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Text Commentary

Long-Shot Image, Close-Up Sound in Ugly Betty
by Jeremy Butler `

Often sound emphasizes part of the image while negating or de-emphasizing other parts. In a scene from the series finale of Ugly Betty, we see a long shot of Betty’s (America Ferrera) neighborhood where her father Ignacio (Tony Plana) is cooking on a grill. Ignacio is small in this extremelong shot, the beginning of a crane down to street level, but his voice is relatively loud. It sounds as if we are standing right next to him. Sound is used in this shot to draw our attention to him in the back of the image. Even though this use of sound is implausible it would likely not be noticed by most viewers. Why? Because this use of sound fits the narrative logic of the scene; it helps to emphasize the importance of Ignacio in this scene.

One could imagine other expressive, selective uses of sound in this scene. The sizzling of food on the grill could be heard above everything else, suggesting how good the food is or how hungry the characters are. The sound of characters eating might dominant the soundtrack, signifying they are gluttons. Or, in contrast, an eerie foreboding could be represented by the street being totally, unnaturally silent. Or, further, if the soundtrack were filled with sounds of marching bands (off camera), it could suggest a parade is about to come down the street. Each of these uses of sound and silence would move the story in a different direction. Each is an example of how, in subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the viewer’s attention and comprehension may be channeled by the sounds accompanying the image.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
Mismatched Sound-Image Perspective in "Ugly Betty" by ABC (2010) The TV show, Ugly Betty, manipulates sound-image perspective in order to channel the viewer's atttention.