Soundtrack in Scenes/Trailers

Unit 38 Assignment 1: Analyse Moving Image Soundtracks

In this assignment we will examine how sound effects can enhance the feeling of scene and a trailer.

the Green Mile

The film “The Green Mile” is a story about the guards who work on the Death Row of a prison block when unique new prisoner comes in. A large Black man named John Coffey whom is afraid of the dark and has healing powers. throughout the film the guards begin to doubt John Coffey’s guilt but find there is no way to overturn the sentence.

In this scene Tom Hanks character asks John Coffey what he wants to do with him because he is innocent, yet he will be executed soon and he couldnt bear to carry that on his conscience for the rest of his life. At first its only them exchanging dialogue which would be external diegetic sound which is when sound originates from within the story- you can see the characters talking to one another. When Tom Hanks starts to talk about the day of his judgement the non-diegetic music begins to play. Non-diegetic means that it’s sound that is not coming from anything within the context of the story. 

The music begins when the conversation between Tom Hanks and John Coffey turns to Tom’s ultimate fate in the eyes of God. The absence of music in the opening of the scene makes the parts with the music more poignant (sad and moving), There is no tune to this music it’s just sound but its simplicity and choice of instruments makes it very effective in heightening an already sad tone and making it one of the saddest moments in cinema history. The music in this scene comes from strings and piano, these instruments are very effective because the strings are used in a slow, light and calm way and the piano keys are used sparingly. Volume is held very low which does not interfere with the dialogue and creates an atmosphere of regret and sadness around the actors. The music was obviously recorded in a studio as it is so well synchronised into the moment it would have been distracting for the actors if it was playing while they were acting out the scene. The Green Mile was nominated in 1999 for the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing- Robert J. Litt, Elliot Tyson, Michael Herbick, Willie D. Burton. It won the  Film Music Award – Thomas Newman at the 2000 Broadcast Music Incorporated Film & TV Awards.

For me this scene uses its music very well; the fact that it is quiet at first and then when the conversation turns to God, Tom’s voice sounds even more sad and desperate during which time the piano notes and strings start to play. This is very well timed. I also like how some of the notes pick up between the segments of dialogue. I believe this also adds to the atmosphere of saddness but also a degree of understanding as John Coffey explains that he is tired of all the pain and suffering he feels in the world around him and wants it to end. One of the most important points to take away from this is the term “less is more” which is definitely true in the case of this scene. They don’t use many instruments but what they do use is implemented so that it amplifies the atmosphere generated by what the characters are saying and the expressions on their faces. It is poetic in it’s simplicity you might say.

Snow White and the Huntsman Trailer

This is the trailer for the upcoming film “Snow White and the Huntsman” which is some kind dark retelling of the original Snow White story.

The Trailer has a strong driving beat comprised of strings, french horns and percussion which runs through the entire length of the trailer. This beat creates a strong sense of pace which can keep the viewer’s interest throughout; and is also a strange contrast given that it’s a more modern type of sound which clashes with the film’s fantasy setting. The beat is broken up by these loud computer generated orchestral sounds which are also used when the trailer cuts from scene to scene. There is a rhythm to the music as it gradually picks up pace throughout the trailer with sharp, loud beats coming in faster which builds tension and a sense of urgency.

There is some Internal-diegetic narration(sound that is coming from the mind of a character within the story space: although only the audience and the character can hear it, we assume the other characters cannot). The voice speaking over the music is coming from the Evil-Queen. She narrates how suffering gives her strength and how power comes from her beauty. Then there is some external-diegetic dialogue spoken between the queen and the Mirror (we know it’s external because we see her speaking to the mirror and the mirror speaking back). This is over more clips which seem to serve as illustration for the subject of their conversation. This is repeated again when the Queen is speaking to the Huntsman. Towards the end of the trailer the queen has some Internal-diegetic dialogue which closes the trailer. Most of the clips have external-diegetic sounds which range from character dialogue to battle sounds and monsters.

There is also a scene where there are some knights charging towards an army of Black armoured soldiers and you can hear the noise the hoofs of galloping horses and swords crashing against armour. The clip where the mirror takes a humanoid form has fluid like sound as the liquid descends from the mirror and flows into shape.

Overall I feel the music keeps your interest throughout the trailer and I like the way it gradually becomes more intense as you go along. Also the beat never drowns out any of the diegetic sounds which I feel is something worth noting. The music is particularly well implemented when a new character is mentioned or a plot thread introduced. For example when Snow White is introduced by the mirror’s prophecy, and we the audience see her, the music intensifies then cuts to a booming sound to usher in the next clip. When the Huntsman is given the task by the evil Queen a booming sound is again used when it cuts to show him and his band setting out to search for Snow White. I feel this makes these scenes a lot more interesting which is what it should do as these are major plot points.

The Thing 1982 trailer

“The Thing” was a 1982 remake of “The Thing from another World” by Director John Carpenter and staring Kurt Russel and Keith David. The film was about a team of scientists living in an outpost in the Antarctic when a strange Alien life form begins to infiltrate the base and take them over one by one.

The trailer begins with some dialogue being spoken over a radio which I would assume is External Diegetic because it is a distress message trying to reach someone. This is very well used as it plays over a Black background which gradually zooms out to reveal the film’s title the Thing and the message is saying “We have found something” which makes you wonder what the thing is. another thing is there is some music that plays as the title appears that gets louder until the title is in full view and it changes to the kind of music you hear in films when they reveal a grand visual spectacle.

The following clips begins with the External diegetic sound of helicopter blades as we see a helicopter, then some very suspenceful Non-diegetic music which seems to made from high Strings(Violin),low strings(Cello) and precussion(Drums, cymbals) begins playing and a Narrator explains that a group of men have found something, that its been buried under the Ice for a hundred thousand years and now that it has found a place to live… Inside. The Clips shown serve as very good illustartion of what the narrator is saying and serve to explain the synopsis of the film to the viewers.

The Following clip is Kurt Russel at a campfire giving some external diegetic dialogue to his fellow men about have any of them could be the Thing all the while the Non diegetic suspenceful music is still playing making this clip even more dramatic and intrigueing. We cut to some more clips with some external diegetic dialogue which mentions “how can you trust Gary he could be one of those things”, this line rams home what Kurt Russel was talking about earlier. It seems like these dialogues are the only sound parts from the film that are present in the trailer, which were recorded on set.

What follows is series of clips from the film flashing by quickly all the while that suspenceful music is building pace and becoming more intense with loud booming sounds that faster and faster. Then we see clips of a graphical nature depicting gore effects and destruction with a loud Alien roar that appears to be external diegetic sound because its not quite clear whats making the noise based on the clips shown because it shows numerous things that could be making the noise, but its still a very disturbing sound and an excellent pay off to all the suspence the trailer has built up to this point.

The trailer ends with a fade to black and the non-diegetic music stops replaced by the external diegetic sound of radio static and the arctic winds blowing then the words “Man is the warmest place to hide” appear which creates a sense of isolation. This is a very good way to end the trailer, everything we see and hear in the trailer goes towards a sense of isolation, mistrust and desperation which case and point are the main themes of the film. The soundtrack was composed by Ennio Morricone.

Overall I like this trailer a lot more than the “Snow White” trailer because I feel this one used its sound a lot better, the creepy tone of the non-diegetic music created a lot more atmosphere than the repetetive beat of “Snow White”. The clips show men acting with desperation and horror and the disturbing clips of the monsters coupled with the intensity of the soundtrack made me feel caught up in what was going on, especially the scene of Kurt talking at the campfire because the dialogue he uses really makes you feel alone in a crowd.


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