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Old September 5th, 2012, 02:20 PM   #1
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Off-screen sound?

Anyone know why off-screen sound is so called? The sound is not off screen (whenever is it 'on-screen' for that matter?), it's the image / action, so it should be off-screen image or action or ... surely?

I guess it's just because the image dominates film and our culture and film / videographers generally think of all sound being directly associated with an image (i.e. sound must always have an identifiable visual 'source', apart from music).

This kind of relates to the thread below asking why there is only 1 audio forum on this site.
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Old September 5th, 2012, 03:19 PM   #2
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Re: Off-screen sound?

"Off-screen sound" is sound that comes from a source that you can't see on-screen. Why is it any more complex than that?
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Old September 5th, 2012, 03:44 PM   #3
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Re: Off-screen sound?

The sound is not off-screen, the source is, so the phrase is simply wrong - that's my point.
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Old September 5th, 2012, 05:34 PM   #4
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Would you be more relaxed if you could read it as:

'off-screen (object's) sound'?
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Old September 5th, 2012, 05:59 PM   #5
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Yes! I'm feeling calmer already Steve ;-)
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Old September 6th, 2012, 08:31 AM   #6
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Geoffrey, you make a good point about accurate terminology.

I've been thinking... Jack Foley left the planet in 1967. So it's not really accurate to use the term "foley" any more. Really, we should call it "post production sound effects."

For that matter, Augustin-Jean Fresnel has been gone since 1827. So we shouldn't call that lighting instrument a "fresnel"; we should call it a "multi-part stepped ring lens lighting instrument."

"Film speed," "lens speed," "zoom lens," etc. ... those are all inaccurate terminology. It boggles the mind.

Perhaps government regulation is needed. All in favor of abandoning conciseness, raise your hand.
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Old September 6th, 2012, 01:30 PM   #7
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Re: Off-screen sound?

You're opening up a can of worms there Greg lumping foley in with sound effects ;)

There is a deeper point to my concern over off-screen sound - the norm today is always to think of film sound (music excepted) as linked directly to a visual source - synchronous sound in other words, but there is a whole, pretty much dormant tradition, of asynchronous sound and in the early days of sound there were strong calls for that to be the norm so as to avoid the destruction of montage. Clearly that failed and narrative structures now dominate making synchronous sound the imperative. But it's rather boring and limiting to me.

And terminology backs it up. Imagine a fairly static scene with a stationary car - someone gets in the car, slams the door and the car drives off out of shot; the sound fades naturally as the we imagine the car getting further away. The scene remains static, the car is long gone, then suddenly we hear the car door slam again - is that still off-screen sound?
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Old September 6th, 2012, 07:29 PM   #8
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoffrey Cox View Post
someone gets in the car, slams the door and the car drives off out of shot; the sound fades naturally as the we imagine the car getting further away. The scene remains static, the car is long gone, then suddenly we hear the car door slam again - is that still off-screen sound?
Geoffrey,

In all seriousness, you lost me there. Why are we hearing the car door slam the second time, if the car sounds have faded away (and maybe panned off to one side) ?
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Old September 6th, 2012, 08:17 PM   #9
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Re: Off-screen sound?

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Originally Posted by Geoffrey Cox View Post
... The scene remains static, the car is long gone, then suddenly we hear the car door slam again - is that still off-screen sound?
No, that is just bizzare. Unless it is an L-cut where it is used as a scene-transition technique and the visual is about to cut to the new location of the car where somebody just got out.

L cut - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And even then it is not referred to as "off-screen sound" because once we make the visual transition, it is ON-screen.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 02:31 AM   #10
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Why are we hearing the car sound again? There could be several reasons but not the usual ones and the fact that it seems bizarre and baffling to some is kind of making my point about synchronous sound.

So why?
a) to re-emphasise the force of the earlier synchronous slam as a metaphor perhaps or to highlight an issue with the character;
b) as an 'articulation' to emphasise / bring out something else hidden in the scene (and all the time reminding the viewer of the earlier event)
c) as a recurring theme associated with the car character (remember in Hud - the sound of Paul Newman slamming door is a kind of refrain through the whole film?)
d) just for the sheer hell of it to confront the audiences expectations and make them sit up

None of these are off-screen sound really.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 09:56 AM   #11
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Re: Off-screen sound?

This isn't really an audio question. It is a writing and production design issue and you might have more satisfaction taking it over to one of the other forums where that sort of thing is on-topic. If you want to be the next Stanley Kubrick, go for it, but I doubt very much whether he discussed any of his ideas with his sound guys.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 12:32 PM   #12
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Re: Off-screen sound?

There are huge differences in how sound can be applied. At one extreme, we focus in on the character. In the other extreme, the environment overwhelms its inhabitants.

A good "character focused" example is in Matrix Revolution's Battle of Zion. There is total mayhem, yet when the kid talks to Captain Mifune, we hear almost no gunshots or explosions (sound for on-screen stuff is severely muted.) The sound is all about the dialog and the emotional score - for that brief moment anyway. Regardless of how you like that movie, the approach to sound is excellent.

The film Se7ven often goes to the other extreme. The Brad Pitt character is almost drowning in his surroundings. Sounds aren't just from off-screen sources (like the train near his apartment) but from sources that don't exist in the real world. (Whether the unreal sounds reflect the character's mind, the environment, or the lurking criminal, I can't say but the sounds definitely help set the mood.)

A musical score is the same way. It's generally not sourced from the scene. (When a famous composer was asked where the music came from, he replied, "where does the camera come from?") On the other hand, all of the music in Hitchcock's Rear Window is sourced from the scene. (You don't have to constantly see the source. Once you know that there is a man playing piano, the piano music can continue as source music.)

Whether the term "off-screen sound" is technically correct or not and whether or not a sound should be classified as off-screen or not doesn't matter at all to me. What matters is that the audience absorbs the sound without being taken out of the experience and that the sound supports the mood and the story.
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Old September 7th, 2012, 03:17 PM   #13
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Re: Off-screen sound?

Nice examples Jon.

I liked some of the sound design in the recent (first) Sherlock Holmes when they try to depict Holmes' powers of deduction by just thinking long and hard - hardly very filmic. The camera very gradually zooms in on Holmes sitting in a quiet corner and the sounds of recent scenes he's encountered take over but the image is always of Holmes just sitting, static. Then it gets increasingly surreal as the sounds sweep around the 5.1 array and get more complex and multi-layered. You really feel you are inside Holmes' head. Then he finds the solution and we snap back into reality with a jolt.

The whole thing is effected through really creative use of sound (I don't think there is any music) - the image stays virtually static throughout with very little movement in the frame.
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Old September 11th, 2012, 05:32 PM   #14
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Re: Off-screen sound?

I remember those scenes. Very nice example.

And the film was surprisingly good. :)
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