Playing Cards of Sound and Editing

Editing and sound in film can be thought of as two playing cards balanced in perfect equilibrium; the absence of one collapses the other, they are integral to the structure that is film. The absence of film leaves nothing but the audio to contextualise the plot, and indeed the narrative, and vice-versa, however the non-inclusion of sound is perhaps more pressing, and one could only contextualise the narrative based solely on the mise-en-scene in its entirety. A perfect indictment of this scenario can be accomplished by muting the audio on a film; one cannot simply establish anything beyond what is presented. Without subtitles; it is far more difficult to comprehend the intentions of the characters, and we rely purely on facial expressions, actions, characters visual mannerisms and visual narrative. One advantage of film is indubitably editing; the theme of the film can be portrayed purely through editing techniques. Take now the alternative; that is to avoid looking at the screen, and focusing purely on the dialog. You will note that the characters intentions, and the mood/ feel of the events that would be occurring on the screen are still very much apparent, another way to think of this is radio; and how descriptive dialog, dialect and recognisable sounds can tell a story on their own.

But I shall reiterate; a film is comprised of visual and auditory cues, video can only stand alone if accompanied by subtitles or have visually representative scenes of the progression of narrative, and audio can only stand alone by being thoroughly descriptive, though this is regarded as radio and not film.

Take, for example; the Lord of The Rings extract that has been provided as a focal point to my analysis (see at the bottom of this article); auditory cues such as the rattling of swords, gusting wind and the crackling fire coupled with the dialect of the characters is more than enough for one to assume that it is a medieval/ ye old’e style of film. One can also assume by the dialog that it is of an ‘adventure’ genre (coupled with the aforementioned sounds present in the start of this extract), one can also establish that it is a mixed genre with ‘action’, the amalgamation of which creating ‘action-adventure’, this can be found by the sound effects utilized approximately mid-sequence in which clearly depicts a battle scenario.

Another noteworthy and easily comprehensible fact, and in terms of purely visual narrative; is the inclusion of a ring, that ties in with narrative function, to which is the key aspect of the film, and indeed the purpose of the quest and the item the somewhat stereotypically sinister looking ‘evil’ characters are intent on apprehending/ acquiring. It is also blatantly apparent that they are some kind of supernatural beings/ creatures. If one were to listen purely to the audio; this crucial and vital element would otherwise be overlooked, it is impossible to conceive the function and power of the ring.

Taking a step back, and analysing the purpose of sound in relation to film; I would say its primary function is to invoke an emotional response from the audience, to be informative and to supply a backbone for the visual narrative, to enable the audience to anticipate elements of the film in terms of imminent occurrences and to create tension or indeed any atmosphere the director wishes to envelop upon his audience. In my opinion; most of these attributes of audio can be accomplished purely through music, the inclusion of dialog is purely to assist in the progression of the plot. If I were to create a tangent to the initial question, being that of a subdivision of sound; then I would conclude that narrative can be achieved through a combination of music and film. For example; a music video can invoke an emotional response from its audience, this could be achieved through a combination of entertainment and an incremented narrative, designed to capture the audience and to incorporate a kind of equilibrium of the track itself and the journey the footage is taking you on.

Relate this now to the extract of footage, and the tracks included. From purely focusing on the tracks used, coupled with the footage, it is easy to assume that the adventurers are clearly in imminent danger through the melancholic and ominous music.

On the other hand; editing techniques such as the Kuleshov effect, which enables the editor to create an implied connection of interiors and exteriors despite geographical location, can be utilized in such a manner as to connect/ intertwine related shots that also shows progression of plot or narrative. An example of this within the extract is when one of the Nazgul appears from the darkness in a very wide shot, the camera then cuts back and forth between the creature and Frodo. The juxtaposition of Frodo’s frightened expression alternating in a quick cut fashion with the Nazgul’s clear intention of combat beautifully personifies the Kuleshov effect.

LOTR Extract


Author: Daniel Gibbon

This site is dedicated to sharing experiences I have had, the good and the bad. I am an aspiring blogger, graphic designer, photographer and director with some interesting experiences to share. I have generated all content on this page from scratch through drawing, creative writing and photography. Stick around and enjoy the lucidity of life.

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