Leading article: Sounding off

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The Independent Online

There is deception at the heart of all good art. Were it just to tell the plain old truth it would be fact not fiction. But for fine art you need the finest quality of deception. Which is why the latest piece of Hollywood high technology is so to be lamented. Until now, sound effects have been added to movies using time-honoured techniques which date back to the days of the first talkies. The breaking of a human bone is recreated by the snapping of a stick of celery. The sound of a bird's wings is reproduced by the flapping of a pair of gloves. Corn starch in a leather pouch provides the noise of boots crunching in snow. Even today's highest-tech films, with their cutting-edge, computer-generated imagery, still rely on these wonderfully old-fashioned methods.

But now boffins have invented the sound equivalent of CGI imagery, and Hollywood's Foley artists – who take their name from Jack Foley, the man who dubbed the sound on to Universal Studios' first talkie, Showboat – find their days are numbered. Perhaps, Luddite-like, they will turn to the real equivalents of what they have spent their lives approximating – scrunching cellophane (crackling fire), slamming shut a heavy tome (punching a human body) or a firing a heavy staple gun (which sounds like a 44 Magnum) – and life will imitate art.

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