Tag Archives: Sound

The science behind a gripping soundtrack

I recently watched the movie Dunkirk directed by Christopher Nolan. The movie tells the story of Allied soldiers (of the UK, France, and Belgium), attempting to escape from the German soldiers that surround them in Dunkirk, France during the second World War. The movie was excellent, and I strongly recommend it.

After the movie, I researched the other movies that Nolan has directed. They include Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, and Prestige. I think that each of these movies is excellent. And I’m not the only one who thinks this. The minimum IMDB rating across these movies is a very impressive 8.4.

This leads to the question of how Nolan is able to consistently produce such successful movies. I think that there are 4 ingredients to a successful movie. These are the storyline, the acting, the videography, and the soundtrack. There’s a science to delivering exceptional results in each area, and Nolan seems to have nailed each one.

Here’s an article explaining the science behind Dunkirk’s soundtrack which uses a combination of what’s known as a Shepard tone and the sound of ticking to deliver a gripping auditory experience. Unsurprisingly, the same science was also applied to the soundtracks of Interstellar, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Prestige.

Seeing sound and other changes in air density

Here’s a video on a technique which we can use to see changes in air density that are otherwise invisible to the human eye.

It’s called a Schlieren Flow visualization and, together with a high-speed camera, it lets us see the changes in air density caused by examples like the travel of sound, the natural heat coming from our hands, and sneezes and coughs.

Thinking of what else is actually there but invisible to our eyes because of the types of waves that they can see is a fascinating exercise.