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Why movie dialogue is getting harder to hear....

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by TonyCzar, Dec 8, 2021.

  1. TonyCzar

    TonyCzar Forum Resident Thread Starter

    PhIladelphia, PA
  2. YardByrd

    YardByrd rock n roll citizen in a hip hop world

    nice to know it's not ONLY my hearing that's going... I turn on subtitles for everything these days... can't understand a lot of dialog in newer flicks...
  3. That article sure went a long way to explain a few simple things.
    All Rights and RickH like this.
  4. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley Forum Resident

    North West England
    There's a simple answer.

    "Back in the day" most of the "big screen" actors had worked in theatre where there's no close-up microphones. So they had to be able to project their voices. it's all about enunciation.
    Pick any of the classic "film noirs" and you'll understand the dialogue, however old you are.
    An aid to this is was also the fact that the "background music," called in those days "incidental music" was muted when the actors were speaking.
    These days it's more like "foreground music." If you start noticing it, it's because it's ramped up, in attempt to get more drama into a scene. So it can mask the dialogue and then lot of actors "try to talk like Brando."

    With many films on TV, I put on the subtitles.
  5. Spitfire

    Spitfire Senior Member

    Pacific Northwest
    I use subtitles for everything anymore except for live stuff.
  6. Holerbot6000

    Holerbot6000 Forum Resident

    Funny - I thought same when reading the article. I watch a lot of 40's and 50's movies and the dialog is almost always crystal clear, even in the Poverty Row type films. I guess I can understand making unintelligible dialog an intentional artistic choice but I think more often than not, it's just an oversight or one of the issues mentioned in the article. I have had several experiences with DVD's where the dialog in the film is impenetrable and then you watch one of the extras and it will show the same scene with the dialog perfectly clear. I assume it's because supplemental material is likely not digitally processed to death. I wonder sometimes if the pursuit of dynamic surround sound effects is at the expense of clear dialog.
    Dyland, Mesozoic Mike, fogalu and 4 others like this.
  7. Scott57

    Scott57 Forum Resident

    Glad I'm not alone.

    I noticed I have a harder time understanding the dialogue when it's an English or Australian actor adopting an American accent or when the actor uses a guttural, grumbling style often meant to convey some sort of intensity (as used in Vikings and the Walking Dead).

    I never, ever need to use sub-titles when watching Turner Classics Movies (unless it's a1929/1930 film with a poor soundtrack).
  8. MrSka57

    MrSka57 Forum Resident

    Syracuse, New York
    Thanks for these! Glad I'm not the only one.
    What irks me more than the movie dialogue is the bombastic music on History Channel
    documentaries that drown the narration. Not every sentence is of such world-changing import
    that it needs squealing synths and pounding drums to enhance the story of David Sarnoff and RCA.
  9. rcsrich

    rcsrich Forum Resident

    We got into using subtitles years ago when the kid was small & often sleeping in the same room, so we’d have the volume cranked way down. Now we’re so used to it, it’s odd not to have them on…
  10. Maggie

    Maggie like a walking, talking art show

    Toronto, Canada
    It has probably been 100 years since "most" American movie actors had extensive professional experience in theatre.

    It's different in the UK and Australia where a robust, publically-funded theatre industry is well-integrated with the TV and movie business. But since the collapse of vaudeville, most US movie actors have had limited theatre experience and vice versa. Same with writers and directors for that matter.
  11. GT40sc

    GT40sc Senior Member

    Eugene, Oregon
    Sorry, but I found that Slashfilm website almost unreadable, with tons of ads and pop-ups...

    I gave full credit to the author, and also cleaned up the paragraphs to make it more readable...

    This is a very good story, of interest to many of us...

    If the Gorts find this unacceptable, it can be deleted...
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2021
  12. rmath84

    rmath84 Forum Resident

    Off topic: Ad-blocking browser add-ins are your friend.

    On topic: I like that some streaming services have an option to add subtitles when replaying. It breaks up the watching of the show but not as much as just guessing at the dialog.
    Coppertop Tester and Scott57 like this.
  13. Keith V

    Keith V Forum Resident

    Secaucus, NJ
    They should brickwall movies and leave music alone.
    raphph, andrewskyDE, Karnak and 9 others like this.
  14. wwaldmanfan

    wwaldmanfan Born In The 50's

    I do find that when streaming movies on my home theater setup it is quite difficult to understand much of the dialog. I attribute some of that to a significant hearing loss in one ear, but also the fact that modern movie dialog is often mumbled by the actors, as the article suggests. I have found a workable solution: headphones.
    fogalu likes this.
  15. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley Forum Resident

    North West England

    I said "back in the day" and mentioned specifically "film noir," most of which is at least 70 or eighty years ago so my, "most" applies.

    and I don't find contemporary British made films have dialogue that's any clearer to Americans, than their's is to us.
    Ginger Ale and YardByrd like this.
  16. John B Good

    John B Good Forum Hall Of Fame

    NS, Canada
  17. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Personal Survival Daily Record-Breaker

    Yet another reason why I largely dislike modern movies... as if I needed one.
  18. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    I agree as many of my BD are too low.
    Keith V likes this.
  19. tommy-thewho

    tommy-thewho Senior Member

    detroit, mi
    Thanks for starting this thread.

    I always thought it was just my hearing!!
    Jazzmonkie likes this.
  20. Bingo Bongo

    Bingo Bongo Music gives me Eargasms

    Ottawa, Canada
    Sometimes I also turn up the volume on the TV, as well as the surround system. Works for me!
  21. guitargal

    guitargal Forum Resident

    I usually use closed caption on almost anything that s later than 1980 s- movies, tv shows, even music. Like many here, I thought my hearing was losing something when everyone onscreen seemed to be mumbling . But I believe many of these latter day performers just haven't learned to speak clearly and articulately for the audience; untrained, it seems, by school or stage.

    This was brought home to me when I watched the recent concert on tv with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga . I applaud the Lady for offering Tony the platform for what is likely his final performance before an audience. I thought he was terrific - still in grand voice and still connecting to the audience with intimacy, energy and grace. And man, he could still
    hold a warm toned note as long and wide as the the San Francisco Bay.
    But when they did a Cole Porter duet - Tony 's 95 year old voice sang out the lyrics as clear as a bell- but Gaga LMAO - I couldn't make out a word she sang in her garbled delivery of a mystifying mishmash of mumbles. :biglaugh:

    Proof enough in the pudding for me .
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2021
  22. aussievinyl

    aussievinyl Appreciator Of Creative Expression

    I’ve been using subtitles now for a while though my hearing’s good. Sometimes I won’t buy if there’s no subtitles. Old TV shows on DVD are bought based on whether subtitles are offered. I like to watch at low volume sometimes.
  23. Doghouse Riley

    Doghouse Riley Forum Resident

    North West England
    A lot of TVs for a few decades now have different sound settings, even thirty years ago the "elephant in the corner" LG CRT TV we once had had them including a 5 band graphic equalizer.
    There is often a "speech setting" for sound. I have my current Sony android TV, set on "Clear Audio+" which is a bit of an oxymoron when it comes to some contemporary films. But is perfect if I'm watching some vintage film noir recorded on a thirty-year old VHS machine.
    I keep still use this machine until the films I recorded on, "Ted Turner TV" decades ago come round again so I can record them on one of my Humax recorder/players.
  24. ZackyDog

    ZackyDog Forum Resident

    This movie has a lot of volume fluctuations. It's a good thing that we were watching at home and had a remote control.

    forthlin likes this.
  25. Fastnbulbous

    Fastnbulbous Doubleplus Ungood

    Washington DC USA
    Interesting article. I think an overreliance on sound design has a lot to do with it. Hyper-manipulative soundtracks that "tell" you how to feel about a scene practically render dialog superfluous (Jurassic Park Effect). Actors that consider mumbling the pinnacle of their craft. Time- and money-strapped directors who don't have luxury of humoring the "sound guy". Hollywood is an industry concerned with delivering product. They don't care if it's barely intelligible, so long as it gets a strong opening weekend.

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