What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


At the end of every video shoot, the recording engineer calls “room tone” and everyone sits or stands in place, in silence. Usually there is someone on the shoot who doesn’t know what “room tone” means. They know enough, though, to stay silent until the engineer announces that enough audio has been captured, enough of the space’s inherent sound, its sense of space, its echo, its ambient foundation. I like figuring out who is unfamiliar with the term “room tone” and then discussing the concept with them. It isn’t, by any means, difficult to grasp that such a tone would be useful. Say you want to place a title card in the video. If you have no sound, then the viewer would experience a sudden drop in sound when the title card appears and a sudden sonic jut when the footage cuts back in. Discussing these two different silences — digital silence and room silence — always makes for a good conversation starter. In the right company, it extends into a broader consideration of assumptions about the concept of silence, how it is a platonic ideal, not a physical reality, as well as to how various types of silence — an echoing space, the light chatter of a workplace, the random intrusions of street noise — lend their own meaning.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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