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Doug Beatty

Does Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar' Have Major Sound Mis Issues?

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I found myself trying to fight my way to hear what they were saying placing me in the location with the characters.

And as a re-recording mixer, I find this completely unacceptable.

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And as a re-recording mixer, I find this completely unacceptable.

Unless that's what the director wants. It's his/her story that is being told. Maybe he wants the audience to work to hear what's being said at that point - or maybe the words aren't really that important b

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Brian Liston, on 17 Nov 2014 - 11:33 AM, said:

"It still sounded better than Superman from last year. That is still the worst sound in a major picture I have ever seen."

 

 

Really? I had no problem hearing any of the dialog in Superman and found the overall mix balance although a bit loud in some areas to be very well done. I've watched Superman many times on HBO and listen on these monitors so perhaps it's the system you're listening on that brings you to your conclusion. 

post-22-0-24818700-1416277388_thumb.jpg

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Talking with one colleague here; he pointed out two interesting things in my opinion.

 

The first thing it was about what Mr. Wexler and Simon Hayes said about dialogues. Director, PSM and post team know the dialogue from A & Q, because have read it and heard it so many times; but the audience have only one chance to hear it.

 

The second thing is about scenario - script. Both Christopher and Jonathan Nolan have wrote (put) so many dialogue in scenes with huge amount of sound effects (spacecraft). Not to cut the dialogue, but few lines; not whole conversation. In combination with music we had this results.

 

After this movie I can understand the points from Randy Thom about sound design in pre writing script and during.

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I finally had the chance to see Interstellar.  Yes it was LOUD.  Maybe not quite as loud as Dark Knight Rises but close.  There were quite a few lines that got drowned out by sound effects and music.  There were a few lines that were just mumblings even without sound effects and music.  There was EXTENSIVE use of the LFE channel.  At some point the rumblings started to get annoying.  There were not much obvious use of the surround channels, unlike Gravity. 

 

IMO, overall the mix was not that great. However, it was not as bad as some described.  Maybe I went in expecting the worse.  Despite these sound "issues"  I still enjoyed the movie.  I would have enjoyed it a lot more if those dialogue lines were not buried though.   

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we shall be able to watch and take note of what fellow directors think it is worth (awards wise), as well as the overall reaction (best picture, and other categories)...

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I didn't mind the mix, I was caught up in the visuals. At several points I "felt" low sub tones rumble but didn't hear it. The low frequencies were loud in the mix but I still heard all the dialogue. I did not feel like I lost any info

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I enjoyed Interstellar. It was loud alright, but not bothersome. As I left the theatre I heard a lady say "I couldn't hear what they were saying half the time!" and she was right. I was prepared for  it, and got used to it. Some bold moves in the mixing. However, there were a couple of moments when the less than intelligble dialogue bothered me. In the scene where Michael Caine is dying in the hospital, with no big effects or music going on, and some critical plot points being delivered, the dialogue was so muddled I had to strain to figure it out. Inexplicable. Another movie goer had this to say at the end of the movie: "my leg's gone to sleep!". that's one long movie. Also saw Birdman. The dialogue was crisp and clean throughout, with a brilliant soundtrack. Different approach for sure.

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I'm a bit baffled at all the comments. Regardless of my opinion about the film's content and/or visual filmmaking merits, I found the following (this was a "regular" screening room with, I think, digital projection):

 

-the soundtrack was loud, but the mix was well weighted

-low-frequency rumbles were used extensively, appropriate to the story and the relevant scene(s)

-I was able to understand every simple piece of dialogue, except for the end of the scene in which Michael Caine's character's dies

 

I'm not a fanboy of Mr Nolan's, and I'm 50 years old - not particularly a fan of loud movies.

 

I find it hard to believe that my experience is so different from what I've read here - sometimes I wonder whether the screening I saw belonged to a different mix, or who knows what. The venue was room 10 of AMC Promenade 16 in Woodland Hills, FWIW.

 

Cheers,

BK

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I really enjoyed it.

I will say that when I notice parts of the theater structure rattling and rumbling I find it distracting and it takes me out of the story.. I guess I need to find a better constructed theater!

The only parts I found painfully loud were the moments where they crank the score up to 11 along with the SFX.

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THR: " when director Christopher Nolan admitted he deliberately mixed his dialogue lower than Zimmer's thunder-chords in key scenes, he may have endeared Interstellar to every living composer. "
 

 

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/oscars-why-interstellars-unorthodox-sound-751459?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=hollywoodreporter_therace&utm_campaign=THR%20Race%20Alerts_2014-11-28%2011%3A00%3A00_HLewis

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THR: " when director Christopher Nolan admitted he deliberately mixed his dialogue lower than Zimmer's thunder-chords in key scenes, he may have endeared Interstellar to every living composer. "

Most living composers are not endeared by Hans Zimmer, though.

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They didn't remix Interstellar did they?  I just saw it a second time a few weeks later in a different theater.  I didn't notice any of the sound issues that stuck out like a sore thumb for me on the first time around.  No one that was with me noticed any issues either.  I assume it is the difference in theaters or maybe I already knew what was coming so I didn't have to concentrate as much?  Not sure, but it was definitely a much more enjoyable experience that the first time.

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Just saw it, Ward Theaters in Honolulu.  First off, let me say that I'm not generally a Hans Zimmer fan, in fact, not much into scored music in film at all.  I generally like Nolan's film, although find his predominantly mainstream films a bit of a departure from films I generally like, such as those from Lars Von Trier, for example.

 

That being said, I feel the film was fantastic.  The score was something a bit special from Zimmer and may have added something to the film, where I typically find music a distraction from, or at least a crutch used by (the) film in lieu of actual storytelling or cinematic technique.  I completely respect Nolan's intent on making the experience paramount, trumping the theatrical priority of intelligible dialogue - you know, sometimes it just wasn't THAT important to know exactly what was being said, the story was being carried by the scene played out on the screen.  This may be a case of the emperor without any clothes, where Nolan is just backpedalling when he makes that claim, but I buy it - and if actually intended - bravo.

 

The modern aesthetic in films gradually leads us down a road of increased realism, or at least the impression of realism, and I'm happy to see this migration occur at the expense of some of the "perfection" of traditional film tenets - it does not detract from the obligation of cinema to competently tell a story.  There exists a professional and legal responsibility to keep audience members' eardrums safe, but when attempting to bridge the gap between realistic sound effects and sound immersion, if it is at the expense of some dialogue intelligibility, so be it.

 

As an aside, I feel it would have been braver for Nolan to choose an edit that minimized or eliminated some or all of the score, and still tell a successful tale.  Maybe that is the commercial challenge of time and studio limitations, but as much as I respect the artistic merits of the Zimmer score, I would still have preferred to experience the two arts separately, as music, and as film, and not necessarily merged together.

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And as an update: caught a screening Wednesday night and it was WAY too loud. At one point (with my earplugs in) I whipped out my iPhone SPLnFFT app and measured a sustained peak at 113.5 dB (not exaggerating). Very, very, very loud. And the dialogue was buried.

 

The movie had some very good moments, the photography was beautiful, terrific visual effects, but was way too long and had giant gaps in logic. A pal of mine called it "the best-made terrible movie in years," and it's hard to argue with that. Wonderful on a technical level except for the mix.

 

 

This pretty much sums up my experience.  That, and I can no longer take McConaughey seriously.

I wore earplugs the entire time.

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Well.... as Nolan fancies himself a story teller, I would think that he is choosing to lose his audience for a few seconds or more as they turn and ask their friend next to them what was said if they can't understand it.  That choice in the mix then pulls you out of a potentially important dramatic moment and the story teller/director loses the spell they had worked so hard to create. May as well watch it at home then.

I can't go along with it but then I haven't seen the movie.

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Yep dunno about all the fuss - I only missed understanding the old boys last few words as he died - that was pretty obviously performance/intended - and I'm only a 1/4 deaf..... if you walk out of that because of the sound you might as well give up on films all together IMHO.

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So I went and saw the film at the Arclight in Pasadena and found that the sound worked well other than a chunk of serious overload on some Matt Damon helmet screaming. Regarding unintelligibility, there was only a small section in the beginning with the flight section that didn't seem to need explanation beyond the visual. I didn't feel that I missed any key element in the opening flight section there.

 

I really felt bad for the 1st AC who's hospital deathbed shots of Michael Caine and Ellen Burstyn were beyond soft. I was sitting there thinking about that rather than listening to what they were saying. A friend expressed to me that Nolan doesn't allow monitors for anyone other than himself so, if that is true, he is falling on his own sword as any AC would have corrected for the horrible shots that they ended up using at such key moments. On a par with Sinatra in Manchurian Candidate in having a key moment losing it's impact due to bad decisions beyond the control of the AC.

These are not stylistic choices to me rather just poor decisions posturing as creative ones.

The film was OK. Definitely not my thing but I've come to terms with the time I gave up to see it.

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I liked the film but didn't love it.

 

There was a few lines I didn't catch midway through the film but it didn't affect my enjoyment until literally the last scene. I was trying to make out what was being said when the end credits appeared. It was a disappointingly hollow way to finish a film of that duration and engagement.

 

There's indistinct dialogue in films all the time and it can be fine. The famous chest buster scene in Alien is filled with mumbled dialogue and it serves to give a documentary feel, making the viewer lean in and focus their attention more, along with subtly removing a facet of their control. All priming them for the big moment.

 

With Interstellar the moments of indistinct dialogue for me were in simple scenes with 2 people talking to each other conveying story information. If it was a creative choice then it sure did nothing for me.

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