Commentary
7:52 am
Tue July 3, 2012

Into It: Atmospheric Touch

Recycling audio has allowed directors to more easily create the worlds of their films. Just like in life, the sounds that influence the mood of a moment are often out of sight, off screen.

Certain atmospheric touches have remained prominent for unbelievable stretches of time by today’s standards of turnover. Take this castle thunder. It was recorded in 1931 for the film Frankenstein, but appeared for decades in everything from Disney films to episodes of Gilligan’s Island. It was a favorite for not only films and television, but cartoons. The sample became so well known that it even began lending itself to satire. Animals are also sprinkled into films, even if they don’t appear on screen, to set the tone for a scene. Some are domestic and some are far from it. Cats can add tension to a back alley. Owls mark an ominous road ahead. Wolves remind the audience of the unseen terrors outside the bounds of the frame. Perhaps the most recognizable is the screech of the red-tailed hawk. Surround sounds are now available to emulate any given setting. With the option of these specific industrial landscapes and rumbles, it’s yet to be seen how long we’ll continue to rely on these classic atmospheric tricks.