Reading #2 – Ratatouille

More rats!  I hope this isn’t a recurring theme as I’m not so keen on them…!

This article, Sonic Subjectivity and Auditory Perspective in Ratatouille (Collins, 2013), goes into satisfying depth about sound representations of individual perspective and the techniques used to achieve them.

It discusses:

  • Microphone placement.  For example a scene where two rats are in dialogue alters the perspective mid-scene to a visually distant point while not altering the microphone placement.  This apparent contradiction actually serves to keep us psychologically close to the characters while providing physical perspective to enhance our understanding of the story.
  • Loudspeaker placement and ‘proxemics’ – the study of distance between people as they interact.  This can be replicated by careful placing of sound within an auditorium and create natural sympathies by mimicking the various zones of intimacy interpreted by the human psyche from the space between ourselves and another person.  It occurred to me, as I read this, that this technique could equally be used to extend feelings of intimidation or violation when a person behaves aggressively and therefore could also build up feelings of antipathy towards a character.
  • Signal processing effects.  She gives the example of the use of a low-pass filter to replicate the experience of being underwater, which is effective in communicating the sensation even when the camera is not following the character in the water 100% of the time.  To me this suggests that what we hear can have – at the subconscious level at least – more dominance over our experience of the world than what we see, despite being such a visually-oriented culture.  I’m remembering here Walter Murch’s musings on hearing being the first sense of life – indeed, the only one, for the first nine months.
    (Murch, W. – foreword to Chion, M., Gorbman, C., 1994. Audio-vision: sound on screen. Columbia University Press, New York.)

To identify these techniques and name them explicitly, rather than relying on artistic intuition to happen upon them, is incredibly useful.  I don’t want the success of a project to rely on chance and depend on the presence of inspiration!

COLLINS, K. (2013) Sonic Subjectivity and Auditory Perspective in Ratatouille. Animation 8, 283–299. doi:10.1177/1746847713507164


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