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How To Edit
Lucy Harris
How to Edit
“We gestate in Sound, and are born into Sight Cinema gestated in Sight, and was born into Sound” AUDIO-VISION sound on screen - Walter `murch

At what stage do you include audio in your edit?

Without supporting or creating an image/audio hierarchy, the relationship between sound and image can lead you astray in subtle ways. There is of course the Stan Brakhage approach (“I don’t see any more reason for film to have sound than for a painting to have sound. ((It’s just a habit of history that we have the possibility to use it.”)) Or your film may be audio led, but without dictating an image/sound hierarchy, the truism is that each will alter the way the other is read. They can exist separately, but as soon as you put sound to picture or picture to sound, a new piece/work is created. So considering them alongside each other early on in the editing process is recommended/important.

Also considering the space that sound can create in film, can open up your possibilities and be very exciting. An exercise I was given along time ago was to list all the sounds I could hear by sitting outside for 10 minutes. There were over 30 sounds listed, and this alerted me to the huge variety of different textures in something that’s is commonly termed a basic “atmos track”.
In Nina Danino’s film Temenos, the ‘landscapes’ created through the layered use of sound, takes the audience on different journeys throughout the film. There are also many examples of artists who have explored the conceptual and material relationship between image and sound. For example Lis Rhodes film Dresden Dynamo, Guy Sherwin films Dot Cycle and Soundtrack.

‘Film sound’ is also explored within film theory. The film theorist Michael Chion has developed whole new set of terms (audio logovisual poetics.) and also discusses the use of the “off-screen” voice and sound. The filmmaker Peter Kulbeka has also written and discussed the concept of synch sound and it’s relationship to film. Without making huge generalizations, or a set of “rules” to work by, here are a few ‘conventional’ guides in the image audio relationship that could be useful to work with, or to disrupt!

Picture durations will commonly be shortened by the addition of audio, especially with the addition of voice. Even something as seemingly straightforward as a wide static landscape shot, will appear to sit longer with an atmos track. (Think of James Benning’s wonderful use of off-screen sound that acts as an introduction to elements viewed later in “Ten Skies”) Synch isn’t necessarily best….It can seem an “easy” way of editing, (especially with the use of music), and especially when viewing waveforms in digital editing software for the first time. But always try and be sensitive to the internal rhythms of the sound and picture.

Be aware of “wallpaper” images and sound. In non-narrative film, there is a danger of music as audio wallpaper, or similarly of images as visual wallpaper. A visual montage can appear to work by a piece of music being ‘added’… Beware of using music to “stick” images together. Editing rhythm should and can work independently e.g.The example used in section 8 of drama being edited silently to maintain awareness of picture rhythms.

Be sensitive to how you are listening to your audio. Don’t just edit on headphones, it’s a very different sound space to listening to audio in a space. Try and regularly monitor your audio on a set of decent speakers.

Still from Temenos by Nina Danino, 1998
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