Sound and Music for the Moving Image | Abertay University

Sound and Music for the Moving Image


This module explores how sound and music are used alongside the moving image. While acknowledging that sound design and music are interesting media forms in their own right, the module focuses on the point at which these are brought together with the moving image to create something that is greater than the sum of the component parts.


an understanding of how music and sound are used as part of an overall narrative framework for the moving image.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Define, analyse and discuss key concepts, technologies and applications used in the creation of the moving image soundtrack.

2.  Apply suitable methods of analysis to analyse critically the use of sound and music within the context of a moving picture soundtrack.

3.  Use appropriate hardware and software to spot; tracklay; mix, and master all of the soundtrack components of a short film or animation.

4.  Reflect critically on their approach to work and on the quality of the work itself.

Indicative Content

1 Background

An overview of the history of sound and music in animation, from early attempts at synchronisation by Edison through to the latest multi−channel surround systems by Dolby.

2 Background

A discussion of several key issues related to sound and music and the moving image − visual and aural tempo; juxtaposition; complementary music; diegetic and non−diegetic music.

3 Theory

Synchronous and asynchronous sound and music. What is the effect of each on the interpretation and presentation of a visual sequence?

4 Theory

Discussion of synchresis − how the forging of visuals and sound, and how, by careful selection and application of apparently contrasting sounds, visual sequences can be made more impactful.

5 Characterisation

How is music used to establish and portray character onscreen? We look at numerous examples from film and cartoon to explore how various established tricks and techniques are used as shorthands for character exposition and development.

6 Header 6

How can humour be established through music? We look at various examples from classic and contemporary film and animation and consider the effects of drawing upon contemporary references for humorous purposes.

7 Technical issues

A discussion of audio−visual synchronisation, including MIDI timecode sync and SMPTE sync. Cue and Dope sheets and the roles that these play in the production process.

8 Cultural Issues

How does the use of sound and music in film vary across cultures? Is the use of the internet as a distribution mechanism leading to 'cultural convergence' as a result of globalisation? Does the dominance of the Holywood machine mean that western cinematic convention can be read and understood the world wide?

9 Case Studies

Music and Sound in film − Critical review of classic and contemporary film, showing how sound works in context. Examples include Skyfall, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Psycho, 127 hours.

10 Case Studies

Music and sound in film. A look at Robert Bresson's "L'Argent", and a detailed exploration into his filmic philosophy. Parallels are drawn with themodern Dogme 95 film movement.

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

This module explores how sound and music work with the moving image. We begin by looking at the development of sound on film, beginning with live musical accompaniment in the silent era, and charting both the incremental development of recording, synchronisation and playback technologies, and how these drove creative innovation. We build on these ideas by introducing the underlying theory that anchors and bonds sound to film, focusing on the need for a high degree of synchronisation and how and when to break it. We conclude with a number of case studies, which present detailed critical analyses of the use of sound in film, drawing on a range of classic and contemporary film sources. Delivery will be focused around one 1-hour lecture, which makes extensive use of film examples, followed by instructor-led class discussion, and one 1-hour tutorial each week, where students will get experience of sound dubbing and presenting work. Students will be set additional development exercises for completion outside of scheduled class time. For assessment, students will be set an essay question, designed to test their critical understanding of how sound and music are used as filmic devices, and a practical sound dubbing task, which tests their applied knowledge and understanding.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 0
Unsupervised Practical Activity 20
Assessment 60
Independent 96

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2018/19 , and may be subject to change for future years.