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The Importance of Sound in Media Productions

This research report will investigate the impact of sound on a wide range of media platforms and technologies with my aim to discuss sounds impact on audiences through both the presence of diegetic and non-diegetic sound effects within the medium of cinema and the affect sound has on individuals immersed in triple A (AAA) Gaming releases. This report will evaluate the relationship of sound and audio within visual media while highlighting particular examples involving journalistic media, narrative-based content and video gaming.
The inclusion of high-quality sound effects has in recent years become an integral aspect of filmmaking; with the development of sounds presence within films dramatically increasing audience immersion, retention and participation in the content. Early productions such as, the experimental film, 'Don Juan (1926)' featured a film score and various sound effects, improving the overall experience of the film. Fully immersive examples of cinema sound were introduced to audiences as 'talkies' towards the end of the 1920s with 1927 being the launch of the genre with the world-renowned title, 'The Jazz Singer' (Kushins, 2019)directed by Alan Crosland (IMDB, 2019). In modern cinema, the inclusion of sound has become a major impact on audience opinions and reviews for particular content. Recent releases such as Christopher Nolan's, 'Dunkirk (2017)' is a prime example of how modernistic filmmaking techniques are showcasing sound design as a primary factor and focus for the production. Statements such as "It's long been said that you do a great job in sound when no one notices it" being raised by Gary Rydstrom a seven-time Oscar winning sound designer (Kushins, 2016) responsible for Skywalker sound releases since 1983 and working within the sound department of major productions such Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Jurassic Park (1993) (IMDB, 2019) further illustrate the current position for sound design within cinema as both an highly important aspect of media productions: with sound also referred to as '50% of the film experience' (Holman, 2010) but also an area that is often disregarded by audiences and cinema goers.

The statement raised by Rydstrom could also indicate the progression of sound from the initial 'talkies' studios treating sound as a novelty feature, often involving dense invasive sections of dialogue negatively impacting on the overall quality; with audiences deeming sound as an 'alien concept' and often with unpopular cultural reactions to the choice of storytelling (Cinetodvdtransfer.co.uk, 2013) to a more inclusive and realistic usage of sound starting with the progressive works of Fritz Lang and the vast filmography of Alfred Hitchcock. Current famous blockbuster films such as the Star Wars franchise and Dunkirk (2017) as mentioned earlier in the report are also notable examples of how sound, vastly important to the filmmaking process is also subtle and as Rydstrom would note 'unnoticeable'. Furthermore, the quote, 'The fact is that, just as sound completes the effect of the picture, picture completes the effect of the sound' (Richardson, 2013) develops this concept further and highlights the impact and importance sound has on visual media productions. Meaning both visuals and sound hold considerable relationship and require this partnership to present meaningful emotion and narrative to an audience. Author, Alec Richardson evaluates this relationship further in his 2013 essay entitled, 'Hearing the film: The emotional effect of sound in film' discussing the concept of sound becoming a narrative 'signature' and trope of movie genres as an individual tool. 

The usage of sound and particularly striking soundtracks within the original Star Wars trilogy (from 1977) is analysed with the author referencing the score utilised within the opening sequence of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope; allowing the audience members to effortlessly understand the differences between both the 'rebels' (hope) and 'empire'(evil) characters. This documents sound acting as a form of 'preferred reading' created by the director in order to enhance the experience for viewers and generate a sense of 'diversion' for audience members (Uses and Gratification Theory). In addition, a comment written by John Aldred discussing the impact of sound in reflection to a video produced by The Royal Ocean Film Society stating, "It's often said that the camera is the least important aspect of shooting a video. People will watch low-quality video without any problem, as long as the sound is flawless" (Aldred, 2017) demonstrates the importance of sound quality and its involvement in professional cinema productions, further conceptualising the impact of sound on audiences.
In a blog published by the Los Angeles Film school on the importance of sound, the author mentions the idea of films using 'three types of sounds' categorising these as human voices, music and sound effects further highlighting the importance of the inclusion of asynchronous sound effects which are often referred to in colloquial conversation as either background sounds or ambient audio effects. (The Los Angeles Film School, 2017)A combination of all three aspects of audio within moving image productions can enhance the overall feel of a film for an audience member's perspective while aiding the viewing experience or narrative structure of a piece. In addition to this, asynchronous audio will allow aspects of fictional environments present in a film to appear more realistic to audiences: with the author referencing the impact of ambient backing effects in scenes including urban city locations or rural areas, both utilising ambient sounds to explain the setting to the viewer. The inclusion of audio especially sound effects, soundtrack or Foley developments can also create a form of illusion or simulate aspects of reality (Purpose of Sound Effects, no date) for viewers and aid them to become further involved in the fictional world being presented by the filmmaker.

Sound effects as mentioned previously help provide an immersive soundscape for a film, game or other forms of media products. This immersion is created through the differentiation between the two audio categories used in film: Diegetic and Non-Diegetic sound and the places within a script, scene or moment of action a filmmaker decides to impact subtle differences in the soundscape – altering the forms of audio used. It is noted that sound in filmmaking uses these aspects of audio to enhance the narrative structure while providing a sense of anxiety for the viewer (Thecinematheque.ca, 2019).Diegetic audio is defined as the sound audible from within the world and that of the characters on screen, inside of the video game or other media product inhabit. Diegetic sound is often recorded simultaneously alongside video when on set or location: during the process known as principal photography (Holman, 2010). Diegetic audio us used within a feature when a source of action is visible or to imply certain events such as explosions to implode a sense of realism or reality (Moura, 2015). Put Crudely, Diegetic audio is sound designed for characters within the action to hear, whereas Non-Diegetic also referred to as commentary or nonliteral sound is audio such as soundtracks, narration or additional sound effects that are not designed for characters within the fictional world to hear and therefore aimed directly at enhancing the emotional response from an audience member or video gamer.

Films such as Jurassic Park (1993) frequently utilise aspects of Non-Diegetic sound to contradict the examples given for heightened realism, intensifying a suspenseful atmosphere and environment (The-artifce.com, 2016) while providing a separation between the audience and the film. Similar effect is witnessed in the Italian Giallo film movement and especially that of Dario Argento, in films such as Phenomena (1985) and Tenebre (1982) through the utilisation of progressive rock and electronica scores performed by Goblin; creating a similar disjointed effect for the audience: separating the audience member from the action displayed on film highlighting their position as the viewer.

The presence of sound in film is particularly advantageous when analysing the impact on the horror genre. The introduction of non-linear sound effects as described by the scientific study of sound perception referred to as psychoacoustics as audible tones that unpredictably increase or decrease dynamics at a greater range than usual instrumentation (exceeding the range usually heard in instruments or general ambient environments humans are exposed to on a regular basis (Science ABC, 2016) and sound designed to purposefully exploit the human brains natural response for repugnant emotion towards non-linear sound: audible within nature to express distressful emotions (Isaza, 2010). Threatening sounds to human survival appearing in nature such as 'snapping twigs' or predators in proximity; increase the sensitivity of the human frequency range around 2.5khz within a factor of 20db due to the anatomical design of the ear canal, 'shaped similar to a whistle' (Holman, 2010).

This understanding of anatomy in psychoacoustics can become increasingly valuable aspects when evaluating sound usage in the horror genre across a wide range of media platforms
This understanding of anatomy in psychoacoustics can become increasingly valuable aspects when evaluating sound usage in the horror genre across a wide range of media platforms.Primary examples of this technique appear in classic horror films such as the use of discordant 'staccato violin stabs' composed by Bernard Herrmann during the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960). (Amplifon.ie, 2019). This effect is also present in gaming related examples, especially that of Horror Games such as 'Resident Evil' and the recent 2019 Capcom remake of the game entitled, 'Resident Evil 2' heightening the use of sound and non-linear sound presentation within the gameplay.
Similar affect can be produced through the inclusion of 'loud noises' within media productions, often witnessed in action sequences in cinema or the first-person shooter video game genre. Research conducted by the Franklin Institute states loud noises evoke the 'fight or flight' reaction within the human brain (Woods, 2017). This effect can be manipulated within gaming or films developing immersion for audiences alongside creating a sense of anxiety or anticipation; heightening the emotions of those involved in the media product.
Transferable characteristics and preference for sound is present within the video gaming industry and especially in modern Triple A game titles's frequent utilisation of 'cut scenes' showing increasing likeness towards cinematic presentation. Within game development the presence of sound has become an integral element to the immersive atmosphere and complexed storytelling that video games express. A quote raised by Jesse Schell the CEO of Schell Games, "sound is what truly convinces the mind is in a place; in other words, 'hearing is believing." (The Los Angeles Film School, 2017) Explains this concept from an industry position: highlighting the impact of sound within games.
The presence of sound within modernistic game engines is an important aspect of player immersion and involvement within the media platform but especially important when reviewing the addictive nature of early arcade games of the 1980s, with examples including Space Invaders and Donkey Kong with the 1990s bringing games such as Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat to the centre stage. It is noted that the high success of these games is correlated to a game's choice of sound-design. A statement from the executive director of GameSoundCon and producer of various classic arcade games such as Hook and NARC, Brian Schmidt, "Music can pull at your strings and get you going in the direction the game designer wants you to get going." And raising the concept of sound becoming an emotionally manipulating factor for gamers; (Crecente, 2014) further highlighting the dramatic impact of sound within the medium of video gaming and its effect on both the players and popularity of the game market.

The usage of sound and its effect has a major impact on online media viewers, podcast and journalistic audiences. When viewing modernistic forms of online or citizen journalism, sound is used to express emotion or convey media messages. Audio is often incorporated into these mediums through 'sound bites' – a form of reportage coined by American press in the 1970s with frequent reference in modern media coverage: with examples in podcasts, vox pops (swift interviews with people covering a topic) and news broadcasting; being used to summarise particular extracts and offer viewers or other audience members a concise presentation of events, referred to within the media as either a 'grab' or 'clip'. In a quote raised by Walter Goodman of New York Times in 1990 states, "The sound bite is to television what the fang bite was to Dracula. The office seeker who has a thought that takes more than 30 seconds to express turns producers rabid." (Nordquist, 2018). Summarising the major impact quality sound and organised usage of audio or 'bites' have on media audiences and consumers alike.
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