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"Audibility" on TV (or I can't hear what they are saying)
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ErikG
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#1
22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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"Audibility" on TV (or I can't hear what they are saying)

Audibility, is that even a word?

Mixing for tv is pretty hard at times.

Even when everyone is happy with a mix, when all the primary dialog is easy to hear even at redicously low monitoring levels (57db spl) and on various actual tv setups, the program conforms to R128.

Still we get complaints...
"I can't hear what he/she says"...

Obviously there are several sides to this.
Technical issues caused by broadcasting limiters and companders.
Less than optimum mixing.

But then there's also the material itself. Less for technical mix reasons and more related to acting, directing, script and editing. This all affects audibility more than anything I can control in the mix.
Unexpected lines delivered by actors off screen. Principal dialog beeing done while to much action is taking place within the frame. Too fast dialog. Whispering and not enough projection Etc etc.

Languages are different beasts to, some like Swedish is very dependant on beeing able to hear all consonants clearly. Others like Danish and English seem to depend a lot less on consonants to be able to understand what is beeing said.

What can be done?
How do you deal with this?
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#2
22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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i often have trouble hearing what they're saying in dutch drama and film..
I guess it's because of the actors not pronouncing clearly, but possibly also because we're used to subtitles, maybe it makes us lazy listeners??
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22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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What we see these days, looks like reducing the quality at almost every department related to movie/tv/whatever productions. Things are done faster and faster (and cheaper).

1. Problems with acting and proper pronunciation
2. The place of shooting
3. Problems with lav placing and bad booming
4. "Smart" pic/audio editing
5. Sound editing and mixing.

Because digital technology is relatively cheap, many people do not pay respect, when using it. Also this technology is relatively easy to use, so many people often claim themselves as a DOP or production sound mixer or pix editor, only because of the fact, they know how to operate a specific device. What is more, "fix-in-post" is pretty often heard at the shooting set these days.

So: many of mistakes which are made, accumulate so the end product is much much worse, than it could be.

As for language problem, I can feel Erik's problem (I cannot comment Swedish, because I do not speak it), but my home language also requires consonants to be heard very clearly, what is more it should sound much brighter, than English for example.

regards,
Kuba
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22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
Audibility, is that even a word?
Intelligibility?
ErikG
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22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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Oh, it IS a word. I've never seen it used before though.

--------------------------
Intelligibility: that which is intelligible, the degree to which something is intelligible. The quality of recorded speech of every word being ...

Audibility is the quality of being heard or understood ; the degree to which a thing is audible.
--------------------------

I actually think I like the word, I don't think I like its problems...
#6
22nd November 2011
Old 22nd November 2011
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I think you might mean intelligibility.
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23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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I feel that there are certainly mixers who mix TOO dynamic.
In both film and TV.

And, here in LA, in Film and TV there are some great mixers, where you can understand every word, no matter what is happening.

And then there are some not so great mixers in both Film and TV, where you ave a hard time understanding two actors in a quiet room. Which is completely unacceptable to me.
And in pretty much every case it's a matter of raising a fader, and/or doing a bit if eq-ing. It's not rocket science.
In my honest opinion, it's a matter of caring.

And if you stop caring, find a different job.
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23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
Audibility, is that even a word?

Mixing for tv is pretty hard at times.

Even when everyone is happy with a mix, when all the primary dialog is easy to hear even at redicously low monitoring levels (57db spl) and on various actual tv setups, the program conforms to R128.

Still we get complaints...
"I can't hear what he/she says"...

Obviously there are several sides to this.
Technical issues caused by broadcasting limiters and companders.
Less than optimum mixing.

But then there's also the material itself. Less for technical mix reasons and more related to acting, directing, script and editing. This all affects audibility more than anything I can control in the mix.
Unexpected lines delivered by actors off screen. Principal dialog beeing done while to much action is taking place within the frame. Too fast dialog. Whispering and not enough projection Etc etc.

Languages are different beasts to, some like Swedish is very dependant on beeing able to hear all consonants clearly. Others like Danish and English seem to depend a lot less on consonants to be able to understand what is beeing said.

What can be done?
How do you deal with this?
stop making the fx so loud

the problem we have is that all the crapp you guys add to the show are so loud that we turn the tv down
then the dialog is too low to hear

and when you have both at once the dialog is lost under the sound music crapp f/x whatever

anything added should be at least 20dB below dialog at all times

personally i want to hear our tv at rms of 50dB SPL
and all peaks under 60dB
so anything you add should be at 40dB or less
#9
23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ErikG View Post
What can be done?
How do you deal with this?
Work with a good director. I was on a "reality" show once where everybody left the set except for me, the cameraman, and talent (such as it was) telling us to "just shoot reality" - so we set the camera up on a tripod in front of a tree and rolled away.


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23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnscottguitar View Post
I think you might mean intelligibility.
That's "articulation", or "usable".

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23rd November 2011
Old 23rd November 2011
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Just because it's audible doesn't mean it's intelligible.
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24th November 2011
Old 24th November 2011
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You're talking about hearing stuff on TV? I dunno; it really comes down to 'turn the thing up to what is comfortable for you, whatever the device/system is that you're listening to'.

I try to mix to specs requested and then throw my hands up and shrug when it leaves my hands. I can't control a crying baby or noisy furnace or outside traffic or windchimes or a neighbour's dog or the broadcast chain.

...and inadequate attention to making the inital product.


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24th November 2011
Old 24th November 2011
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There are also so many audio codecs in use between the content producers and the final viewer's set it is amazing to me that any of it works at all.

Couple that with less and less real "engineers" working in TV and more and more "operators" who are adept at pushing buttons but they do not know what is really going on and you have a prescription for a major SNAFU every time something goes through another facility.

If one watches any amount of commercial TV they will hear all kind of audio problems especially if they are trained audio professionals. It is only going to get worse as more and more TV stations become more and more profit conscious and lay off more and more people concerned with the quality of the signal in order to "save" money.

I worked for a PBS station in the late 1960's. We had 2 full time audio engineers on staff . Today, at that same station, there are no full time audio engineers on staff and the person that gets stuck with the production audio is usually the junior member of the engineering staff or one of the operators the station has recently started hiring and they could not tell an out of phase stereo audio signal if their lives depended on it.

Stations today want more profit and want to spend less and less money to get the signals on the air. Most radio and TV stations are all run off computers and if something gets messed up they literally have to call an outsider to come in and get them back on the air since there is no one on staff who can do it.

Big problem and no easy solutions.

Recently I was watching a movie on TV . The voices were so muffled you could not understand the dialog yet the music and the sound effects came through very loudly. Maybe they had the codecs messed up or they were not using the stereo signal and were mixing the audio from the surround and forgot the center channel but it was really really comical in that you could hear all the music and the effects but no dialog. I finally turned it off. Not the first time this has happened and it won't be the last.

The same scenario has been going on in movie theaters for a long time. Inexperienced teenage operators not paying attention to what they are doing and you either get blasted with loud sounds or you can't hear the dialog since the center channel amp or speakers are not working or the surround is completely turned off and the audience is left with two channel stereo.

The cheapening of America goes on...and on.
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#14
24th November 2011
Old 24th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post

The cheapening of America goes on...and on.
My feeling is that the majority of Americans have lost the capacity to think critically - and this has a profound effect on EVERYTHING. Too many pretenders! It's so nice to work on a project every now and then where everyone is competent and the result is worthwhile with good production value...

Getting rarer...


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24th November 2011
Old 24th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
Recently I was watching a movie on TV . The voices were so muffled you could not understand the dialog yet the music and the sound effects came through very loudly. Maybe they had the codecs messed up or they were not using the stereo signal and were mixing the audio from the surround and forgot the center channel but it was really really comical in that you could hear all the music and the effects but no dialog. I finally turned it off. Not the first time this has happened and it won't be the last.
.

Probably just a bad dialog mix.
I have seen a couple of big movies in the theatre with muffled dialog.
And other movies in the same theatre play just fine.

I think a lot of dialog issues really do come down to poorly mixed dialog.
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24th November 2011
Old 24th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jfriah View Post
You're talking about hearing stuff on TV? I dunno; it really comes down to 'turn the thing up to what is comfortable for you, whatever the device/system is that you're listening to'.

I try to mix to specs requested and then throw my hands up and shrug when it leaves my hands. I can't control a crying baby or noisy furnace or outside traffic or windchimes or a neighbour's dog or the broadcast chain.

...and inadequate attention to making the inital product.
Jeff
i wish

how do i turn the dialog up , way up, over all the otehr crap fx and useless noise that is on almost every tv movie
#17
24th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
The cheapening of America goes on...and on.
I'm not sure it is much of a consolation but it isn't just America!

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25th November 2011
Old 25th November 2011
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Well, the Netherlands is actually getting more intelligent, and more and more money is spent on quality.. It's fantastic!
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25th November 2011
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I kid...
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25th November 2011
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Mr Oldeanalogue,

we all do appreciate your suggestions and recommendations... however we also do know, that there are great dialog mixers among us here and I am more than sure, that they know how to create a good sounding mix with dialog on the top, which is intelligible. So if you perhaps would sign your posts with real name, we could realize what have you already done and where your knowledge is from.

I have already written basic reasons for which there are problems with understanding dialog. The key is, that all those problems sum up.

regards,
Kuba
#21
25th November 2011
Old 25th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oldeanalogueguy View Post
i wish

how do i turn the dialog up , way up, over all the otehr crap fx and useless noise that is on almost every tv movie
Do you have a decent 5.1 system?
If not, then get one.
#22
27th November 2011
Old 27th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuba_Pietrzak View Post
What we see these days, looks like reducing the quality at almost every department related to movie/tv/whatever productions. Things are done faster and faster (and cheaper).

1. Problems with acting and proper pronunciation
2. The place of shooting
3. Problems with lav placing and bad booming
4. "Smart" pic/audio editing
5. Sound editing and mixing.

Because digital technology is relatively cheap, many people do not pay respect, when using it. Also this technology is relatively easy to use, so many people often claim themselves as a DOP or production sound mixer or pix editor, only because of the fact, they know how to operate a specific device. What is more, "fix-in-post" is pretty often heard at the shooting set these days.

So: many of mistakes which are made, accumulate so the end product is much much worse, than it could be.

As for language problem, I can feel Erik's problem (I cannot comment Swedish, because I do not speak it), but my home language also requires consonants to be heard very clearly, what is more it should sound much brighter, than English for example.

regards,
Kuba
I was asked by a videographer to "cleanup the production audio" when he recorded an interview in front of a large noisy roof air handling unit. The unit's volume was at about 98% the dialog volume was about 2%. I cleaned it up as best I could but I could not make it as clear as the videographer wanted or needed. He decided to use it anyways. I asked him why he would try and do an important interview in front of a large noisy air handling unit and he said "because it looked cool". I think that sums up a lot of what is going on today.
#23
27th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas W. Bethe View Post
I asked him why he would try and do an important interview in front of a large noisy air handling unit and he said "because it looked cool". I think that sums up a lot of what is going on today.

Q: What do you call audio without video?
A: Radio.

Q: What do you call video without audio?
A: Surveillance.


Thank you. Thanks very much. But seriously...

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#24
28th November 2011
Old 28th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundbarnfool View Post
Q: What do you call audio without video?
A: Radio.

Q: What do you call video without audio?
A: Surveillance.


Thank you. Thanks very much. But seriously...

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#25
28th November 2011
Old 28th November 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danijel View Post
Intelligibility?
Intelligentability
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