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"Why Tenet's muffled dialogue is a very modern problem"


GuyInLyonFrance
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THIS!

"When he watches films or TV shows at home, he turns on the subtitles in case of clarity issues – he is far from the only one – and will limit the TV’s dynamic range. (On home TVs the dynamic range is more extreme than in a cinema: this is why you often have to turn up the volume for dialogue, then down again for action."

 

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The "he" in PMC's quote above is Matthew Price, which adds some serious weight:

 

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"Mathew Price is a production sound mixer who has worked on The Sopranos and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. “When they take the sound we record on set and kind of undermix it, it feels like, ‘What did we try so hard for?’” he says. Price believes the problem is partly that modern directors have so many more tracks to play with, causing “track overload”, the result being that “the dialogue gets short shrift a lot of the time”

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3 hours ago, PMC said:

THIS!

"When he watches films or TV shows at home, he turns on the subtitles in case of clarity issues – he is far from the only one – and will limit the TV’s dynamic range. (On home TVs the dynamic range is more extreme than in a cinema: this is why you often have to turn up the volume for dialogue, then down again for action."

 

I also turn subtitles on for everything I watch and my hearing is still good. Part of it is the speakers facing down or backwards in modern flatscreen TVs. I do not turn dynamic range control on since it only makes the problem worse IMO. A very dynamic mix with a cheesy AGC or some other "dynamic range control" on it sounds worse to my ears than turning the volume up and down. I have a dim/ mute switch on my remote that drops the volume to half, then full mute, dialog is always full volume, action scenes are at half, works like a charm.

 And on home TVs the dynamic range isn't more extreme, it just seems that way because in general people watch TV at lower levels than movie-goers do it the cinema and lower level dialog quickly disappears into the general domestic noise floor since the overall listening volume is much lower to begin with.

Properly understood, better S/N ratios and additional headroom in digital delivery systems are there to do away with sound-degrading artifacts  (noise floors, compression and limiting artifacts, etc) when recording and reproducing sounds at various levels, they are not for shifting loudness to more extremes on either end, that's just counterproductive.

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16 minutes ago, tourtelot said:

It is a Post Production problem that has been going on for many years. 

 

That's discussed in the article. The writer talked to Ron Bochar to get his perspective. I gotta say, for and article in a general-interest newspaper/website, this was more thoughtful than I expected... Not too long; worth a quick read...

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2 hours ago, Jim Feeley said:

 

That's discussed in the article. The writer talked to Ron Bochar to get his perspective. I gotta say, for and article in a general-interest newspaper/website, this was more thoughtful than I expected... Not too long; worth a quick read...

Any spoilers?

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Ha, Ontariosound. When I watched live sports, I now prefer to watch recorded sports from previous seasons when it was more sport and far less politics, I listen on my 5.1 system and mute the center speaker entirely in order to remove the sports casters taking about a player's high school grades or that the player's 3rd cousin died in a tragic fishing accident. Really, play by play is getting worse in the US. It is pure pleasure just listing to the game and refs in stereo.

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This "muffled dialog" thread reminds me of what I thought when I saw the 2010 remake of True Grit with Jeff "mumbles" Bridges. His performance, in my opinion, was very distracting. I kept thinking, "put your teeth in or take the marbles out of your mouth. Enunciate the friggin words."

 

The mixer must have been pulling his hair out trying to get intelligible dialog. The boom op probably got in trouble a lot trying to get his mic inches from the performance while not being able to keep up with the day's side sheets.

 

I bet that mixer said, "Why do I bother."

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  • 1 month later...

Great article! I really like the conclusion to, that the main culprit of this problem is too much technology. Too many toys. Too many ways to express your “style.”  I believe that is a much larger problem with the world, especially young people.
 

I used to think this would ebb and flow, but now I feel that we have gone too digital.  There’s no going back.  It’s kind of like guitar amplifiers, the old tube battleships still sound the best, but everyone is using new digital ones.  No one is going back and doing analog sound design. That will never happen again.  Instead I must lay in wait for folks who use technology with the goal of improving the product, rather than exhibiting their style.
 

Another factor that wasn’t mentioned at all, is that audiences tune out for absolutely no reason all the time these days. Modern culture teaches us that if you are too focused, you are bad. You must have room to answer texts, update your profiles, and answer emails constantly or you are failing as a citizen of today.  Short attention span is the name of the game, and it is also what children and adults have been taught for the last few decades.
 

I am glad I was born in 1972, where I could have a childhood without the Internet or cell phones.

 

Dan Izen

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