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Everything you hear on film is a lie

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    I want to start by doing an experiment.
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    I'm going to play three videos
    of a rainy day.
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    But I've replaced the audio
    of one of the videos,
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    and instead of the sound of rain,
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    I've added the sound of bacon frying.
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    So I want you think carefully
    which one the clip with the bacon is.
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    (Rain falls)
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    (Rain falls)
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    (Rain falls)
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    All right.
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    Actually, I lied.
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    They're all bacon.
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    (Bacon sizzles)
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    (Applause)
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    My point here isn't really
    to make you hungry
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    every time you see a rainy scene,
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    but it's to show that our brains
    are conditioned to embrace the lies.
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    We're not looking for accuracy.
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    So on the subject of deception,
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    I wanted to quote one
    of my favorite authors.
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    In "The Decay of Lying,"
    Oscar Wilde establishes the idea
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    that all bad art comes from copying
    nature and being realistic;
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    and all great art comes
    from lying and deceiving,
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    and telling beautiful, untrue things.
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    So when you're watching a movie
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    and a phone rings,
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    it's not actually ringing.
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    It's been added later
    in postproduction in a studio.
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    All of the sounds you hear are fake.
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    Everything, apart from the dialogue,
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    is fake.
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    When you watch a movie and you see
    a bird flapping its wings --
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    (Wings flap)
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    They haven't really recorded the bird.
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    It sounds a lot more realistic
    if you record a sheet
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    or shaking kitchen gloves.
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    (Flaps)
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    The burning of a cigarette up close --
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    (Cigarette burns)
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    It actually sounds a lot more authentic
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    if you take a small Saran Wrap ball
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    and release it.
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    (A Saran Warp ball being released)
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    Punches?
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    (Punch)
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    Oops, let me play that again.
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    (Punch)
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    That's often done by sticking
    a knife in vegetables,
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    usually cabbage.
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    (Cabbage stabbed with a knife)
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    The next one -- it's breaking bones.
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    (Bones break)
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    Well, no one was really harmed.
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    It's actually ...
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    breaking celery or frozen lettuce.
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    (Breaking frozen lettuce or celery)
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    (Laughter)
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    Making the right sounds
    is not always as easy
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    as a trip to the supermarket
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    and going to the vegetable section.
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    But it's often a lot more
    complicated than that.
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    So let's reverse-engineer together
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    the creation of a sound effect.
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    One of my favorite stories
    comes from Frank Serafine.
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    He's a contributor to our library,
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    and a great sound designer for "Tron"
    and "Star Trek" and others.
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    He was part of the Paramount team
    that won the Oscar for best sound
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    for "The Hunt for Red October."
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    In this Cold War classic, in the '90s,
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    they were asked to produce the sound
    of the propeller of the submarine.
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    So they had a small problem:
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    they couldn't really find
    a submarine in West Hollywood.
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    So basically, what they did is,
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    they went to a friend's swimming pool,
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    and Frank performed
    a cannonball, or bomba.
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    They placed an underwater mic
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    and an overhead mic
    outside the swimming pool.
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    So here's what the underwater
    mic sounds like.
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    (Underwater plunge)
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    Adding the overhead mic,
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    it sounded a bit like this:
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    (Water splashes)
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    So now they took the sound
    and pitched it one octave down,
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    sort of like slowing down a record.
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    (Water splashes at lower octave)
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    And then they removed
    a lot of the high frequencies.
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    (Water splashes)
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    And pitched it down another octave.
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    (Water splashes at lower octave)
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    And then they added
    a little bit of the splash
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    from the overhead microphone.
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    (Water splashes)
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    And by looping and repeating that sound,
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    they got this:
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    (Propeller churns)
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    So, creativity and technology put together
    in order to create the illusion
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    that we're inside the submarine.
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    But once you've created your sounds
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    and you've synced them to the image,
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    you want those sounds to live
    in the world of the story.
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    And one the best ways to do
    that is to add reverb.
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    So this is the first audio tool
    I want to talk about.
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    Reverberation, or reverb,
    is the persistence of the sound
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    after the original sound has ended.
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    So it's sort of like the --
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    all the reflections from the materials,
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    the objects and the walls
    around the sound.
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    Take, for example, the sound of a gunshot.
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    The original sound is less
    than half a second long.
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    (Gunshot)
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    By adding reverb,
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    we can make it sound like
    it was recorded inside a bathroom.
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    (Gunshot reverbs in bathroom)
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    Or like it was recorded
    inside a chapel or a church.
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    (Gunshot reverbs church)
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    Or in a canyon.
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    (Gunshot reverbs in canyon)
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    So reverb gives us a lot of information
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    about the space between the listener
    and the original sound source.
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    If the sound is the taste,
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    then reverb is sort of like
    the smell of the sound.
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    But reverb can do a lot more.
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    Listening to a sound
    with a lot less reverberation
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    than the on-screen action
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    is going to immediately signify to us
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    that we're listening to a commentator,
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    to an objective narrator that's not
    participating in the on-screen action.
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    Also, emotionally intimate
    moments in cinema
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    are often heard with zero reverb,
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    because that's how it would sound
    if someone was speaking inside our ear.
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    On the completely other side,
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    adding a lot of reverb to a voice
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    is going to make us think
    that we're listening to a flashback,
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    or perhaps that we're inside
    the head of a character
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    or that we're listening
    to the voice of God.
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    Or, even more powerful in film,
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    Morgan Freeman.
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    (Laughter)
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    So --
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    (Applause)
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    But what are some other tools or hacks
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    that sound designers use?
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    Well, here's a really big one.
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    It's silence.
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    A few moments of silence
    is going to make us pay attention.
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    And in the Western world,
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    we're not really used to verbal silences.
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    They're considered awkward or rude.
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    So silence preceding verbal communication
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    can create a lot of tension.
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    But imagine a really big Hollywood movie,
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    where it's full of explosions
    and automatic guns.
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    Loud stops being loud
    anymore, after a while.
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    So in a yin-yang way,
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    silence needs loudness
    and loudness needs silence
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    for either of them to have any effect.
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    But what does silence mean?
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    Well, it depends how
    it's used in each film.
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    Silence can place us inside
    the head of a character
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    or provoke thought.
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    We often relate silences with ...
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    contemplation,
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    meditation,
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    being deep in thought.
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    But apart from having one meaning,
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    silence becomes a blank canvas
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    upon which the viewer is invited
    to the paint their own thoughts.
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    But I want to make it clear:
    there is no such thing as silence.
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    And I know this sounds like the most
    pretentious TED Talk statement ever.
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    But even if you were to enter
    a room with zero reverberation
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    and zero external sounds,
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    you would still be able to hear
    the pumping of your own blood.
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    And in cinema, traditionally,
    there was never a silent moment
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    because of the sound of the projector.
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    And even in today's Dolby world,
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    there's not really any moment of silence
    if you listen around you.
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    There's always some sort of noise.
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    Now, since there's no such
    thing as silence,
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    what do filmmakers
    and sound designers use?
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    Well, as a synonym,
    they often use ambiences.
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    Ambiences are the unique background sounds
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    that are specific to each location.
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    Each location has a unique sound,
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    and each room has a unique sound,
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    which is called room tone.
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    So here's a recording
    of a market in Morocco.
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    (Voices, music)
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    And here's a recording
    of Times Square in New York.
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    (Traffic sounds, car horns, voices)
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    Room tone is the addition of all
    the noises inside the room:
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    the ventilation, the heating, the fridge.
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    Here's a recording
    of my apartment in Brooklyn.
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    (You can hear the ventilation, the boiler,
    the fridge and street traffic)
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    Ambiences work in a most primal way.
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    They can speak directly
    to our brain subconsciously.
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    So, birds chirping outside your window
    may indicate normality,
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    perhaps because, as a species,
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    we've been used to that sound
    every morning for millions of years.
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    (Birds chirp)
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    On the other hand, industrial sounds
    have been introduced to us
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    a little more recently.
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    Even though I really like
    them personally --
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    they've been used by one
    of my heroes, David Lynch,
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    and his sound designer, Alan Splet --
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    industrial sounds often carry
    negative connotations.
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    (Machine noises)
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    Now, sound effects can tap
    into our emotional memory.
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    Occasionally, they can be so significant
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    that they become a character in a movie.
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    The sound of thunder may indicate
    divine intervention or anger.
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    (Thunder)
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    Church bells can remind us
    of the passing of time,
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    or perhaps our own mortality.
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    (Bells ring)
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    And breaking of glass can
    indicate the end of a relationship
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    or a friendship.
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    (Glass breaks)
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    Scientists believe that dissonant sounds,
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    for example, brass or wind
    instruments played very loud,
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    may remind us of animal howls in nature
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    and therefore create a sense
    of irritation or fear.
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    (Brass and wind instruments play)
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    So now we've spoken
    about on-screen sounds.
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    But occasionally, the source
    of a sound cannot be seen.
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    That's what we call offscreen sounds,
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    or "acousmatic."
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    Acousmatic sounds --
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    well, the term "acousmatic" comes
    from Pythagoras in ancient Greece,
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    who used to teach behind
    a veil or curtain for years,
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    not revealing himself to his disciples.
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    I think the mathematician
    and philosopher thought that,
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    in that way,
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    his students might focus
    more on the voice,
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    and his words and its meaning,
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    rather than the visual of him speaking.
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    So sort of like the Wizard of Oz,
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    or "1984's" Big Brother,
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    separating the voice from its source,
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    separating cause and effect
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    sort of creates a sense
    of ubiquity or panopticism,
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    and therefore, authority.
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    There's a strong tradition
    of acousmatic sound.
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    Nuns in monasteries in Rome and Venice
    used to sing in rooms
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    up in galleries close to the ceiling,
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    creating the illusion that we're listening
    to angels up in the sky.
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    Richard Wagner famously
    created the hidden orchestra
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    that was placed in a pit
    between the stage and the audience.
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    And one of my heroes, Aphex Twin,
    famously hid in dark corners of clubs.
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    I think what all these masters knew
    is that by hiding the source,
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    you create a sense of mystery.
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    This has been seen
    in cinema over and over,
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    with Hitchcock,
    and Ridley Scott in "Alien."
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    Hearing a sound without knowing its source
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    is going to create some sort of tension.
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    Also, it can minimize certain visual
    restrictions that directors have
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    and can show something
    that wasn't there during filming.
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    And if all this sounds
    a little theoretical,
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    I wanted to play a little video.
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    (Toy squeaks)
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    (Typewriter)
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    (Drums)
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    (Ping-pong)
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    (Knives being sharpened)
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    (Record scratches)
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    (Saw cuts)
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    (Woman screams)
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    What I'm sort of trying
    to demonstrate with these tools
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    is that sound is a language.
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    It can trick us by transporting
    us geographically;
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    it can change the mood;
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    it can set the pace;
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    it can make us laugh
    or it can make us scared.
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    On a personal level, I fell
    in love with that language
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    a few years ago,
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    and somehow managed to make it
    into some sort of profession.
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    And I think with our work
    through the sound library,
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    we're trying to kind of expand
    the vocabulary of that language.
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    And in that way, we want
    to offer the right tools
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    to sound designers,
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    filmmakers,
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    and video game and app designers,
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    to keep telling even better stories
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    and creating even more beautiful lies.
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    So thanks for listening.
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    (Applause)
Title:
Everything you hear on film is a lie
Speaker:
Tasos Frantzolas
Description:

Sound design is built on deception -- when you watch a movie or TV show, nearly all of the sounds you hear are fake. In this audio-rich talk, Tasos Frantzolas explores the role of sound in storytelling and demonstrates just how easily our brains are fooled by what we hear.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
16:35

English subtitles

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