MPSE Wavelength

Summer 2023

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Page 74 of 91

M OT I O N P I CTU R E S O U N D E D I TO R S 73 Cinema, a multimodal medium. ike Chion and many other film theorists have established before, cinema is a multimodal medium. An audiovisual contract like Chion would say: Cinema is a stream of multimodal cinematic cues, visual, and sonic. Mark S. Ward points out that "1. Sound modifies visual perception and vice versa. 2. Cinema is not a visual medium, but multimodal. 3. Cinema is not primarily narrative, but affective." (Ward, 2015) And he abounds on the multimodal nature of cinema by adding; "Spatiotemporal variation of auditory and visual events gives them meaning. It is this capacity for steering visual attention and guiding the perceived timing of onscreen events in the shaping of a temporal sequence that provides sound design with its sense-making function and, by extension, the capacity to narrate." (Ward, 2015) When we're experiencing a film, auditory and visual events in cinema stem from the screen and the loudspeakers respectively. The access to, the story's sights and sounds; the presenter in a film is thus, in part, a sort of perceptual enabler." (Levinson cited in, Bordwell and Carroll, 2012) All this perceptual information passes through what is known as the Bandwidth of Perception; "Based on physiological evidence, our brain, mostly via cranial nerves, receives sensory data from millions of neurons when we are awake. However, according to Karl Küpfmüller, perceptual bandwidth is limited to 40 bits/s-50 bits/s in total, and vision and hearing are the only senses that are even close to saturating that bottleneck; while touch, smell, and taste can contribute 5 bits/s or less." (Lund, 2018) Providing perceptual access or being perceptual enablers of the film is no small task. We get to decide what sonic information coming from the film is relevant and salient at any given time. Just as the cinematographer and the editor choose what the audience sees, the sound designer chooses what the audience hears at any particular moment. A good production designer, for instance, looks at a location not in terms of what that location looks like but rather in terms of what that location needs to look like in order to be utilised in the film. With sound design, it is similar; a sound designer looking to build a specific sound effect listens to sounds not just based on what they presently are or what they sound like but based on what those sounds need to sound like in order to fit in the diegesis. This is part of the perceptual design process. This perceptual access is in no way exclusive to sound alone, both sound and image form the overall perceptual design. I share Mark S. Ward's assumption that "Sound modifies visual perception and vice versa. Sound has the capacity to shape visual perception and steer visual attention, and may interact with vision to produce a synaesthetic experience." (Mark S. Ward in Coëgnarts and Kravanja, 2015) L A scene from Gravity (2013). Astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski work on repairs on the spacestation. We hear the sound of their tools and interaction with the vessel muffled. Sound cannot be transmitted through air in this instance like it would in Earth's atmosphere, however, it is transmitted through the interaction of objects and mass. A great example of sound giving the audience perceptual access to what the characters are experiencing.

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