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Space, Echoes, Continuity, and Energy in Digital Video Sound

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 3/26/2010

Learn how you can deal with physical space, the continuity of the film, and the overall energy of the film with digital video sound.

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    Digital video records images and sounds together as a way of representing physical space and characters within that space. People recognize this space and the distance within it as having a relative set of sound characteristics, like each object having a different tone and pitch. In the Hollywood system there is a theory on sound production that has been a consistent part of story-based Continuity Editing, and it is called the Classic Sound Perspective Technique. What this technique does is require subjects that are farther away from the camera to make sounds that are lower in volume in the final product, and subjects that are closer to have louder sounds. Though it is equally easy to record each character at the same volume, it is important to help give the feeling of depth to the scene. This way the camera acts as a character and shows that there is a significant amount of space between two of the objects, or that one character is supposed to feel far away from the audience. When you are in Continuity Editing you will find that this will add to the overall feel. Since Continuity Editing really deals with both the continuity of the story and the space.

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    Another way that digital video producers should use sound to give physical perspective to the environment they are shooting in is to focus on the overtones and echoes of the area. This could be appropriate to note if the character is in a large room like a gym, or running on a series of wooden planks such as on a boardwalk. These are all aspects of the environment that are relevant when recording sound. This is a way that digital video producers try and show special dimensions of the space in the scene. If the actions of the scene have sound that is varying in quality then it gives the audience a better understanding of the geographic space being represented. The way we understand the environment as a physical entity determines how we understand the activity that occurs there. Therefore the video producer has to respect the sound of the story space and make sure that the audience gets a varying degree of sound types. This will again play into your Continuity Editing during the post-production process.

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    Continuity is important when shooting, and that is not just true for video. When you are in the editing process you will need to capture video clips that maintain aesthetic continuity, which means that the subjects need to be in comparable places on the screen and the background noise must be the same. That way when you are cutting the clips together there is no change in visuals or the sounds that have been recorded. This will help to give a consistency to the series of clips, and now allows the audience to connect with the scene on the screen. One of the best ways to ensure that you get audio continuity between shots is to record "Room Tone," which is the sound of the background of the room or outdoor environment you are recording in. When you are editing you can use this sound to bridge between the shots if there has been a significant change in sound recorded between the clips.

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    Energy is another thing that must be taken into consideration; the energy of the sound you have recorded must match that of the type of scene you are trying to show. If you are trying to have a frightening chase scene you cannot have clips in your sequence that has the subject humming show tunes to themselves or someone telling a joke in the background. All high energy images must be correlated with high energy sounds, like the panic of fast breathing or aggressive music. Likewise, low energy scenes should be matched with low energy music. Try and match music that will fit and blend well with the background sounds that are in the scene.