Being interested in sound design or more so having a love for it, seems to put me in awkward and unwanted situations. It appears that the more I fall in love with the power and use of sound within film, I am liking films solely based on the sound design or use of sound and nothing else. It doesn’t matter if the story is awkward, characters unbelievable I will fall in love with it just through sound, why does this put me in situations? I find myself defending films that always seem to have two sides fighting the corner, and I seem to be slap bang in the middle.
Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was an awkward situation
A lot of films when dealing with space seem to ignore sonic rules, one big one being that there is no noise in space, personally I don’t mind the imagination of sound in space, I mean Star Wars (Star Wars, 1977) would be half the film it is without the sound of a Tie-Fighter screeching through space, that being said I found it a breath of fresh air to listen to a film that accepted the rules of space. With the laws of physics being taken into consideration the sound designers had to think of new and interesting ways of creating a soundscape for Gravity.
Transducer recording was used for most of the foley work within this film. The difference between transducer recording and normal recording is that transducer recording picks up vibrations, instead of normal recording that pics up waves through the air. In doing this I believe it creates a whole new sense of character immersion, what I mean by this is that the sound can only happen when the character reacts with something, touching a piece of metal from the ship sends vibrations up to the ear, which in result allows the character and the audience to feel that connection that touch through sound.
Alongside these recording techniques they also made the most of the Dolby surround set up. Here they used panning to really create a sense of environment. Adjusting panning to the movement of the characters really sold the notion of them being invulnerable.
As I was watching Gravity in the art centre, whilst trying to ignore the giggling on Sandra Bullock getting tangled up in some sea weed, I really felt immersed. Although I wasn’t hearing the complete Dolby digital experience, I still couldn’t help being lost in the vacuum of space and time.
That being said I do have a few criticisms, another one of my loves is scoring for film, I enjoy doing this in my own time and really take the time and enjoyment reading, listening and studying a range of different composers and styles, with Gravity however I found myself thinking the unthinkable. There is too much music! At times I really wanted the sound design to fill the space, sell the dread and drama, instead of this Steven Price scored over the majority. In these parts I couldn’t help feel detached.
Yes it got my heart pumping, but I couldn’t help but think this was simply the bass instead of the clever placement of soundtrack. I can’t help but feel with the previous clip I posted above, with no music and silence, this would show a chilling remembrance on how alone she really is, in a way I have to say with the inclusion of music I once became a spectator again instead of being part of the story.
This didn’t stop Gravity grabbing an oscar for sound editing however, and well deserved I feel. I am always happy when sound gets the recognition it deserves, and whilst everyone talks about the spectacle on-screen, it’s the sound that allows you to be in that space, to allow the visuals to become real.
Gravity. (2013). [film] United Kingdom, USA: Alfonso Cuaron.
Star Wars. (1977). [DVD] USA: George Lucas.