On the psychological importance of sound to TV

Interesting observation, today. I was on one of my regular commutes. I had my iPad with me, ready for me to watch the second episode of Sebastian Bergman, when I realised I’d left my headphones at home. How could I possibly watch it now? The noise would annoy everyone else.

So I didn’t watch anything at all and read a book instead.

It was only on the way home this evening that I realised that Sebastian Bergman, being a subtitled drama, possibly didn’t need sound. I could mute the iPad and still watch the show.

Duh.

And yet I didn’t. Now this could be for several reasons:

  1. I’m stupid
  2. There’s a sort of ritual there that I didn’t want to break
  3. Sound, even if it’s not dialogue, is still important to full the appreciation of TV drama.

Which do you think it is (I’m expecting a lot of ‘1’s here) and if you were in my position, would you have watched Bergman with the sound muted or waited until you were at home?

  • You, of course, miss ambient sounds and music used for suspense etc. I think you probably, perhaps subliminally or instinctively, pick up on emotion or meaning in someone's voice even in a foreign tongue.

    I think a lot of Saga's character in 'The Bridge' would have been lost without sound, for example.

  • You, of course, miss ambient sounds and music used for suspense etc. I think you probably, perhaps subliminally or instinctively, pick up on emotion or meaning in someone's voice even in a foreign tongue.

    I think a lot of Saga's character in 'The Bridge' would have been lost without sound, for example.

  • Toby O'Brien

    This morning I sat down to watch my recording of the season premiere of 'The Glades' and found that only the ambient noises – footsteps, jukebox music in the background, rustling papers, gators sliding into the water – could be heard.� But everybody was moving their lips and you couldn't even hear a faint version of their dialogue.� When the commercials came on, no problem, you heard everything.� Unless it was an A&E interstitial promo.� Very bizarre.

    Luckily I just switched over to On Demand to watch it….

    I'm expecting that when I finally get around to seeing the series premiere of 'Longmire' which followed, the same thing will happen….

  • Toby O'Brien

    This morning I sat down to watch my recording of the season premiere of 'The Glades' and found that only the ambient noises – footsteps, jukebox music in the background, rustling papers, gators sliding into the water – could be heard.� But everybody was moving their lips and you couldn't even hear a faint version of their dialogue.� When the commercials came on, no problem, you heard everything.� Unless it was an A&E interstitial promo.� Very bizarre.

    Luckily I just switched over to On Demand to watch it….

    I'm expecting that when I finally get around to seeing the series premiere of 'Longmire' which followed, the same thing will happen….

  • Toby O'Brien

    This morning I sat down to watch my recording of the season premiere of 'The Glades' and found that only the ambient noises – footsteps, jukebox music in the background, rustling papers, gators sliding into the water – could be heard.� But everybody was moving their lips and you couldn't even hear a faint version of their dialogue.� When the commercials came on, no problem, you heard everything.� Unless it was an A&E interstitial promo.� Very bizarre.

    Luckily I just switched over to On Demand to watch it….

    I'm expecting that when I finally get around to seeing the series premiere of 'Longmire' which followed, the same thing will happen….

  • Option3. �We find ourselves making sure the volume's up so we can hear all the words even though we don't understand them and have to read the subtitles. �It's not at all immersive without the sound.

  • Virpi

    Reason 3, definitely. Surely voice and language are too important parts of an actor's performance to be discarded just like that? Just think how stilted (OK, hilarious) your favourite shows feel when you see them dubbed into a foreign language, even if you happen to understand it.

    We who live in small language regions consider ourselves lucky compared to the Germans or the Spanish whose broadcasting companies have the money to have foreign-language productions dubbed. Our poorer counterparts have to make do with subtitling, for which we are eternally grateful whenever we catch a glimpse of dubbed British and American shows in holiday hotels. At least we get the real thing and all of it.

  • Lisa Rullsenberg

    My partner ALWAYS turns the sound up on everything, even when it's subtitled or we're watching with subtitles.� Habit I think!