Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Wolfwalkers, Smellovision and Smellogaming

I gotta wonder...
The Secret of Kells more or less tripped out on the glory of medieval visual arts. Song of the Sea wove the eddies and currents of its little musical theme on screen. I thought any further Saloon Cartoon might deal with a third physical sense and there are only two left anyway, touch and the two-in-one chemical senses (smell and taste representing different receptors for the same information in different media.) Now, me, I'm partial to the notion that a well-directed movie revolves around lending objects physical presence, around the sense of touch, but going by its title alone Wolfwalkers must be focusing on the other remaining sense.

I mean come on, if you're going to make a movie about turning into a canine, you just cannot avoid the topic of sniffing
-and butts.
But anyhoo, I gotta wonder, how would you pull something like that off? Flipping perspectives into two-dimensional medievalism worked wonders for The Secret of Kells. Movies already have soundtracks, and even if Song of the Sea was a bit lacking in its aural milieu it managed to get its point across as to the importance of a heartfelt hum-along. Assuming they're not going to distribute Wolfwalkers with nose-tubes, the notion of how to render a chemical presence on-screen is a fascinating one.

Usually it's dealt with as a matter of green miasmas or superimposed images but that's kind of skirting the issue. Smell is not something emanated by an object as distinct from itself (unless we're talking bottles of perfume or scent glands) so much as a quality of that object, a gradient of its presence and its continuation in surrounding space over time. Scent comes across as a portion of that very object sloughed off, eroded, rarefied, extended beyond solidity. Unfortunately the one major point of reference for smell in film, Perfume, relied mainly on actors' reaction shots to get the intensity of a stench across, refusing to deal with the sense itself. That's no help.

My random unwarranted speculation about Wolfwalkers aside, what I'd like to see (in both movies and video games) is scent represented as an alteration of an object's texture or visual richness. For a smell-dependent movie character or playable video game character, objects would become more clear as they get scented (either by approaching or being downwind) depending on their olfactory properties. The world would be made up of drab, faded, low-contrast grayscales and tans until scents come into play, at which point some objects (plain rocks or water) would remain indistinct while others (a steaming food dish) would gain a wealth of resolution and depth. Some objects may be grainy (masked by other scents maybe) or stand out in uncomfortably garish, eye-popping reek.

Then of course you could also weave scents into sound. I don't meant specifically that scent should have a sound of its own (that would be green miasma territory all over again) but that pleasant or unpleasant scents could alter the soundscape accordingly. A fearsomely or appetizingly distracting smell might efface the sound of everything but its source. The sound of a character's voice could grow richer and more emotive upon approach into smelling range while remaining tinny and MIDI-simplistic from long range. Scary-smelling voices could sound harsh, metallic, grating, while a bottle of perfume or cologne could alter a character's voice into whatever tones we naked apes consider appealing.

Anyway, as far as Wolfwalkers goes, it's not like I have a choice. I'm hoping for something stylish and interesting like Kells, but good or bad, demi-lupine me's gonna watch the crap out of that thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment