Monday, February 06, 2006
Film Study - MOS
MOS is a standard motion picture jargon abbreviation, used in production reports to indicate an associated film segment has no synchronous audio track.
The abbreviation "MOS" is very peculiar and has no obvious meaning. Two main legends are attributed to the "birth" of the notation:
MOS may stand for "Minus Optical Stripe," a note from a production sound mixer, notifying recipients that he or she did not expose an optical sound track for a particular scene or take.
The more popular theory holds that MOS stands for either "Mit Out Sprechen" or "Mit Out Sound," a broken-English phrasing of "Without sound," as a 1920's German-emigré director might have said it. According to this theory, a German director, recently transplanted to Hollywood (probably Ernst Lubitsch, but possibly Fritz Lang or Erich von Stroheim), was asked by a script supervisor how he would like to shoot the next scene of the day. The director responded "Mit Out Sprechen!", and so this was noted as a joke on the production reports and the camera slates for the shot.
Regardless of the term's history, I love a well executed and purposeful MOS scene, especially when there are characters talking but the sound is omitted for the purpose of focusing the viewer's attention on something else. A cool example of this is the end of Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight when JLo apprehends Clooney. The dialogue and sound fx tracks drop out and are replaced by musical score as the cops arrive and she explains the situation to a detective. We the viewers know plenty well what's going on, so instead of having to suffer through verbal explanations of it, we are given closeups of Clooney and his POV of JLo, with their (for lack of a better description) love theme playing in the background. What could be a rather rudimentary scene now has more emotional punch.
A scene earlier in the film where Clooney surprises JLo at a bar features cross cutting of the present moment and a future moment as well as MOS shots and time shifted dialogue. They have a dialogue in the bar and then proceed to her hotel room; the two scenes take place back to back in the script, but Soderbergh combines them and uses the tools listed above to increase the emotional impact and interest to the viewer. It's a masterful scene which I could break down further but is sort of pointless without a clip.
I'm currently putting together a group of examples of my favorite scenes that use these techniques.
Got some favorite MOS moments? Post em below in the comments section.