Sound and Image in Motion Pictures Essay

Sound and Image in Motion Pictures Essay

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Sound and Image in Motion Pictures

Motion pictures and television are audio-visual mediums and so of course engage both our visual and aural senses. The meaning and emotion of a piece is commonly thought to come from the image and that the sound at best just duplicates the meanings from the image. For example Aaron Copland has said that a composer can do no more than" make potent through music the film's dramatic and emotional value." (

Sound does however perform much more important, intricate and complex functions than commonly accepted. Sound combines with moving pictures in various ways to create meaning but is diverse and has numerous other uses.

This essay will show ways that sound enhances and creates meaning in combination with moving image as well as showing some of the many other possible functions of sound use combined with this medium

The sound track is produced separately from the image and includes three ingredients: Dialogue/voice, sound effects and music. The three elements of the sound track can work together and independently to create meaning and to produce different effects.

Music combines with, adds to and enhances moving image in many ways. It can heighten and refine emotion as well as meaning. Music, through tone and instrument selection can create the mood of a piece and of and towards its characters. Music is commonly used to give a sense of continuity and unity to a production and to possible sequels.

Music can give a sense of time and place as well as to help create the ambience or feel to a piece. Another function of music is to create, replicate and increase or decrease the sense of rhythm to and of a piece. Music can act as a precursor to events in a story and also to direct the audience to a particular part/s of the image.

Finally music can work independently and in combination with sound effects to give a sense of genre, time and setting.

One way music combines with moving images to create meaning is through leitmotifs. A character, group of characters or action has a motif that explains who the good guys or bad guys are or that a specific type of situation or action is about to unfold. In Star Wars the rebels have a powerful, uplifting victorious sounding leitmotif that combines with the clothing worn by the rebels and ot...

... middle of paper ...

...und. Composer Leonard Rosenman said,
" There is a symbiotic catalytic exchange-relationship between the film and the music that accompanies it…. musically unenlightened people comment positively on a score after seeing the film. I have played these same people the same score without telling them that it came from the film they had seen. Their reactions ranged from luke-warm to positive rejection…"


Bordwell, D, Thompson, Kristin. , (1990), Film Art, McGraw-Hill

Bordwell, D., Thompson, K., Staiger, K., (1988), The Classical Hollywood Cinema: film style and mode of production to 1960, London, Routledge,     

Blandford, S. et al. (2001), The Film Studies Dictionary, London, Arnold.

Gibbs, J., (2002), Mise-en-scène, London, Wallflower

Rene, C. , (1951), Reflexion faite: Notes cinematograhique, Paris: Gallimard.

Stam, R. (2000), Film Theory: An Introduction, Oxford, Blackwell Publishers.     

Web References: hawkslane/575 /dialogue-and-sound.htm

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