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April 2001, Week 1


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Arnt Maasø <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 3 Apr 2001 10:25:44 +0200
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>I can't think of an example off-hand, but the issue that Arnt is
>investigating is made more complicated when one is seeing a movie with
>subtitles, and dialogue that is meant to be whispered or inaudible is
>subtitled and readable. Would this instance be including in your concerns,

No, not really, but it's an interesting point. In Scandinavia (which
I know the best) subtitles are, as you indicate, often provided for
otherwise barely audible whispers/talk; but not in all cases. It is
also deliberately avoided, precisely not to destroy a narrative
'enigma'. My prime concern, though, is to investigate further the
issue of sound and image scale, and the role of the voice in
mediating a social and communicative distance (cf. 'proxemics). In
other words I'll leave out the issue of subtitles not to complicate
things too much. As for sound / image scale, I find it striking that
none of the film sound scholars I know really try to define or
investigate the role of the voice along these lines. So far,
'microphone perspective' is the only aspect discussed (with Altman's
"Sound Space" as the prime example). Neither Altman, Chion, or any of
the other 'main' scholars in the field, that frequently use terms
such as "close miking", "close-up sound" or "medium close-up sound",
are very precise, and, for instance, say those terms mean, for
instance as opposed to "extreme close-up" sound, or other
perspectives. Clearly, when listening to TV or film, sound has a much
more important role in creating spatial and communicative 'distance',
than what these poorly microphone centered terms are able to grasp.

At any rate I find it more 'clarifying' distinguishing between three
aspects of voice and space (in the media): 'voice distance' (from ECU
(extreme close up) intimate whisper --> ELS (extreme long shot) in
the loudest shout or scream); 'microphone distance' (from ECU in
commercials, radio talk etc. utilizing the proximity effect, etc. -->
ELS in what might be called "point of audition" sound, in Altman
terminology); and 'sound reach' (i.e., ECU loudness, in barely
audible whispers not meant to be heard --> ELS in the loudest
TV-commercials, or film scream). OK, I'll stop rambling on shortly,
but because of 'schizophonia' and the separation of the spoken
characteristics of the voice, loudness, and ratio of direct/reflected
sound in the media (as opposed to in face-to-face communication, when
these aspects are interwoven), I think we need more refined
terminology and analysis to grasp the impact of the voice.

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