Project 13 – Non-diegetic sound


Try to find examples of the following

  • Intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound
  • Sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic
  • Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references
  • Music and other non-diegetic sound used to create for example atmosphere, tension, emotion
  • Non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene
  • Non-diegetic sound that gives clues or cues to action

Add your findings to your blog


I haven’t been well the last week and have really missed the course. However I am feeling better today and looking forward to starting the next project. This exercise is all about sound, non-diegetic and diegetic. Non-Diegetic is sound that is from outside the scene, for instance a musical soundtrack, sounds that give a cartoon feel such as the descending tone to represent someone falling down the stairs. In the sweet movie Moonlight Bay sound was used greatly to illustrate emotions actions and feelings. This effect is also used in silent movies, they would have a pianist in the cinema to improvise on the spot and tell the story through music. This is especially interesting as my Great Grandfather had this exact role. It would be nice to pay tribute to him in the third assignment, perhaps create a score to go along with the scene and have no diegetic sound.

Diegetic however are the sounds that appear during filming, cars going by, birds singing, thrumming crowds. That said this can be filmed separately to the actual scene but is still diegetic as it is still from inside the scene. Some movies focus solely on this, I was watching the Black Stallion and a great deal of the beginning of the movie is diegetic, when the young boy and horse are stranded on an island it gives an empty desolate feeling with only the sounds of the sea and the shifting of the sands.

It’s a powerful tool using music and removing it totally.

Use of music in movies can be used for many things including

  • Creating character
  • Showing emotion
  • Creating atmosphere
  • Setting the scene
  • Informs viewers of location for instance Indian music at a bazzar sets the tone of a movie.
  • Setting the tone
  • Reveals genre

Try to find examples of the following

  • Intentional confusion of diegetic and non-diegetic sound

In the 2016 production of The Jungle Book, the scene when Mowgli meets Kaa is very atmospheric and creepy. Beginning with diegetic sound of water lapping it builds into synth sounds mixed with monkeys calling. It’s unsure whether the rattling is from cicadas or non-diegetic music. Added with the echo of Kaa scintillating voice it’s a powerful and  atmospheric scene. Filled with emotion and trepidation and the blend of diegetic and non-diegetic creates a feeling of the jungle surroundings and amping up the intensity of the scene.

  • Sound that is hard to identify as either diegetic or non-diegetic
  • I can’t find a full clip of this scene though the ending signals what it’s like

In the scene when Milo the bounty hunter is at the racecourse to take his ex wife to jail the moment when she runs there is a clash of fast paced music mixed with the sound of the horse race starting. People cheer, horse’s hooves thrash the ground, the music thumps and whistles blow as she makes her escape. Both diegetic and non-diegetic are mixed together amping up the action and creating a contrast and similarity between the two scenes. This is echoed as the horses are shown running then the two characters as well.

  • Music (non-diegetic) used to identify social and cultural references

All the non-diegetic sounds in Rio all add to the carnival, party feeling that flows throughout the movie in a continuous beat. It captures the sounds and feelings of South America.

In movies like James Bond he visits so many locations music of that culture is often used. It gives a deeper absorption in the movie.

  • Music and other non-diegetic sound used to create for example atmosphere, tension, emotion 

Titanic – the final scene from Johnny on Vimeo.

In Titanic (I couldn’t find the full scene as all have been blocked due to copyright hence that this one has a foreign voice over)  Rose and Jack are struggling for life in the freezing ocean. Time goes by and the number of survivors drop further and further into they are the only ones. A small boat searching for survivors appears and Rose hurriedly tries to waken Jack. But it’s clear he is frozen. There is a quite sound in the background as she gasps his name trying to shake him awake, shivering incessantly. As she realises he has gone though the theme tune, My Heart Will go On starts up. I think that is the moment that makes most people cry, it’s such a haunting tune so powerful and makes the heart break, you feel her sorrow through the music, her pain.

When she is rescued the music is louder and stronger, interesting as the scene changes to the lifeboat searching for them the music is quiet increasing in volume again when Rose is shown. Almost like the music is from inside her and the love she and Jack shared.

  • Non-diegetic sound that sets the pace of a scene

starts at 16:14

I chose this scene from the TV series Teen Wolf. I knew this was a dramatic scene so decided to close my eyes and purely focus on the sound. The jolt from calm country western music to screaming horror movie is sudden and shocking. Footsteps crunch in the silence luring you into a false sense of security (with your eyes closed that is, there’s nothing safe about walking through a mist strewn forest when you know something bad is about to happen) The thud of music when the werewolf appears caused me to jump viciously with shock. Then another and anther, mixed with the deep guttural growl of the wolf blended in with panicking violins screaming, racing footsteps, panting breath, the feeling of being chased. And then the finale as he hurls himself over the fence and into the water surfacing to find no wolf and instead a neighbour staring in shock at him in his swimming pool.


  • Non-diegetic sound that gives clues or cues to action

In the movie Pan, the scene when they are escaping in a dangling cable car the music is tense with a feel of horror music as Peter confesses he doesn’t know how to fly. “yesterday was my first time.” They are arguing and panicking then Peter glances up and the music changes to signal he has an idea. It’s suddenly more upbeat and hopeful with the violin. It also has a feeling of tinkling bells conjuring up images of magic and pixie dust. It changes to adventurous music as he clambers onto the top of the cable car, Indiana jones esque switching to signal they are in danger as it lurches to a stop. Suddenly the music stills to only a heavy ticking (like the ticking crocodile) as Peter realises what he must do. Release the pin of the cable car to collapse the structure.The music is gone as he looks down stilling the moment and giving the viewer time to catch their breath. Then there is only the sound of the metal of the pin. The music builds into trepidation and finally as the pin is released they fall to a a burst of dramatic octaves.



It’s a wonderful thing that music can illustrate a scene as well as silence can, when you watch with only your ears you can feel two versions of the same movie. This exercise took quite a while to track down every type of scene suggested and feels a big achievement to have competed it. I’ve learnt a lot about the music and the power it has over a movie and the viewer.


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