Music, Sound, and the Moving Image

The Immersive Continuity of Roma

Towards the Consolidation of an Alternative Audio-Visual Style

Music, Sound, and the Moving Image (2021), 15, (2), 167–193.

Abstract

In Gravity (2013), Alfonso Cuarón introduced a fully three-dimensional sound design approach that was originally termed by Idrovo and Pauletto (2019) as ‘immersive point-of-audition’. More recently, in Netflix’s Roma (2018), Cuarón not only perfected such treatment of sound, but consolidated an audio-visual style that stands out for its capacity to enhance our sensation of ‘presence’ in the narrative world, a style that is referred here to as immersive continuity. Grounded on the spatiotemporal continuity of the long take, Cuarón’s immersive continuity allows sound objects to flow all around the 3-D space, and hence opens a giant window of opportunity for the exploitation of Dolby Atmos. Through an extensive analysis of Roma, this article describes the aesthetics of such audio-visual style, and beyond, it explores the methods and workflows that permitted Cuarón’s sound team to fully exploit sound three-dimensionality. Finally, I discuss the growing adoption of Netflix as one of the major challenges that the theatrical cinema industry has to face; and argue that embracing immersive continuity may be a powerful weapon for attracting audiences to a cinematic experience that cannot be found at home.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

References

Allen, Nick (2019) ‘Netflix Spends Record $30 Million On Its Oscars Campaign for Roma, Double What the Movie Cost to Make’, The Telegraph, 22 February. Available from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/02/22/netflix-spends-record-30-million-oscars-campaign-roma-double/ (Accessed: 10 April 2019). Google Scholar

Altman, Rick (1992) ‘Sound Space’. In: Altman, Rick (ed.). Sound Theory/Sound Practice. London: Routledge, pp.46-64. Google Scholar

Bazin, André (1967) What is Cinema? Vol. 1. Trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press. Google Scholar

Bazin, André (1971) What is Cinema? Vol. 2. Trans. Hugh Gray. Berkeley: University of California Press. Google Scholar

Bordwell, David (2002) ‘Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary American Film’, Film Quarterly, 55 (3), pp.16-28. Google Scholar

Bordwell, David, Thompson, Kristin, & Smith, Jeff (2016) Film Art: An Introduction, 11th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education. Google Scholar

Box Office Mojo (2019) ‘Yearly Box Office’. Available from: https://www.boxofficemojo.com/yearly/?view2=domestic&view=releasedate&p=.htm (Accessed: 3 October 2019). Google Scholar

Chion, Michel (1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Ed. and trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar

Chion, Michel ([1982] 1999) The Voice in Cinema. Ed. and trans. Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar

Cinemetrix (2020) Barry Salt’s Data Base. Available from: http://cinemetrics.lv/satltdb.php#asl (Accessed: 31 July 2020). Google Scholar

Cine Premiere (2019) ‘Los secretos del sonido en Roma’. Trans. René Idrovo. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScMj2qZqcbg (Accessed: 8 April 2019). Google Scholar

Consumer Technology Association (2018) ‘Digital America: State of the U.S. Consumer Technology Industry 2018’. Available from: https://editions.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=534274#{%22issue_id%22:534274,%22page%22:0} (Accessed: 2 October 2019). Google Scholar

Coria, José Felipe (2019) ‘Alfonso Cuarón o el Estilo CUEC’. Confabulario-El Universal. Trans. René Idrovo. Available from: https://confabulario.eluniversal.com.mx/alfonso-cuaron-roma-2/ (Accessed: 10 April 2019). Google Scholar

Cuarón, Alfonso (2016) Roma. Screenplay. Available from: https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2018/12/Roma-Screenplay-ENGLISH.pdf (Accessed: 10 April 2019). Google Scholar

Díaz, Sergio (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 2 October. Trans. René Idrovo. Google Scholar

Doane, Mary Ann (1980) ‘The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space’, Yale French Studies, 60, pp.33-50. Google Scholar

Grajeda, Tony (2008) ‘“A Question of the Ear” Listening to Touch of Evil’. In Beck, Jay & Grajeda, Tony (eds). Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, pp.201-217. Google Scholar

Greiner, Enrique (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 20 September. Trans. René Idrovo. Google Scholar

Hunt, Aaron (2020) ‘Alfonso Cuarón Reveals His Ghost-Perspective, His Influences, and a Theory He Hates’. No Film School. Available from: https://nofilmschool.com/alfonso-cuaron-interview (Accessed: 20 January 2021). Google Scholar

Idrovo, René & Pauletto, Sandra (2019) ‘Immersive Point-of-Audition: Alfonso Cuarón’s Three-Dimensional Sound Design Approach’, Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, 13 (1), pp.31-58. Google Scholar

IMax (2013) ‘Gravity: IMax Behind the Frame’. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=65&v=39w4Ow5QDGQ (Accessed: 27 March 2019). Google Scholar

IMDb (2021) ‘Alfonso Cuarón’. Available from: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0190859/ (Accessed: 27 March 2019). Google Scholar

Johnson, Dan (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 24 July. Google Scholar

Karlsson, Robert (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 24 April. Google Scholar

Kerins, Mark (2011) Beyond Dolby (Stereo): Cinema in the Digital Sound Age. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Google Scholar

Kiser, Glenn (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 10 September. Trans. René Idrovo. Google Scholar

Knudsen, Erik (2016) ‘The Total Filmmaker: Thinking of Screenwriting, Directing and Editing as One Role’, New Writing, 13 (1), pp. 109-129. Google Scholar

Lastra, James (1992) ‘Reading, Writing and Representing Sound’. In: Altman, Rick (ed.). Sound Theory/Sound Practice. Abingdon: Routledge, pp.65-86. Google Scholar

Lastra, James (2000) Sound Technology and the American Cinema: Perception, Representation, Modernity. New York: Columbia University Press. Google Scholar

Lievsay, Skip (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 24 September. Google Scholar

McClintock, Pamela (2018) ‘In an Unprecedented Move by Netflix, Alfonso Cuaron’s Acclaimed Film is Opening in Select Cinemas More than Three Weeks Before it Debuts on the Streamer’, Hollywood Reporter, 21 November. Available from: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/roma-details-netflix-movie-theaters-1163315 (Accessed: 10 April 2019). Google Scholar

Mera, Miguel (2016) ‘Towards 3-D Sound: Spatial Presence and the Space’. In: Greene, Liz & Kulezic-Wilson, Daniela (eds). The Palgrave Handbook of Sound Design and Music in Screen Media: Integrated Soundtracks. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 91-111. Google Scholar

Netflix (2018a) ‘Roma: The Sounds of Real Life’. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7umEMFXxM0&feature=youtu.be (Accessed: 19 March 2019). Google Scholar

Netflix (2018b) ‘Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma to be Released Theatrically in Over 600 Theaters Worldwide’, Netflix. Available from: https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/alfonso-cuar%C3%B3ns-roma-to-be-released-theatrically-in-over-600-theaters-worldwide (Accessed: 19 March 2019). Google Scholar

Netflix (2018c) ‘My ROMA Q&A with Writer/Director Alfonso Cuarón’. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atZ0dx6pUno (Accessed: 5 April 2019). Google Scholar

O’Falt, Chris (2019) ‘Roma: Alfonso Cuarón Proved Dolby Atmos is the Perfect Tool for Intimate Films, not Blockbusters’, IndieWire, 6 February. Available from: https://www.indiewire.com/2019/02/roma-sound-mixing-alfonso-cuaron-skip-lievsay-dolby-atmos-1202041828/ (Accessed: 1 April 2019). Google Scholar

Ondaatje, Michael (2002) The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. Google Scholar

Quesada, Javier (2019) Personal Interview with Author, 29 November. Trans. René Idrovo. Google Scholar

Sims, David (2018) ‘Netflix Finally Changed Its Biggest Rule’, The Atlantic, 5 November. Available from: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/11/netflix-roma-ballad-of-buster-scruggs-theatrical-release-rule/574888/ (Accessed: 11 April 2019). Google Scholar

Sippell, Margeaux (2018) ‘Alfonso Cuaron Says Roma Is Better in Theaters’, Variety, 11 December. Available from: https://variety.com/2018/scene/news/alfonso-cuaron-seeing-roma-in-theaters-home-netflix-1203086472/ (Accessed: 11 April 2019). Google Scholar

SoundWorks Collection (2015) ‘Conversations with Sound Artists: Writing For Sound’. Available from: https://www.dolby.com/us/en/dolby-institute/podcasts.html (Accessed: 9 January 2019). Google Scholar

Statista (2019) ‘Preferred movie watching locations among adults in the United States as of February 2018’. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/264399/preferred-place-of-movie-consumption-in-the-us/ (Accessed: 15 April 2019). Google Scholar

Statista (2021) ‘Number of Netflix Paid Subscribers Worldwide from 3rd Quarter 2011 to 3rd Quarter 2020’. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/250934/quarterly-number-of-netflix-streaming-subscribers-worldwide/#:~:text=Netflix%20had%20195.15%20million%20 paid,Netflix’s%20total%20global%20subscriber%20base (Accessed: 20 January 2021). Google Scholar

Sweney, Mark (2018) ‘Netflix to Overtake Sky’s Satellite TV Subscriptions by End of Year’, The Guardian, 23 December. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2018/dec/23/netflix-to-overtake-sky-satelite-tv-subscriptions-by-end-of-year (Accessed: 15 April 2019). Google Scholar

Thom, Randy (1999) ‘Designing a Movie for Sound’. Filmsound.org. Available from: http://filmsound.org/articles/designing_for_sound.htm (Accessed: 28 May 2019). Google Scholar

Thompson, Anne (2018) ‘Roma Drives Netflix to Break Its Own Rules About Theatrical Release’. IndieWire. Available from: https://www.indiewire.com/2018/10/roma-netflix-rules-theatrical-release-oscars-1202016876/ (Accessed: 11 April 2019). Google Scholar

Udden, James (2009) ‘Child of the Long Take: Alfonso Cuaron’s Film Aesthetics in the Shadow of Globalization’, Style, 43 (1), pp.26-44. Google Scholar

Wenzel, Elizabeth M., Begault, Durand R. & Godfroy-Cooper, Martine (2017) ‘Perception of spatial sound’. In: Roginska, Agnieszka & Geluso, Paul (eds). Immersive Sound: The Art and Science of Binaural and Multi-Channel Audio. New York: Routledge, pp.5-39. Google Scholar

Zeitchik, Steven (2020) ‘Netflix Adds a Whopping 16 Million Subscribers Worldwide as Coronavirus Keeps People Home’, Washington Post, 21 April. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/21/netflix-adds-whopping-16-million-subscribers-worldwide-coronavirus-keeps-people-home/ (Accessed: 22 May 2020). Google Scholar

Media Cited

Bright, David Ayer, USA, 2017. Google Scholar

Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, UK/USA, 2006. Google Scholar

Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, USA, 1941. Google Scholar

Extraction, Sam Hargrave, USA, 2020. Google Scholar

Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón, UK and USA, 2013. Google Scholar

Great Expectations, Alfonso Cuarón, USA, 1998. Google Scholar

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Alfonso Cuarón, UK/USA, 2004. Google Scholar

Hubble 3D, Tony Myers, USA, 2010. Google Scholar

A Little Princess, Alfonso Cuarón, USA, 1995. Google Scholar

Mowgli, Andy Serkis, UK/USA, 2018. Google Scholar

Okja, Bong Joon-ho, South Korea/USA, 2017. Google Scholar

Paris, Je t’aime, Olivier Assayas et al., France/Liechtenstein/Switzerland/Germany, 2006. Google Scholar

Road to Roma, Andrés Clariond and Gabriel Nuncio, Mexico, 2020. Google Scholar

Roma, Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico/USA, 2018. Google Scholar

Roma Città Aperta, Roberto Rossellini, Italy, 1945. Google Scholar

Solo con tu pareja, Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 1991. Google Scholar

The Sound of Roma, Kim Hendrickson (producer), Mexico, 2020. Google Scholar

Touch of Evil, Orson Welles, USA, 1958. Google Scholar

Y tu Mamá También, Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico, 2001. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

IDROVO, RENÉ