Sounds Of The Silver Screen

Andrew Sullivan —  Mar 18 2013 @ 6:09pm

Gautam Pemmaraju marvels at the work of the foley artist:

If you have ever been set the peculiar task of imagining and creating the sound for ‘Alien Pod Embryo Expulsion’ and found yourself at a loss, not to worry, a quick web search will provide an answer. One of the suggestions on this excellent resource is to use canned dog food, or more precisely, the sound of the food coming out of the can: “The chunky stuff isn’t so good, but the tightly packed all-one-mass makes gushy sucking sounds when the air on the outside of the can is sucked into the can to replace the exiting glob of dog food”. …

Several other helpful solutions are at hand here: ‘pitched up chickens’ can substitute for bat shrieks, the spout of a 70’s coffee percolator can apparently do the trick for a bullet in slow motion, rotten fruit for ‘flesh squishes’, and for depth charges, i.e., anti-submarine explosive weapons, the slowed down by half sound of a toilet flushing with a plate reverb effect on it could possibly be entirely satisfactory.

Some cool examples from Star Wars:

The Imperial Walkers sound was created from a machinist’s punch press and the sounds of bicycle chains; the TIE fighter sound is a modified elephant bellow; the Ewokese language was created by a complex layering of Tibetan, Mongolian and Nepali speech – the range of experimentation for Star Wars was, if anything, groundbreaking (see here).

For more, check out this Youtube entitled, “The 10 Greatest Sounds from Star Wars.” On the other hand, Julie Sedivy wonders if “being made to do some mental work is a vital part of what makes a movie rewarding and pleasurable”:

For instance, in his 2012 Ted talk, filmmaker Andrew Stanton argued that humans have an urgent need to solve puzzles and that “the well-organized absence of information” is what draws us into a story—a theory that he says was amply confirmed by his work on “WALL-E,” a film entirely without dialogue.

In this lovely video clip, Michel Hazanavicius, writer and director of the 2011 silent film The Artist, talks about how something was lost when films acquired sound technology. With sound, he suggests, viewers can “watch” a film while checking their cell phones, because the sound allows them to track the story line. But silent films require them to pay attention.