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Extension (of sound space)  

Extension of the sound environment is the designation for the degree of openness and breath of the concrete space suggested by sounds, beyond the borders of the visual field, and also within the visual field around the characters. 


In Null Extension the sonic universe has shrunk to the sounds heard by an single character, possibly including any inner voices he or she hears. 

In Vast Extension there is nearly infinite a dilation of sonic space. 

    A scene taking place in a room - we hear not only the sounds in the room (including those off-screen) but also sounds out in the hallway, traffic in the street nearby, a siren farther away and so on. 
Hitchcock varies extension in Rear Window [1]. Sometimes he let us hear the big city thrumming outside the apartment. At other times he eliminates the larger cityscape entirely. At the very end of the film, the extension becomes extremely narrow, focussing on a single point, like a lone spotlight pursuing a character on a stage - the footsteps of a killer in the stairway, which Stewart can hear approaching. 

Varying the extension to the point of absolute silence is used for achieving effects of subjective sound. The suppression of ambient sounds can create the sense that we are entering into the mind of a character absorbed by her or his personal story. An example occurs in the scene in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz when the protagonist has a heart attack. 

When extension is used as a sudden contrast, it contributes toward creating a  emotional effect. 

Some films adopt a single fixed strategy for spatial extension and maintain it throughout. In Lang's M extension is generally quite limited. All we hear during a conversation scene is what the characters on-screen are saying - almost never do we hear ambient sounds outside the frame. (see 2-dim aesthetic) 

Several modern films adopt a consistently vast extension -  for example Blade Runner -  where rumblings of the city behind the characters in the frame constantly remind the viewer of the presence of a huge spatial context. 

A posible name for the auditative style that make use of Vast Extension is  "3-dim aesthetic"  [to 2 and 3 dimensional audio aesthetic] 

1. Everything is seen from a flat in a Greenwich Village courtyard apartment house 
edited excerpts: Chion's Audiovision p 86 - 89 

Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen  is  available at Internet book stores as  Amazon books   Highly recommended 


Other Books by Michel Chion 

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