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Kinetic Clicking

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In the search to be cool in TV and cinema there is one sound effect any budding director will need to fall back upon: the click.

Think about it, where would the action hero be without the crack of his knuckles and the cock of his gun to let everyone know he was dangerous? How else can we make a nerdy hacker seem cool and adventurous without his fingers blazing across the crackling keyboards?

The "click" sound effect, the sound that accompanies the sudden application and release of pressure between mechanical objects is often used in moments of action. The short, punchy noise is already connected in our minds to dynamics and machinery due to the way that it's made in real life: bits of metal and machinery slide over each other and strike each other rapidly. The entire mechanical keyboard industry relies on a few people who find clicks so pleasant they're willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a mechanical keyboard specifically because it clicks. As a result, audiovisual media will often overlay clicking sounds onto an action not necessarily just for portraying the real life sound but for denoting that something is actually happening at all under the surface, or that it's happening quickly or furiously.

The same applies to mechanical construction, with a ratchet wrench's clicking being more satisfactory than silent tools. But that also makes it more prone to mistakes: The wrench is not supposed to click when applying the actual effort, but when "readying" it for another go.

So we get the Dramatic Gun Cock where a click shows everyone's ready for action or the Land Mine Goes "Click!" to give that "Oh, Crap!" moment as something that the audience possibly still can't see is revealed. Knuckle Cracking can have the cricking of bones under The Hero's skin to show their hidden emotions or to portray their bodies as weapons made ready while Rapid-Fire Typing has the clackity-clackity of button clicking to emphasise a sense of activity, speed or urgent effort in the hacker's action while they're actually in a very still and sedentary position.

Subtrope of Rule of Perception.



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     Anime & Manga  

  • Lyrical Nanoha practically breathes this trope when the intelligent devices get an upgrade. Suddenly they go from being fun little quirky guns to being bad-ass revolvers, or hand-held artillery weapons with shot-gun shells.
    • The devices exaggerate this, when they begin transforming into more complex weapons and reverting back.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has Riza Hawkeye does this to Envy the Homunculus (who was taking the form of Roy Mustang), causing him/her to panic and reveal itself by using its normal squeaky voice.
    • Then she proceeds to empty the clips of 5 guns on it at once.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, whenever Yoshikage Kira detonates one of Killer Queen's bombs, it is proceeded by an ominous, multi-layered click.

     Films — Live-Action  

  • Any of the more drawn out transformation sequences in the Transformers films. They spent millions of dollars figuring out how all the machinery under the surface fitted together, dammit, and the audience was sure as hell going to hear about it.
  • Occurs in Forrest Gump and any number of numerous sequences where somebody has to reassemble a rifle or gun in several pieces and for every motion you get two click or clack noises. The audience will often never get to see this because the actor can only do it while looking like your bumbling uncle making an IKEA cabinet so we'll get it all happening just to the bottom of the screen while we hear all the Kinetic Clicking.
  • The Fast and the Furious film series loves this. Up there with the Dramatic Gun Cock is the dramatic gear change where just before some highly dramatic part of a car chase, the driver discovers some gear they apparently hadn't discovered until now and give the gear box a big crank, labouring each shift, cuminating in the reengagment of the gear disks. If the car has nitros and the movie has a cgi budget then the clicking action may continue as the shot goes into the engine and shows off a whole load of other parts that click before coming out of the exhaust.
  • A common Stock Sound Effect is the clicking of an audio cassette being inserted into a tape deck and set to play.

     Live Action TV  

  • Used symbolically in The Six Million Dollar Man whenever Steve Austin uses his bionics.
  • Every time Slim Charles in The Wire moves his head we get to hear the click of the beads on his braids. Word of God says the clicks were augmented cos they liked the sound. For a series with a strictly realistic soundtrack (only heard when someone has the stereo on in universe), this was the nearest thing to mood music for the tall man.
  • In the days before special sound effects, the Doctor operated the TARDIS' console with the clicks of switches and the ratcheting of dials.

     Web Animation 

  • Used for horror in RWBY by the Nukelavee, a monstrous creature of Grimm. The upper half of its body jerks and twists unnaturally and every one of its motions is punctuated by a click or snap as if it's breaking every bone in its body just to move.
  • Katie Killjoy in Hazbin Hotel clicks and snaps with her every movement. It begs to question what's going on with her body when she returns to her seat fast enough to snap her own neck at ninety degrees. (She's in Hell, so uninjured by it.)

     Web Original  

  • Painis Cupcake's stop-motion movements are usually accented with the sound of a shotgun being pumped.
  • Tether in Enter the Farside has the ability to link two objects together, and can send one flying to the other with a thought. Everytime uses his powers, there's always a click that can be heard.

     Western Animation 

  • In Samurai Jack, Big Bad Aku makes loud snapping noises every time he moves. It sounds like breaking wood, which makes sense when you learn he was once spawned from a grove of trees.

     Real Life  

  • If your hard drive starts clicking, it is too late.
  • Some early keyboards had keys that made a very satisfying click when you pressed down on them. Possibly because most of the early clientele were more familiar with typewriters and expected all keyboards to be as as loud. None of your whisper-quiet, silicone pressure-matrix stuff; these keyboards sounded like a ratchet when pressed.
    • Mechanical keyboards have returned in popularity these last few years, being made by gaming gear companies such as Razer and Steelseries. The main benefit is that mechanical keyboards are nigh-indestructible (each keyswitch has a rated live about ten times that of the membrane contacts in a rubber dome keyboard), able to take the stress and anger any player can throw at it. Many advocates claim mechanical keyboards also give better tactile feedback, while others just find the feel and the sound satisfying, genuine.
  • By far one of the most famous mechanical keyboard brands is the IBM Model M series of keyboards, which have a distinctive buckling spring design which inspired countless other mechanical keyboards to the present day, as well as being responsible for the iconic 'click clack' sound associated with these devices. Here's an example of one in action, courtesy of computer virus reviewer danooct1 testing out the 'Fingers' virus, which requires exactly 1,500 keystrokes to reach its payload. Give it a listen here.
  • The transcript of Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVRs) recovered from crashed planes are usually punctuated with ominous comments about 'Clicking' noises in the background.
  • This is the reason why silent touch-screen buttons are incredibly unpopular among older users, people who have been conditioned to expect an audible click of some sort when pressing a button - this is interpreted as confirmation the machine has received your instruction and is acting on it. If nothing happens when swiping a hot-spot button onscreen, not even a reassuring button-click, older users can get disorientated or assume the thing hasn't worked. For this reason, digital cameras incorporate a shutter-click noise when activated. It isn't needed and strictly speaking it makes no sense on a digital. But it signals, to people used to hearing the shutter-click on an old-style film camera, that the camera has been activated and a photo successfully taken.
    • Modern smart phones have settled for creating a short vibration to confirm that a tactile keyboard letter has been entered or that a command has been received.
    • Another reason for the shutter-click on mobile devices is to prevent people from anonymously taking photos of others without them knowing. In some countries, smartphones are legally required to disallow the muting of this sound — these laws are often short-lived, as perverts and spies are often willing to go to great lengths to learn how to hack their devices specifically to remove the shutter-click sound.
  • Arcade games. While the modern enthusiast scene generally favors silent buttons and joysticks for smooth action, to many nostalgic players the experience just isn't the same without old school clicky buttons and joysticks.
    • Controller manufacturers have taken hear to this belief and have released arcade sticks for PC/console fighting games. They cost at least a hundred dollars, but some hardcore gamers still buy them specifically for the clicking buttons.
    • One of the draws of Japanese sticks in particular is the satisfying click when registering a push.