Monday, 30 September 2013

Blogging on sound in film openings


Before planning and producing your own film opening, you should seek to research - and evidence this investigation - every aspect of film openings: narrative structure, idents, titles (credits and exposition), representations, audience targeting, genre signifying, mise-en-scene and verisimilitude, cinematography, editing, influence of budget, sound etc
Many of these elements could be investigated/discussed at the same time
The key to this is viewing a range of examples, taking notes and screenshots, and then presenting your findings in the form of well-illustrated blog posts and/or brief vodcasts. Screenshots (and occasionally short video sequences recorded using tools such as VLC - too long and it'll get banned from YT) are absolutely key, and should be saved too in named folders for re-use with your Evaluation and later posts explaining where your ideas come from.

This video assembles the titles of the Scream movies, which show that music isn't always the best means of signifying genre or setting a mood; a montage of sounds can work at least as well if mixed skilfully.

Analysis of the codes and conventions of film openings comes in two basic stages: those of the format, and those of a specific genre (once you've formed a group behind a specific idea). The more examples you look at, the more valid your findings.
You could initially look at one or two in great detail, note initial conclusions then look at other examples noting limited detail. If your initial examples suggest an audio bridge is a convention, watch others to see if this is used.
You can combine your findings with others so you're accessing a wider range of examples.
When viewing film openings for use of sound, you're on the lookout for:
  • IDENTS: jingles used, or an audio bridge spanning these and the opening shots
  • MUSIC: a common approach, but note carefully whether its continuous or comes in and out; if its an original score or existing pop/rock music
  • GENRE: quite simply, is sound used to signify/anchor the genre? The example of Scream is a good one to show that you needn't rely on music to get this across; it uses a montage of classic horror sounds, and a ringing phone which ties into the film opening
  • AUDIENCE: does the soundtrack give you any clues as to the target audience? Be careful to consider intertextuality: there is typically a primary audience and a secondary audience (filmmakers want their movie to be seen and to make money!)
  • VERISIMILITUDE AND SELECTIVITY: does the diegetic sound achieve verisimilitude? Is anything missing from the sound mix, eg convincing ambient sound (leaves rustling in the wind, or cars passing, for example)? Are there examples of exaggerated diegetic sound?
  • SOUND + EDITING: Is there a clear relationship between sound and editing? The horror genre, for example, often uses loud sounds (music or - often diegetic - exaggerated sounds) to draw emphasis to certain moments, frequently cutting to CUs to reinforce the impact
  • YOUR VIEW: Its not just fact-finding: express your view on whether you think the soundtrack is a success or not so good, being specific as what you dis/like, and offering suggestions on what you think may have improved it. Always look to note and highlight any elements you think you might use in your own production.

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