I was randomly reminded of the amazing aspects of the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan today. I remember when I first saw it, I was struck by the genius of the following sound design:

When a bomb went off near the camera, the audio would go almost silent, like the viewer were temporarily deafened (along with the characters), and there would be a slight ringing sound, which then grew louder and then the audio would come back in a rush.

Saving Private Ryan is the first movie I ever saw to use that technique. Is it actually the first movie to feature it? It certainly seems to have popularized the concept, as I've since seen it in many movies and TV shows.

1 Answer 1


I have unashamedly copied a paragraph from this rather comprehensive article covering tinnitus as a movie trope -

The Cine-Files - The Tinnitus Trope: Acoustic Trauma In Narrative Film

They are discussing silence vs. whistling noise/ringing in ears [tinnitus]

...although Arthur Hiller’s The Out of Towners utilized the effect as early as 1970, onscreen ears remained mostly silent for the rest of the 20th century. The exceptions are few, but include important instances. The archetypal example of attenuated, tinnital sound deployed to represent wartime trauma occurs in Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985), after the child-soldier protagonist survives an artillery barrage in a forest. Come and See is often mentioned as an influence on Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), which uses low-pass POA [Point of audition, the audio equivalent of Point of view] sound in its first major battle and the tinnitus effect in the last. But while Saving Private Ryan is often mentioned as the early exemplar of this effect in American film, James Mangold’s Cop Land (1997), not only precedes it, but actually pivots psychologically and narratively on hearing loss and the sound of tinnitus.

They have also provided a fabulous timeline...
Imported here to preserve in case of 'web-rot'

enter image description here

I just discovered that our sister site, Sound Design, had a part to play in that article - https://sound.stackexchange.com/questions/33129/name-and-examples-for-the-tinnitus-effect-after-explosions-in-films There's also a link to the complete article as a .pdf

  • 7
    Wow. Wonderful answer. I'm only waiting on accepting it because it's tradition, I can't imagine how someone could beat it. It does look like SPR did certainly popularize it. Apr 5, 2016 at 20:01
  • It was a darn good question :) I felt sure there must be something out there on the subject... & there was. I can only really claim at best some good Google-Fu ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 5, 2016 at 20:04
  • 7
    I wonder if video games had a hand in popularizing it as well. I seem to recall that the original Call of Duty (2003), which was a monster hit and had some sequences clearly inspired by Saving Private Ryan, used this effect a bit.
    – Dan C
    Apr 6, 2016 at 2:50

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