AES Section Meeting Reports

University of Massachusetts-Lowell - February 22, 2012

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For this weeks meeting, due to the many requests from the student membership we hosted a showing of the movie Inception. The choice of movie was by request, having held a vote earlier in the semester. At the top of the meeting, we covered some of the visual and auditory aspects of the film that made it a top choice among the 5 films originally proposed.

During the movie, we paused several times to discuss filming and sound design techniques used in the film and discussed in our curriculum. One aspect covered was about the use of 5.1 in the scene where water comes crashing in to a room. The engineers placed the sound of the water all the way to the rear, to give a sense of being enveloped by the water. We also discussed how using surround sound allows for much more complex sound design, giving clarity and space in the mix for many more sonic elements. This is possible by taking advantage of spatial release from masking, whereby listeners can perceive more individual sound sources without masking because they localize sources coming from different directions. This is the same ability that allows us to comprehend a single voice in a crowded or noisy area.

The technique of dynamically ducking the sound design to the dialogue was also used because dialogue is the most important sound in a movie. Speech remained intelligible, despite the perceived loud and intense sections, where some of the background noise is reduced when people were talking. This became more obvious in the action sequences when people had to be heard over gunshots and explosions.

We also discussed a technique called the 180 degree rule. This rule states that if you have established the perspective of the scene, e.g. who is on the left and who is on the right, the camera cannot move beyond 180 degrees of the 'center' of the shot. This restriction is imposed so that if they suddenly film from the other side, the people would be reversed; left becomes right and right is now left. During one of these specific action sequences, we paused the movie to talk about how this was implemented. The scene involved DiCaprio running through narrow crowded city streets while being chased and shot at. Every visual shot of DiCaprio running started with him in the left of the frame and running to the right. The audio also followed from left to right for every cut between shots. This technique along with the fast paced cutting yielded constant quick left to right panning automation that was coupled to the left to right visual motion. This helped to raise the intensity of the scene, as once the information made it to screen right, there was a cut and all the new information in the following shot was immediately on the left. The continuity is kept by the background noises and expectation of off screen sounds like the bustling city, car horns, and lingering shrapnel hitting the ground during transitions.

This was a great meeting, and whether it was about sound, video production, or the space in which we were listening, everyone learned something!

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More About University of Massachusetts-Lowell Section

AES - Audio Engineering Society