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February 1995, Week 2


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 10 Feb 1995 16:57:20 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
I'm curious to know what others might think of a question that's been
bugging me for some time, to wit: Does movie stereo "surround sound"
It strikes me that there's obvious justification for having noises come
from all sides when you're in a huge-screen environment (Cinerama,
Omnimax) but that it makes no sense and is just distracting when in a
typical shoe-box theater.  Why, for example, should forest or traffic
noises (let alone footsteps or plot-related sound elements) be coming
from anywhere other than in front of you if that is where the image is?
Please note that I'm saying nothing about sound quality, just the direction
it is coming from.  Why does Lucas create THX sound and why are there other
systems to deliver a total environment of sound when the *image* is not
part of the total environment?  (The effect causes me to think that
when footsteps are heard, it means that evil ushers are coming!)
To hazard a guess at an answer to my own question, could it be that our
highly-touted "visual culture" is not as visually attuned as we like to
think, but is much more attuned to audio cues?  Some time ago, Andrew
Sarris complained that audiences were much more likely to protest bad
sound than a blurred picture.  We are, after all, surrounded by stereo
sound in various forms all day long--in our cars, on our Walkmans (men?),
in the grocery, at the doctor's, and even often at work (check all those
 medical shows where the surgeons listen to everything from rap to Mozart
while slicing away--not a reassuring thought!).
Anyway, I curious to hear opinions--or if professionals know of reasons
for the advancement of surround sound, it could lend at least some anecdotal
fact to my airy speculations.
--Don Larsson, Mankato State U., MN