Almost all science fiction movies and games that ever existed have one glaring omission in common: you hear sound in space.
A typical example would be ship’s thrusters, all sorts of explosions and the swish of a vessel flying by. Not to mention the burning sound of stars and the low humming of nearby planets.
This is, of course, impossible. There’s no sound in space because there’s no air (or any other medium) to carry the sound waves. I’m sure you’ve heard that a million times already.
I’ve seen scientists and people who are otherwise critical of similarly preposterous omissions let sound in space slide. The rationale always being that the scenes would just be too boring otherwise.
As if humans beings were somehow incapable of enjoying scenes that don’t produce every noise our intuition expects.
If you think that, please go watch Firefly and listen carefuly. They don’t pretend there’s sound in space. You’ll see a plenty of scenes of crew members manipulating cargo in space or the ship firing up its engines that are completely silent.
And it doesn’t take anything away. In fact, the lack of sound creates a tension and sense of unfamiliarity that the Universe should absolutely evoke.
But here’s the thing: not all the scenes in space are silent. If they want to set a certain mood, they play background music or characters communicating over the transmitters.
Shockingly daring, isn’t it?
Silence is a powerful tool. Just like white space in visual design, silence provides contrast and can be used to emphasise other elements.
Next time you’re watching a combat film, notice how everything goes awfully silent after that grenate explodes, killing an important character. The guns are still firing everywhere and yet the scene is either utterly silent or the sound of war is muted and poignant music dominates the scene.
Even movies that can blast loud sound effects from start to finish are discovering that it’s good to tone things down from time to time.
So why can’t we do the same in settings that actually have a physical explanation for the sudden lack of sound?