What is non-diegetic sound?
Learn about non-diegetic sound in movies and films, and explore how it can impact your filmmaking.
Think of the last time you watched a film — were all of the sounds and music you heard also heard by the cast of characters within the film’s world? If not, you’ve just discovered an example of non-diegetic sound in film.
To learn more about non-diegetic sound, why it shows up in films, and why it matters in your filmmaking and film editing, keep reading.
The definition of non-diegetic sound.
Sometimes called commentary or non-literal sound, non-diegetic sound is any type of sound that does not specifically exist within the world of the film itself. In other words, it’s the type of sound that characters in a film are not able to hear, but that we can. In fact, all non-diegetic sound is added to a film in the post-production phase.
Some of the most common examples of this type of sound include Foley sound effects, traditional film music or score, and voice-over narration.
Non-diegetic sound plays a huge role in making the final film that the audience sees — and hears. What would Star Wars be without its famous opening score, and the rest of the iconic soundtrack? Can you imagine a movie like GoodFellas without its accompanying narration?
Why include non-diegetic sound?
Commentary sound is included in movies for a wide variety of reasons. They can include:
- To communicate messages directly between the filmmaker and the audience
- To create mood or atmosphere
- To foster suspense
- To drive home emotional impact
- To clue the audience in to major themes without directly using the characters
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