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What You Dont Understand About Sound Design!

Published on

Audio Tutorials

diegetic, non diegetic, Sound, Sound design, Tips and Tricks

Importance of sound

Sound in cinema is a multifaceted tool that transcends mere auditory stimulation, serving as a powerful narrative and emotional device. Within the realm of film, sound is broadly categorized into diegetic and non-diegetic components. These distinctions are crucial elements that shape the audience’s experience and perception of a story. Understanding the interplay between diegetic and non-diegetic sound enriches the storytelling process, fostering a deeper connection between the viewers and the narrative.

Diegetic vs non-diegetic

Diegetic sound refers to the sounds that exist within the film’s world, originating from sources that are visible on screen or implied to exist within the film’s reality. These sounds are part of the characters’ environment, including dialogue, footsteps, sounds of objects interacting, or ambient noises. They ground the audience within the depicted world, contributing to its authenticity and creating a sense of immersion. For instance, the rustling of leaves, the honking of cars, or the ticking of a clock are all diegetic sounds that contribute to the film’s atmosphere and setting.

On the other hand, non-diegetic sound encompasses elements that exist outside the film’s narrative world. These are typically added during post-production and are not perceived by the characters in the film. Non-diegetic sounds include the film’s musical score, voice-over narration, or sound effects added for dramatic effect. They transcend the boundaries of the film’s reality, manipulating emotions, guiding the audience’s interpretation, and often working in tandem with the visual elements to elicit specific responses.

The coalescence of diegetic and non-diegetic sound is an artful orchestration that filmmakers employ to heighten the audience’s engagement and emotional investment in a story. Take, for example, the use of a musical score in a suspenseful scene. While the visual elements create tension, the non-diegetic sound enhances the emotional impact, intensifying the audience’s feelings of anticipation and anxiety. In this instance, the collaboration between the diegetic (the character’s footsteps or heavy breathing) and non-diegetic (the ominous music) sound elements forms a synergy that elevates the scene’s dramatic effect.

Filmmakers strategically manipulate sound to create contrasts or parallels between diegetic and non-diegetic elements, enriching the narrative. A poignant example is in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The film employs silence in space scenes to emphasize the vast emptiness, punctuated with the non-diegetic, haunting strains of György Ligeti’s “Atmosphères,” reinforcing the surreal and otherworldly experience.

The integration of diegetic and non-diegetic sound is an intricate craft that demands a profound understanding of storytelling, emotion, and audience psychology. The balance between these sound elements dictates the audience’s engagement and perception, influencing the emotional journey through a film.


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