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4.22.2009

Lessons from Harold Crick - Part III

Today's lesson: Audio Cues

I see a lot of Hollywood movies do this, but student films almost never do. You're watching a scene and then you start hearing the audio from the next scene several seconds before you cut to it.

Granted, many young filmmakers discover that cuts feel better if you start the sound for the next scene slightly before you cut, but rarely--if ever--do they use a line of dialog or two before the cut.

It takes skill and very solid pacing, but this kind of audio lead in can be incredibly powerful.

Early in Stranger than Fiction, Harold Crick completely looses it. After tearing his room apart, he sits on his bed and mumbles, "Harold ...distraught" several times to himself. While still looking into his face we hear:

"I'm afraid what you are describing is schizophrenia."

There is a moment.

He blinks.

Cut to new scene. A full six seconds after we started the audio.


Similarly, later in the film, Harold is stuck and doesn't know what to do. He wanders out to a busy street and then we hear a "ding!" and he starts running.

Cut to him pushing his way out of an elevator as the doors slowly open.

This is brilliant. By using the sound from the next scene to give us a "light bulb moment," the filmmakers have cued us to what the next scene will be about. And they did it by totally cheating with sound. Had they not cut to the elevator but left the "ding" in, it would have felt tacked on. As it is, we don't realize the cue cheat because it's part of the narrative that is about to be shown to us.


Audio cues--not to mention the great music in the film--that use sound from the next scene to lead you in give your movie a more polished and professional look and feel. Look for places where you can use sound as a transition into the next scene.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor

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