While it’s natural to listen for sonic cues to gather information about a scene, many re-recording mixers use silence as an effective tool for emotion, as a way to give viewers time to take a breath or as a precursor to action.
Jon Taylor re-recording mixer for “Unbroken” — a film chock full of dramatic moments — thinks back to a scene where silence was used to pivot from one plot point to the next.
“After Watanabe hits Louis in the face with a belt, he goes out and the screen goes to black and we go quiet. Then, one of the Japanese guys that works for the radio station, says very softly, ‘You’re dead.’
“That use of dynamics to go from a very harsh scene to another that was very soft to draw you in was just enough to give (the viewer) a break and add a pause to the story.”
Gregg Rudloff, re-recording mixer on “American Sniper,” explains that they used silence to focus attention on the protagonist, Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.
“Silence is just as effective as the use of sound,” he says. “We used it to pull the audience inside” Chris’ head.
At the same time, Rudloff says, the key is to be careful. “If you’re too obvious about it, then you pull (the audience) out of the movie. That’s something we don’t want to do. We want them absorbed in the film.”