Entry Six – Sound; Diegetic & Non-Diegetic

Throughout most of this blog so far we have focused on the visual aspects of film and photography with the use of lighting and camera movement.  However another aspect which we haven’t looked at yet is the use of sound.  Audio is amazingly important in film as it can make or break the desired quality of any film.

One such example of this is the 2004 American independent science fiction film called ‘Primer’.  Shane Carruth whom produced, wrote, and starred in the film didn’t pay attention to how sound would end up and after shooting his time travel film found out that most of the audio was completely unusable because they hadn’t paid attention or acquired the proper recording equipment.  In the end they managed to save their production by dubbing over the scenes in question but a lot of these mistakes can be avoided if you pay attention to audio and sound.

Figure1 – Primer, sparknotes.com, 2017

In this entry we will split sound in two different catagories; Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound.

Diegetic Sound

This is sound where the source of the sound is visible on screen or at the very least it is implied that that is where the sound is coming from.  For instance some shows like Lost only ever had music play over the scenes if there was an actual source for it considering they were all trapped on a deserted island.  In the end the CD Walkman runs out of battery and the final song he plays stops mid song.  No more ‘pop’ songs are used in the series until they find a working vinyl player down a Hatch.

More often it is used to show were an odd sound might be coming from like in the Basement in Home Alone where the strange scary noises in the basement are coming from the Furnace.

home-alone evil furnace
Figure2 – Furnace From Home Alone, wow247.co.uk, 2017

So everything you can see hearing a noise including the voices of the actors present is diegetic sound as the source of said sound is present in that world.

Non-Diegetic Sound

This sort of sound doesn’t actually exist in the world we are seeing, or at least we can see no actual source for the sound.  For example in Kick-ass the music that kicks in at any fight or action scene doesn’t have a source we can pin point but is merely there for the audiences enjoyment and for increased dramatic effect.

Other audio tracks such as a voice over and narration are also considered examples of Non-Diegetic Sound as they are not actually taking place in that films world.

Non-Diegetic Sound Example

Dean McAlister and Myself decided to fuse together footage of a graveyard and the music of 28 Days Later to show how using Non-Diegetic Sound could set mood on video;


Figure1 – MindHut. 2017. Primer: Understanding the Most Complicated Sci Fi Movie Ever Made – Mindhut – SparkNotes. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.sparknotes.com/mindhut/2013/06/20/primer-understanding-the-most-complicated-sci-fi-movie-ever-made. [Accessed 02 January 2017].

YouTube. 2017. Lost – RIP Hurleys CD Player – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPvHL41EaF4. [Accessed 02 January 2017].

YouTube. 2017. Lost Season 2 Intro – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_5ZQW0BCFU. [Accessed 02 January 2017].

Figure2 – WOW247. 2017. 25 things you (probably) didn’t know about Home Alone | WOW247. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wow247.co.uk/2015/11/16/25-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-home-alone/. [Accessed 02 January 2017].

YouTube. 2017. Kick-Ass / Corridor Fight Scene / Hit-Girl / Bad Reputation – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EdxM_QSSnY. [Accessed 02 January 2017].


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