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The rising problem of inaudible dialogue.

post #1 of 86
Thread Starter 
A friend pointed me to this Den OF Geek article which I find my self agreeing with. Though I have not seen the article's two main examples, The A-Team and Inception, I have noticed the trend of mumbling actors and overly ambitious soundtracks.

The most recent film I recall having trouble hearing the actor's words over the the other elements in the sound track was Sherlock Holmes. Most of the scenes in that film were fine. The moment where I was completely lost as to what was being said was when Holmes is introduced to Watson's fiancee. The background soundtrack of the restaurant completely obliterated all meaning in Holmes's analysis of her. I had to re-watch it with subtitles when the DVD came out to get what was said.

The article goes on to cover television and such, but one more thing I would like to include which the article doesn't really touch upon is DVDs.

Apart from anything else, the problem seems to get worse when a film is released on a DVD. No matter how I adjust my stereo or how many TVs I play it on I have come across a number of DVDs in which the other elements of the sound track overwhelm the dialogue. TV shows are the worst offenders and I've learned my lesson to never buy anything online unless it has subtitles available.

Strangely enough it's the British programs I find the most inaudible, especially the mystery programs released by the BBC. Some may dismiss this by saying that I simply can't understand some British accents, given my example above, but I defy anyone to watch a episode of Inspector Morse or Poirot on DVD and not come to a point where the music drowns out everything.

Has anyone else experienced this?
post #2 of 86
I experience it all the time, both in the theater and at home on DVD. It's gotten to the point where I just have the English subtitles on by default whenever I watch a DVD...I'm tired of rewinding to try and decipher what that last line of dialog was.
post #3 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleeplesslumber View Post
A friend pointed me to this Den OF Geek article which I find my self agreeing with. Though I have not seen the article's two main examples, The A-Team and Inception, I have noticed the trend of mumbling actors and overly ambitious soundtracks.

The most recent film I recall having trouble hearing the actor's words over the the other elements in the sound track was Sherlock Holmes. Most of the scenes in that film were fine. The moment where I was completely lost as to what was being said was when Holmes is introduced to Watson's fiancee. The background soundtrack of the restaurant completely obliterated all meaning in Holmes analysis of her. I was lost and had to re-watch it with subtitles when the DVD came out to get the full effect.

The article goes on to cover television and such, but one more thing I would like to include which the article doesn't really touch upon is DVDs.

Apart from anything else, the problem seems to get worse when a film is released on a DVD. No matter how I adjust my stereo or how many TVs I play it on I have come across a number of DVDs in which the other elements of the sound track overwhelm the dialogue. TV shows are the worst offenders and I've learned my lesson to never buy anything online unless it has subtitles available.

Strangely enough it's the British programs I find the most inaudible, especially the mystery programs released by the BBC. Some may dismiss this by saying that I simply can't understand some British accents, given my example above, but I defy anyone to watch a episode of Inspector Morse or Poirot on DVD and not come to a point where the music simply drowns out everything.

Has anyone else experienced this?
I've had this happen to me with DVDs. It got better once I got a 5.1 sound system, since most DVDs are mixed for this set-up.
post #4 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleeplesslumber View Post

Strangely enough it's the British programs I find the most inaudible, especially the mystery programs released by the BBC. Some may dismiss this by saying that I simply can't understand some British accents, given my example above, but I defy anyone to watch a episode of Inspector Morse or Poirot on DVD and not come to a point where the music drowns out everything.

Has anyone else experienced this?
Speaking specifically to Inspector Morse and Poirot, having captioned many episodes of each, I can confirm.

Whenever I can't make out what an actor is saying in a theater, I always assume it's just the hearing loss from wearing headphones all day at work. But I've never been able to understand even half of what Michael Caine says in any given Nolan movie. Again I blame myself for not being sophisticated enough to parse apart heavily accented speech.

ETA: What the hell does Barbara Crampton scream in the final shot of From Beyond?
post #5 of 86
I always assumed this was just my poor hearing problem.
post #6 of 86
Subtitles should be standard. Anchor Bay's always been terrible about that. The worst is when I turn it up to hear the dialogue and then an action scene takes place as I'm sent scrambling for the remote so I don't wake up the daughter with explosions and pounding score.
post #7 of 86
I've never noticed this. Maybe people are going deaf.

I have noticed sound effects drowning out a score before, but never the dialogue. One culprit could be uncalibrated audio settings. I've never experienced this in a theater, but I've been in a few living rooms where the L/R/Surround channels are at +10db because the homeowners want to show off their tower speakers. It isn't very fun.
post #8 of 86
I remember encountering this as far back as Jurassic Park, where it took me three viewings to figure out Nedry's line after "Don't get cheap on me Dodgson" was "That was Hammond's mistake."
post #9 of 86
The article mentions the third Pirates of the Caribbean, and I would agree there. Couldn't understand half the movie, but I guess that had more to do with the stylized, metaphor-laced dialogue and the heavy accents.

Some dialogue is recorded at very low volume, but can still be heard in the theater, when the volume overall is way up and no one can control it. The same parts watched in a friend's living room-- say, someone who doesn't like the volume very loud and has a fan or AC constantly running in the background-- are of course completely inaudible. But the friend, you know, he doesn't care.
post #10 of 86
Interesting you should post this. Though I think my hearing is not what it used to be, I've never ever had this problem. My mom/people I work with/strangers on the internet all complain about not being able to understand British television. I ask if it's the slang, and they blame the "accents" or mumbling on the part of the actors. I don't know why I am able to hear things that they are not when in real life I frequently can't hear what people say when they talk to me*, but all the same there you go. I can't recall any British program (or feature film) where I've not been able to hear the dialog

*I often have to ask people to repeat themselves when they talk to me. I think it's a combination of ear trauma and head phone use.
post #11 of 86
Not so much in theaters, but I have this problem on TV all the time. Part of it might be my ancient late-90s television and blaring A/C, though. Certainly shows like Deadwood and The Wire make subtitles almost mandatory.
post #12 of 86
Could living in the iPod Age, with all that damage to our hearing, be another factor? (And was there a Walkman Age?)

Kinda throwing that out there for the others, as I haven't noticed this problem myself.
post #13 of 86
I occasionally have this problem in theaters, but it's definitely more prevalent when watching movies on my TV or computer, although I could possibly have a hearing problem as well. As far as "mumbling actors" go, I generally don't have a problem with it, especially if it's part of the actor's character/style anyway, and I can usually understand the gist of things.
post #14 of 86
You're all deaf and going to shoddily maintained theaters.
post #15 of 86
If you can't hear shit at home, it's your acoustics and shitty system. If you can't hear at the cinema, it's the same reason films are often projected so terribly.

Although some of you might be deaf.
post #16 of 86
I wish the internet had been around forty years ago so we would have had threads like this about Brando.

Also, I bet Paul McCartney is so furious that he's on TimeOut right now.
post #17 of 86
I think the problem's more that mixes are getting so specific that sound systems have to be calibrated just right or else you miss shit.
post #18 of 86
I don't have this issue enough to complain, that's for sure. Every now and then, but I usually chalk that up to shitty set up rather than the source.


Also, this veers eerily close to what has caused the "loudness wars" in music production.
post #19 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Devildoubt View Post
I've had this happen to me with DVDs. It got better once I got a 5.1 sound system, since most DVDs are mixed for this set-up.
This.

It's an issue (most of the time) with poor sound system set-up, at home and at the cinema. That was the whole point behind THX, but it's an unrealistic model.
post #20 of 86
I've only ever been aware of this during The Dark Knight in the cinema, in particular, Gordon's monologue at the end the score was BLARING over that. Crappy sound system I imagine.

I'm intrigued by all you foreigners finding British accents unintelligible as most of our TV actors have perfect cut glass, "BBC English" accents ie. the most clear and understandable one you can get. God help you if you have to watch an episode of Brookside or Byker Grove.
post #21 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Savage View Post
I've only ever been aware of this during The Dark Knight in the cinema, in particular, Gordon's monologue at the end the score was BLARING over that. Crappy sound system I imagine.
Yep. First time I saw it, it was hard to hear. Saw it in IMAX: crystal clear. Saw it again later at another theater: clear again.
post #22 of 86
Next up someone needs to tackle the rising problem of boom mics in shots. Get your shit together, Hollywood!
post #23 of 86
People have been saying this since Altman was directing TV.

And some of you are going deaf.
post #24 of 86
I think you Ivory Tower motherfuckers in Hollywood don't know how rough it is out here in sub-urbia. The vast, vast majority of theaters are TERRIBLE.

Maybe this is why 3D is so popular. Joe Six Pack is desperate for ANYTHING to improve his piss-poor moviegoing experience!
post #25 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
I think you Ivory Tower motherfuckers in Hollywood don't know how rough it is out here in sub-urbia. The vast, vast majority of theaters are TERRIBLE.

Maybe this is why 3D is so popular. Joe Six Pack is desperate for ANYTHING to improve his piss-poor moviegoing experience!
I'll keep that in mind next time I'm watching a movie at the Amblin private screening room, whose sound and picture has been calibrated by techs from Lucasfilm.
post #26 of 86
GODDAMN YOU
post #27 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil View Post
I think you Ivory Tower motherfuckers in Hollywood don't know how rough it is out here in sub-urbia. The vast, vast majority of theaters are TERRIBLE.

Maybe this is why 3D is so popular. Joe Six Pack is desperate for ANYTHING to improve his piss-poor moviegoing experience!
Truth. I live in Miami and usually go to one of the "bigger" theaters in the area and I still get shafted on projection/sound quality. Although, everyone around here either texts through the entire movie or doesn't speak English anyway, so I can see why the theater doesn't care.
post #28 of 86
Also you have to remember, whether it's music or film, audio is a fucking BITCH to mix so that it'll sound the best on the widest variety of systems. The slightest little difference from system to system can have dramatic effects sometimes.



Also, Devin: What Phil said.
post #29 of 86
I KNOW I've been in a theater where the center channel was lower than it was supposed to be. Super irritating.

Inaudible dialogue is a problem I'm sure I experience, but I don't chalk up as a problem. For me, it's a combination of a lot of things. I ALWAYS use subtitles. Growing up in a household in which English was a second language, we always had closed captioning on if we could. Once DVDs came out, fuggedaboutit. Even if I don't need it, I'll use it. And the more I do, the more of a crutch it becomes.

But while I may miss a line of dialogue here and there, it's usually not a big deal as long as I can cull it from the context of a scene.

That, and I blame Brando.
post #30 of 86
It's not just due to shitty soundsystems. It's more of the fact actors do not en-nun-ciate.
post #31 of 86
If you have a 5.1 system, it's more than worth the time it takes to balance your channels from the seat you would normally sit in. If you don't have a 5.1 system, well there's your problem right there.

I almost never have this problem.
post #32 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg David View Post
If you have a 5.1 system, it's more than worth the time it takes to balance your channels from the seat you would normally sit in.
Also, this. I can't believe how many people I run into that set up a 5.1 system (i.e. connect wires), yet seem "scared" to do this. "Oh... I don't monkey with those settings. Don't want to break something."
post #33 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeypants View Post
yet seem "scared" to do this. "Oh... I don't monkey with those settings. Don't want to break something."
NO KIDDING. I was at some gathering where we were watching Casino Royale on an HDTV. The image was clearly stretched, so I said I'd fix it. The host was ADAMANT that I not touch anything. He literally was afraid that I'd mess something up.

Same thing at another friend's house when we were watching The Host. He actually looked frustrated that I'd dare to fix it.

So weird.

Or maybe we're the weird ones. Hahahaha.
post #34 of 86
No, it's them.
post #35 of 86
But they're the majority, and you know it! The people who buy the big expensive toys as a status symbol and have no idea how to use it!!!

We're weird. And we're right.
post #36 of 86
I've gone in and fixed things on my dad's TV behind his back while visiting. I couldn't stand watching movies over there.
post #37 of 86
I'll bet your dad was all, "See? Everything looks and sounds fine, see!?"
post #38 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trevor View Post
I've never noticed this. Maybe people are going deaf.

I have noticed sound effects drowning out a score before, but never the dialogue. One culprit could be uncalibrated audio settings. I've never experienced this in a theater, but I've been in a few living rooms where the L/R/Surround channels are at +10db because the homeowners want to show off their tower speakers. It isn't very fun.
Fuck those idiots. Surrounds are mixed that way because surrounds are supposed to be subtle.

I'm going to bet most of the issues is with poorly calibrated systems because I will guaran-damn-tee that every director has made sure the dialogue is audible. Sit in on a professional mix sometime and you'll witness just horrific injustices heaped on dialogue editors because the director/producer/writer isn't happy with the dialogue.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ratty View Post
Not so much in theaters, but I have this problem on TV all the time. Part of it might be my ancient late-90s television and blaring A/C, though. Certainly shows like Deadwood and The Wire make subtitles almost mandatory.
The big problem with TV is not the mix of the shows but rather the sort of compression that TV stations use.

If it's off of DVD then the likely issue is that your system needs to be re-calibrated.

Quote:
Originally Posted by devincf View Post
You're all deaf and going to shoddily maintained theaters.
This times a thousand. It's one of the reasons I've stopped going to theatres. If you think the picture is shit because of the idiot teenager running the projector, imagine what that idiot teenager did to sound system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Benenson View Post
Next up someone needs to tackle the rising problem of boom mics in shots. Get your shit together, Hollywood!
Please tell me this is sarcasm.
post #39 of 86
It is sarcasm
post #40 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Benenson View Post
Next up someone needs to tackle the rising problem of boom mics in shots. Get your shit together, Hollywood!
Again, that's a problem in the theater/cinema not the production. Projectionists, back when that was a job description/profession, used to frame stuff like that out (the cameraman can't see stuff that's outside the frame but the filmstock itself has extra "bleed" on it).

Edit: Damn!

But yeah, still true.
post #41 of 86
See, I don't have this problem because I've never been aware there was a problem; most of the theaters I go to have picture and sound that, while not necessarily perfect, works just fine for most movies.

Then again, I also know precisely jack about sound systems and how they work, so that might just be blissful ignorance as well.
post #42 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg David View Post
If you have a 5.1 system, it's more than worth the time it takes to balance your channels from the seat you would normally sit in. If you don't have a 5.1 system, well there's your problem right there.

I almost never have this problem.
I'll go one better, I don't even have 5.1 sound I simply have either two shitty old stereo speakers connected through a forty year old amplifier or just use the TV's sound system and I just don't experience the sound problems being mentioned here.

I really actually think it may be an indication that the average age of chewers is getting on a bit that so many of you seem to share this. Time to get those ears tested fellas.

Gregs right tho, if you're finding this with your 5.1 setups maybe a re-calibration is in order.
post #43 of 86
It's more of an actor/dialogue problem than an audio problem. I got most of what Rampage was saying in the A-Team, but sometimes he just didn't enunciate.
post #44 of 86
I can't hear a damn thing you bastards are posting.
post #45 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by bendrix View Post
ETA: What the hell does Barbara Crampton scream in the final shot of From Beyond?
She screams something!? Shit, I might be more deaf than I thought. Doesn't she just start laughing, all crazy?
post #46 of 86
"Strofis ufmen"? "Bloodon daleebs"? What???
post #47 of 86
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas View Post
She screams something!? Shit, I might be more deaf than I thought. Doesn't she just start laughing, all crazy?
Yeah, she just says "It ate him", then starts scream-laughing.
post #48 of 86
I think some of you probably have some hearing loss you're contending with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bendrix View Post
But I've never been able to understand even half of what Michael Caine says in any given Nolan movie. Again I blame myself for not being sophisticated enough to parse apart heavily accented speech.
You think Caine has heavily accented speech?
post #49 of 86
Yeah I don't have a 5.1 at home so I just put on the subtitles. I don't really have a problem in the theater. But when I have had trouble hearing dialog I never blamed the theater or my equipment. I just thought it meant i was getting old.

Oh incidentally, could some kind soul point me to the thread post that got Paul McCartney put on time out?
post #50 of 86
I don't get the deaf thing either. I've been doing my best to harm my hearing for well over a decade (among many other activities, I stand in front of a cranked 100 watt Marshall half-stack about 4 times a week for a few hours), and I can still hear subtleties just fine in films.
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