Some dialogues in a movie affect the viewers, and they even get assimilated into their daily lives. Let us take the instance of the film “Taken”. The famous dialogue “I will find you, and I will kill you?” by Liam Neeson is still remembered by cinema lovers. What would be your perception of the same movie if it is presented with no sound effects? Obviously, it would not create any significant impact on its viewers. Let us dig into the concept of diegetic vs non diegetic sounds.
The sound element is considered crucial in a movie and enhances a particular scene’s impact. However, it doesn’t imply that silent movies are incapable of making an impact on the audience. It is the auditory senses of the audience, which coerces the audience to engage with the cinema. It is to provide a more affluent and richer experience to the audience that the sound effects and other forms of sounds are included in a cinema. In the aspect of filmmaking, these elements of audio could be classified into diegetic vs non diegetic sounds.
The story could be provided with another dimension by introducing the element of sound into it. The audience could easily get the mood or the context of the scene by hearing the associated background music. The new ambience created in the theatre by using the sound would help in navigating the story through the intended path. The combined effort of the dialogues and the sound works would give an extra effect to the viewers. The sound coming under such category, which could be perceived from the screen, could be stated as diegetic sound.
What is diegetic sound?
The type of sound which is generated from the surroundings in the scene (sound of vehicle, birds, radio, etc.), the dialogues delivered by the present characters in the scene, etc., could be mentioned as the diegetic sound. These sounds have an identifiable source on the screen which the audience could easily trace. The type of sounds whose origin could be identified in the presented scene could be termed as diegetic sound.
It is from the word diegesis that the term diegetic was derived. The word diegesis simply means the narration of the storyline in a film. As mentioned in the previous section, if the narrative plot clearly depicts the source of the sound in the ongoing action, the presence of diegetic sound could be confirmed.
What is non diegetic sound?
By now, you may have got a slight idea of what is non diegetic sound since we have elaborately discussed the diegetic sound in the previous section. The name itself signifies that if the source of the sound could not be traced within the shot or the screen while the course of action is going on, it could be classified under non diegetic sound. It is outside the story space that the source of the non-diegetic sound is situated.
A significant impact on setting up the mood for a shot could be made by introducing the non diegetic sound. The sounds like the narrator’s commentary, background score, dramatic sound effects, etc., could be classified under this division. The prominent presence of it could be witnessed in horror movies. Using the appropriate and unexpected use of the non-diegetic sound, the director tries to surprise or scare the audience. The level of humour could also be augmented by using non diegetic sound in comedy movies.
A comparison between diegetic vs non diegetic sounds
You could have understood the basic difference by even going through the definition of both diegetic vs non diegetic sounds. There is not much to differentiate between the diegetic vs non diegetic sounds separately from their original sources and their impact on the screen.
It is upon the individual understanding of the types and genre of film that the distinction between the diegetic vs non diegetic sound is conducted. No director focuses on just using sounds and often tends to implement the amalgamation of both the diegetic vs non diegetic sounds. The skilful fusion of both creates an unforgettable experience for the viewer.
Significance of using diegetic sounds in movies
The diegetic sounds are not strictly required to be recorded while giving a shot. It could be later conveniently dubbed in studios and accordingly, changed, edited, and enhanced as per the director’s demand and instructions. The impact of it could be experienced when you are watching the film. However, the differentiation between the diegetic vs non diegetic sounds is done differently from a filmmaker’s point of view.
Referring back to the old footage of life
Proper audio is absent in the archive footages, and the same is considered to be a major disadvantage. If there is any audio present in the clip at all, it would have very little significance or relevance to the intended context. The archived clip could be made reusable by simply introducing the diegetic sound in it. The process is majorly done in the cases of feature films and documentaries.
Let us take an instance of old war footage. These video clips would often have a very poor-quality background or audio. By introducing the edited audio track and making some improvements, the filmmaker could use the clip wherever it is considered to be relevant.
The non-diegetic sounds can turn out to be effective in another aspect by helping to make an effective transition in between different scenes.
Increasing the effectiveness of CGI scenes
There are almost no movies without the use of CGI. Computer-generated images are effectively used under this technology to create realistic footage. The technology has developed to such an extent that the viewers could not distinguish between the scenes made with CGI and real ones. The use of diegetic sounds is very significant in giving a realistic touch to the CGI scenes.
Let us take an instance of a Sci-fi fantasy movie. It is before the green backdrop that the majority of its scenes are shot. A lot of time and effort is invested by the film’s crew to give such scenes a realistic touch by giving diegetic sound. The non-diegetic sounds like music, background score, commentary of the narrator, etc., would only be considered secondary by the filmmakers. It should be understood that the effort would fail for sure if the diegetic sounds are not properly synced with that of the course of action. The same aspect is considered to be the major headache of the editing studios. It is for the same reason most of the film crews employ a dedicated sound engineering team for this purpose.
Generating ambience for the scene
The effective use of the visual elements by using CGI technology would contribute highly to the effectiveness of the scene. Without the presence of appropriate diegetic sound, the impact of CGI scenes would significantly get compromised. The audience would not perceive the scene as a genuine one if the scene is of a busy street, and the sound of the vehicles is not provided.
To create impeccable diegetic sound, the service of foley artists is sought by the film crew. The service is very commendable, and they work tirelessly for its success.
It is being observed in this article on diegetic vs non diegetic sounds that the role of sounds in the success and impact of a movie is very high. It is even considered that the presence of an appropriate soundtrack and effects would determine the whole success of the movie. The role of non diegetic sound in creating an ambience for the audience is undeniable. Though, the presence of the synchronized diegetic sounds would determine the effectiveness of the movie.
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