Originally Posted by cjguitar
There's definitely a problem with theaters turning down the level. I think you would be hard pressed to find a commercial theater even in Hollywood that doesn't turn down the level. I found out that even The Arclight in Hollywood is turned down to 6 on the Dolby box (we had a screening there not too long ago, and we toured the projection area/talked to the projectionist).
I for one don't have a problem with loud films, to an extent. Have you ever been in a war battle, car accident, had explosions go off near by, jump out of an airplane, flew a rocket, seen a giant transforming robot? I can't say I have for most of those, but there are plenty of things that I imagine are loud in reality that sometimes need to be loud in cinema to give the movie goer the "experience" of being there. I for one don't want to observe a story from a distance, I want to be "in the action" and sometimes that requires things to be loud. If patrons can't handle that, then maybe they should stay home or not watch big Hollywood blockbusters…
As far as earplugs are concerned, I've had times where we're working on a scene of constant screaming (think the final exorcism scene in a big exorcism movie), and I had to leave the room or wear in-ear headphones to block out some of the loudness (I mix the sound FX). It's fine when it goes by in real time for a 15 minute scene, but try listening to some of that stuff for hours…
I totally agree.
I should also say that while I will occasionally wear earplugs when the other mixer I'm working with is going over and over his tracks in a loud scene, I never have worn them when I am actually mixing myself, and I have never seen any other mixer do that either. There are often many times in certain mixes that require one mixer or the other to replay loud moments several times in order to get things right, but there is no reason for their partner to wear out their ears listening to the process if they aren't actually mixing themselves, so why not protect yourself. It's like tag team wrestling.
As Chris says, there are circumstances where a loud scene is demanded by the context of the movie. When you only listen to it once, it is appropriate, but when you have to go over it many times in order to mix it properly, it can wear you down. That is not to say that some films don't go overboard, but I would be reticent to blame the mixer for that, because there are generally other people pushing those decisions.