Film sound and the beautiful lie

(by Eileen Dombrowski) “Our brains are conditioned to embrace the lies,” Tasos Franzolas declares of the sound engineering in films. This TED video (16:33 minutes) is a winner for any TOK treatment of sense perception and interpretation, and of the fusion of technology and creativity in the arts.

Of his own work in sound, Franzolas says, “We want to offer the right tools to sound designers, filmmakers, and video game and app designers, to keep telling even better stories and creating even more beautiful lies.”

The examples that Franzolas provides in this TED video are sufficiently striking that they can provide running references for class discussions – the opening sounds of rain created by frying bacon, the reverberations that can be added to suggest the echoes of a sound in a particular space, the sound effects that tap into our “emotional memories”, even those suggested to be those of our species. Franzolas similarly touches on the creation of a sense of authority around speech in film. And (and perhaps ghoulishly, with a close-up of a baby’s face), he demonstrates the way the brain combines what we see and what we hear to create meaning.

I’m not a fan of using videos extensively in a TOK class because too easily they can replace class discussion. In my opinion, it’s better teaching to provoke students to articulate ideas themselves (even if clumsily) than to listen to commentators sum ideas up for them (even if articulately). Yet sometimes a video can provide material that talking simply cannot achieve and give a class a common pool of references for future discussions. This particular video could leave a class smiling and ready to respond to knowledge questions on truth, illusion, and the role of interpretation.

NB.  I’ve been alerted to the fact that in his slides around the 10 minute mark, Franzolas makes a crude joke.  The question was raised over whether teachers would therefore find the video unsuitable for the classroom.  Over to you — for your judgment. — Eileen


Tasos Frantzolas, “Everything you hear on film is a lie”, TED. Athens, February 2016.

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