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Active off-screen sound

by Michelle Langford

When thinking about the provenance of sound key questions to ask include: Where does sound come from? Who has access to this sound?
Active off-screen sound can be defined as sound whose source is not shown in the shot, but it plays an active role in the scene. Active off-screen sound makes us conscious that that screen space consists not only of what we can see, but what we can hear, that which is implied by the visual field but not shown, a zone reserved from our view. As in this clip from ‘No Country for Old Men,’ this reserved zone is what scares us, suggesting something that we can perceive but not apprehend. Subtle use of active off-screen sound here works to build tension and suspense and prompts us to imagine who or what is lurking on the other side of the door.

Active off-screen sound in No Country for Old Men

Active off-screen sound in No Country for Old Men

from No Country for Old Men (2007)
Creator: Joel and Ethan Coen
Posted by Michelle Langford
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