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Dialogue Mumbling: BBC's Nazi Drama SS-GB

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VAS   

'I will mumble this only once': BBC's Nazi drama SS-GB hit by dialogue complaints

SS-GB, the BBC’s new alternative history miniseries, has become the corporation’s latest primetime costume drama to be marred by complaints about mumbling. The audience for the second episode of Jamaica Inn fell by 1.6 million after the initial complaints. The BBC’s controller of drama commissioning, Ben Stephenson, was apologised to viewers and promised the corporation would examine the sound issues that plagued the first episode.

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/feb/20/i-will-mumble-this-only-once-bbcs-new-nazi-drama-ss-gb-hit-by-dialogue-complaints

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I love that the response from the BBC is always the same. "We'll look at the levels before our next broadcast". 

It's not the levels, it's the intelligibility. That can't be fixed by turning up the levels.

They ought to talk to producers and directors and instruct them to monitor actor delivery. We can only record what they are delivering, and reproduce the mumbles perfectly.

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Amazing.  It used to be that Brit shows could be counted on to have brilliantly intelligible DX because they had great engineering AND highly trained actors.  So now they have succumbed to the Hollywood malaise of actors believing they come off as more serious and real when they don't enunciate.   The greats can inhabit a nearly incoherent character and still be understood.  This is what happens when you hire models as actors.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with how the sound was recorded or mixed.

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Bash   

I can confirm that SS GB was well recorded (I watched it last night) and is a good mix/dub. So, as ever, the problem would appear to be an actor's performance which is a kind of grunting whisper (a bit like a quiet cough whilst moving one's lips) and the usual spineless combination of director and producers who don't have the balls to mention to said actor that his words are inaudible and/or incomprehensible. I don't understand why Producers in particular don't look at day one rushes, and then give notes to the relevant actors or HoDs before any problems become too great.

I know of a TV series that rescheduled after day 2 because the leading actress' wig was awful, and another (BAFTA winning BBC series) where the no 2 actor was replaced after a day because he was a bit 'weird'. Yes this takes balls on the part of the producer or director, but they are being paid fortunes to have balls and to make strong decisions. Why is it different with actors? If the sound was awful, or the focus soft, after a day or two then we'd be long gone.

Kindest, sb

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As mumbling seems to become more and more of an issue recently, I'm starting to wonder if there are maybe deeper reasons for this phenomenon. Maybe a generational thing? Maybe because we bow our heads down a lot due to smartphone use, the chest area and lungs become neglected, the breathing becomes flatter, and it gets harder for us to speak loudly and clearly. 

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It seems to have become a thing for the current crop of actors, that the way to sound more dramatic is to whisper.  Not a properly trained stage whisper, mind you, but low down under the breath. 

Perhaps, one of these days, there'll be someone up the food chain savvy enough to figure this out and give credit where credit is due.

 

 

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budster   

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39038406

I watched SS-GB and didn't have any problem understanding what was said and the speakers for my TV are rubbish. I am with Christian in that I think some of it is a generational thing. I also think that a lot of people don't actually listen with any concentration, they just "expect to hear". 

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VAS   
1 hour ago, budster said:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-39038406

I watched SS-GB and didn't have any problem understanding what was said and the speakers for my TV are rubbish. I am with Christian in that I think some of it is a generational thing. I also think that a lot of people don't actually listen with any concentration, they just "expect to hear". 

"Expect to hear". As me and every human in the world. Paying attention is something different. You don't want sound artifacts in your room, sofa, cinema etc; blaming the viewerer or listener isn't something, I don't know, good? Hmmm

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The audience having to strain to comprehend dialog is a tool that some directors have used effectively as a story telling device.  That is not what is going on here.  When actors mumble or speak in an unclear manner as a matter of course it becomes a distraction for the audience, pulls them out of the story and makes it less likely that they will "stay with" the show.  Directors on the set may just be turning up their Comteks and IFBs so they can follow the dialog, much of their broadcast audience will not be listening that way, and has been shown, will depart in droves.

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I've often had gain up for ISO, but kept fader low for the exact purpose of having director struggle to hear whisperers. Keep other actors at normal levels. Works pretty well in some circumstances. Not a technique I'd always employ. 

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ao   

in the past, I have had the occasion to talk with the director and script about intelligibility, with little traction.  pointing out that the audience won't have the script in front of them,  sometimes gets them thinking

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Agreed, Ao. that's my usual tack. We all have read and heard the script many times over, but the audience gets to hear it only once before they give up and watch something else...

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mikewest   

Coincidentally I had a visit from an old friend who works from London on TV dramas.

He mentioned this subject and said he had worked on several series with this problem.

Added to mumbling local English accents mumbled make it worse.

Yep BBC said it was transmission problem then blamed the sound mixer.

After many things were said, now directors are told to ensure that their actors speak up!!

My friend added that he worked on American series and had no problems.

( my thanks to Mark Hinkley)

mike

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mikewest   

My sentiments totally Chris.

I have even told actors that there's nothing I can record

"do it now or do it later" it does not affect my invoice!

mike

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mikewest   

Well well!

Watched a BBC drama last night

"One of Us" 2016

Low level deliveries generally, much lav use (a 2 camera shoot)

Sound so cooked that close ups and wide shots sounded the same.

Quality was compressed, bass light and so much pushed high frequencies

You could hear the words but it sounded so un-natural and unpleasant!

mike

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pindrop   
On 26/02/2017 at 1:54 AM, mikewest said:

Coincidentally I had a visit from an old friend who works from London on TV dramas.

He mentioned this subject and said he had worked on several series with this problem.

Added to mumbling local English accents mumbled make it worse.

Yep BBC said it was transmission problem then blamed the sound mixer.

After many things were said, now directors are told to ensure that their actors speak up!!

My friend added that he worked on American series and had no problems.

( my thanks to Mark Hinkley)

mike

Quite, could some indistinct dialogue (whether buried in delivery or by over heavy use of sound effects) be an affectation, an attempt to cover up something? A lack of a dramatic engagement or confidence perhaps, desperately trying to squeeze more out of material that doesn't lend itself, because it's not inherent in the script, style, or production value, springs to mind?

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mikewest   

Well many New Zealand actors whisper as they feel that that is dramatic, intense and great.

It is up to the sound mixer to advise the director about this issue and I have talked to actors myself!!

mike

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I've been calling that the "Hollywood Mumble."  It's a serious problem for me. On one occasion I put a GRAY BAND countryman B6 on the back of a guy's earlobe and still wasn't able to get enough gain to raise his voice above -24 dB.  The woman acting across from him couldn't tell when he was finished delivering his lines, because his lips weren't moving enough to know when he was talking.  It was hilarious; there would be huge gaps after each of his lines, where she was trying to figure out of he was still speaking.  The boom picked up NOTHING.

It's a problem I've noticed with actors from Los Angeles, although it's starting with Vancouver actors too.  Sometimes it seems like they're competing to see who can speak quietest. I hate it! 

In one film, we shot a scene that was supposed to be in a crowded nightclub with a band playing, and they delivered their lines so quietly that when you watch it, it seems implausible that they'd be able to hear each other in a NORMAL room.  It drives me crazy.  I want to give them those tiny Phonak receivers, one in each ear, and blast death metal at them over an IFB system so they can't hear themselves or each other unless they speak at a level that doesn't break the audience's suspension of disbelief.

 

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No mention of sound whatsoever. Pass me the hot poker. To me, this is just a bunch of pretentious fluff. It's the most annoying conversation I've had to sit through. Listen to them rationalize. Argh. Rant over. 

https://indiefilmhustle.com/mumblecore/

Edit: I stand corrected; It was named by a sound person. Either Eric Masunga or Randall Good, likely being a bit sarcastic and frustrated.

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1 hour ago, Rachel Cameron said:

No mention of sound whatsoever. Pass me the hot poker. To me, this is just a bunch of pretentious fluff. It's the most annoying conversation I've had to sit through. Listen to them rationalize. Argh. Rant over. 

https://indiefilmhustle.com/mumblecore/

I did Mumblecore pioneers Duplass Brothers' third film. They made it clear in the interview that everyone gets wired if they're in a scene. Scripted or not. Booms will be kicked out of the room in favor of three cameras, if there's not enough room. They were clear that audiences simply don't notice or care about dialog if the story is "real". It didn't go down that way on the day, and we got pretty good sound, but I had to negotiate a few things to preserve the performance over a camera angle they wouldn't use. It was a constant struggle to convince them they'd want a piece of critical dialog, as they truly believed they had reinvented the wheel. 

Not sure any of their films have made money. But the kids in this video probably saw the films and thought they were awesome. 

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