What your eyes hear!

Our eyes, as our main sense, very much dictate how we hear things.  They do say that it’s only when you remove the pictures, i.e. Radio, that the real pictures actually become better!

What we see in front of us on the screen will dictate what we expect to hear.  Over the years I’ve worked in numerous areas of broadcasting, one job I do for a long time was sound dubbing for the Nature History Unit in Bristol.  Most footage is shot on either a very long lens or in tiny macro and is actually mute - i.e. there was no recorded ‘live’ sound.  Everything you see was dubbed on using sound effects, live spot effects (me) and wild track atmosphere tracks recorded on location.

Yes, I’m afraid to say, Ants make no audible sound!!!  When you saw that Ant chewing on something, it was me eating an apple!  And, if you’d closed your eyes you would have heard me.  But, your eyes over rode what your ears were telling you and you heard what you saw.

When watching video you have a quite restricted picture in front of you.  Although widescreen has given us a picture more in line with our own ‘eyes’ view on life, you’d have to sit very close to the TV for it to fill your vision, most of us only get close to this at the cinema.  Therefore if you don’t see it on the TV, your ears will be sending your brain error messages.  For instance if you record an interview in a noisy room, but the interview is up against a wall, you don’t see the source of the noise and have it explained so the listener will become irritated by the noise.  If you simply had an opening wide shot, putting the interview in context, your audience would generally ignore the background noise.  If you can’t get away from exterior (i.e. off camera) noises (which is obviously preferable), you need to explain visually to the audience what’s happening to their ears.
looking to camera
The visual dictation of sound can even have editorial issues on your material.  In an interview situation for instance, if you have the interviewee looking straight down the camera lens, it’s as if they’re talking to the person would is watching the TV (the audience), so you won’t expect to see or even hear any questions from the interviewer.  It’s a major problem on TV news where the interviewee is squashed into some tiny studio somewhere and the only way round it is to have a shot of the reporter turning round to the interviewee in a monitor screen behind them, simply watch any news channel to see it done.
looking to the side of camera
Taking this further, if you interview someone for your video and sit the interviewer right next to the camera, you take the interviewees eye line slightly away from the camera.  This is the most versatile situation as visually they have stopped talking to the audience and are talking to someone else; yet you are not expecting to see the interviewer and you don’t necessarily expect to hear them either.  It means you have the option of using the questions of not (obviously recorded on a separate track!).
This situation is rather like a group conversation, you are the camera, someone is stood next to you talking to someone in front on you, you are concentrating on the person talking in front of you and the person next to you is out of your field of vision.

looking at an angle to cameraNow, if you angle the interviewee further round we open a new set of visual expectations.  Here your eyes are dictating and expecting to not only hears the interviewee but see them as well.

It’s rather like the group conversation again where the two people are now stood in front of you.  You maybe focusing on the interviewee, but you are expecting to see the interviewer and your head will turn to them when they speak, so you can’t get away with not seeing them at least once during the conversation.

So the important thing to take away with you is that sound should match the pictures. Sounds simple, but it’s a little more complex than you first imagine!

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Many thanks for you patience.
Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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