Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound: Theory Explained

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The moving image can be found everywhere. You can see it on TV, in Film, in games or in animation, on the Internet, in advertising and on hand-held devices such as mobile phones and tablets. Sound is also ever-present in our lives. While sound and the moving image can both exist separately, there is a relationship between them, especially in the media.

Sound can be broken down into three categories: voice, music, and sounds, such as ambient sound and sound effects. Each of these kinds of sound adds something to the Image and changes the feel of it.

Diegetic and Non-Diegetic Sound, Explained

Once more, sounds can either be digestive or non-diegetic. Diegetic sounds are those that link to something visible on screen, and can also be heard by the characters. This includes dialogue and the sounds of objects/things on the screen. Non-diegetic sound is, by contrast, all of the sounds that the audience hears but the characters cannot. This could be narration, ambient sound, “mood” music, and some sound effects. This blog post will also refer to the two forms of sounds in a number of examples ranging from TV to Film to animation. All of the sounds featured in the examples to follow have been created somehow. This analysis will also explain how these sounds are created, and who is responsible for creating them.

Voice in the Moving Image

Voice is frequently used alongside the video. It could be in the form of dialogue, narration, or interviews. Often, the use of voice with the Moving Image helps communicate ideas to the audience easily and it can change the tone of the piece.


In a scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, hearing the conversation helps the audience to understand the series of shots they are seeing. Without the dialogue, the audience would never understand the conflict going on between these characters. It helps the audience understand that Ron is extremely frustrated by how slow their search for Horcruxes is. Also, without the dialogue, the audience would never understand that Harry and Hermione made a crucial discovery in their quest to destroy Horcruxes.

This scene is a clear example of diegetic sound because the characters are able to hear the sound that the audience is hearing.

Without the sound, the visuals do not set the tone of the scene. By hearing the characters booming voices yelling loudly at one another, the audience can understand that this is a tense moment.

The dialogue in this scene was recorded during filming by using boom microphones. These large microphones hooked up to a boom pole suspended over the actors’ heads pick up their voice clearly so that it can be synced to the visuals later on in the editing process. In this case, a boom operator is responsible for capturing the sound.

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