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FILM & Broadcast - Levels
Old 5th February 2007
  #1
FILM & Broadcast - Levels

I though it might be useful to start a thread about levels in Film and Broadcast...

Items like Dialnorm settings, dialogue levels in mixes, music levels in mixes, the ever increasing level of mixes for features and trailers, balance between Threatrical, DVD, and Broadvast mixes, etc etc....

cheers
geo
Old 5th February 2007
  #2
here's a note from Michael Goldman on digitalcontentproducer.com

An ironic digital cloud hovers over the feature film audio industry. Many producers, directors, and studio executives are demanding that engineers mix movie sound tracks louder than ever before, even as theater owners are turning the volume down.

In part, the move toward louder mixes was an inevitable result of the proliferation of digital audio technology for mixing and playing back feature film sound tracks. Powerful digital tools and quality playback systems for theaters now allow dramatic high-volume tracks to retain their sound integrity from mixing stage to theater. So filmmakers with a big, high-volume story to tell (or a weak story to hide) can get the kind of booming tracks they believe will thrill audiences in the theaters. Or so they think.

In the opinions of industry audio professionals that Millimeter spoke with, such thinking is seriously flawed. They suggest that clients hell-bent on cranking up the volume are harming the art of sound mixing, endangering the ears of industry professionals, and fooling themselves since few audiences will ever hear the sound tracks as loud as the filmmakers intended.

"What is happening is that many of these film sound tracks are coming to theaters so hot that theater officials have to turn down the volume," explains John Ross, a veteran film mixer and president of Digital Sound & Picture, Los Angeles. "So mixing film sound real hot ends up self-defeating because you end up with an unbalanced mix in the theater with dialogue sometimes inaudible."

Because of the issues surrounding film volume, many sound pros are currently taking part in an informal, but growing, debate over how to safely retain creative control over the mix.

No Limits or years, industry professionals accepted 85dB as the standard for sound pressure levels in theaters and on dubbing stages. That standard, always difficult to enforce, is virtually impossible to maintain in the digital era; it is routinely violated during audio production work on major feature films.

A big reason for this is that studios now have digital tools to make films essentially as loud as they like, and theaters have digital audio systems sophisticated enough to play that sound back without distortion at high levels. Many clients therefore ask mixers to craft sound tracks for certain movies to take full advantage of this capability and expose them to dangerous decibel levels for several hours each working day.

On top of that, other "new" noises are making their way into audio facilities, according to Mark Curry, chief recording engineer for Hollywood-based Music Forever, the audio production and recording company owned by film composer Anthony Marinelli. "Every studio has computers," says Curry. "All those machines have audible hard drives and fans and other things, unless you have wired them to a dedicated machine room. That creates lots of whines and buzzing from those machines. Sound effects are all played by Pro Tools these days, so even on the dubbing stage, they wheel computers right in. That has resulted in lots of ambient noise levels, more than ever before. That also causes filmmakers to ask you to play the tracks louder."

Defending the Ear While decibel levels on the sound stage continue to rise, volume in the theater has been an issue for some time. Concern for the ears of theatergoers began with film trailers (see sidebar) and now extends to features themselves, which makes theater chains extremely cautious about the volume levels coming out of their state-of-the-art, digital playback systems. As a result, theater managers are often turning volume down for trailers and keeping it low for the ensuing feature, which can wreck the playback of particular sound tracks.

Theaters may be addressing the issue of audience safety, but many film mixers and sound designers point out that no one is looking out for their ears. This can be particularly frustrating because audio professionals often find themselves risking their ears on the mixing stage for mixes that few theatergoers will ever hear.

"When we mix a major film, we do it in the best audio environment possible," says veteran sound designer Claude Letessier, who recently supervised sound design for The Thin Red Line. "We mixed Thin Red Line at the Zanuck stage at the Fox lot, which acoustically, is just about perfect. It's one of the three best rooms in the entire world. So when a director or a producer comes in there, he or she is hearing the mix in the most sophisticated place possible, and so they try to push the envelope and sometimes go overboard trying to make it more powerful. But what they forget is the fact that two-thirds of the people who ever see their film will be doing so in a mediocre theater with a less-sophisticated sound system. The owner of that theater is likely to turn the sound track down if it comes in too loud.

"That's why Stanley Kubrick mixed all his films in mono. He was mixing it so that it would sound good in the cheapest theater under the worst conditions. We have to find a way to convince filmmakers that they need to be subtle and worry about how the show will sound in Des Moines, not on some state-of-the-art, digital sound stage."

But many film projects-particularly those aimed at specific audiences, such as adolescent boys-continue to routinely push the sound barrier far beyond 85dB.

"A lot of these mixes go above 100dB, even up to 108 or 110," says Ted Hall, a senior mixer at POP Sound, Santa Monica. "We don't have a lot of that in our studio, because we tend to work on mid-range budget films and indie films, but many major features out there are doing this. That is definitely a big concern for people working in our industry because listening to those levels 10 to 12 hours a day will definitely hurt your ears."

Take Precautions As Letessier says, "When your hearing is gone, it's gone." That is why some experienced mixers suggest the selective use of professional earplugs and taking frequent breaks. Ironically, the march of digital technology has altered parts of the basic methodology of sound mixing to the point where traditional opportunities to take such breaks no longer exist.

"We've lost all those short breaks we used to get with the changeover from one film reel to another," points out Christopher Boyes, a sound designer and mixer at Skywalker Sound in San Rafael, California. "It's all digital now. You used to get five to 10 minutes of quiet while the reels were switched. Now, you instantly pop to any section of a film with the press of a button."

Boyes suggests that mixers and engineers ask for breaks whenever they need them, no matter who the client or what the deadline. It is a lesson that he recently learned from one of his colleagues. "[Skywalker sound designer/mixer] Gary Summers and I were doing a temp mix, and there was a changeover of a few seconds," says Boyes. "They were ready to start again, but Gary said, 'No, I'm not ready to mix just yet.' He asked for 10 more minutes to give his ears a break. We were behind schedule at that point, but he felt it was important. That issue definitely needs to be part of the discussion as our industry ponders these issues-mixers have to be allowed to take breaks whenthey need them. After all, you can't be a good mixer if you can't hear properly."

Several mixers and sound designers that Millimeter spoke with said there are already many professionals within their industry who cannot hear properly thanks to too many high decibels over too many years.

"There is no doubt that the hearing of many people in our business is suffering," says Randy Thom, a colleague of Boyes at Skywalker Sound. "People are losing their hearing every day. No one is going to admit to it or name names since this is how we make our living, but sure it is happening. To a degree, you can say it is just an occupational hazard, and everyone suffers hearing loss over time. But there is too much of it going on. That's why you see guys wearing earplugs during mixes. You never used to see that."

The earplugs they use are the same ones used by professional musicians. (The House Ear Institute of Los Angeles recommends professional musician's earplugs for audio mixing, particularly the ER15 or ER25 ear-canal molds manufactured by Westone Laboratories, Colorado Springs.) Thom says that since there are usually two to three individuals assigned to mix most major feature films, each responsible for separate sections of the mix, it has become increasingly common for people to wear earplugs when they are not working on their specific portion of the mix.

Experienced mixers also recommend avoiding the tendency to ignore meters and work strictly by instinct and experience. Failure to consider levels and sound pressure readings, combined with a failure to take breaks, can sometimes lead to what Letessier calls "a saturation point."

"You cease to be objective. You lose judgment if you don't refresh your ears," Letessier says. "You end up getting used to a certain high level, a certain mix, and that can be bad. You are on the dubbing stage all day, and it doesn't sound too loud, but people visit the stage for a minute and tell you they can't believe how loud it is. Then, you listen to the reel the next day and you realize that by mixing that loud for so long, you missed things that you have to now go and fix in the sound track."

Creative Volumes No one denies that the creative use of volume and careful manipulation of sound frequencies is crucial to modern filmmaking. Ross says that there are dozens of well-entrenched industry techniques in place to safely raise volume for creative effect.

"The problem is sustained volume, which is much different than short bursts of intensity," says Ross. "People can take 90dB for a couple of seconds with no pain or hearing damage. But when it is constant, that causes problems. When higher volume is needed for effect, there are lots of ways of doing that safely. For instance, you can make the effect relative from a mixing perspective. If something is supposed to sound louder than that which precedes it, you can create a soft section on the track just before it and then return to the level you were previously at or go just slightly higher and achieve the exact same result."

Two recent, high-profile films would seem to have been perfect candidates for excessive sound levels because they are war films. But Saving Private Ryan (which won two sound Oscars) and The Thin Red Line clearly demonstrate that the "abuse of sound," as Letessier puts it, is unnecessary, no matter what the film's subject matter. He points out that while war is, by its nature, loud, the sound tracks of both films clearly demonstrate that it is "the details, the impact on the characters of the sounds" that matter.

"I admired the sound work they did on Private Ryan a lot," says Letessier. "That is a movie that should have been loud, and, in certain sections, it was-like parts of the opening sequence. But it was done in a clever way in terms of using the volume to create impact. Sometimes, it got loud, but only for moments, and then it became quiet as they tried to show you what was happening to individual soldiers, what was going on in their minds. That was good creative use of volume."

Similarly, Letessier is proud of the work he and his colleagues did on Thin Red Line. The audio goal was to demonstrate "the little things, the small information" swirling within the hellstorm of Guadalcanal. "We wanted you to hear a little fly, the quiet of the jungle before the battle starts, the frightened breathing of a soldier, things like that," he explains.

Pressure, Pressure Still, Ross says there are "many pressures on mixers to turn the volume up on the stage." He attributes this, for the most part, to filmmakers' desires to make the best films that they can. He says it can be difficult to say no to an important director. "All you can do is try to explain to them the self-defeating aspect of their request to bring the volume up too high. The bottom line is, this [digital] technology is still pretty new, and filmmakers want to use it like any cool, new toy."

Filmmaking is, by its nature, a creative endeavor where standards should vary from project to project. Virtually no one wants any government agency to begin regulating the audio business, so a strong industry dialogue appears to be the most logical way to address this issue, mixers and designers say.

That dialogue, they hope, will lead to what Boyes calls "an era of simple common sense" by filmmakers and those audio professionals who work for them. "We need a real strong dialogue among ourselves," says Boyes. "We need to have some kind of even approach to dealing with clients to let them know that we agree that movies have gotten too loud. I think a real education process has to happen, and, if it does, it will be a real defining moment for film audio as we start the new century."

Years ago, OSHA set the following guidelines for the maximum durations of safe high-decibel exposure in the workplace. The regulations state that exposure to levels higher than 115dB is never safe even for short durations.

Sound Level Duration Per Day

90dB 8 hours

92dB 6 hours

95dB 4 hours

97dB 3 hours

100dB 2 hours

102dB 1.5 hours

105dB 1 hour

110dB .5 hour

115dB .25 hour or less

Source: House Ear Institute

In theaters, the issue of safe volume levels has focused mainly on film trailers, which filmmakers routinely mix louder than their films for promotional reasons. In March, the Trailer Audio Standards Association (TASA), a consortium of theater owners and studios, announced TASA Standard audio volume limits for trailers. TASA plans to phase those guidelines into place over the next year. After years of resisting lower sound levels for trailers, studios finally agreed. The studios hope that theater owners will stop lowering sound levels, a development that has been impacting the integrity of feature film mixes in recent years.

Still, film mixers say that volume limits in theaters alone are unlikely to stop filmmakers from cranking things up on the mixing stage.

"Many clients want everything pushed," says sound designer Claude Letessier. "When you tell them that the volume they are asking for will be played 5dB to 10dB lower in the movie theater, they don't always accept that. They have doubts that their sound track is mixed properly unless you play it loud for them."

At the same time, concern is spreading over how to best protect the hearing of industry professionals. Currently, there are no government regulations regarding noise levels in the audio workplace specifically. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did set guidelines decades ago for safe levels of decibel exposure in the general workplace (see accompanying chart), but those guidelines make no distinction between a mixing stage and a jackhammer.

The House Ear Institute of Los Angeles-the organization whose research helped OSHA set its standards back in the 1940s-is currently researching the subject of audio safety in partnership with the Cinema Audio Society.

Dilys Jones, communications director for the House Institute, says mixers and engineers routinely experience "long duration exposure" to unsafe decibel levels during lengthy work days. "No one ever studied film industry people before to see how their hearing is being impacted," says Jones. "Now, as technology has gotten better and more people get into the industry, the problem is becoming more obvious. Since there are few guidelines about decibel levels, what safety equipment they should use, or how many breaks a day they should get, they are putting their hearing at risk. We are trying to create a discussion forum within the industry to raise awareness of this problem. We are working with recording mixers, engineers, composers, directors, and producers to educate them about the dangers of long-term exposure to high sound volumes."

Jones says it is unlikely that OSHA will create strict standards any time soon-few within the industry are likely to complain since they need to earn a living. She adds that researchers need to "better understand the differences between long-term exposure to different kinds of sounds-machinery as opposed to music exposure, for instance-before any kind of regulations are proposed."

Along those lines, Jones emphasizes what many industry people told Millimeter: Film professionals are best served by regulating themselves and by emphasizing audio safety in the workplace.
Old 5th February 2007
  #3
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matt82aust's Avatar
 

fantastic read, thanks for sharing georgia!
Old 5th February 2007
  #4
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smsjr's Avatar
 

Georgia, kudos to you for starting a great discussion!

What has happened in the music industry with volume wars has been very disturbing. And now that trend seems to be carrying over to movies.On occasion I have to wear ear plugs while watching films in a theater. The levels can become too uncomfortable for me to listen to for an extended period of time. Sometimes I think the films are just mixed too loud, but other times I think it's a playback volume issue.

The world needs to return to a wider dynamic range. The thing I hear all the time is "the music has to be able to get over the car noise". Actually, it doesn't. The music can be mixed with dynamic range, and the car's playback system could be equipped with compressors you could kick in to get it above the noise floor of the car. And they could improve the cars design to better shield against road and engine noise.

To me, the best movie soundtracks have very good control over the dynamics. When something needs to be loud, it's proceeded by something quiet, those kind of things. Nothing should be eardrum shattering loud, just for kicks.

We all need to be concerned about our hearing. It's bad enough that nature takes its course eventually, so I think any precautions we can take to make sure our occupation doesn't speed that process up are well worth considering.

Just to give you an indication of how paranoid I am, I happened to have a spl meter in my pickup truck with me one day and just for fun took some readings of how loud my truck was, and found out it was over 90db while I was driving. I now wear earplugs whenever I drive.

Anyway, look forward to hear everyones thoughts on this matter.

Steve
Old 6th February 2007
  #5
question on sound levels?

Ok, so how about some re-recording engineers here tell us about the general levels you mix to....

Like when I mix for film I tend to start with Dialogue at around -20 and start go from there, placing ambience, music, sfx, and Foley based on picture and mixed to balance against dialogue.


cheers
geo
Old 6th February 2007
  #6
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I work in the world of advertising, where, as has been well mentioned here, is loud loud loud. Typically for me, mixing will be limited to -9dbs, average voice is around 0vu for the Voice over, peaks hitting close to +3 occasionally.

Unfortunately, advertising work typically doesn't have a wide dynamic range at all, especially in the day of wall to wall voice over, sell sell sell type material which is probably 95% of the stuff out there (it is advertising...) so the producers want the message big, loud, in your face...

I really do long for the ads that let me do some night and day with my levels, and let me exploit the dynamic range a bit more... however, some of these ads suit the wall of audio that is created with it in the end..

Radio is even worse... There is such a narrow field that you can get away with in radio, otherwise you possibly miss getting your ad heard. taking into account the fact people listen to radio usually in cars, ot with little head phones etc, unless you slam it, there is a good chance a part of the spot may not be heard. lately, for levels, i have been using a k-14 or even a k-12 meter as a guide, which is fairly slammed.. keep it around the yellow and it usually ends up good on air...

mmm, reading over this it has turned into a bit of a rant actually!
hope it all makes sense!...

Matt
Old 6th February 2007
  #7
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
Ok, so how about some re-recording engineers here tell us about the general levels you mix to....

Like when I mix for film I tend to start with Dialogue at around -20 and start go from there, placing ambience, music, sfx, and Foley based on picture and mixed to balance against dialogue.


cheers
geo
To be clear, what's your reference? -20 dB what? -20 dB FS (0VU), or -20 dB VU (-40 dB FS)? I'm assuming you mean -20 VU (VU/nominal/avg. - take your pick of terminology; in other words, 0 on the dorrough, avg., not peak). And, of course, film and TV dialog are different. TV will be louder. And if we're talking film, I assume your stage is reasonably large volume (cu. ft.) and 85 dBc for the front 3?

-20 dB VU seems a little low. I usually see it several dB hotter. Of course -20 dB FS would be blasting you out of your seat. That's the typical level for the music swell when there's no dialog to step on. TV can be -9 to -11, and I've seen some guys as hot as -7 lately, especially for sit-coms, but that's more than is necessary for drama. Film will be a few dB lower, but at -20 I think too much would get lost in a good-sized theater. 85 dBc ref. can seem loud in a small room (many use 79 instead), so -20 may sound OK in a small room, but might not translate to larger rooms.

Then again, I have more TV experience and only a few feature mixes for theatrical release, so maybe I just mix loud. Any additional thoughts from the folks with lots of features under their belts?
Old 6th February 2007
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
Items like Dialnorm settings, dialogue levels in mixes, music levels in mixes, the ever increasing level of mixes for features and trailers, balance between Threatrical, DVD, and Broadvast mixes, etc etc....
Which also brings to mind TASA and LEQ(m), but that may be its own thread.

Geo, do you use the LEQ(m) meter in your DMU? How about if it's not a Dolby picture? Many trailer stages seem to be using a model 737 loudness meter to stay within TASA limits, but that's not quite the same as a feature mix.
Old 6th February 2007
  #9
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gsilbers's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by matt82aust View Post
I work in the world of advertising, where, as has been well mentioned here, is loud loud loud. Typically for me, mixing will be limited to -9dbs, average voice is around 0vu for the Voice over, peaks hitting close to +3 occasionally.

Unfortunately, advertising work typically doesn't have a wide dynamic range at all, especially in the day of wall to wall voice over, sell sell sell type material which is probably 95% of the stuff out there (it is advertising...) so the producers want the message big, loud, in your face...

I really do long for the ads that let me do some night and day with my levels, and let me exploit the dynamic range a bit more... however, some of these ads suit the wall of audio that is created with it in the end..

Radio is even worse... There is such a narrow field that you can get away with in radio, otherwise you possibly miss getting your ad heard. taking into account the fact people listen to radio usually in cars, ot with little head phones etc, unless you slam it, there is a good chance a part of the spot may not be heard. lately, for levels, i have been using a k-14 or even a k-12 meter as a guide, which is fairly slammed.. keep it around the yellow and it usually ends up good on air...

mmm, reading over this it has turned into a bit of a rant actually!
hope it all makes sense!...

Matt


it makes sense!!

i used to work on audio for Ad world. and i learn this trick,. which it seems to be used ot mix hiphhop also.

u have a template with a multiband comp and an L1/L2 in the master buss. for when u record VOs or whatever and u mix with that on with the limiter set at the -9 or whatver is the meduim.
damn it was loud and squashed. but i guess it gets my attention comercials.
Old 6th February 2007
  #10
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Most FILM re-recording mixers I've worked with mix in a calibrated room and don't look at the meters for dialogue. They use their ears. I'd even venture that if you brought my mom onto the stage and asked her to bring a dialogue fader up to comfortable speaking volume, she would end up within a 3dB range of standard level. She does it every night with her TV remote. Now that's not to say that dialogue mixing is so simple my mom, completely untrained and inexperienced in post sound, could do the job. Far from it, what I'm saying is that there is infinitely more to it than finding the proper level. Things like filtering, matching different shots, matching ADR, etc. make dialogue mixing one of the most challenging jobs in our industry. In film, setting an arbitrary number for comfortable level is not really necessary and it really depends on the scene and what else is going on with music and FX.

No offense Mom!
Old 6th February 2007
  #11
We mix in a calibrated room ( 85db )(Dolby calibrates it for us)

We begin dialogue cleanup and various spotting sessions with dialogue bouncing around -20 db ( digital ppm scale ) as a starting point.. Normally I lower the room to 82 to start mixing. As you stated, It can get a little hot up front in a medium size room. I print at 85 though. Out dialogue ends up between -10 db ppm and -30 db ppm -ish. i'm being rough here because like most re-recording mixers in a calibrated sub stage we do it by ear. Then we mix everything around the dialogue, emotional moment and the directors vision. Some of out mixes are quiet and some are loud... it depends in the end what the client is asking for. We can only offer our professional opinion and hope to make the clients film the best sounding that we possibly can.

we have a DMU and a DTS T2 Tower, as well as LEQ(m) and various metering via our DK600M.. When necessary we use a DOLBY LM100 as well. Between our Neve Capricorm, the DK600M, the T2, DMU and other tools we can meter ourselves to death.
In fact, I find I have to weene interns off the meters at times....

In this forum I though it might be helpful to first time post people and people who are starting out in post, to offer some insight to where to start and how to deal with levels in film, broadcast, DVD, radio etc.... T
he pros already know how to do this.


cheers
geo
Old 6th February 2007
  #12
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Monitoring, etc

Howdy y'all... enjoying this thread so far, though a lot of it is above my head (dbs ppm???). I do sound design for a smallish production company. I come from more of a music background in which I could mix stuff, essentially, however I wanted. Coming to have a better understanding of dial-norming has been educational and frustrating. Even basic delivery standards are bizarre... a lot of broadcasters require audio to be delivered, for instance, at -10dbfs, even though they run everything through a limiter on their end anyway. Why limit the delivery and quality of the basic mix if you're going to squash it anyway?

I've never been able to grasp what "rate" dial-norming specs usually indicate either. For instance, if the dialogue has to be normalled to -27, with a +/- of 2db, does this mean you can never go over that, or occasionally as long as the "average" is within that range, and if an average is being used, than what sort of "snapshot" of the dialogue is being used to determine the average? Why can't I have one scene in which the dialogue is slammed followed by a scene at -40dbfs in which the characters are whispering? And is whispering really supposed to sound as loud as yelling? I'm being mostly rhetorical but it is all a bit of a mindscrew.
Old 6th February 2007
  #13
Gear Addict
Jorbi,
A lot of questions there. I will try to answer some. I'm sure others will chime in too.
Television has a more limited dynamic range to film. Typically 8 to 10dBs. Film can be far more than this due to the contained nature of where you will be watching the film (cinema). If you have dial slamming and then dial at -40dB in the next scene it is going to get swallowed up in ordainary household noises. (kettle, conversation, radiator). Also it will really annoy the hell out of people watching tv late at night constantly having to readajust levels trying not to wake the neighbours. Think about how annoying ads are when they come in slamming!!
I believe that -10dBFS was settled on due to some bandwidth issue over cable tv or something. I'm sure others will have more info on this.
As regards the dialnorm levels. There are shortterm readings for this too. So as long as your short term readings are between 3 above and 4 below your longterm reading you will pass. There is no snapshot, it is the average of the whole program.
Garret
Old 6th February 2007
  #14
Dialnorm data i've written about before...

Dolby Lm100s measure Dialogue levels with a sliding window of time.

heres a link to the LM100 manual that talks about this.

http://www.dolby.com/assets/pdf/tech...iew.Manual.pdf

here's another about levels like Dialnorm
http://etvcookbook.org/audio/dialnorm.html



Some personal rants about Dialnorm....

If in fact this were accomplished with:
a commercial at a true DN -20 and metadata DN set to -20
a show at true DN -29 and metadata DN set to -29
a commerical at true DN -19 and metadata DN set to -19
When each is played back with the proper setting the levels will be consistant with each other.
The system
What screws this up are the folks not using DN correctly, by checking the level of their show / commerical and then setting DN to -31 when the true DN is -12. ( or whatever ) The whole concept of Dialogue Norm is to tell the system that the show is +/- and automatically adjust it to resolve the differencial to a standard level. At least thats what its supposed to do.
1. the mixer/client sets the appropriate metadata for the audio program being created by checking dialnorm. these are set to match.
2. The resulting audio program, together with metadata, is encoded as a Dolby E stream and sent to the broadcaster.
3. the Dolby E stream is decoded, checked, and adjusted as a matched program/metadata pair, reencoded as Dolby E, leaves the studio and goes to Master Control, where bunches of Dolby E streams are decoded back to their individual audio/metadata sets.
4. The audio program/metadata pair that is selected is sent to the transmission Dolby Digital encoder, which encodes the incoming audio program according to the metadata stream associated with it.
5. The metadata and the broadcast encoder, as well as the home decoder work togther to deliver the audio so that my decoder controls the levels for the commercial, or show. each using the metadata carried within the individual segment. OR in the case of the broadcast company decoding the final signal and sending it out to my crappy TV, the metadata once again keeps all the various items within the same program level at the broadcast head end.

Oh, my decoder says
"this is supposed to be diagnorm of -27 but its diagnorm of -10...oops droppin' down a bit... ahh thats better...
oh... look this one is diagnorm -30 oops lets kick it up a little... ahhh.. much better.
of this one is JUST right at diagnorm -27 cool... I can take a beer break."

bottom line is the DOLBY-E stream should be mixed to what the client or mixer wants.. Then check the dialnorm, then match the Metadata. Then encode properly in DOLBY-E the mix in DOLBY-E is NOT modified at all. The Metadata defines the method in which the mix is heard at the end of the pipeline. So the DOLBY-E stream with meta data is delivered to the Broadcast head, transfered or re-transmitted to the local cable or other broadcaster and decoded with metadata. the metadata is supposed to be passed the the final DOLBY-AC3 stream during the re-encode and the mixes are adusted by the broadcasters dialnorm setting so whe you receive the mix at home and you decode it at home OR its decoded and sent analog, the mixes are all adjusted dynamically to meet the broadcasters dialnorm setting. If your dialnorm is low or high the mix is adjusted so the listening community just hears a nice standard level across Ads and Programs.

THe reason for the LM100 is to provide the customer with an acceptable product that does not make them hit the channel changer and go to a competitor. LM100 specs, or actually, Dialog norm specs provide for a means to control the level of a broadcast stream in such a was as to allow a listener to sit down, turn on the TV, set the level, and enjoy the TV shows. If the specs are met for dialnorm, the listener at home does not have to raise the volume for a quiet show, and then dive across the room for the remote, while ducking incomming tweeters, when the commericals or another show starts.

Although dialognorm is being misunderstood by the broadcasters, and misused, it still works the way its being stated in the broadcast specs. dialnorm can be checked in 2 ways, there is a float window of 10 seconds (i think.. it might be up to 30 secs i'll have to recheck that)... and it can check a show from beginning to end and offer an average. If you take the average and set you dialognorm meta data to MATCH the actual dialnorm from your show. AND, if everyone else on the broadcast steam in question does the same thing, the broadcaster and set top box manufactures can set a level ( lets say -27 ) that works: and no matter how loud or quiet you mixed your project. The level is adjusted up or down to MEET the dialnorm directed by the broadcast stream, set top box, or dvd player. Thus all the programs are the same level while you listen at home.

One of the problems we are trying to overcome at present is the direction the Broadcasters are taking, forcing a delivery of dialnorm to be -27. This works, but its not the way its supposed to be. Dolby is setting up a ad-hoc standards committee including broadcasters, engineers, post facilities and the like to work on this and other level based delivery issues. What the broadcasters SHOULD be doing is forcing their QC department to simply check to assure dialnorm meta data = dialnorm acutal... AND, of course, specifiying in the delivery specs that, we as content providers, match our dialnorm Meta data to Actual dialnorm on our deliveries. The problem is that it means the broadcaster has to run everything through once to check QC instead of just spot checking some random area in the mix.

rant off....

cheers
geo
Old 10th February 2007
  #15
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More on Dialnorm

So to find out what to put in the dialnorm metadata, you just have to measure the average level of the dialog througout the whole program?
Old 12th February 2007
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
"A lot of these mixes go above 100dB, even up to 108 or 110," says Ted Hall, a senior mixer at POP Sound, Santa Monica.
With -20dBfs = 85dBC, how can mixes go "up to 108 or 110"???
Old 13th February 2007
  #17
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Compression and limiting
Old 16th February 2007
  #18
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minister's Avatar
OK! Georgia, I have a head-ache in my eye after reading that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
"That's why Stanley Kubrick mixed all his films in mono. He was mixing it so that it would sound good in the cheapest theater under the worst conditions. We have to find a way to convince filmmakers that they need to be subtle and worry about how the show will sound in Des Moines, not on some state-of-the-art, digital sound stage."
this is not entirely accurate.....

Kubrick mixed 2001 in stereo, but, according to Ioan Allen of Dolby, he let it get away from him and became confused by the balance game. So, he did the rest of his films in mono to concentrate the mind on the story.

but, yes, point well-taken.
Old 21st February 2007
  #19
I stand corrected...


cheers
geo
Old 21st February 2007
  #20
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davebl@dircon.c's Avatar
 

But mixing in mono is creativly the hardest of the lot to get right, much less to distract the listener ?
Old 21st February 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shock View Post
With -20dBfs = 85dBC, how can mixes go "up to 108 or 110"???
-20dBfs = 85dBc or 0dBFS = 105dBc. This is PER CHANNEL, at the reference listening position. Not to mention that the LFE channel has an extra 10dB of headroom above the 5 main channels...

... it all adds up!


Cheers!
Old 22nd February 2007
  #22
Red face

mixing in surround, whether its LCRS or SDDS has its advantages and disadvantages. Stereo and Mono are cool for smaller venues, but if you've ever listened to a heavy center channel mix or a mono mix in a big threatre its' kind of distracting, as the sound is from a single point source right in the middle of the picture... and the picture is 50' wide. Mixing in stereo for the same type of venues can be distracting to the audience since there is only a phantom center and depending on where your sitting the sound, the dialogue can easily come from the wrong place. Mixing in LCRS gives you the center channel for anchoring the dialogue and a nice basic surround for general ambiences, but it to can have its issues if the mix is incorrectly done or if the encoding is incorrectly completed the steering can be off and/or something meant for the front can end up in the rears. Also if you want a dynamic surround filling the room you can end up with things coming for everywhere, like a single bird chirp, instead of from a point source. Mixing in 5.1 is tough, if only becuase of the multitude of options available to you and ensuring that your amazing 5.1 mix plays back in LCRS, LR, and Mono as well. SDDS can be even more fun to position and play with, but again you have to be sure it can be properly played back in all the other formats as well. And I personally HATE doing the bazillion splits to a bunch of 3348 tapes....
SO every format has its ups and downs... In the end , its more about what works best for the project and where the project will be seen and/or heard.

cheers
geo
Old 5th March 2008
  #23
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joaquin's Avatar
 

Hello. Thanks for all the great Info!
I'm mixing a movie right now and came up with this questions...
What should be the average RMS and peak level for dialog in film with a VU meter calibrated to -14dbfs?
What should be the average RMS and peak level for Music in film with a VU meter calibrated to -14dbfs?
Should I mix at -20dbfs = OdbVU?
I decided to set a confortable monitoring level at Mixing position and use my ears (do not have a db spl meter so no accurate 85dbc)...I like a big Dynamic range...how big is the norm?, is there a standar for Film, DVD, TV?
Should I make three Masters? one for theatres, one for DVD and one for TV?

I do not have acces to the dolby system nor know how to encode the dialog norm from Protools?? is there a special software for this?
Thanks for all the help!
Old 5th March 2008
  #24
I think the flip side of this argument is that there is an artistic reason to use sound to augment film. If we look at weapon sounds, there has been a paradigm shift from what I grew up with and what we see on the silver screen now.

When you look at '80s - 90's TV and film that contain actors such as Charles Bronson, Chuck Norris, Mr. T, etc... it is laughable, in the context of modern sound effects, to listen to a shoot out. When Face would shoot off a MINI-14 at the bad guys, you would hear stock gun fire footage where the ricochets sound like little laser beams. The squealing of tires from the A-Team's van was probably at the same dB level as the weapon fire not to mention Mr. T saying "I ain't getting on no plane, foool".

I don't know exactly when film started to take notice of live fire and try to emulate it as accurately as possible on screen, but when I first saw the opening scene to Saving Private Ryan, I was like, wow, this is something new. The artistic intent of that first 30 minutes of so of the film was an attempt to immerse the audience into something that most of them had never experienced - which was combat. Of course if you take an actual rifle, its dB levels are around 150 to 170db for a single small caliber weapon... mortars and larger calibers... well... the dBs can get up high enough to rupture lungs and burst eardrums. Obviously we want to keep the publics hearing safe, but for most people that saw that movie, they were no longer in a safe comfortable environment of a movie theater, I think that many were successfully transported to somewhere between their comfy seats and Omaha Beach, if even for just a few minutes.

I think this is clearly an example of modern directors and writers taking advantage of the performance envelope of modern playback systems. I don't know that the same cinematic effect would have been possible without sound designers going the extra mile to capture those sound and the simple application of volume. What Georgia is probably pointing out, though, is the inability for some to use restraint. I don't think that theater owners should be changing volume levels at their own discretion, as theater systems are supposed to be calibrated to a reference, although I can sympathize with their plight. I do notice things such as simple dialogue and non-action scenes way too hot. If I'm observing a conversation, their dialogue levels should not be significantly higher (film environment perception) than what I would normally hear from another personal talking to me in a normal environment. There is also the long drawn out action scene where everything is loud, screeching, and just a plain assault on the senses, where there is no dynamic range, because everything is maxed out.

On one hand, I think it is almost impossible to regulate this. You can't just average out levels because it must be taken in context and some movies will just simply be louder than others. My only suggestion would be for those that review films for both casual viewing and those that critically review films for awards, take sound into a more important context than it is now. If a film is shot with poor lighting, acting, camera work, well, it is considered amateurish and a distraction from the plot. The same standards should be taken with sound. If the dialogue is abnormally high or action scenes are not done realistically or without any restraint whatsoever, the reviewers should not be any more lenient with that aspect of the film than an actor throwing wood or seeing a guy wire on a stunt, etc... with lower ratings, it should result in a lower attendance (money) and critical acclaim (awards) - the two things that should affect most film makers.

If I had to do my own sound rating of two films I've seen somewhat recently, just from memory...

F to Transformers for sound (I hope I'm not insulting anyone here)
A to Miami Vice, especially the weapon sounds - and I didn't think they even tried to juice it up as much as they could have / nice balance
Old 5th March 2008
  #25
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I mix for advertising as well, and have always limited at -10 dbfs and dialog at -0vu. But it seems people have been mixing ads limited hotter than that. I was always under the impression the mix would get kicked back or squashed by the broadcast limiter
Old 5th March 2008
  #26
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joaquin's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by georgia View Post
We mix in a calibrated room ( 85db )(Dolby calibrates it for us)

We begin dialogue cleanup and various spotting sessions with dialogue bouncing around -20 db ( digital ppm scale ) as a starting point..
Hello Georgia.
when you say bouncing around -20 db ppm means that It would de around O VU for a -20 dbfs calibrated meter? and that would be around 85 db spl in the room?
Thanks!
Old 5th March 2008
  #27
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Henchman's Avatar
I too have dialog around -20. But I had to loo at my meter today, to verify that, as I rarely look at the meters, and mix by ear., even though there's nothig else goign on.

Yes, some movies get mixed way too loud. And on the othe rhand, I find that soem movies, the dialog is mixed WAY too dynamic. Where dialog is completely lost.

I mix at -85, and try and keep things at a level I find comfortable.
I also find that using more sub, so the people behnd me can "Feel it", can dow onders, as opposed to pushing stuff up to painfull levels.

I do think that some mixers must be half deaf, and mix way too loud. I was doing a test M+E here in LA, at one of the large studio's, last year, and it was for a TV show. The dialog regularly went full scale, and was just painfull, and I wondered how the guys mixing it, could listen to that all day long.

BTW, Gerogia, sorry I was unable to meet you last time when you were down. It's been crazy busy for me.

Mark
Old 6th March 2008
  #28
There are, obviously, various approaches to what we may call average levels in films for theatric release, the least important being the reading on the VU meter. When mixing, we try to establish a normal listening level for a given scene, and we try to relate it to the levels heard just before that, in previous scenes. Sometimes a whisper that hardly moves your meter's needles may sound very loud - if it was preceded by silence. Sometimes a scream that's well into "red" may be lost in the surrounding noise and sound soft... There's no point in measuring these values - I can't remember when was the last time I looked at meters - the beauty of mixing for theatres is the constant monitoring level we use on dubbing stages, so we can learn, after some time spent there, what is the right level for every sound. Of course, there will always be some examples where the crew went deaf because they tried to record the Print Master while monitoring at 7....
And, regarding this statement:
Quote:
But mixing in mono is creativly the hardest of the lot to get right, much less to distract the listener ?
my answer is NO. Why? Because there's less channels to deal with, there's less definition to take care of, there's less bandwidth, etc. It was sooo much easier to match different camera angles in mono, that I really miss it sometimes.....
Old 6th March 2008
  #29
Te same goes for me... the most important is the room calibration. Once calibrated I mix by ear and I don't bother looking at meters.

Mixing for film : Room at 85dB (Dolby decoder on 7 - Yes I do !)
Mixing for TV : Depending on the program Room at 72 - 75 dB
Mixing for DVD : Depending on the program (Feature/Broadcast-work) Room at 72 - 75 dB

There is a lot in handling the different dynamic ranges of the medium you are mixing for. I handle that in master-compression. For feature mixing there will be hardly any master compression. When mixing for broadcast I mix most of the time fiction and then there will be some degree of master compression ranging from moderate to extreme depending on the channel I'm mixing for.

Kind regards from Belgium

Pedro
Old 6th March 2008
  #30
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joaquin's Avatar
 

Thank you so much Henchman, Branko and Pedro!
I just finish Re-mixing Dialog in this film that I'm working on at -20 instead of -14dbfs and with a fixed monitoring level, and Men what a revelation!! I set my monitoring using samples recorded from as many DVDs as I could put my hands on and after a series of calculations (analog transfers and dubious conections) I mixed without the VU meter!!! Sounds incredible...I can't wait to put the rest of the elements in context. I guess that I'll do a mastering afterwards for TV with that media in mind, but men I'm happy!
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