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September 29, 2008 2:09 AM   Subscribe

On American TV drama shows I have noticed that TV remotes make an audible click when a button is pressed by one of the actors. Living in the UK, I have never heard/seen this in real life. Do all American TV remotes click? Or is this just a dramatic device? UK TV remotes do not click. Why?
posted by JtJ to Technology (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it's a dramatic device. American remotes that I've used don't click.

However, I think it's possible that very, very old ones did, so perhaps it's a trope that's carried over since the early 70s or so.
posted by litlnemo at 2:23 AM on September 29, 2008


A new study by researcher Laurie Heller supports longtime claims by sound effect technicians, known as Foley artists, that exaggerating sounds in movies makes the sounds more believable to the audience.

Strike mine. I imagine this holds true for dramatic television, or any recorded media, as well. Also, I've heard a small number of Americans refer to remote controls as 'The Clicker', so...
posted by carsonb at 2:23 AM on September 29, 2008


When remote controls were first introduced, they did, indeed, click. The buttons were spring-loaded and made a discernible sound, and yes, this is the origin of calling a TV remote a "clicker." It is, I'd think, a holdover of this idea that calls for the addition of a sound to the use of a remote control in some TV and films.

Also, there is a connection to the idea of a sound being connected to the press of a button so that we "know" that the button-press was effective. The same goes for switches; despite the fact that almost all modern wall light switches are nearly silent, there is still a very clear "click" associated with the turning on of a light in a film, even though we can see the light come on.
posted by Dreama at 2:59 AM on September 29, 2008


American remotes are the same as the rest of the world, they're silent. It's a dramatic effect.
posted by wile e at 4:14 AM on September 29, 2008


Skip to 6:15 in this video and you can hear the clicking. ;-)
posted by tcv at 4:46 AM on September 29, 2008


When remote controls were first introduced, they did, indeed, click. The buttons were spring-loaded and made a discernible sound

FWIW, that's because the clicks were the signal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:46 AM on September 29, 2008


We used to have remotes that clicked in the UK too...in the 70's...
posted by i_cola at 5:59 AM on September 29, 2008


More info on the clicks on old remotes...

They came from a hammer striking what amounted to an ultrasonic tuning fork. They looked like rods, not like forks, but emitted a distinct tone for a given length. The receiver in the TV would respond to specific tones with specific actions.

In the old days, when I detected one of these devices still in use, I used to enjoy really confusing them by jigglling my car keys at the TV. While you cannot hear the ultrasonic sounds coming out of your car keys when jingled, I can assure you, they are abundant.

Anyway, the clicks were just the striker for the rods. These days, the buttons on a remote press carbon-impregnated butttons down against gold-plated contacts on a circuit board, which both awaken and provide button inputs to a remote-control integrated circuit, which usually sends out a code via infra-red LED pulses. (These are normally 20 bits or so in length and modulated on a 40 KHz optical carrier.) No clicks result as the buttons are mushy and soft, but some older devices use plastic overlays that DO click and/or metal domes which also click when depressed.
posted by FauxScot at 6:23 AM on September 29, 2008 [2 favorites]


They haven't clicked for ages. But foley artists must like job security, because they sure add a lot of sounds to many things that are silent. My computer has never made a dot-matrix printer sound when displaying text, either.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:21 AM on September 29, 2008


But foley artists must like job security, because they sure add a lot of sounds to many things that are silent.

My favorite is the way a gun makes a cocking or slide-racking sound every time it's pointed at someone.
"Shk-shk!"
"Shk-shk!"
"Shk-shk!""Shk-shk!""Shk-shk!""Shk-shk!""Shk-shk!"
posted by Tubes at 7:34 AM on September 29, 2008


adding sound to things that are silent is kind of like why packaged butter is yellow.
posted by entropone at 8:25 AM on September 29, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ratchets often emit the same wavelengths, too. As a kid I used to sneak up behind the couch while my parents were watching TV and spin a ratchet really fast. The TV would freak out, they would yell, I would run.

To the list of extra useless sounds on TV is the screeching tire effect that's overused. I've seen it used on dirt roads. Which really just serves to disorient me, rather than make it more believable.

Anyway, the overuse of sound effects is an American thing. I don't hear it so much in British television, which is one reason shows from the UK seem generally more peaceful and easy on the ears.
posted by krisak at 10:00 AM on September 29, 2008


No, they do not -- the same way cars driven at a moderate pace do not screech when they stop, computers do not beep every time something appears on screen, and spaceships don't go "ZOOOOOOOOM!"

It's just foley, baby.
posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 10:14 AM on September 29, 2008


Our remotes don't actually click. It's a dramatic effect.
posted by Nattie at 11:05 AM on September 29, 2008




Shoot a gun sometime, you'll be shocked.

Car makers actually calibrate the sound car doors make to match the expectations in different markets - expectations set by the TV and the moving pictures.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:32 PM on September 29, 2008


I've never noticed the remote control thing, but it always bugs me how whenever characters rewind and fast-forward a video, it's always accompanied by audio, which I assume is also for dramatic effect.

At least cop shows are better about actually using a mouse to navigate a graphic user interface, instead of doing everything by keyboard. "Zoom in on that guy!" (tap tap tap) "Can you enhance the picture?" (tap tap tap) "BINGO!"
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:11 PM on September 29, 2008


Fascinating guys. Thanks for all you insights.
(Exits, stage left with a whoosh)
(Sound of door opening, person falling and screaming).
posted by JtJ at 2:15 AM on September 30, 2008


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