Sound and music are two more tools in your aresenal, which you can use to help tell the story that you've figured out through your scene analysis that you'd like to tell. Tonight we will beging dealing with these issues, with a discussion of sound.
Last year, in CTPR 510, we took a look at a scene from THE ENGLISH PATIENT, a film directed by Anthony Minghella and edited by Walter Murch (the same duo behind 1999's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY and 2003's COLD MOUNTAIN). The scene involves the interrogation of the Willem Dafoe character, Caravaggio, by a Nazi officer, Muller (played by Jorgen Prochnow). We will discuss the role that sound played in both the interpretation of the scene and in the execution of the editing process. Murch, who often edits and mixes the sound in the movies that he cuts picture for, is quite articulate in the interview that we hand out tonight.
You can take a look at some of that discussion here.
Tonight we are going to look at the opening sequence from Fernando Meirelles' 2002 film CITY OF GOD.
This sequence starts off the film, which is a study of a young, industrious and boy living in a slum in Rio De Janiero, named Buscape ("Rocket"), who wants nothing more than to become a photographer and take pictures. He sees this as his ticket out of the poverty and gang-ridden neighborhood. But his path, beginning in the 1960s and culminating 20 years later, continually crosses with that of an old neighborhood acquaintance, Li'l Zé, who has chosen a path of crime and power. when Rocket gets sucked into Li's Zé's clutches, he finds caught between two gangs and the corrupt police. Finally, he finds himself faced with a choice of using his talents to expose the cops and putting himself in danger, or selling his photographs of the murdered Zé to the newspaper, which will be his ticket out of the slums. He ends up choosing to leave the slums, joining the newspaper.
The opening of this film using chaotic editing, strong sound design choices and distinctive music, to drop us into the story. We meet most of the characters who will be the focus of the film and, literally, put Rocket in the middle of the gang and the police.
We will take a look at how we get the feeling of whose story this is and what his dilemma will be, and how this is reinforced by the sound and music.
As a side note, one of tonight's handouts is an interview with Walter Murch, from Professor Michael Jarrett, a professor of English at Penn State York. In it, at one point, he asks Murch about the use of sound as metaphor. This is Murch's reply:
I always try to be metaphoric as much as I can and not to be literal. When you’re presented with something that doesn’t quite resolve on a normal level, that’s what makes the audience go deeper. Again, that train screech in Godfather is a good example. It doesn’t make any sense from what you’re looking at. You haven’t been shown a train anywhere in the neighborhood. The loudness with which you hear it is too loud. Even if you were in a restaurant right under an elevated train, it wouldn’t quite be that loud. So the audience is presented with a discontinuity. They’re looking at very still images, close-ups of people talking in a foreign language, and yet they’re hearing something completely different. That forces them to say, "What is that? What could that be?" Again, not consciously but subconsciously. And, as a result, they come up with a feeling about Michael’s state of mind, and then they re-project that feeling onto his face. And in addition to what Al Pacino was doing, there’s this whole other dimension that gets added to that.
The full interview can be found online at Jarrett's site, or in the handout below.
|The variable optical soundtrack has traditionally been
placed on the left side of the film, whether stereo or mono. Click on
the image to see a description of all of the soundtrack options.
© British Broadcasting Corp.
Technically, sound is placed onto the film in any number of ways. The most common over the last several decades has been the optical soundtrack, as shown on the left.
The soundtrack is mixed down from the combined dialogue, music and effects tracks (called the DME) to the minimum number of channels necessary to place on the film. A print master is created from this mix. Up until this point, all of the sound has been on tape or digital drive formats. Now, it is sent through a machine which takes these analog or digital sound waves and converts them into optical/visual waves. An optical negative is created which is sent to a lab and developed.
During the finishing process at the lab, this optical negative is printed onto the print film of the images which has been created from the cut negative (more on this process in a few weeks), resulting in a positive print of the film with both a picture image and the optical sound track.
Modern digital soundtracks have changed the placement of the track appreciably. Some of the sound is placed on the frame lines or on separate CD-ROMs which are locked together with the film using time code. However, there is always a soundtrack placed near the sprockets. To see a description of all of the various soundtrack formats click here. The article will pop up in a new window. Click on the close button to come back here.
Finally, Randy Thom in an article on the Filmsound web site, makes the point that music, dialogue and sound effects can "each do any of the following jobs, and many more:
While I think the last point is almost too specific, the list is a great one so long as you realize that the creation of sound is all within the purview of the editorial process -- both traditionally and conceptually. You can't work with sound design without accounting for it in the editing room. Thom mentions that what was great about the sound design of APOCALYPSE NOW began with the script, since it gave the characters "the opportunity to listen to the world around them." You need to do the same in the editing. This week's description of the silence in THE ENGLISH PATIENT is particularly apt here for it is not only the characters who need to be aware of the world's sound, but the audience as well. In your log lines I keep asking you to be aware of the atmosphere and the setting of your films. Sound and music is but one part of this.
The following handouts will be given out this week. Click on the blue highlighted terms to get to the actual handouts.
"It's all about the task of luring the audience from one scene to the next... I've begun to believe more and more that movies are all about transitions," Mr. Soderbergh said. "That the key to making good movies is to pay attention to the transition between scenes. And not just how you get from one scene to the next, but where you leave a scene and where you come into a new scene. Those are some of the most important decisions that you make. It can be the difference between a movie that works and a movie that doesn't." And the transitions in "All the President's Men," he said, are marvels. The movie does not race forward. There are no action scenes, no big dramatic moments. And the plot frequently dead-ends into unresolved cul-de-sacs. But the overall effect is thoroughly gripping."
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Last Modified - October 15, 2013