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Sound can interface with picture in a variety of ways. An understanding of this will give
you more creative options in editing:
Synchronous and Asynchronous Sound
Synchronous sound is sound that is coupled with its real life visual counterpart on screen.
For example, the sound of a character talking is coupled with the image of that character.
Asynchronous sound is sound that is coupled with an image that is not normally
associated the sound in reality. For example, the sound of a character talking coupled
with the image of what he is talking about.
It may seem that sync sound is closer to real life, however, the opposite is actually true.
Most of the sounds that we hear in our day-to-day lives is not in sync with what we see.
For example, a person writing a letter will hear many things-- outside traffic, footsteps
overhead, voices in the hall-- but his eyes are focused on the writing tablet. This is async
Async sound is superior because the synergy of picture and sound draws out a range of
emotions in both the characters and audience. Returning to the above example, if a
scream suddenly rings out, it will certainly surprise the writer. It will also create a sense
of ambiguity: Did the scream come from inside or outside the house? Was it a family
member or stranger? The writer looks toward the window, listening intently. The ticking
of the clock becomes audible (more async sound).
Not one sound in the above example is synchronous, yet they evoke powerful emotions,
including surprise, tension, and expectation. The power of async sound is easily applied
to movies through creative sound editing. This must start with the director in the design
and planning of shots. Novice filmmakers often think in terms of sync sound and miss
wonderful opportunities.
Async sound is superior to sync sound
because of the powerful emotions it can
Parallel and Contrapuntal Sound
Parallel sound conveys the same meaning as the picture. This redundancy limits the
audience's imagination.Contrapuntal (counterpoint) sound conveys a different meaning
than the picture. More precisely, it provides new or conflicting information so it frees the
imagination. Ideally, contrapuntal sound makes a composite statement not carried by
either the picture or sound alone.
To illustrate, assume the visuals are of a somber, isolated character. The obvious choice
would be to use melancholy music to reflect character's mood. A more powerful
approach, however, would be to use an upbeat piece that emphasizes the character's
isolation through contrast. The effect can be brought up notch by having the music waft
in through the window from a nearby party. Happy voices and laughter can be added to
round off a totally contrapuntal soundtrack.
Contextual and Narrative Sound
Contextual sound is sound that is part of the world presented on screen. Both the
characters and the audience hear it. It includes dialogue and synchronous sound
effects. Narrative sound, on the other hand, is only heard by the audience. It includes
background music and narration.
Ultimately screen sound must affect the audience on an emotional level. They should
sense the implications of sound rather than conceive it on an intellectual level. There is
simply too much going on in each scene for them to stop and sort out what they've just
heard. The next several lessons examine the key types of screen sound, namely: dialogue,
ambience, sound effects, and music.

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