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Simone Mirjam Hörler

The Reciprocal Relationship of Image and Sound in Animated Film Narratives

Animation is increasingly being used for communication in a multitude of contemporary cultural applications, from installations to online media. As a type of film, animation increasingly uses expressive tools and techniques, often either drawn components, computer animations, or three-dimensional modelling.

The discipline of film studies has recently begun to acknowledge the importance of animation and there has been a corresponding increase in publications about animation. Film-sound research has also improved, with numerous books, study programmes, conferences, and research outcomes now available. Yet there is relatively little material on the subject of the relationship between images and sounds, specifically within animated films.

The present Master’s thesis deals with the reciprocal relationship of image and sound in animated films. Besides, the study focuses on narrative animation, whose visual elements are highly abstract but nevertheless understood figuratively. The main focus in the acoustic field is on the function of noise and sound effects.

In a live-action film, viewers assume that, at the beginning, there was an original scene recorded by the film camera and, thus, that original sounds were present. So there is a causal relationship between the original and the image and sound.
In contrast to the live-action film, the moving elements, figures, and forms in the animated film itself are artificially made and, therefore, do not produce any noise. There is no source of sound that can be recorded or used as a reference and, therefore, it is essential for an animated film to subsequently produce and adapt the auditory layer during the editing process.

However, since these film images are artificially constructed, the acoustic level does not have to satisfy any claim to reality. Thus, an animated film offers great creative freedom as to the combination of image and sound.

In practical work, the boundaries between figurative and abstract animation have been explored through a combination of different levels of abstraction, both in the visual and in the acoustic domains, in order to gain a better understanding of the interplay of image, sound, and movement in the medium of animation.
Although the short film is clearly attributable to narrative animation, there are sequences of strongly abstract character that do not clearly define some audio-visual objects.
The thesis studies when the figurative perception of an animation starts breaking down into abstract parts and which is the role in this context of the sound effects, the visual representation, the movement of the individual elements and the combination of all these aspects.
This Master’s thesis deals with the question of how objects and figures can be constructed by imagery and sound within an animated film and the way they evoke specific associative and emotional reactions in the audience, despite or rather because of their purely synthetic images in combination with sounds.

The synthesis of image and sound in the animated-film narrative ultimately serves to tell a story and, thereby, trigger emotions in its viewers, which is what makes the consumption of such films attractive.

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