Culture and Society

How important is sound in a film?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Taste is, of course, a highly individual thing, but, judging from the home theater systems many people construct, with their complicated surround sound setups, audio in film is very important indeed. Sound is likewise extremely important to the creators involved in film and video production. Audiences will often put up with imperfect images, but they're unforgiving if the sound quality isn't right. The sound in a video production usually isn't just actual dialogue; it also includes music and all the background noises you might not consciously pay attention to, but which create a scene's mood. Done poorly, even something as simple as audio of footsteps running on pavement can make a production look, and sound, cheap.

    The choice of sound system in theaters is just as important, and there are several different types of digital sound systems in modern movie theaters. Some, like the Digital Theater Systems (DTS) model, use a combination of different sound coding media, wherein the actual sound is recorded separately from the film on a CD, but cues for synchronization are stored on the film itself. The two technologies work together to synchronize picture and sound, with the help of a computer and an optical reader.

    Other systems, like the popular Dolby Digital, encode sound information between the sprocket holes on the film. That information is read by a digital processor that turns it into sound as the film plays. Other versions use a different method of encoding stripes of binary information on the film and a special digital processor to read it.

    And then, of course, there is THX. Its sound systems are in use in many theaters, and it even has a certification system that lets theater owners promote their use of THX sound, provided their facilities meet certain requirements outlined by THX. The company will analyze such things as a theater's speaker layout, reverberation control and screen placement.

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