Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mailing List Crossover- Sound in Film

These are some ideas that I posted to a mailing list (edited):

A few weeks ago Robert Breer was at the First Person Cinema program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This is a program that brings film artists from around the world to the University to present their films and answer questions about their work. It's a great chance to see some unique works of art and talk to the artists.

I'd seen all of the films shown, most of which remind me of a sort of comic book of the unconscious mind (this is NOT, to me, an insult, by the way). While I'm watching his films, I feel like I get to see the world through an animator's eye. This is particularly true in his film "Fuji" in which he sometimes cuts the "raw" footage of his train in with his rotoscope animation, subtly reminding the viewer that the (sometimes) abstract shapes are based on "photographed" images (technically, they're all photographed, since they ended up on the film print...) This is kind of what my mind does as I'm staring out the window of a plane, car, train, etc. I can sometimes see the world as a web of interacting patterns, motions, shapes, colors...

In the Q&A portion of the program, one of the film-goers asked him about the significance of the sound in his films. He responded by saying that he felt sound was a natural consequence of motion. I'd never really though about this, but it does seem odd (to a hearing person, at least) to see an object move and not hear it make a sound. It's creepy somehow. I wonder if this could be at least one of the reasons why most people tend to get antsy while watching a silent film. You do have to kind of learn how accept the silence. Of course, and he did go into this, the sound doesn't have to be "synched," so to speak, and often works great (or even better) if it isn't. He mentioned watching a boy with a basketball coming up his street and how the sound of the ball hitting the ground was not synched with the image. As the boy got closer, the two phenomena became more synched (speed of sound vs speed of light- I've often said that of all the things that stick in my mind the most after watching the Trade Center towers fall from my Brooklyn home was the fact that I saw them fall and then the Roar of the Earth came several seconds later- it suspended time somehow).

As a filmmaker who often makes silent films, it gave me quite a bit to think about...

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