November 29, 2012 6:00 AM   Subscribe

Sound is muffled. We are in the calm mind of the hero, before the moment of action. The hero acts, treble and noise return to the sound. what is the history of this audio editing technique in film?

The hero is focussed, calm.

We hear the world as the hero hears. Everything that is not relevant to the hero's goal is muffled, as if underwater, far away.
The hero's mind knows only the goal.

Now is the moment, the hero's moment of perfection.
The hero acts without hesitation, without fear, without flaw.

As the hero's punch lands/sword hits/gun fires/car accelerates/mechwarrior exoskeleton enters the fray - treble returns to the sound, the world sounds loud, messy, noisy, multi layered, chaotic, brash.

We are no longer in the calm of the hero's mind, we are an an external observer hearing the frenzy the hero has plunged into .

what is the history of this audio editing technique in film?

where was it first used?

who refined it?
posted by compound eye to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
TvTropes says that Saving Private Ryan is the trope codifier for Shell Shock Silence. Though the cause of the silence in that case is diegetic, I'd say that the end result on screen is very similar.

Presumably someone thought the same effect would be cool in an action scene, without requiring the hero to stumble around in a daze afterwards.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 6:49 AM on November 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Actually, if you have a specific film you're thinking of, pull it up on Tropes. In the Sherlock Holmes article, for example, the "Holmes-O-Vision" is defined as a type of Adrenaline Time.

Again, that's a similar effect but not quite what you're talking about. It's almost like (Bullet Time + Adrenaline Time)*Shell Shock Silence = Compound Eye's Pause of Awesome
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2012

Not sure of its development in film history, but this is sometimes referred to as being in (and then leaving) subjective pov.
posted by mzurer at 7:56 AM on November 29, 2012

In "Apocalypse Now," (1979) there is a similar use of subjective silence in the Do Lung Bridge scene when Martin Sheen's character encounters the men fighting a sniper; everything gets very quiet as Roach prepares to fire his grenade launcher.
posted by conrad53 at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2012

Don't know the history, but one method of doing it is to use a low pass filter to cut all the treble out of the signal (when you just hear muffled bass sounds) and as the filter knob is opened up the full sound/treble mixes back in to get that effect. Thats how its done by club DJs and the like.
posted by el_yucateco at 10:59 AM on November 29, 2012

I'm sure I've seen it used in pre-race moments, broken by the sound of the starter pistol. Can't think where though. Chariots of Fire maybe? It is mimicking the hushed anticipation of the crowd, and then the explosive, collective roar. Maybe Gladiator used this effect in the scene when we are about to enter the stadium with them (where the chap wets himself). We see the calm of the hero at that point and have the dulled sound as the doors to the stadium are closed.

Also, not exactly what you are looking for, but it's used to great effect in the film Layer Cake. Here, we are experiencing a POV shot of a person getting beaten up, and the shell shock silence effect is used to indicate the various blows from his attacker. Powerful scene I think as it creates a more subjective feel, by combining the POV and shell shock silence.
posted by guy72277 at 11:49 PM on November 29, 2012

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