#1
(I couldn't quite decide where to put this, I thought maybe the pit... but that didn't seem to fit either...)

Ok, Everyone's been there. You buy your ticket, get your WAY overpriced food and snacks, and get to your seat. The movie opens, it's so friggin loud that you have to cover your ears, then moments later a scene comes up with dialogue... And you uncover your ears, strain as hard as you can and even lean over to the appropriate speaker to hear it and .... you can't hear anything. Not because the previous scenes explosions rocked your ears into submission, but because they have the dialogue WAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYYYY down in the volume. Like a mouse's squeak would be heard over, then BOOOM another explosion occurs and you like to shit your britches as your ears are assaulted again.


Why is it that movies, and likewise T.V. shows are doing this as of lately? I am a staunch advocate of dynamics in all audio media. But this is ridiculous, no? Why must we be forced to cover our ears one moment then strain the next?... I know part of that is the theater knows that movie's lower "volume" sections have to be boosted and thus you end up with over the top volume elsewhere, but... Why does this occur in the films and tv anyway?

I don't know how many times at home, when a movie comes on tv or I put in a blu-ray or what not... I have to hold the remote in my hand ready to go up or down at the change of a scene. Up for the dialogue, down for the action. I know action scenes and such are supposed to be loud. That's why I got a good enough 5.1 surround for such loudness, but my god! I have to turn it WAY WAY WAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY Up for the dialog... like from -15.5 or so all the way up to +5.0 sometimes... then have to take it down to like -25.0 then.......... you get the picture, what is up with this? I got a higher grade of 5.1 surround to avoid the pitfalls of the extremely cheap ones, like this sort of stuff, and it still can not be avoided as it's hard coded into the movie or TV show... wtf?


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TL;DR
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Why are the dynamics of movies so VAST? Quite scenes in movies and tv are so quiet you can't hear them even when you boost it beyond reason, then back down you go before the explosions rip your eardrums off...?
"grateful is he who plays with open fingers" - Me

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Last edited by Outside Octaves at Sep 8, 2013,
#3
Well of course explosions should be louder, lmao.

But should dialogue be so low that you can't hear them? I mean if it's at a "normal" level of talking, you should be able to easily make out what is being said without having to resort to closed captions/ subtitles, nor should you have to turn it up that much more, right?


Now in music, yea we need our dynamics back. In movies? How about keeping the dynamics about the same only raise up that dialogue to where we don't have to fool with the volume, or strain to hear it, especially at theaters... I didn't pay 30 bucks to see a film just to end up not hearing over half of it... and my hearing's fine.


And I'm just using explosions vs dialogue as an example. It's all over every type of movie or show atm. My mom got me to watch a couple episodes of The Haves and Have nots.... Half the damn time I'd be turning up the volume to hear what the hell is being said, then the next scene would pop up and be loud as hell and would have to be turned down... both are pure dialogue. Or take for example the last two harry potter films... very popular films, and yet they suffer from the same weird crap going on in the volume levels. And it's not just dialogue that goes low, anything at any point can be too low, and the same can go for loudness. I know that volume is a fairly subjective thing depending on taste and such, and I agree that both movies and music need dynamics in volume, but um.... this is WAY too much dynamics as far as the floor of the volume is concerned.


I mean I can pull out any video tape (vhs) and most older dvds (like The Lord of The Rings and on backwards from there), and you don't have this problem. Everything is at comfortable levels. Take The Matrix for example... Now there's a film that was perfectly mixed, mastered, and such... The volume ranges are wide and yet everything is clear and can be heard without having to jack the volume up and down...


I mean now a days this is all like they have 2 or 3 different guys heading up the mixing/mastering of the scenes.... one guy thinks you should have the volume at 15db (for example) where as the other thinks you should have it at 35db... I mean come on
"grateful is he who plays with open fingers" - Me

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Last edited by Outside Octaves at Sep 8, 2013,
#4
No answers here, but I found the same thing watching last week's episode of Breaking Bad. When what's-her-name was talking to her therapist. I missed about 70% of that. And our TV was cranked to as loud as it would go.

CT
Could I get some more talent in the monitors, please?

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#5
I know right? This is getting ridiculously out of hand. And it doesn't seem to matter which audio stream you use. PCM, Dolby Digital, older Dolby Surround, DTS, DTS HD MASTER, etc... all of em do it, stereo, 5.1, 7.1.... nothing changes how this happens so it's in the original mix... and it's in all movies and shows from about just beyond the LoTRs era. I've gone through several DVDs of older shows like Home Improvement, Rosanne... they all don't seem to have it, yet if I pop on an episode of Breaking Bad, or any HBO or AMC show from today... guess what... you can't hear Dialog... not one bit unless you press the volume into destructive levels like +5db and beyond.... I shouldn't have to go anywhere near going above -10.0db, I mean that should be WAY more than loud enough... but nope.


Again, I'm not against dynamics, NOT AT ALL... but if you can't hear the most important parts, be it dialog or anything else that isn't at explosion level volume... well? I think the dialog just needs some help no?

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edit:

Well, you can hear some dialog from today's shows and movies, but it seems a good deal is inaudible. Just to clear that up.
"grateful is he who plays with open fingers" - Me

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Last edited by Outside Octaves at May 26, 2014,
#6
Well, there are actually several reasons for those problems, and they all kind of come together. I have quite some experience in that field, so let me try to explain it.

First of all, there is an (unofficial) convention called "Dolby 7", this means that all movies are mastered in a way that, if the sound system your cinema is operating is actually working the way it should, the operator only has to turn up the level to "7" and the movie should be sounding perfectly good. Now, in the 8 years I’ve been working in cinemas I've seen maybe 5 or 6 movies in which this was actually the case. Most of them are way louder then they should be, just as you experienced.

It also is WAY harder to mix a trailer/movie/advert/series then to mix a song. part of that is because you have to put in ambience, voice, FX and music. Mixing 20 seconds of film can take you days if you want to sound it good.

The biggest problem is budgeting I believe. Since it can take SO much time to mix a movie just the way it should sound, many of the smaller studios just don't have the money to go big. Especially since no one really gives a damn about how that movie sounds. Maybe you and maybe me, but the normal guy that has no experience at "what sounds good and what not"? No, they just want it to be loud and in your face.

So, the smaller studios (or independent studios, for that matter) have to outsource their audio. 20 years ago, there was just no way this could've been done. You needed the equipment, the consoles, the 35mm projectors, the venue.

Well, today you mix in the box, on the fly, to a teeny-tiny screen on your laptop if you want. (yep, done that). That makes it cheaper and available for people who don't know jack shit about what they're actually doing. I have this problem with EVERY single advert in my mediablock that I'm showing. 20 years ago, you had your adverts on 35mm, and someone put a lot of money into it. Today you download your clips from a FTPserver. The audio is pretty much done by someone who sits at a desk with two desktop speakers in front of him and just tries to make it halfway decent.

Well, you say, in adverts maybe, but surely not for a movie. You're right, mixing a movie can't be done by someone like this, but the same concept still applies. You can have some relatively inexperienced mix your movie on a pretty budgety mixingsystem. And for a lot of smaller studios and independents this is the only way they can have they're audio sound at least decent.

Now, what about the majors? They have a lot of money. And you can hear that. There is a reason that only Warner, Sony, Disney and sometimes Fox mix their movies in 7.1 or, beware, even DolbyAtmos.

(BTW, I'm not sure if this is just like in Germany, but Dolby is pretty much the only thing everybody uses. SDDS is discontinued, and there is not that much more that is actually competitive)

Best example for that is "300 - Rise of the Empire". Best mix I've heard in a long time. "Frozen" was quite good as well. "Gravity" was good. The last Hobbit wasn't quite that impressive, but at least it didn't hurt your ears. Spiderman was bad, but that’s just Sony. Fox has that problem as well. X-Men has one of the worst mixes I’ve ever heard.

So, budgeting is a quite a big part of it. But there is more. Let's talk about venues.

Building a auditorium that sounds good? Expensive. Very expensive. The bigger the venue gets, the more problems arise. Now, even if the venue sounds "good", not every spot in that venue sounds the same. The closer you sit to the front, the louder the voice will sound in comparison to the rest. Sitting not quite in the middle? Well, you're off center to the surround-speakers, thus one side will be louder then the other. You're sitting in the back? Yeah, you might see more, but goodbye mid frequencies. Oh, and are you're ears aligned to the centerspeaker? I guess not. Just slightly above or below drastically alters the sound you receive. The material the floor is made of? Matters. The material the seating is made of? MATTERS A LOT. Because you have lots of seats in your auditorium. The angles your walls are? Matter a lot, because of echoing. The material the screen is made of? Matters a lot. Finding the perfect sounding spot in such case is pretty much pure science.

Now, what about you're living room. Well, you're living room is not an auditorium. And that's pretty much it. The movies are mixed in a sample auditorium, that really doesn't sound like your living room.

But it's just about the voice being so much quieter, why so much dynamic you say. Again, this is because very very few DVD's and BluRays get a second mix especially for that medium.

Why you ask? Well, because it's expensive of course. Oh, and also because everybody just downloads the movies anyways and the distributors just don't give a **** about the few people that are actually trying to enjoy there movies anymore. Just like with having a decent color correction. Nobody cares, and I really can't blame them for not caring either.

Now, there are more reasons to that problem! In case you didn't have enough for now.

Ever seen a cinema sound system up close? It's nothing like your 5.1 or 7.1 system you have at home. Pretty much the only thing it shares is those numbers.

The first thing to consider is frequency range. In a cinema, we stop at around 10k hz. Why? Because no one hears the difference. Also, the speakers are just so big, they really struggle by putting out more then that.
(I'm talking about big auditoriums by the way, not those small independent cinemas that use a beamer and a bluray player and a home stereosystem. They sound bad to, but for different reasons.)
and your sub? Well, most of the time the sub cut's pretty hard at around 75 - 85 hz. And that's just something that your tiny subwoofer at home can't deliver. Because it's to small. So a lot of engineers tend to put more emphasis on the lower frequencies so that a) you can hear them at home, and b) the stupid people who are half deaf by too much clubbing can have their face blown away in the auditorium.

Another thing to consider is channel separation. Really hard channel separation. Voice goes to the center, ambience to left and right, FX to surround and the sub. You might want to play around with it, just don't. You might think "hey, that guy is talking from the left, just put his voice on the left channel", but that just sounds horrible. Because you're not used to it, because the left speakers never aligned with the head, and a sudden change of scene will completely confuse the viewer. Also, where do you put your ambience then?

So, cinema sound systems and your homestereo system are nothing alike. Also, most of the systems are old. Most cinemas just don't have the cash to go buy a new system every 5 years or so. Or, god forbid, to pay someone to actually install it. And then recalibrate it. And then do it again six months later, just because the processor broke. Or a employee broke it. Or you had to change a speaker. Or your screen. Or your seating. Or your floor. Or a half a million other reasons.

Soo yeah, I’m sorry for ranting and that giant wall of text, but I get those problems alot. And no one really cares about it, I guess.

Also, I get the feeling I forgot something so just ask if something is not quite clear.

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#7
All is quite clear. And Believe me, I already knew most of what you told us there. Especially about venues, and speaker placement and your place in that or even the home variation.

But there still is no real excuse for major movie productions to not at least pop their dvd/blu-ray into their own home cinema and give it one last go . Yes the home cinema isn't the same for any household, and yes it's expensive to remix... but I'm not talking going through and remixing every moment, just the dialog mostly. I mean when all you can hear is the fx and what not during a pivotal scene where the dialog maters... something is wrong. Hell the same issues arise in theaters, even the best with the best and newest equipment showing the biggest budget movie(s) in their proper 48fps 3D on the best screen, room, speakers, and equipment. Just no excuse, especially for the large budgeted projects.

Now I do get it for the adverts, independent, and small-budgeted films, I get it. But there really is no excuse if you're backed by New Line, Disney, Sony, or any other large studio that is giving you a hell of a lot of money (that has to be payed back yes... I get that too). ... I just don't see the excuse of money being a problem when it's backed by the likes of those. Yes because of pirating things are more expensive, still not an excuse. Yes less are going to movies now and less often at that because pirating has made the movies and the concessions much more expensive ... they still get their money back on any film generally considered good, and then some which makes up for the flops for the most part. Still, not an excuse.

Again, for small studios I get it... but if it's made for home tv viewing, like most broadcast stuff is (HBO, AMC, HALLMARK, Discovery, etc.)... this is where things just go into "oh f*** no you didn't just put out a p*ss poor mix like that? And you got an award for this crap? You know?

Yes, of course, it all too often is mixed with desktop stereo in front of em , lol... seen that myself when watching some of these behind the scene things....

Still, I don't see the excuse being valid. Even on a stereo speaker system that cost less than 10 bucks USD, you can't hear $&*#.


I don't mean for this to be a rant , I'm just more or less pissed off at all the excuses I hear out of people in the know. Wish I could get us together and force (through petition or something else) them to mix and master properly... ESPECIALLY if you're putting out a "True-HD" or other such loss-less track or set there of.

And jfyi, when I say can't hear something, it isn't because of location that I'm talking of. It wouldn't matter weather or not you are in the perfect placement of x, y, z, and time... with all the best equipment placed just right... You still wouldn't hear a lot of what you should be able to, weather in a theater, at home, or hell I bet even in the original studio mix room . It is hard, but that's why they are educated to the levels they are usually... or so I hear lol.


I guess you and I, and the few others in this thread, are the only ones that care


"grateful is he who plays with open fingers" - Me

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Last edited by Outside Octaves at May 26, 2014,