Digital Media Design


Digital Sound – Music and Audio, Digital Sampling

Digital Sound


Fig.1. Sound Waves.

Fig.1. Sound Waves.

What is Sound? Sound is caused by a change in air pressure. When something vibrates the air pressure is changed, the picture, fig.1.shows how the beating of a drum causes changes in air pressure, the harder the drum is hit the more compressed the air becomes and so the louder the sound wave is, in this case represented by a sine wave the more compressed the air waves the higher the peak and vice versa the less the air is compressed the deeper the trough. It should be noted that sound is the movement of air molecules or for example the molecules in water and that Sound waves can travel through a variety of mediums including water, metal, glass etc. but not in a vacuum. As there are no air molecules in a vacuum there can be no sound.

Fig.1. Sound Waves. Rockwell International Accessed 19/03/2010

1.0 Definition of what sampling is and how to sample/record

When we talk about sampling we are usually talking about Digital sampling these days, a basic description is that a specifically designed application listens to the sound and takes a slice of the sound wave, think of it as a snapshot of the sound wave. The length of the snapshot is measured in bits and the number of snapshots taken is called the sampling rate and is measured in seconds. The more snapshots, that is the higher the sampling rate the better the quality of the sound (Fidelity) as it more closely resembles the original sound waveform.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used.

Fig.2. Picture represents the difference in quality of the sampled sound depending on the bit-depth used. What is audio. Accessed 22/03/2010

The sampling rate varies but typically a CD is sampled at 44,100 times per second at 16 bits. These samples are then stored by either on the CD itself or say on a computers hard drive for possible re-sampling and/or manipulation by effects processors.

An example of Analogue sampling can be found in the effects pedals used by guitarists, some of which remain in use today examples of these being Reverb and Phaser units where a proportion of the incoming signal is affected or indeed the whole signal is shifted out of phase or added to the original signal to produce the reverb effect. Other examples include echo units which do similar things to the signal although it does not change the actual sound but just samples the incoming sound and adds a copy to the outgoing signal but with a delay that can be adjusted to give a varying echo.

Sampled sounds can be used in conjunction with a range of effects systems to produce unique sounds for the Radio, TV and Film industries. Sampled sounds can be assigned to keys on an electronic keyboard – either a different sound for each key or a single sampled sound which is then processed by the keyboard to give a complete range of sounds.

2.0 Analogue Vs Digital

Analogue Sound

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound.

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound.

Fig.3. Analogue Vs Digital Sound. Accessed 19/03/2010

Analogue is a continuous medium and Digital is made up of steps. To sample or record sound it must first be converted from sound waves into an electrical signal. In Fig.3. There are two diagrams; the top one is of a Analogue signal which has been converted into an electrical signal for example by using a microphone which converts the movement created by sound waves impacting on a material such as thin plastic inside the microphone which in turn creates an electrical signal either by varying the capacitance in a condenser microphone or moves either the coils or a magnetic core inside a coil which then also generates an electrical signal. This continuous signal can now be recorded by using this electrical signal to for example move a needle, scratching an electrical representation of the sound onto the surface of a vinyl disk or onto magnetic tape using a recording head which is a form of electro magnet which marks the surface of tape with a signal.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone.

Fig.4. Cross Section of Dynamic Microphone. Accessed 19/03/2010

Digital Sound

A digital signal starts off as an Analogue signal that is a sound wave converted to an electrical signal and this electrical signal is then converted into a digital signal by sampling it at a determined rate. That is the number of times it is sampled in a second. If we look again at Fig.3. The bottom diagram shows a representation of what a digital signal looks like compared with the analogue signal above it. You can see how the waveform has been converted into steps with each step approximating the peak or trough of the original signal. This approximation also supplies us with a clue as to why many sound purists prefer analogue over digital, as the analogue signal is continuous or step less while digital is an approximation of the original sound and as such does not contain the richness of the original analogue sound. Of course this can be alleviated to some extent by sampling at a higher rate and so more steps will be produced therefore more closely following the original signals waveform.

Digital signals are made up from 1’s and 0’s that is Binary code, so each one of those steps in Fig.3. is made up from a series of these 1’s and 0’s. This Binary code is the language of computers and so this allows the digital sound or data to be stored and manipulated by a computer. Digital sound can be recorded onto a computers hard disk, flash drive (USB Key), CD and DVD disk. As the digital sound is made up of 1’s and 0’s it is also possible to reduce the size of the data (or Digital sound file) by removing excess 1’s and 0’s for example the Mp3 format. The computer will remember to add these back in when the sound needs to be reproduced as will other sound reproducing equipment for example an iPod as it will recognise that the file is in an Mp3 format and so it will know to add those 1’s and 0’s back in during playback.

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy

Fig.5. Copy degradation experienced when copying from a copy of a copy etc. Car on the left is a copy and you can see the pixilation of the image compared with the image of the car on the right. One of the key differences between Analogue and Digital recording is unlike Analogue recordings it does not matter how many times you record a digital sound file it remains at the same quality. Whereas an Analogue sound file loses it’s quality (Fidelity) the more times that it is copied

that is a master file when copied becomes a 2nd generation copy a copy from this becomes a 3rd generation and so on. This occurs in the same way that when the copy of a document is not quite as good as the original and a copy taken from this copy is even less perfect. This is best viewed by images in Fig.5. which is of two images of the same car, the one on the right is the original and the image on the left is a copy of a copy of a copy as you can see the final copy is very unclear and this represents the degradation in sound quality (loss of Fidelity) which you can expect when copying analogue sound files. For this reason for example, a music producer will have a master copy and it is from this that copies are made so that the copies are at worst 2nd generation copies.

3.0 Programmes and Equipment used to sampling & re-sampling


Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity

Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity

Fig.6. Audacity 1.3.11-beta Sound sampling and editing software application Audacity is a free open source application that can sample and re-sample digital sound and to facilitate the editing of sound files and even offers several effects including Echo, pitch and tempo changes etc. Coming back to its main features Audacity can let you in a non-destructive way edit digital sound tracks, cutting and pasting sections, adding new tracks with other digital sound files to enable mixing etc.

It is also possible to re-sample sound files by selecting the track to resample and then from the Track menu select resample and this will pop up another menu box where you are able to select a different sampling rate from 8000 to 96,000. Another option is to be able to export a sound file in different formats including .WAV (uncompressed 16 bit) and Mp3 (Compressed).

Audacity can do more than just re-sample sound it is also possible to carry out non-destructive editing which means unlike editing of old where say a tape was cut and new sections of tape added or removed in a process known as splicing. In non-destructive editing a section of the sound waveform can be cut and pasted from and into tracks. Alternatively tracks from another music file can be imported and ether inserted into the original track or added as another track and therefore effectively mixed with the original tracks.

Pro Tools

A more professional application called Pro Tools does very similar things to Audacity but takes it several stages further also to having it’s own Analogue to Digital convertor, superior in quality to a Mac or PC’s own internal hardware called an M-Box. Pro Tools is an industry standard sound editing application used by TV, Film and music production companies to create and edit professional quality sound and music.

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot

Fig.7. Pro Tools screenshot, courtesy of Accessed 22/03/10/2010

There are many other sound editing and re-sampling programs many of which are free to use or open source which include:-

  • Adobe Audition
  • iTunes
  • Goldwave
  • Microsoft Media Player
  • Sony Soundforge 9.0
  • WavePad

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Film Studies – Producers & Audiences Part 2

Producers and Audiences part 2

1.0 You will discuss the “Effects” and “Uses and Gratifications” audience theories in relation to film audiences.

1.1 Effects: This theory is presumed to work on the basis that a user may be influenced to act out or copy what they see in a film. For instance if the film is of a violent subject then the user themselves may act or become more violent. It is argued however that this is not a true theory, remaining unproven to this date although there has been a study conducted back in 1961 involving children at a nursery school and a Bobo Doll. The doll was subjected to verbal and actual aggression by a group of adults and it was noted that the children imitated many of the aggressive moves when they were introduced to the doll.

Natural Born Killers
Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers

One of the most if not the most controversial film to be released in recent years. The film Natural Born Killers has been directly attributed to being responsible for the real deaths of up to eight people. Copycat killers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson were reported as watching the film continuously over a 24 hour period (and taking drugs) before going out on a shooting spree, killing a businessman Bill Savage and wounding Patsy Byers. The studio Warner Brothers along with Director Oliver Stone became engaged in a court case, defending its position against a lawsuit brought by the shooting victim Byers claiming that they the studio and director shared responsibility for her shooting along with the copycat killers Ben Darras and Sarah Edmondson. Surely the taking of drugs is more significant?

A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange

Oliver Stone a known fan of Stanley Kubrick’s films thought he was wrong to withdraw his film A Clockwork Orange from circulation for similar reasons.

For Example even in recent years acts of violence are still being linked to films and computer games and in the case of “A Clockwork Orange” a recent example can be found in the Independent Newspaper.

“A gang of youths was yesterday found guilty of killing a bar manager during a “happy slapping” spree of random violence which they filmed on a mobile phone.
A teenage girl and three youths killed David Morley, 38, who had survived the Soho nail bomb blast of April 1999. He was savagely beaten to death by the Clockwork Orange-style thugs, the Old Bailey heard.”

Akbar. A. Thursday, 15/12/200. Clockwork Orange’ gang found guilty of killing bar manager. [Accessed 12/04/2010]

Imedi TV Spoof News Report

Another recent example of the power of media to effect audiences is the spoof news broadcast by the network Imedi in Georgia (March 2010) reporting on an invasion of Georgia by Russian tanks seemingly advancing towards the capital and also reporting the death of Georgia’s president Mikheil Saakashvili. Using footage taken from an actual invasion by Russian tanks in 2008 the program presented this as a real time event. People panicked causing Telephone networks to collapse and to begin to stockpiling food while others volunteered to fight against the Russians. After it was realised that the broadcast was a fake, crowds mobbed the offices of the broadcaster to display their anger at the broadcaster. Such was the power of the media that other broadcasters interrupted their own programming to show footage from this spoof news broadcast even reaching as far as Russia and being shown on Russian TV channels before they realise they had been had.

Imedi TV Spoof

Imedi TV Spoof

Osborn, A., 2010 Russia invasion spoof report spreads panic in Georgia. Moscow, [accessed 16/03/2010]

1.2 Uses and gratification theory:

Theorises that people will have their own interpretation for media and what one person takes from a film will be different from what another person seeks to get from a film. In fact a user will seek out what is of interest to them in order to get some form of gratification. In regard to Film the following five headings can be used to describe the typical forms of gratification a user may seek from watching a film.

• Escape: Escapism, a user seeks an escape from reality, visiting the cinema to see a film to lose themselves for a few hours in a films version of reality that is unreality.
• Social Interaction: A film fan may also lose them selves in a film forming a relationship with the actors in a film, which can be potentially dangerous. On a less controversial note they may just use film as a topic of conversation in a social environment, among friends.
• Identify: Users may identify with something in a film, make a lifestyle change for example costume in a film may influence a change in the way they dress or more personal change, hairstyle, holiday choice etc.
• Inform and Educate: Film documentaries inform and educate film goers about the world they live in.
• Entertain: The most obvious, film goers may just be interested in the entertainment value in a film, combined possibly with escapism, they may just be seeking two hours of entertainment.

2.0 You will compare and contrast the connotations of the following:

(a) Film goers
(b) Film enthusiasts
(c) Film fans

• Film goers
Visit the cinema infrequently mainly for entertainment purposes. Can also be part of a social activity with other Film goers?

• Film enthusiast
They are regular cinema visitors, have a serious interest in film, its production, direction and its history. A Film enthusiast enjoys Film as an art form in its own right.

• Film fans
They visit the cinema more frequently and tend to follow a specific genre or genres, for example Westerns, Horror or Science Fiction. They may even be more specific in their interests for example Science Fiction fans may only be interested in a particular series, Star Trek, Alien, Terminator etc. Others may follow a specific actor. In extreme case some fans become obsessive, becoming part of an actor’s life.

3.0 You will research the production details of two films of your own choosing and provide an evaluation of the defining elements of both.

Alien 1979 ***************************Aliens 1986
Director Ridley Scott ***************** James Cameron
Genre Horror, Sci-Fi, **************** Thriller Action, Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi
Budget $11 Million ****************** $18 Million
Gross Revenue $105 Million ********* $131 Million
Location UK, Shepperton Studios ***  UK, Pinewood Studios
Cast (Main Character) Sigourney Weaver Sigourney Weaver
Score/Soundtrack Jerry Goldsmith *** James Horner
Narrative/Screenplay Dan O’Bannon ***James Cameron
Special Effects Brian Johnson *********Robert & Dennis Skotak
CGI Mainly Models and Actors in rubber suits. ***** Mainly Models and Actors in rubber suits.
Production 10 months

Alien Movie Poster

Alien Movie Poster

On face value alone the two films would seem to have many elements in common, both were filmed in the UK, one is the sequel of the other and therefore having sharing common production elements. Both films were made for comparable budgets and achieved comparable returns. For example in narrative where the story is essentially about the same subject and situated in the same location but with one following on from where the other left off. They also share in having the same main character of Sigourney Weaver in the title role.

Aliens Movie Poster

Aliens Movie Poster

But in reality these are two very different films which can be almost certainly attributed to the individual Directors visualisation for their respective films. Ridley Scott’s visualisation for Alien was for a Horror film set in space and David Cameron’s visualisation for the film Aliens was for an action/adventure film also set in space. It is these differences which make the films seem to be very different from each other. They would reach the Sci-Fi fans, the existing audiences that is fans of the Alien franchise films and also attract new audiences and potential fans in the case of Aliens those seeking an Action genre movie rather than a Sci-Fi or Horror movie.

There many other elements seemingly small but separating the two films, distinguishing them from each other. In the first film Alien, there was only the one Alien but 100’s of eggs and in the sequel, Aliens there were presumably one Alien for each one of the colonists taken alive that’s up to 50 Families. In Aliens the Queen was introduced for the first time presumably to answer the question asked by many Fans of the first film Alien of where or from what did the Alien eggs come from.

The robot Ash was unknown to the crew of the Nostromo but in Aliens the robot Bishop was introduced as a member of the crew in the early stages of the film. Ash’s mission was to retrieve the Alien and return it to the company, the crew considered expendable but Bishop had not been similarly programmed and in Aliens actively supported the crew, taking their side with Burke a human taking on the Ash’s role acting on behalf of the company and himself.

4.0 Provide an analysis of data from the case study of two films from different production contexts (This could be films from different countries, or a Hollywood studio and an independent American production).

Gran Torino (2008) ******************* Harry Brown (2009)
Director Clint Eastwood *************** Daniel Barber
Producer Clint Eastwood ************** Mathew Vaughn
Genre Drama Crime, ****************** Drama, Thriller, Urban Western
Budget $33 Million ******************* low budget film £1 Million from BFI
Gross Revenue $365 Million *********** $6.6 Million (Incomplete data to 20/12/2009)
Location USA, Center Line Michigan *** UK, Aylesbury Estate, Walworth London
Cast (Main Character) Clint Eastwood ** Michael Caine
Score/Soundtrack Kyle Eastwood (Clint’s oldest son) *** Martin Phipps
Narrative/Screenplay Nick Schenk ***** Gary Young
Special Effects N/A N/A
Studio/Production Company Village Roadshow Pictures
Malpaso Productions Marv Partners
UK Film Council

Gran Torino
Gran Torino Movie Poster

Gran Torino Movie Poster

Gran Torino stars Client Eastwood as a retired car worker and ex Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski whose neighbourhood has become run down and taken over by recent immigrants. His next door neighbours, who he dislikes, are Hmong immigrants from Southeast Asia. Although he doesn’t like his next door neighbours or indeed anything about how his life and how his neighbourhood has turned out he finds himself having to defend his Hmong neighbours’ when their son becomes involved with some gang members.

Harry Brown
Harry Brown Movie Poster

Harry Brown Movie Poster

Harry Brown stars Michael Caine as a retired Royal Marine who once served in Northern Ireland. Set within a run down council estate in the Elephant & Castle area of London, the estate which is virtually besieged by gang members, young thugs, criminals and drug pushers, Harry assumes the role of vigilante after his best friend is killed by these thugs. He in effect ends up defending his neighbours on the council estate from these gangs by taking them out one by one as he seeks out his friend’s killers.


Two films, one made and produced in Hollywood with a huge production budget and made for International release and the other a low budget British film produced for the UK market, but both very similar in genre and subject and in many respects screenplay.

The biggest difference between them is probably in the production costs and associated marketing and advertising budget. Gran Torino’s overall budget was a massive £33 Million dollars which when compared with the low budget Harry Brown film it becomes very hard to see where all the extra money has gone in producing the film. It would therefore suggest that the majority of this $33 Million budget has gone on the actual cost of producing this film in the USA. Labour rates, studio and equipment leasing are much higher in the USA compared with the relatively low cost UK.

In regard to salaries, Clint Eastwood’s salary was circa $4 Million while Michael Caine is reported as doing Harry Brown for virtually expenses only. Using this as a template comparing UK and USA salaries it becomes much easier to see where the budget of $33 Million for Gran Torino was spent.

On top of these production costs are the budget for the promotion of the film, in particular the Hollywood films marketing and advertising costs for an International market. Whereas by comparison Harry Brown’s advertising and marketing budget must have been tiny as it received just £ Million from the BFI for the entire cost of producing the film, this compared with Gran Torino’s $33 Million to produce a very similar film. The small marketing and advertising budget meant that Harry Brown marketing and advertising was probably concentrated on the release of the film in its home market that is UK market.

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