Sound Design and Science Fiction

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Sound is half the picture, and since the 1960s, film sound not only has rivaled the innovative imagery of contemporary Hollywood cinema, but in some ways has surpassed it in status and privilege because of the emergence of sound design.

This in-depth study by William Whittington considers the evolution of sound design not only through cultural and technological developments during the last four decades, but also through the attitudes and expectations of filmgoers. Fans of recent blockbuster films, in particular science fiction films, have come to expect a more advanced and refined degree of film sound use, which has changed the way they experience and understand spectacle and storytelling in contemporary cinema.

The book covers recent science fiction cinema in rich and compelling detail, providing a new sounding of familiar films, while offering insights into the constructed nature of cinematic sound design. This is accomplished by examining the formal elements and historical context of sound production in movies to better appreciate how a film sound track is conceived and presented.Whittington focuses on seminal science fiction films that have made specific advances in film sound, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, THX 1138, Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner (original version and director's cut), Terminator 2: Judgment Day and The Matrix trilogy and games—milestones of the entertainment industry's technological and aesthetic advancements with sound.

Setting itself apart from other works, the book illustrates through accessible detail and compelling examples how swiftly such advancements in film sound aesthetics and technology have influenced recent science fiction cinema, and examines how these changes correlate to the history, theory, and practice of contemporary Hollywood filmmaking.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292714311
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 1,028,109
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM WHITTINGTON is Assistant Chair of Critical Studies at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
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Table of Contents


Part I. The Dawn of Sound Design
Chapter 1. Sound Design: Origins and Influences
Chapter 2. Music and Speculation in 2001: A Space Odyssey

Part II. Sound Montage
Chapter 3. The Convergence of Hollywood and New Wave Science Fiction
Chapter 4. Suggestive Fragments in THX 1138

Part III. Sound Designing
Chapter 5. From Sound Capture to Construction: Building the Lexicon of Sound Designs for Star Wars
Chapter 6. Surround Sound and Science Fiction

Part IV. Sound Effects
Chapter 7. Genre Splicing: Horror and Science Fiction
Chapter 8. Alien: Audio-biomechanics

Part V. Voice Design
Chapter 9. Blade Runners: A Crisis in Voicing Authority, Identity, and Spectacle

Part VI. Final Design
Chapter 10. Sound Mixing and Sound Design in Science Fiction Cinema: A Mixed Paradox
Chapter 11. Mixing Man and Machine in Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Part VII. Conclusion: A Sounding of the Future
Chapter 12. What is The Matrix? Sound Design in a Digital World

Appendix: Overview of the General Processes of Sound Design

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    A mind-blowing book

    This is a mind-blowing book that any fan of cinema should have on his shelf. It will revolutionize how you see your favorite science fiction films of the past and forever change how you view any film you see in the future regardless of genre. William Whittington takes you on a fascinating ride through the history of science fiction cinema and explains why sound in film is every bit as important as the picture in expressing the filmmaker's intentions. When I went back and viewed the films he discusses, I came away with a whole new understanding of them and how innovations in sound design helped to make them the classics we love. I especially enjoyed the anecdotes on the creation of sound design for the films The Exorcist and Star Wars. This is an important, must-have book. I can barely wait for the author's forthcoming book on sound design in horror films.

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