The time contour plot: graphical analysis of a film soundtrack

Nick Redfern

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    Audio segmentation comprises a set of techniques for analysing the features of audio signals, including motion picture soundtracks. Parsing the structure of film audio allows us to identify scenes and change points, features in the audio envelope (attack, decay, sustain, release), the distribution of sound energy, and the presence of affective events in a soundtrack. Despite the availability of a wide range of software capable of audio analysis (e.g. Python, R, Sonic Visualiser, Audacity, Speech Filing System, Raven Lite, etc.) statistical analyses of cinematic style have yet to apply these methods to the formal analysis of film soundtracks systematically. In this paper I demonstrate the analysis of film sound using the time contour plot of generated by the R package seewave. The time contour plot is a graphical method for visualising the temporal structure of sound energy based on the short-time Fourier transform of a signal and allows analysts to identify interesting features in a film’s soundtrack that warrant further examination and to communicate is a straightforward manner that is easy to comprehend. Applying this method to the soundtrack of Behold the Noose (Jamie Brooks, 2014), a short horror film, I show that the sound energy in the film increases non-linearly in creating of a state of heightened anxiety in the viewer.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusUnpublished - 20 Nov 2015
    EventSound and the Screen - University of West London, London, United Kingdom
    Duration: 20 Nov 201520 Nov 2015

    Academic conference

    Academic conferenceSound and the Screen
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


    • Film sound
    • horror cinema
    • quantitative methods
    • short-time Fourier transform
    • normalised aggregated power envelope


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