Thursday, 26 September 2013


Diegetic sound – sound that comes from a person or object in the diegesis (the world of the story) and seen within the field of vision.

·      Ambient sound – background sound belonging to the diegesis but not always in the field of vision. Ambient sound within the field of vision may include the hubbub of a crowd or the quiet sound car radio or engine over which the dialogue takes place. Ambient sound outside the field of vison might be a juke box downstairs, traffic outside or birdsong.

·      Non-diegetic sound – sound that comes from nothing within the field of vision and has been added afterwards in the editing process. The clearest examples of this are soundtrack music or a voiceover (see below). Sound can be added non-diegetically but still belong to something within the diegesis – eg the blaring car radio in Criminal Justice may have been added afterwards in the editing stage.

·      Synchronous sound – where the sound is synchronised with the object emitting that sound –as in lip-sync where the actor’s mouth moves exactly in time with the words we hear.

·      Asynchronous sound – this is where the sound track is deliberately out of sync (out of time) with what we see. It is a rare effect in TV Drama. A good example, again at the end of The Graduate is where we have a montage of faces and voices in the church, all shouting at Ben but the voices do not synchronise with the faces we see.

·      Sound effects – sounds added to the visuals in editing. They may be naturalistic – the sound of traffic outside the window added to a shot filmed in a studio – or unnaturalistic, perhaps for comic purpose (eg a ‘boing’ sound) or to remind us we are watching a construct (eg the ‘whooshing sound that accompanies crash zooms in the Bleak House extract).

·      Sound motif – a sound associated with a character or a place. This could be the humming of machinery associated with a factory or the threatening buzzing of a power station or clicks, whirrs and beeps in a computer lab. A character might have a particular musical figure that plays when they appear or when they sort out a problem. James Bond films have four related motifs in the theme tune, each indicating a narrative turning point eg, the start or the resolution of a chase sequence.

·      Sound bridge – this is where the sound (either diegetic or non-diegetic) continues across one or more cuts/transitions. Examples include the music running under the montage of a day’s work in The Street or the phone ring tone we hear when Joe Miller dials his phone in Criminal Justice and continues when we cut to shots of his empty house when the phone he has called is ringing.

·      Dialogue­ – the sound made by characters talking to each other. Sometimes this is re-recorded in a studio with the actors attempting to lip-sync to the footage: this is called Foley recording.

·      Voiceover­ – where a voice from outside the diegesis gives the audience information. Often this voice tells us the story and may be a character within the story – a detective, for example. This device was popular in American Film Noir in the 1940s/50s: in the film Sunset Boulevard (1950) the voiceover is given by a character who is already dead at the start of the film!

·      Sound mixing – mixes sound from various sources using a multi-track mixing desk. Much of the dialogue can be remixed afterwards because the spoken words are recorded using one or more boom microphones and can have their volume changed relative to other sounds during post-production.


  • Score – music composed, arranged and played specifically for the production.
  • Mix  -  pre-existing music sourced from  pop , classical, rap etc.
  • Incidental music – non-diegetic music that accompanies events or changes of scenes.
  • Themes – music that always accompanies this particular programme or even a particular character (see ref to the Bond theme above) and suits its mood or themes
  • Stings - musical Stings are short bursts of music. They were originally used in TV and Radio to bump together different sections and chapters of a show.
  • Ambient sound – can be recorded on location or can be added to the soundtrack.

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