Monday, 21 July 2014

What you don't see: Sound


We could fill some of this silence by manipulating the sounds we already have, or we could add some music, or both. However, by not doing one of these three options, I believe we have stunted the film’s potential to create an audio effect that enables the audience to experience and, therefore, understand Amelia’s anxiety.

This post comes from a highly regarded dissertation length reflection piece I wrote for the Planning and Making a Film module I undertook in the penultimate year of my BA (Hons). The module's practice was undertaken between October 2011 to June 2012 and it provided me with a hugely enriching experience. For a more detailed overview of the module and the projects I undertook as a part of it, see Planning and Making a Film: The student filmmaking experience.

Your sound is important. Let me repeat that in case you didn't hear me: your sound is important. Sound is just as important, if not more important than the visuals! Look after your sound!



Sound is the one aspect of making One Door Opened that I feel has been [criminally] underexploited. Very early on Tish and myself made a decision not to include a musical soundtrack so we could instead focus on the use and exploitation of sound effects. As was the intention with the lighting, our thinking with the sound was to give the film a very naturalistic feel and then to use the manipulation of everyday sounds to suggest the presence of Amelia’s underlying anxiety. 

My thinking was something along the lines of what had been done with The Black Hole.

There is no music in this film and the only sound you have is diegetic: everything that you would expect to hear in an office setting. But when the Black Hole shows up it is accompanied by a new whirring, ominous sound which is suggestive of danger and makes the audience take notice. Now, with One Door Opened, I’m not suggesting that we should have introduced non-diegetic sounds, such as the whirring noise, but if we had fiddled with the sound that was already in the film to give it an intrusive quality the audience would take notice. I believe this would have made Amelia’s anxiety into a much stronger force and, therefore, would have supplied a much more satisfying conclusion when she eventually overcame this intrusive force. 

Another sound factor that has let the film down was the faulty microphone cable we were lumbered with on the first day of filming. It wasn’t completely useless but it obviously had a dodgy connection on one of the plugs as we had to continuously fiddle with the wire to reduce the amount of static. Overall, we managed to cope with this setback but there were a few instances where the microphone cable let us down; a case In point is in the quality of sound from the first phone conversation (0:00-1:00).


The recorded audio is of an extremely poor quality and it was Richard Wood who urged us to get Helena in so we could re-record the dialogue. However, after arranging it with her twice and then being let down twice we asked Rich to see what he could do with it. While the dialogue is now clearer than it was before the quality still sticks grates like a bad cough!



To have got Helena in for a recording session would also have been useful because we could have recorded some dialogue for the scene where she is searching the kitchen for paracetamol.




The problem with this scene is that it is not entirely clear that Amelia is looking for paracetamol! What the scene shows you is a person looking in a cupboard, looking in a draw and then running out of shot.


But, the great thing about this scene is you don’t see Helena’s face so it would have been very easy to pop in some dialogue. Nothing fancy, just under her breath going: “paracetamol, paracetamol”. After all, that’s exactly what people do when they are in hurry and looking for something – they remind themselves what they’re looking for. Furthermore, it would have enforced the paracetamol’s presence as a major narrative thread that runs through the film. 

I think a valuable lesson has been learned to ensure that when you secure a performer’s services, in addition to the filming date(s), you also secure them for a sound recording session after the shoot. Regardless whether you need it or not, have that option available and set in stone beforehand because it will come with a sense of obligation on the performer’s part. 

While we have not really done anything with the sound In One Door Opened, you could argue that the absence of any music and added sound effects does still maintain the naturalistic feel that we wanted. You could also argue that the quietness of the film and its continual presence throughout is the audio embodiment of Amelia’s continual anxiety. 

Although, I personally feel that it still needs something to complement and counterbalance this quietness. It would serve in upping the pace a bit more and it would make Amelia’s anxiety into a more overtly overbearing presence. At the moment the film seems too quiet and runs the risk of losing the spectator’s attention. 

As I’ve already said we could fill some of this silence by manipulating the sounds we already have, or we could add some music, or both. However, by not doing one of these three options, I believe we have stunted the film’s potential to create an audio effect that enables the audience to experience and, therefore, understand Amelia’s anxiety. 

 Next: The First Adaptation: Busybody

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