LO1: Discuss the use of audio in different creative media contexts
Contextual History of Audio and technological improvements:
From the iconic Star Wars Title Crawl track, to the CSI intro, the tense silence and atmosphere and silence build-up of the alien series, audio is an important feature in film and most mediums. It is key to creating a certain atmosphere, feeling and mood in its selected medium. This can range from Movies, Music, podcasts, videogames, musicals, TV shows and more, having a powerful impact depending on its use.
Sound can be used to invoke an atmosphere, it helps entice and engage an audience. It helps deliver information and increase the production value of the work it’s used in. When used well it can be extremely effective in this way, from diegetic sound such as voices, sound effects and even silence, to non-diegetic such as background atmospheric sounds and music.
Historically, sound was one of the first major advancements in cinema and is held as an extremely important part of any production to this day. Gary Rydstrom (seven time Oscar winning sound designer and recording mixer at Skywalker Sound) once said “it’s long been said that you do a great job in sound when no one notices it,” Which stands true as bad sound will always be easy to notice and point out although thanks to technological advancements with software and the move to digital as well as higher quality mics and hardware being available, it’s still an important factor to plan and prepare for in post production.
Even early on with the introduction of Silent Films in the early 1900s, sound was experimented with as a visual enhancement to coincide with it with the earliest only including music and effects. The first film originally presented as a talkie was “The Jazz Singer” which premiered on October 6th 1927 and was a major hit. It was made with a Vitaphone, the leading brand of sound-on-disk technology.
The Vitaphone started off as the earliest used sound recording system in film, used massively by Warner Brothers. It was developed and created by Bell Telephone Laboratories and Western electronic in the mid 20s.
Audio throughout Media:
Audio being an important factor throughout different forms of media, I decided to look into two games I love which make use of audio in different ways and discuss how each of these contrast to each other as well as how each has its own benefits and downfalls.
Audio in Videogames: Audio in videogames can be used in many creative and unique ways, similar to discussed before with the historical use, it can just be used as a provided background soundtrack to the actions on screen. Such as Mario, which has layered diegetic sounds such as jumping, rolling, stomping on enemies, running etc with a constant non-diegetic soundtrack layered behind all of this with a peppy, punchy soundtrack, matching the atmosphere of the level presented on screen.
This is a more basic use of audio but is still extremely effective in it’s use and can really get the player excited and invested with its fast paced, up beat tracks, giving a more pleasant feeling. On the other hand, we have a game such as Dead Space, which is in the horror genre, which makes use of a lot more diegetic sound and non-diegetic for building atmosphere and tension. Being that of the horror genre, silence is a more common theme, helping enhance the atmosphere and tension build-up as the player isn’t sure of when they’re in danger or what’s right around the corner from them, only hearing the sound of their in game characters footsteps.
Audio in film: This is very similar to gaming except the director and sound design team have a lot more control over what the viewer sees since it’s all pre-rendered and pre-recorded. This allows them to create a tighter more set atmosphere in the smaller time presented by a movie rather than having to fit it all into 8+ hours. This can mean pacing can be much better than in gaming, presenting more creative control and in terms of horror, allowing the build-up for the audience to be perfect and thus have greater impact. As seen in the shower scene from Psycho, the slow build-up to the the shower murder scene, from Norman Bates peaking at Marion, to the slow pan into the shower where Marion eventually meets her fate. All the pacing was perfectly controlled and paced by Alfred Hitchcock, allowing for the moment to be so tense and become so iconic
Although one advantage games can have is Dynamic Audio, which can present a more interesting take in a scene. Since videogames is an interactive medium, the directors have a lot less control what the player can do when compared to movies and tv shows but they can make use Dynamic Audio. While they have access to Dolby atoms, surround sound and other technologies which film has, they also have a lot more and less control due to environmental differences when consuming videogames. From sound effects giving a jingle to reward a player the whole way to a sounds pacing changing when a player is closer to danger, including breathing which gets heavier. Horror games make the most of these techniques by far. Adventure games would be another candidate, such as the game Life Is Strange, having a huge use of audio to build tension in its adolescent drama filled world to enhance the audio and viewing experience
Analysis of the Opening Scene in resident Evil VII:
Here I made a video analysing and breaking down the opening scene of the game Resident Evil VII, released in 2017: