Is movie dialogue getting harder to hear for you?

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Dillydipper, Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Harrisburg PA
    Caveat: I spend a lot of hours under headphones, and I'm sure this affects how I perceive speakers-in-real-space mixing...oh, and my hearing certainly isn't what it was, at age 52...;)

    But, do you find muttered dialogue getting buried further into the overall mix than in decades past?

    I'm wondering if current mixing standards, and more attention being paid to the surrounds, isn't diminishing comprehensibility in the quieter passages. And I'm not talking the bloated blockbusters, as much as (what used to be) the "smaller movies". I'm becoming more aware of actors' mumbling and babbling important plot points, wheras these used to be practically "stage-whispered" to the boom-mic in years past.

    I guess this isn't as much an issue if you're watching a film on The Sundance Channel, over a surround-sound-in-a-box system, where the center speaker is at least bookshelf-sized, while the rears are often smaller than a Subway sandwich. But, if I'm halfway-back in the theater, shouldn't I be able to get all the plot points without asking Michael Caine to speak-up? :confused:
     
  2. wayneklein

    wayneklein Deus Irae

    Not in theaters but on DVD or Blu-Ray if you listen to the 5.1 mix in stereo the dialog gets buried in the mix. It could be your hearing, the mix, etc. as we age we lose the ability to distinguish certain tones and the mix could also be overwhelming the dialog tracks. Unfortunately a lot of action movies mix the music and effects much higher than dialognor its in competition with the dialog.
     
  3. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Vancouver
    Yes, I've seen quite a few movies in recent years where I felt like essential information was thrown away in mumbled or babbled dialogue, and then you spend the rest of the movie going "What did he say" and "Why are they going in there?" You get the impression they're not talking about anything important and then you realized you missed some line the whole movie hangs on. Particularly in fast-paced thrillers or political stories. I mean, you don't want them drawing you a map, but there needs to be some kind of middle ground.
     
  4. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "drop needles" or "pull triggers".

    Location:
    Western NC
    Oh, poorly recorded dialogue isn't a new thing. Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound" was 1945, and you have to ride gain through the entire film to hear anything Ingrid Bergman is saying!
     
  5. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Harrisburg PA
    I would think focusing all the attention you can on Ingrid Berman's lips would be an added benefit...! :idea:
     
  6. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    Somthing that grates on my mind, is the loud volume on sound effects, feet on the floor, keys in pocket, etc., relative to the dialogue I"m trying to hear

    More on topic, do movies take more pride is reproducing lousy talkers, wierd accents, obscure words, for authenticity?

    Subtext - subtitles required :)
     
  7. meme

    meme Member

    Location:
    United Kingdom
    One of the excuses given by actors and directors is that it is more realistic.

    Yeah right, this is the movies for christ sakes!

    I think I first noticed this while watching Se7en, not that Brad Pitt said anything worth listening to.
     
  8. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    1. "ride gain"?

    2. I have tinnitus, which manifests as a high-pitched hiss in both ears, nearly all the time. The volume goes up and down, depending on what I eat (carbohydrates and coffee turn up the volume). As a result, I watch/listen to TV with closed captioning on. To have the TV volume so loud I could hear every sound, well, that would be just too loud. I hear most things, and I only look at the CC when I miss something. I consider it essential to TV or movie watching.
     
  9. Larry L

    Larry L Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Watauga, Texas
    Afraid so, sonny. Subtitles are your friend.
     
  10. Marty Milton

    Marty Milton Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Urbana, Illinois
    I have been relying on the close captioning feature more and more, espacially movies with people who have Irish and Scottish accents.
     
  11. Rachael Bee

    Rachael Bee Miembra muy loca

    It's the overload of junk noise in the surround mixes that's made it hard for me to hear dialog for the most part. I've expressed that opinion to some working sound mixers over at AVS.

    My solution has been to set my front centre level 2 db above the other channels. I've stopped discs and jacked the centre up even more a few times. I think I went to +4 db for The Presige. Nothing can help a film like Any Given Sunday but to just turn off everything but the centre channel....:shake: That film is just a sonic mess.

    Surround sound is just fine and dandy but mixers have just abused it. We don't need realistic, overbearing ambience sounds when it's necessary to hear some key dialog. However, that's what we frequently get.

    Don't be afraid to jack up your centre channel. On rare occasions I have turned mine down to +1 db but I'm far more likely to pause the film and go to +3 db. I tried +4 on Any Given Sunday but it didn't help. The sonic soup was just too thick in so many scenes.
     
  12. jkauff

    jkauff Forum Resident

    Location:
    Doylestown, PA USA
    There are exercises you can do to improve this problem. First, rent the entire Robert Altman catalog.... :shh:
     
  13. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Harrisburg PA
    Yeah, that's all well and good, but (despite the fact that I brought up mixing for home use) I'm really referring to theater listening here. I can goose any channel at home as much as I want. At the cinema, I'm at the mercy of whomever has "tuned" the auditorium.

    I'm just saying, where home video has become the eventual goal of most films nowadays, I think the dialogue has gotten away from sound people who are now mixing for reality and effect, as opposed to comprehension. It happens in the theater mixes first, before the home video product (presumably) gets remixed.
     
  14. Rachael Bee

    Rachael Bee Miembra muy loca

    My two worst films in the cinema for dialog and ear pain were Stir Wwarz Phantom Dentist and Any Given Sunday. I missed dialog and got a headache from both.
     
  15. harmonica98

    harmonica98 Well-Known Member

    Location:
    London, UK
    I had to turn the subtitles on when watching Miami Vice on HD-DVD and I have very good hearing normally. Awful film as well, really wasn't worth it!

    I'm not that impressed with the sound design on a lot of films these days - too much emphasis on slam, not enough on clarity and balance. However, over at AVS it often seems that that's what the public wants!

    Tom
     
  16. JBStephens

    JBStephens I don't "drop needles" or "pull triggers".

    Location:
    Western NC
    I have to turn the volume ALL THE WAY UP to hear what Ingrid Bergman is saying, then the music come BLASTING in, and I have to turn it back down. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Riding gain.

    Guess they didn't have leveling amplifiers in 1945. :D
     
  17. Blencathra

    Blencathra New Member

    Location:
    UK
    It's hard for me due to my old gripe about intrusive musical scores. When will film-makers wake up to the fact that music ONLY enhances the mood when used sparingly, with the correct volume regarding the ambient noises and more thought given to the actual piece? (Rhetorical question - I don't expect things to change any time soon). Without discression, musical scores, currently extant in film-making, destroy nearly all moods.
     
  18. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    NS, Canada
    In real life, hearing is intentional, we focus on what we want to hear. When a movie gives us a 'realistic' soundscape, we are unable to exercise the same screening we use in real life, and the rustling of the woman's clothing is like Niagara Falls.

    It's terrible on a lot of the Masterpiece Theater costume dramas.
     
  19. Blencathra

    Blencathra New Member

    Location:
    UK
    ^I must confess to not encountering this phenomena - most surround soundtracks are well done - from the perspective of owned DVDs in my quite large collection.
     
  20. ROLO46

    ROLO46 Forum Resident

    Mumbled dialog is very fashionable

    Its more real than projected

    Its the performance that counts in a visual medium

    I heard all that boxllocks from directors when I was a Sound Recordist
     
  21. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I have it on nearly all the time. I miss it most if it's absent from any UK movie, and certain US dialects, too.
     
  22. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I saw Alpha Dog the other night, and it was a little weird how most of the actors had perfect elocution. Their characters were part of what I guess is called "wigger" culture, but there wasn't a single consonant dropped at the end of any word. Not a mumble was heard. I don't even pronounce all my "r"s or my "ing"s, but it seemed as if these kids, between beatdowns and drug deals, spent their time in elocution classes.
     
  23. Jay F

    Jay F New Member

    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I don't go to the movies anymore.
     
  24. tomhayes

    tomhayes Well-Known Member

    Location:
    San Diego, Ca
    I have the same experience of many here: dialogue at the movie theater is much easier to understand than dialogue on a home system.

    Watching "John Adams" on HBO this weekend I had to turn on the subtitles because I couldn't hear half of the dialog. I certainly heard that fly they had in the surrounds for about 20% of the movie, but basic dialogue was hard to make out.

    (Sometimes in Battlestar Gallatica I can't make out what they are saying even AFTER I read the dialogue and rewind to listen to them saying the words.)

    4 years ago I had my hearing tested just because of this - and my hearing was well within normal limits to hear and understand human speech.

    I think it may be that at home I don't have the sound at "reference level." I don't especially want to hear gunshots as loud as real gunshots when I'm at home relaxing. Sometimes I do, but sometimes not.

    Maybe they could have a "home" mix that puts dialogue up high and effects down low that doesn't rely on the volume equalization features of some receivers.
     
  25. Blencathra

    Blencathra New Member

    Location:
    UK
    We don't either - loads of reasons not to, no reasons to want to.
     

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