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Can not understand dialogue
Old 1 week ago
  #1
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Can not understand dialogue

Just thought I would see if anyone else has problems understanding dialogue in TV or movie productions. Many times as a person is speaking the background music or effects are too loud and I can hardly understand what is being said.

Thoughts?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brightshine View Post
Just thought I would see if anyone else has problems understanding dialogue in TV or movie productions. Many times as a person is speaking the background music or effects are too loud and I can hardly understand what is being said.

Thoughts?
As composers, the last thing we should be doing is complaining about the music being too loud.

But yeah, I hear you.

More often then not, however, it's not that the music is too loud per se - it's that the music is wrong. Too many AM/TSFH/IM type cues under dialogue. Music there? Sure. But music that fits that spot. Go listen to the way JW scores under dial. He's not the only one, of course; that's just one good ex.

Cheers.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
As composers, the last thing we should be doing is complaining about the music being too loud.

But yeah, I hear you.

More often then not, however, it's not that the music is too loud per se - it's that the music is wrong. Too many AM/TSFH/IM type cues under dialogue. Music there? Sure. But music that fits that spot. Go listen to the way JW scores under dial. He's not the only one, of course; that's just one good ex.

Cheers.
Yes, I should have said sound effects or just about anything being so loud the dialogue is covered up. There is a problem when you have to resort to closed captioning to understand what’s being said.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
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You did indeed mention fx in your OP. I was just coming at this fromt he music side.

But yes, the fx are an issue at times as well.

Cheers.
Old 6 days ago
  #5
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
\it's that the music is wrong. Too many AM/TSFH/IM type cues under dialogue. Music there? Sure. But music that fits that spot. Go listen to the way JW scores under dial. He's not the only one, of course; that's just one good ex.

Cheers.
The true ART of writing music under dialog is disappearing everywhere but in huge features - and even then, it's getting rarer - as the 4 bar loops, add or delete extra elements every 4 bars composers take over the vast amount of placement opportunities. (Not that there is anything inherently WRONG with that, but it often does not serve picture....)

Writing in 4/4, 3/4, 4/4, 7/8, 2/4, 9/8 etc. while making it FLOW naturally, staying out of the way, creating melody that doesn't compete but remains memorable, and hitting the hit points is completely foreign to the vast majority of composers these days. It used to be the standard way of writing to picture.
Old 6 days ago
  #6
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If you don't mind, allow me to amend something for you...

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
The true ART of writing music is disappearing everywhere
There. All better now.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
....the 4 bar loops, add or delete extra elements every 4 bars composers take over the vast amount of placement opportunities. (Not that there is anything inherently WRONG with that, but it often does not serve picture....)
If this is for TV underscore, then I see nothing wrong with that either. If this is for FFilms, then I see a LOT wrong with that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Writing in 4/4, 3/4, 4/4, 7/8, 2/4, 9/8 etc. while making it FLOW naturally, staying out of the way, creating melody that doesn't compete but remains memorable, and hitting the hit points is completely foreign to the vast majority of composers these days. It used to be the standard way of writing to picture.
Yep. This is what happens when people learn off of the internet.
Old 6 days ago
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brightshine View Post
Just thought I would see if anyone else has problems understanding dialogue in TV or movie productions. Many times as a person is speaking the background music or effects are too loud and I can hardly understand what is being said.

Thoughts?
I think it's a combination of a few things (I'm speaking as a re-recording engineer now);

- A lack of access to actors to record ADR to replace poor production dialog.

- Related to that; actors choosing to whisper as an aesthetic choice which makes it far harder to mix.

- An aesthetic choice to make dialog relatively lower in the mix, regardless of whether or not the people in charge understand / care about the impact on those who will now have a problem understanding dialog.

- A lack of money leading to poor production and post-production.

I think that last point may change somewhat as tools develop. The latest RX for example in conjunction with Insight's features will make it easier for less experienced or less skilled audio engineers / video editors to ensure we can hear dialog better.

Those are my 2 cents.
Old 6 days ago
  #8
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Thanks for the reply’s. I deal just in music recording and mixing and a few voice overs. Most of the time I’m trying to make the vocal clear in the mix. According to the genre I’m dealing with.

So.....when I’m watching a movie and I’m struggling to understand what an actor is saying? I’m trying to imagine myself mixing the sound track and coming to a conclusion that not hearing what is being said is acceptable. I thought maybe the mix engineer has the script and is reading along, and sure, he can understand everything as he reads along. Or is it just negligence and lack of caring? I’d hate to think at the level of major movie releases negligence would be a factor.
Old 6 days ago
  #9
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Well there's a range of what we probably can consider to be "normal adequate hearing". Within that range you're going to have those that have above average hearing and those that are below. If you mix (well) for that entire range then nobody in that range will have a problem of course. So the first problem is if people have that range in mind and if it's an acceptable range.

Then of course there are cases where people just don't worry too much about the bottom end of that. It's not a clearly defined range but in practical terms at some point we pretty much just have to say "Hey, people with bad hearing won't hear this clearly, but we're mixing this for most people and not for the hearing impaired". So, where's that line?

If I'm mixing a doc or something informative, certainly also lifestyle programming, the 'error' is on the safe side. If there's ever even a hint of a chance that music might overwhelm dialog I'll lower it. Networks and their sub-contracted production companies tend to prefer that style of balance. Food Network is a good example of this where for many years I had to lower music levels (they were already low, trust me). Moving to sports was a huge change because it was really a matter of pushing levels upwards to make you feel the excitement.

As for reading a script: On my 'level' of work I don't read a script, but I do see cases where directors/producers want music 'up' whereas I feel they're making an error exactly because they know what the subject is saying. A person who hears a line of dialog for the first and only time will miss it. Typically I can convince them to lower levels in individual cases. But certainly knowing what people say is an issue.

It's not uncommon for sports / "reality" shows to deliver to me production dialog where I can't even understand what the person is saying. And not only that, but in several cases the person reviewing the mix asks me to locate to a specific time code to listen to a piece of dialog, and they then ask me what the person is saying! This is with dialog soloed, cleaned and processed so nothing is even competing with it! So to me it's pretty incredible at times what makes it into the mix/edit, and if it's on-camera it stays...

I will say though that I understand the issues with budgets and scheduling, and we should also recall that sometimes what people say isn't really 100% important, it's more important to hear someone talk and express some sort of energy or urgency (which is why whispering is [email protected]%t 99% of the time).

I generally think Apocalypse Now was pretty spectacular sonically, especially considering when it was made. There definitely are spots where I can't clearly hear the dialog and understand what's being said, but it doesn't matter.

Lastly, if you read the post-production section you'll see a divergence of views on whose responsibility this is. Some say it's the mix engineer's, some say the producer/director. I think it's probably no coincidence that there's a certain quality to Nolan's mixes for example, and I'm guessing the significant common denominator is Nolan... so...
Old 6 days ago
  #10
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Btw:

One problem I have with some movies isn't the lower dialog but the fatigue I get from just generally loud mixes that don't breathe. When my ears don't get rest then after an hour of loud sounds I'm starting to not discern things as easily any longer... Plus I have a problem paying attention unless the movie is really grabbing me.
Old 6 days ago
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Well there's a range of what we probably can consider to be "normal adequate hearing". Within that range you're going to have those that have above average hearing and those that are below. If you mix (well) for that entire range then nobody in that range will have a problem of course. So the first problem is if people have that range in mind and if it's an acceptable range.

Then of course there are cases where people just don't worry too much about the bottom end of that. It's not a clearly defined range but in practical terms at some point we pretty much just have to say "Hey, people with bad hearing won't hear this clearly, but we're mixing this for most people and not for the hearing impaired". So, where's that line?

If I'm mixing a doc or something informative, certainly also lifestyle programming, the 'error' is on the safe side. If there's ever even a hint of a chance that music might overwhelm dialog I'll lower it. Networks and their sub-contracted production companies tend to prefer that style of balance. Food Network is a good example of this where for many years I had to lower music levels (they were already low, trust me). Moving to sports was a huge change because it was really a matter of pushing levels upwards to make you feel the excitement.

As for reading a script: On my 'level' of work I don't read a script, but I do see cases where directors/producers want music 'up' whereas I feel they're making an error exactly because they know what the subject is saying. A person who hears a line of dialog for the first and only time will miss it. Typically I can convince them to lower levels in individual cases. But certainly knowing what people say is an issue.

It's not uncommon for sports / "reality" shows to deliver to me production dialog where I can't even understand what the person is saying. And not only that, but in several cases the person reviewing the mix asks me to locate to a specific time code to listen to a piece of dialog, and they then ask me what the person is saying! This is with dialog soloed, cleaned and processed so nothing is even competing with it! So to me it's pretty incredible at times what makes it into the mix/edit, and if it's on-camera it stays...

I will say though that I understand the issues with budgets and scheduling, and we should also recall that sometimes what people say isn't really 100% important, it's more important to hear someone talk and express some sort of energy or urgency (which is why whispering is [email protected]%t 99% of the time).

I generally think Apocalypse Now was pretty spectacular sonically, especially considering when it was made. There definitely are spots where I can't clearly hear the dialog and understand what's being said, but it doesn't matter.

Lastly, if you read the post-production section you'll see a divergence of views on whose responsibility this is. Some say it's the mix engineer's, some say the producer/director. I think it's probably no coincidence that there's a certain quality to Nolan's mixes for example, and I'm guessing the significant common denominator is Nolan... so...
Well said and this makes good sense to me!
Thanks for your perspective
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