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 Influence of sound on the perception of time in the image 

One of the most important effects of Added Value relates to the perception of time in the image, upon which sound can exert considerable influence.  

Three aspects of Temporalization:   

  • Temporal Animation

  • Sound can animate an image to a greater or lesser degree. Sound's temporality combines with the temporality already present in the image. Sound and image may move in concert or slightly at odds with each other, (in the same manner as two instruments playing simultaneously.)
    Static shots may be inscribed into the time continuum via sound. In the prologue sequence i Bergman's Persona static shots are animated by the sound of dripping water and footsteps. [ more >]
  • Temporal Linearization

  • In the silent cinema, shots do not always indicate temporal succession, wherein what happens in shot B would not necessary follow what is happening in shot A (Some shots were perceived as happening simultaneous.) The addition of realistic, diegetic sound impose on a sequence a sense of real time, like normal everyday experience, and above a sense that time is linear and sequential.  [ more >]
  • Temporal Vectorization.

  • Sounds orient the images toward a future, a goal, and create feelings of imminence and expectation. Many visual movements in a film may be played in reverse such as images of characters who speaks, or plays the piano. Sound  on the other hand are more oriented in time and hard to play backwards. Sound make the shot going somewhere.   [ more >]

Temporal Animation 
Temporalization depends on the type of sound present. Depending on dentistry, internal texture, tone quality, and progression, a sound can temporarally animate an image to a greater or lesser degree, and with more or less driving or restrained rhythm.  

Temporal animation factors are.. 

  • How sound is sustained. 

  • A smooth and continuous sound is less "animating" than an uneven unfluttering one. Try accompanying an image first with a prolonged steady not on the violin, and then with the same note played a tremolo made by rapidly moving the bow. The second sound will cause a more tense and immediate focusing of attention on the image.  
  • How predictable the sound is at it progresses. 

  • A sound with a regular pulse (such as a basso continue in music or a mechanical ticking) is more predictable and tends to create less temporal animation than a sound that is irregular and thus unpredictable - the latter puts the ear and the attention on constant alert. The dripping of water in Persona as well as in Tarkovsky's films provide good examples - each unsettles our attention through its unequal rhythm. A rhythm that is too regular cyclical can also create an effect of tension, because the listener lies in wait for the possibility of a fluctuation in such mechanical regularity.  
  • Tempo 

  • How the soundtrack temporally animates the image is not simply a mechanical question of tempo. A rapid piece of music will not necessarily accelerate the perception of the image. Temporalization actually depends more on the regularity or regularity of the aural flow than the tempo in the musical sense of the word. For example, if the flow of musical notes is unstable but moderate in speed, temporal  animation will be greater than if the speed is rapid but regular.  
  • Sound definition 

  • A sound rich in high frequencies will command perception more acutely - this explain why the spectator is on alert in many recent films. 

Temporal Linearization  
Let us take a scene that occurs frequently enough in the silent film: a crowd reacting, constructed as a montage of close-ups of scowling or grinning faces. Without sound the shots that follow one another on the screen need not designate actions that are temporally related. One can quite easily understand the reactions as being simultaneous, existing in a time analogous to the perfect tense grammar. But if we dub onto these images the sound of collective booing or laughter, they seem magically to fall into a linear time continuum. Shot B shows someone who laughs or jeers after the character in shot A. 

The sound of the spoken voice, at least when it is diegetic and synched with the image, has the power to inscribe the image in a real and linearized time that no longer has elasticity. This factor explains the dismay of many silent filmmakers upon experiencing the effect of "everyday time" at the coming of sound.  

Synchresis is a powerful factor in linearizing and inscribing images into real time. 

Temporal Vectorization 
Imagine a peaceful shot in a film set in the tropics, where a woman is ensconced in a rocking chair on a verandah, dozing, her chest rising and falling regularly. The breeze stirs the curtain and the bamboo wind chimes that hang by the doorway. The leaves of the banana trees flutter in the wind. We could take this poetic shot and easily project it from the last frame to the first, and this would change essentially nothing, it would all look just as natural. We can say that time this shot depicts is real, since it is full of micro events that reconstitute the texture of the present, but that it is not vectorized.. Between the sense of the moving from past to future and future to past we can not confirm a single noticeable difference.  

Now let us take some sound to go with the shot - location sound recorded during the the filming, or a soundtrack mixed after the fact: the woman's breathing, the wind, the chinking of the bamboo chimes. If we now pay the film in reverse, it no longer works at all, especially the wind chimes.  

- Why?  
Because each one of these clinking sounds, consisting of an attack and then a slight fading resonance, is a finite story oriented in time in a precise and irreversible manner. Played in reverse, it can immediately be recognized as "backwards". Sounds are vectorized. 
Given a comparable time scale (say two to three seconds), aural phenomena are much more characteristically vectorized in time, with an irreversible beginning, middle and end, than a visual phenomena.  

Edited excerpts Chion's AudioVision p 13 - 20 

More reading:: 

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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