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February 1995, Week 4


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Leo Bankersen <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 23 Feb 1995 16:57:12 CST
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
On 10 Feb 1995 Don Larsson wrote:
>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?
>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?
I completely agree with the distracting effect mentioned above,
but I would like to try a guess in a different direction.
Could it be that the 'off screen stereo' has something in common
with other curious effects like Sensurround or 3-D?
Those effects were all (probably) meant to heighten the feeling
of realism of a movie, yet they never became a generally applied
technique. By leaving the screen and (so to speak) invading the
theater they are indeed very realistically present, but they are
equally distracting from the story-telling that is going on.
I feel it shows that story-telling (isn't that what film is
mostly about?) is something quite different from just imitating
In the first place: by following the story we are tuned to a
single source of information (the screen). Everyting that falls
out of the source, falls out of the story.
Second: The cues from the screen (image and sound) cause us to
imagine a kind of 'story-reality' with story-space, story-time
and story-events. This however, is a 'mental' reality. We never
expect it to be physically present around us, like in a
(Sorry for a bit late reply)
Leo Bankersen
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