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Old July 22nd, 2012, 09:47 PM   #1
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Using sound to convey lack of attention

Here is the situation. An actor is not paying attention to the person talking in front of them. But phasing out and remembering a conversation that occurred earlier.
How do I convey this on the soundtrack ?
I tried to just overlay the audio from other conversation - but it has a different ambience and sounds strange..
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 10:15 PM   #2
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

Lots of possibilities.

A typical approach might be to both lower the volume and diminish the high frequencies on the primary audio track (low pass filter set perhaps to 800 or 1000k or to taste) Then bring up the audio you want the audience to hear set to a normal volume but with an EQ at the other end of the spectrum (high pass filter set to maybe 500khz up.)

Adding reverb to one or the other might further help the audience feel that one track is associated with one sense while the other is separate.

But without hearing what you're dealing with and seeing what the audience sees as well as hears, these are just guessing games since the only way to get something like this right is to both see and hear it while making the adjustments.

Good luck.
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Old July 22nd, 2012, 10:51 PM   #3
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

I've seen this, there always seems to be a long cross-fade from the one conversation to the other, in which you hear some of both voices for a longer time than just a simple crossfade, which leads the audience to understand what's happening.

Also seeing the present speaker's mouth moving while the other speaker's voice is saying totally different words conveys that the party is not listening to the speaker....the difference in ambience probably is a plus....usually the voice at the end, snaps back to the present speaker suddenly as he or she says something really important or asks the listener a question and he snaps back to reality.
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Old July 23rd, 2012, 05:50 AM   #4
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

Consider that the subject is "hearing" a memory of a different place and a different time. The ambiance of that remembered plsce is going to be different from the current place as well. Not only is the difference not a negative, it helps move the story forward by telling the audience what is remembered and what is in the here and now.
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Old July 23rd, 2012, 05:57 AM   #5
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

I just realized that its easier to reshoot the scene with the changeover in mind.

Maybe I could pan to the non-attentive actor as the other one is speaking and then pan back.
This way I could fade in the sound when the non-attentive actor comes into the pan and fade out when it pans back to the other one.

I could also use reverb and the different ambience on the external sound.
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Old July 23rd, 2012, 11:22 AM   #6
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

Rather than a pan back and forth I would probably opt to do a slow push into the person that's speaking, framed so that it draws attention to their moving lips, as you push in slowing fade their sound and start to kick in a little more reverb. Then I'd cut to the person remembering mid slow push matching face size, framed to draw focus to their eyes, bringing up the sound for their memory which has a different room sound altogether. Both of these shots with pretty shallow DOF, maybe about 1 foot so that all of their facial features are in focus but anything behind them is thrown out of focus.

Then I'd use a quick cut back to the person speaking regular sound, medium closeup deep DOF when the person remembering snaps back to present day.

You could also do it with lighting. Slowly dim the lighting of the background of the person speaking as their sound fades and changes. Cut to the person remembering with matched lighting high lighting them with a darker background as they hear the memory voice. Bring lighting back to original to signify that they have returned to present.

There are several ways to shoot this but for it to be effective it will be a combination of camera work, sound, lighting, and art direction.
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Old July 24th, 2012, 12:16 AM   #7
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Re: Using sound to convey lack of attention

Nice description Garrett.
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