Sound (Discussion)

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Purposes of sound on television

Television lists four "purposes of sound on television":

  1. Capturing viewer attention.
  2. Manipulating viewer understanding of the image.
  3. Maintaining televisual flow.
  4. Maintaining continuity within individual scenes.

Sound technology

  1. Explain these terms in the context of digital audio: sampling, dynamic range, and frequency response.
  2. What are the different types of microphone pick-up patterns? How do they affect sound perspective? (Ugly Betty example.)

Sound exercises

1. Sound-image interaction

In class, we'll view a Dodge commercial and examples of how sound can manipulate viewer understanding of the image--that is, can change its meaning.

  1. All groups: Choose a well-known song that, if laid over the commercial, would change its meaning. (No R-rated songs, please.) We'll find an excerpt of it online and lay it over the commercial. Be prepared to explain to the class how your song changes the commercial's meaning.

2. Sound perspective, time, and the diegesis

  1. Each student (but you can consult with your group): Think back to the Chevrolet commercial that we broke down and the shot of Mother, salesman, Father, son in the car. As a group, pretend you're doing ADR (and what is ADR?) and sound mixing for this shot:
    1. Write dialogue and/or specify sound effects that illustrates how sound editors can manipulate sound perspective to alter our understanding of a scene (somewhat like the sound editor of Ugly Betty did in the textbook example, but do not copy it). Briefly explain how your audio does so.
      • My audio and sound effects illustrate how sound editors can manipulate sound perspective. It does this because the boy is seen in the background, but his voice is the same volume as the mom's voice. Also, the radio audio should be in the background; however, it is louder than the dialogue.
        • MOM: This is an amazing car. I think I want it!
        • BOY: (whispers to dad, but same volume as mom's voice) My mom is just grand!
        • Radio: (Plays louder than both actors' dialogue.)
    2. Illustrate how sound and time could be manipulated in this shot, creating new dialogue and/or other audio to lay over the image (as in the textbook's example from Damages). Briefly explain how your audio does so.
      • Dialogue of the salesman talking about the features of the car earlier could be overlaid on the present scene. This would show what the mom is thinking about while they sit in the car.
        • SALESMAN: This beauty has it all: radio, air conditioning, rain wipers, seatbelts, the works.
        • DAD: Well I'm sold, what do you think sport?
        • NARRATION, ADULT MALE VOICE: What do I think? I think that, to this day, there's no feeling quite like sitting in that Chevy for the first time. Feeling the rumble of the engine, and not having to listen to MOM complain about the door anymore. Chevrolet, dependable luxury yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
    3. Finally, describe new audio for the scene that illustrates the difference between diegetic vs. nondiegetic sound. Briefly explain how your audio does so.
      • During the entire scene there would be the lingering of an eerie theme rumbling in the background, a sound that us, the audience, could only hear. This non-diegetic sound bit would signal to us that something is off about this situation. Whereas the siren, a diegetic sound would be a sound that both the characters and the audience would hear.
    4. Write your responses in Blackboard in the survey titled, "Sound perspective, time, and the diegesis," in the Assignments folder.
    5. Student responses that evidence an understanding of these audio principles will earn one extra-credit point.
    6. Responses must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. tomorrow (10/5) to qualify for extra credit.

Types of sound

  1. What are the three main types of sound in TV production and how do digital audio workstations mirror those three types? (See Ugly Betty ProTools layout for music editor.)
  2. What is "public domain" music? What are "master rights"? How do master rights apply to DVD releases of TV programs?


  1. Butler, Jeremy G. Television: Visual Storytelling and Screen Culture. New York: Routledge, 2018.

External links