The camera had to be confined within a soundproof booth so its mechanism wouldn’t be recorded, instead of free to move throughout the set like in silent films. Actors suddenly needed to stay close to the microphones instead of being free to move around.

Sound effects

In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the hugely successful 2009 sequel to the first Transformers movie, in which cars and trucks are revealed to be aliens who have disguised themselves, the sounds of explosions might as well be a credited member of the cast, so ubiquitous are they. The bone-crunchingly loud, theater-rattling explosions serve one purpose only: to enhance the action. The sound of these explosions simply does not allow the audience to passively watch the film; it serves instead as a rush of adrenaline. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing (its only nomination); nevertheless, it was lambasted by critics.


Music has been a crucial part of the moviegoing experience since before the advent of recorded sound in films. So important was its use that over time directors began inserting indications for specific music to be played at specific times. After the conversion to talkies, music became a basic element of constructing a movie, as essential an element as lights and cameras. However, sometimes even the best directors have a hard time keeping that in mind.

Disney wanted to increase the eye value of the many paintings making up a picture by achieving a soft-focus effect on the backgrounds, illuminating the various levels of each scene individually, and separating” background from foreground, thus keeping background objects to their proper relative size. Resembling a printing press, the camera stands eleven feet tall and is six feet square. Made with almost micrometer precision, it permits the photographing of foreground and background cels accurately, even when the first is held firmly in place two feet from the lens and the lowest rests in its frame nine feet away. Where the script calls for the camera to “truck up” for a close-up, the lens actually remains stationary, while the various cels are moved upward. By this means, houses, trees, the moon, and any other background features, retain their relative sizes.

In cartoons, all sounds are recorded before the cameras begin to turn. These sounds are later synchronized with movements and charted on the basis of units of time. Since twenty-four “frames,” or separate pictures run through the projector every second, action and sound effects must be timed accordingly. Each beat of music is timed by an electrical metronome, and everything else is related to these beats. Recently,  actors and musicians, all fitted with earphones, as they recorded dialogue and music. Actors followed a rhythmic pattern in speaking, and the director followed a prescribed tempo in wielding his baton. Each syllable, each musical note, started on a musical beat and ended on a musical beat. When an animator drew the various lip movements required to form a word, he frequently consulted the sound track, to know precisely in how many frames he must complete the drawings. When the dwarfs tumbled into dishes and glassware, knocking them crashing to the floor, he listened to the sound film that he might synchronize the pictures to the noise. Sound presents a constant problem to the cartoon maker, for he cannot store noises on film in concrete vaults for future use, as in the case of live action. Here, again, he must match action and noise, frame by frame. In one scene, one of the dwarfs climbs the stairs, becomes frightened, and the six other dwarfs, taking fright, run pell-mell into the dishes. Falling crockery sounds like something entirely different through a loud speaker, so the sound crew carefully stacked an assortment of boxes on the sound stage, hung the mike near-by, and recorded the series of bumps and crashes as they tumbled to the floor. Later, artists, listening to a play-back of the sound track, matched it bump by bump, the pictures being drawn to synchronize with the noises. Breaking glass later was matched when two men dropped a large pane eight feet from a ladder to the floor.

I think if you took out the main category of Snow White meeting the seven dwarfs it would totally thow off the whole movie. First of all the fact that she met these seven small people it really bought light to the movie that even though she was able to help them find happiness in all they do they were able to uplift her spirit as well and help her find the love in the prince and she was able to live happily ever after once and for all even through all the hardships the queen tried to invest on her.


The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Goodykoontz, B., & Jacobs, C. P. (2014). Film: From watching to seeing (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc


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