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Interesting article about the rising problem of inaudible dialog in movies.


Mark LeBlanc
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"As an old fart actress (okay, 46) I don't think actors are being trained for diction anymore. It was never a big thing in the US but still taught in the UK/Canada. If you know how to speak clearly and project the worst mix/SFX has nothing on you. A lot of actors go straight to film (where the training is different than stage) and you miss that whole step."

Movies from the thirties and forties are much easier to understand than the current crop even though the sound gear then wasn't quite as good.

Best,

Larry F

Lectro

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Movies from the thirties and forties are much easier to understand than the current crop even though the sound gear then wasn't quite as good.

Best,

Larry F

Lectro

Thank you, Larry, I was just going to say this myself. I have said many, many times that the older movies really sound better than almost anything we do today and it has nothing to do with the technology (which was, of course, "inferior" compared to today's standards). The actors knew how to talk! Most of the great actors were actors first, then possibly became stars. And in the UK, few if anyone wanting to act would ever set foot on a set without a lot of training first, it just wasn't done.

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The author brings up some good points, but I'd like to know how he's monitoring these films, and if he's talking about theatrical showings or home video screenings. Too often, I find people who are trying to listen to films at home with two stereo speakers (or worse, with the crap built-in speakers in the TV set), and the center channel dialog gets lost in the LtRt mix. With a separate center channel speaker, you have a fighting chance of getting the dialog to cut through.

The other issue I often hear in home video mixes is that the dynamic range goes from way down here to way up here, blowing me out of the room. Having the dialog at -35, followed by a music peak and an explosion at -1, is a bit much. I think they need to compress the dynamic range a little more on some of these theatrical films, and bring the low-level dialog up a few dB. I don't hear these problems at all with network TV mixes.

--Marc W.

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The mumble method is definitely a trend of younger actors, which I assume is because it's perceived as being more natural, but is usually perceived as unintelligible . On a recent production about the south, when I mentioned that some of the dialog would be lost because of mumbling, I was told by the LA actor that I was just not used to a Tennessee accent.

gt

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Many years ago I was Audio Director for the Australian Open Tennis. I received a phone call from our Master Control telling me they were having complaints from viewers about my putting in tennis ball effects.

After scratching my head for a while I switched my monitoring from the output of the OB van to On Air.

Someone had put a DBX unit on the output of the station Audio. So every time a ball was hit the DBX Pushed the ball to ZERO VU.

One of the reasons Network/Broadcaster audio sound so different is they go through more processes.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've always thought part of the current mumble business is an effort to seem ambivalent about one's character, about being an "actor" at all and about going to the effort to make a movie. Anomie is found attractive, apparently.

phil p

Phillip definitely wins "word of the day" for using "anomie" in his post. Hats off!

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I've always thought part of the current mumble business is an effort to seem ambivalent about one's character, about being an "actor" at all and about going to the effort to make a movie. Anomie is found attractive, apparently.

phil p

I see the same thing with DSLR "cinematographers." They have an ambivalence about focus.

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The mumble method is definitely a trend of younger actors, which I assume is because it's perceived as being more natural, but is usually perceived as unintelligible . On a recent production about the south, when I mentioned that some of the dialog would be lost because of mumbling, I was told by the LA actor that I was just not used to a Tennessee accent.

Thanks for my LOTD.

I can hear the actor now, (with a kick of the dirt) "It's jist that y'all don't know how we here in these here parts talk."

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One of my favorite posts of all time is this gem by our very own host. I hope it's okay that I quote it (if not, please let me know).

From Jeff Wexler:

"I know it can be done: good level, intelligibility, emotion, the whole thing. I used to tell a story to actors who might listen, about Peter O'Toole, that he could whisper and it would carry for a good city block and you could understand every word. I had the pleasure of working with Peter on a little movie called "Creator" and asked him if this story that I had been telling all these years was really true. He stepped back from me where we were talking, walked about 200 feet and then spun around and said in the most glorious "stage whisper" I have ever heard "Yes, Jeff, it is true!" Made my day."

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I definitely "hear you" on the dynamic range of Television and Movies in a home theater type setting. One of the issues is most people do not know how to properly calibrate their home theater setups. There are also settings in most modern receivers that will compress the dynamic range in order to not have the comic (which was hilarious!) above really happen!

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  • 3 months later...

The author brings up some good points, but I'd like to know how he's monitoring these films, and if he's talking about theatrical showings or home video screenings. Too often, I find people who are trying to listen to films at home with two stereo speakers (or worse, with the crap built-in speakers in the TV set), and the center channel dialog gets lost in the LtRt mix. With a separate center channel speaker, you have a fighting chance of getting the dialog to cut through.

The other issue I often hear in home video mixes is that the dynamic range goes from way down here to way up here, blowing me out of the room. Having the dialog at -35, followed by a music peak and an explosion at -1, is a bit much. I think they need to compress the dynamic range a little more on some of these theatrical films, and bring the low-level dialog up a few dB. I don't hear these problems at all with network TV mixes.

--Marc W.

+1

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The mumble method is definitely a trend of younger actors, which I assume is because it's perceived as being more natural, but is usually perceived as unintelligible . On a recent production about the south, when I mentioned that some of the dialog would be lost because of mumbling, I was told by the LA actor that I was just not used to a Tennessee accent.

gt

I fight this constantly in NYC. Any EXT environment here is a nightmare for dialog unless it's the dead of night, and even INT environments are constantly noise-polluted. So I ask the AD to please communicate to the director that the actors need to speak up for the dialog to be heard, and kindly mention to her/him that I'm not attempting to alter their performance, but that if they want their actor/actress's dialog to be heard then they simply have to speak up. After all, one thing I've learned very young is that its all about dialog, dialog, dialog.

Never works. They just nod and say, "It'll be okay, you're doing great, don't worry," or something equally as ignorant of the movie making process.

I'm to the point now where I let them know that, "No, it will not be okay, and you will not be able to hear what your actors are saying when we are done with this scene."

And of course, you can't tell someone that doesn't understand sound / audio engineering that turning it up in their headphones just brings the noise floor (read: background noise) up with the dialog, so even though you can technically hear what's happening now, it won't cut in post.

Just speak up. Is it really that difficult?

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Great posts guys on a really sore subject.

In the 80's I worked with a still "famous" actor who would after a take ask me personally "was that ok because

I dropped the voice out of that one"?

By the 90's New Zealand actors thought that acting was about whispering which yes is dramatically effective

provided you are on a stage and in close up or wired.

I worked on a series and a sweet young actress turned up for one ep.

She was so quiet I always reasoned the director has asked for the cutest actress and casting miss-read the memo

and had gone ahead and found the quietest actress.

I approached the director about this ( a verbose Australian referred to as "The Croc") his reply was do you always

grumble about stuff in the morning?????

BTW When I was a boom operator in the 60's experienced actors would delay a line until the boom had swung to them!!!!!!!!!!

Since then I have told actors "there is nothing to record - either do it now or do it later"!!!!!!!

Actors performance does not affect your invoice!

mike

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I never ask an actor to speak up, I just lower the gain of my Comtek feed until the directors do it.

Mumblecore is the new wave of acting. Not all actors of course, but too many. The directors are equally to blame. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a director say, "bring it down"....

CrewC

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Mumblecore is the new wave of acting. Not all actors of course, but too many. The directors are equally to blame. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a director say, "bring it down"....

CrewC

Yah someone should have told Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain that mumbling isn't acting.

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