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Poll about Cinema mixing levels Dynamics Plugins
Old 9th January 2017
  #31
Gear Addict
Ok guys. What do you say to your client that has gone around on a festival run of their film all over the U.S and Canada and at every, and I mean every screening the film was played at anywhere from 4 to 5.5. Obviously they got the projectionist to turn it up to 7 but they are now majorly concerned about when it gets its general release and they won't be there to ask for it to be turned up that their film will be "lost". They look to you for a solution. What do you say? Rebalance it at 5 or 5.5 and give them a fighting chance or insist that " I only mix to the standard" even though that standard is almost never implemented. Do you leave a paying client unhappy for your "ethics"?
Old 10th January 2017
  #32
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
Ok guys. What do you say to your client that has gone around on a festival run of their film all over the U.S and Canada and at every, and I mean every screening the film was played at anywhere from 4 to 5.5. Obviously they got the projectionist to turn it up to 7 but they are now majorly concerned about when it gets its general release and they won't be there to ask for it to be turned up that their film will be "lost". They look to you for a solution. What do you say? Rebalance it at 5 or 5.5 and give them a fighting chance or insist that " I only mix to the standard" even though that standard is almost never implemented. Do you leave a paying client unhappy for your "ethics"?
What do you tell them when you mix it at 5 and they go to the premier screening at a good theater where a lot of major industry players are in attendence and it plays back ear splittingly loud?

Just remember this - no matter how hot you mix it, the theaters can and will turn it down until the customers stop complaining. All you've accomplished is that you gave your client a mix that does not adhere to industry standards and that has reduced dynamic range. If you have to deliver an LtRt that goes to optical you are likely going to have issues with optical clash during action sequences or when people yell unless you back the levels off a lot. Then you have a bogus sounding LtRt that doesn't match the 5.1.

If they are such neophytes that they don't understand these things then you have to explain it to them.
Old 10th January 2017
  #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SDDP View Post
... I understood every line from Tom Hardy ...
You must have a great system and ear then - I'm a brit and I struggle with his delivery. Mumblecore!
Old 10th January 2017
  #34
Honestly I'll settle for all the speakers turned on and functioning properly...

recently watched Manchester by the Sea... Dialogue out of left channel... music out of right... and nothing else...

Packed theater... nobody noticed or cared...

we're fighting a losing battle.

I keep track now.
Last 10 films I watched (as a civilian) 50% had sound issues. I don't really go anymore unless someone drags me.


Also...I understand it's not ideal, but I would argue that if you mix at 85... people should still be able to understand dialogue at 80.
Old 10th January 2017
  #35
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7=7 is a great thing if everyone admits what is going on and takes the customer (audience) into account. 7 will continue to = 5.5 etc as long as filmmakers naively believe they can game the theatre loudness level up to a point where audiences complain and ask for refunds. Put the blame where it belongs: not on audiences, not on mixers, not on projectionists, not even on theater owners but on directors. The theatre PB levels will stay down as long as the mix levels stay too hot--if somehow directors can be made to understand this then we'll get back to 7=7.
Old 10th January 2017
  #36
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
What do you tell them when you mix it at 5 and they go to the premier screening at a good theater where a lot of major industry players are in attendence and it plays back ear splittingly loud?

Just remember this - no matter how hot you mix it, the theaters can and will turn it down until the customers stop complaining. All you've accomplished is that you gave your client a mix that does not adhere to industry standards and that has reduced dynamic range. If you have to deliver an LtRt that goes to optical you are likely going to have issues with optical clash during action sequences or when people yell unless you back the levels off a lot. Then you have a bogus sounding LtRt that doesn't match the 5.1.

If they are such neophytes that they don't understand these things then you have to explain it to them.
Sorry Gary that doesn't fly. If the director is at the premier then all they need to do is the same as always and check the film before hand or just tell them to play it at 5.5. Done. 99.9% of the time it will be fine.
My feeling is they won't keep turning it down as a lot headroom is gone at 5.5 so it's impossible to get the ear splitting levels. I'm not saying this is the right solution, far from it but not to acknowledge the absolute car crash of Cinema playback levels is just naive.
Haven't done an optical print in over three years. A non issue now. And I'm not talking about very loud action films.
You still didn't answer my question what do I do tell my unhappy client. "Not my problem"?

Last edited by Garret; 10th January 2017 at 10:15 AM..
Old 10th January 2017
  #37
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
Sorry Gary that doesn't fly. If the director is at the premier then all they need to do is the same as always and check the film before hand or just tell them to play it at 5.5. Done. 99.9% of the time it will be fine.
My feeling is they won't keep turning it down as a lot headroom is gone at 5.5 so it's impossible to get the ear splitting levels. I'm not saying this is the right solution, far from it but not to acknowledge the absolute car crash of Cinema playback levels is just naive.
Haven't done an optical print in over three years. A non issue now. And I'm not talking about very loud action films.
You still didn't answer my question what do I do tell my unhappy client. "Not my problem"?
Like I said, you can do whatever you want. This is not a new issue and we have been dealing with it for years without having to turn down the monitor to mix.

IMO it is pointless to mix for non-standard playback because by definition it is an unknowable situation. If you take your philosophy to the logical conclusion then you should be mixing on a stage with faulty speakers that are calibrated incorrectly and terrible room acoustics, because that's what you are going to find in many of the venues.
Old 10th January 2017
  #38
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
Like I said, you can do whatever you want. This is not a new issue and we have been dealing with it for years without having to turn down the monitor to mix.

IMO it is pointless to mix for non-standard playback because by definition it is an unknowable situation. If you take your philosophy to the logical conclusion then you should be mixing on a stage with faulty speakers that are calibrated incorrectly and terrible room acoustics, because that's what you are going to find in many of the venues.
Mixing for non standard playback environments is done everyday. It's called mixing for TV!

But on a more serious note I have to address my clients issues or they will go to someone else who will. It's as simple as that I'm afraid. Not the way I like to do things but needs must.
Old 10th January 2017
  #39
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
Mixing for non standard playback environments is done everyday. It's called mixing for TV! ;-)
That's right, and you have very specific levels standards you must adhere to. You don't make the mix 5dB hotter because some people like to watch with their volume turned down.
Old 10th January 2017
  #40
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
That's right, and you have very specific levels standards you must adhere to. You don't make the mix 5dB hotter because some people like to watch with their volume turned down.
Well in fairness Gary that's what everyone is doing whether they mix at 5.5 or 7. As you once said here you mix "Robustly" at 7.. I'm simply mixing it at a level more akin to a real world scenario.
Old 10th January 2017
  #41
Garret, a "robust" mix is not necessarily a balls-to-the-wall loud mix. It is, as I understand it, a mix where the mixers has made sure that lower level details will not be lost at the first sign of a lowered fader on the CP. Which means that some of the subtleties demanded by directors (most of the time to please the mixer when in fact he is trying to get rid of that damn bird the sound editor put in the timeline) which sound like "could you bring that sound down so that we can hardly hear it?", are left out.
Making a mix more robust, is gaming the dynamics to prepare for the eventual turning-down. It is not as detrimental to the overall dynamics of the movie (vs. mixing at a lower mon. level) as you can still keep the upper headroom.
Old 10th January 2017
  #42
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
Garret, a "robust" mix is not necessarily a balls-to-the-wall loud mix. It is, as I understand it, a mix where the mixers has made sure that lower level details will not be lost at the first sign of a lowered fader on the CP. Which means that some of the subtleties demanded by directors (most of the time to please the mixer when in fact he is trying to get rid of that damn bird the sound editor put in the timeline) which sound like "could you bring that sound down so that we can hardly hear it?", are left out.
Making a mix more robust, is gaming the dynamics to prepare for the eventual turning-down. It is not as detrimental to the overall dynamics of the movie (vs. mixing at a lower mon. level) as you can still keep the upper headroom.
I agree you Steven.

Also, my primary reason for mixing robustly is to get over the popcorn noise and other ambient noise like AC and the LFE leaking through the neighboring theater, not to compensate for non-standard playback levels, although it does help with that, as well.

My experience has been that the directors who have been around the block a few times don't ask for the overall mix to be louder, they ask for the subtle stuff that is important to the story to be louder, because that is what is going to be lost, not the dialog and music.
Old 10th January 2017
  #43
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
Garret, a "robust" mix is not necessarily a balls-to-the-wall loud mix. It is, as I understand it, a mix where the mixers has made sure that lower level details will not be lost at the first sign of a lowered fader on the CP. Which means that some of the subtleties demanded by directors (most of the time to please the mixer when in fact he is trying to get rid of that damn bird the sound editor put in the timeline) which sound like "could you bring that sound down so that we can hardly hear it?", are left out.
Making a mix more robust, is gaming the dynamics to prepare for the eventual turning-down. It is not as detrimental to the overall dynamics of the movie (vs. mixing at a lower mon. level) as you can still keep the upper headroom.
I understand all that Steven I was just making the point that everyone has an eye (ear) on the "eventual turning down" as you so succinctly put it.
Old 10th January 2017
  #44
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
I understand all that Steven I was just making the point that everyone has an eye (ear) on the "eventual turning down" as you so succinctly put it.
Sure, I'll agree with you there, but the issue is what do you do about it? My position is that you make sure that the mix plays as intended at the standard level and that you take care that you don't fool yourself into thinking that even the best theaters are going to be as perfect as a dub stage. You don't go off-standard, that's just chasing your tail.

I remember that years ago (had to be back in the 90's when I worked at Skywalker South) Randy Thom told me that Skywalker North sometimes pumped a little white noise though the monitors during the mix to simulate popcorn noise because the stages were so quiet that there was a tendency to get over subtle with the mix. I don't know if they still do that, kind of doubt it, but the point was well taken. We mix in an ideal environment but we have to account for the real world. However, that doesn't mean that the standards are abandoned, you find a way to accomodate the real world while working within the standards.
Old 10th January 2017
  #45
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
Sure, I'll agree with you there, but the issue is what do you do about it? My position is that you make sure that the mix plays as intended at the standard level and that you take care that you don't fool yourself into thinking that even the best theaters are going to be as perfect as a dub stage. You don't go off-standard, that's just chasing your tail.

I remember that years ago (had to be back in the 90's when I worked at Skywalker South) Randy Thom told me that Skywalker North sometimes pumped a little white noise though the monitors during the mix to simulate popcorn noise because the stages were so quiet that there was a tendency to get over subtle with the mix. I don't know if they still do that, kind of doubt it, but the point was well taken. We mix in an ideal environment but we have to account for the real world. However, that doesn't mean that the standards are abandoned, you find a way to accomodate the real world while working within the standards.
Not to be argumentative but if you take that to the logical conclusion you would do as you said in your previous post about bad speakers and misaligned rooms.
I agree with you for the most part Gary. It's an incredibly frustrating situation at the moment and it seems like it's not gonna be sorted anytime soon.

On another note do the projectionists/ticket sellers/toilet attendants have level control in Dolby Atmos cinemas?

Last edited by Garret; 10th January 2017 at 04:49 PM..
Old 10th January 2017
  #46
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
Not to be argumentative but if you take that to the logical conclusion you would do as you said in your previous post about bad speakers and misaligned rooms.
I agree with you for the most part Gary. It's an incredibly frustrating situation at the moment and it seems like it's not gonna be sorted anytime soon.

On another note do the projectionists/ticket sellers/toilet attendants have level control in Dolby Atmos cinemas?
Yeah, well I never did the white noise thing, nor would I, and I'm sure they abandoned that idea. That was just an example of how some people try to keep from getting too subtle. I do it by just not being too subtle.
Old 11th January 2017
  #47
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Larry Elliott's Avatar
The "white noise" thing at Skywalker was a different "issue".

I recall a lecture by Tom Holman where he was speaking about the original Star Wars movie. Back then the background noise specifications for cinemas was NC30.

When the tested some theatres with Star Wars they found that considerable parts of the dialogue were unintelligible. This was determined to be the much lower background noise levels at Skywalker. So the fed noise through the sound system to lift the background to NC30 and this solved the problem.
Old 11th January 2017
  #48
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ggegan's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Larry Elliott View Post
The "white noise" thing at Skywalker was a different "issue".

I recall a lecture by Tom Holman where he was speaking about the original Star Wars movie. Back then the background noise specifications for cinemas was NC30.

When the tested some theatres with Star Wars they found that considerable parts of the dialogue were unintelligible. This was determined to be the much lower background noise levels at Skywalker. So the fed noise through the sound system to lift the background to NC30 and this solved the problem.
Same issue just explained differently.
Old 11th January 2017
  #49
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
Aww come on, now you've got me blushing!
Haha I didn't make the connection! Your work is appreciated!

In answer to the "what are you going to do about it" question, I still think trying to affect change at the cinema level is what needs to happen. Knowing the inner workings of various large venues, it's just so stupid to me that there is simply No One with their finger on the volume dial. I would never show an audience a film that I didn't test for levels. It's unprofessional and disrespectful to filmmakers and audiences.
Old 11th January 2017
  #50
Gear Maniac
 

It seems that there should be a way for the DCP to embed volume information and have the ability to automatically adjust the volume level... trailers and features could have their own settings.

We could then be sure it starts at the intended volume level.
Old 11th January 2017
  #51
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E Baxter Put View Post
We could then be sure it starts at the intended volume level.
Well that's the thing. The intended level (director's intention) is the mix played back at calibration standard (which is why there is one).

Problem is many people don't seem to want to hear the intended level which is why the fader is set to arbitrary levels which is why some mixers now decided to use the arbitray fader-down level as their personal non-standard standard. Problem is that both sides now use arbitrary levels.

This is not about "intended" level. It's about one side trying to nail a mix to play back at an arbitrary level that they can not know. And the other side having no idea about calibration and setting the level as if it was their TV-set at home.

It's a little bit like going to a concert of the sacre du printemps and asking the orchestra to play the fortissimo sections low. You will still hear something but it won't be the intended sound and the composer would probably want to kill the conductor.
Old 11th January 2017
  #52
Gear Maniac
 

Yes... but if the DCP could adjust the volume at the head of every program, then it would at least start there. The projectionist would have to tweak it for every trailer and feature manually after it had begun.

I usually will test my DCPs at various theaters around town and I usually ask the projectionist about the volume level. It seems that they leave it around 5-5.5 because it is a good average level, not because they think all movies are too loud. My impression is that they turn it down because the trailers are very loud and they just leave it there.
Old 11th January 2017
  #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
7=7 is a great thing if everyone admits what is going on and takes the customer (audience) into account. 7 will continue to = 5.5 etc as long as filmmakers naively believe they can game the theatre loudness level up to a point where audiences complain and ask for refunds. Put the blame where it belongs: not on audiences, not on mixers, not on projectionists, not even on theater owners but on directors. The theatre PB levels will stay down as long as the mix levels stay too hot--if somehow directors can be made to understand this then we'll get back to 7=7.
It's the director's job to hold the vision of the film, it's everyone else's job to make sure they aren't making decisions based on ignorance. If you fail at that, you fail at your job. If the director forces you to fail at your job maybe you should reevaluate your self worth in relation to accepting clients.
Old 11th January 2017
  #54
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You guys should go here and read about what projectionists do to the sound Level of Films:
Film-Tech Forum
Hunt around and you will find a few gems.
Old 11th January 2017
  #55
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Quote:
Originally Posted by E Baxter Put View Post
Yes... but if the DCP could adjust the volume at the head of every program, then it would at least start there. The projectionist would have to tweak it for every trailer and feature manually after it had begun.
We're chasing our tails in a different way then. There's no way to play the film as intended when the playback machine (or projectionist) sets the fader where he thinks it should be. It's exactly the same situation we have now.

It's like having the ticket seller at the Chicago Philharmonics decide that the sacre should be played piano overall.

Quote:
Originally Posted by E Baxter Put View Post
I usually will test my DCPs at various theaters around town and I usually ask the projectionist about the volume level. It seems that they leave it around 5-5.5 because it is a good average level, not because they think all movies are too loud. My impression is that they turn it down because the trailers are very loud and they just leave it there.
That's because they have to because the LEQ stardard for trailers is completely ridiculous. It's at least 10dB too high, IMO.

It's literally impossible to listen to a trailer at fader 7 (which was the original idea when the standard was introduced: clamp down trailer loudness (not fader position) and everyone will be happy. The projectionist doesn't have to turn the trailers down. Great idea but total fail in execution).

Now they play the trailers at fader level 3 (!!) even though there is a loudness standard.

So much for loudness rules will solve the problem
Old 11th January 2017
  #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMuffinMan01 View Post
It's the director's job to hold the vision of the film, it's everyone else's job to make sure they aren't making decisions based on ignorance. If you fail at that, you fail at your job. If the director forces you to fail at your job maybe you should reevaluate your self worth in relation to accepting clients.
The director can hold onto anything he or she wants to. No professional mixer will contravene their wishes. The peak level thing vs Dolby 7 falls into the category of "explain once" concepts, and only if it seems like the director is inexperienced. There might be a back-channel path through a producer. The failure of the mix to get played at its intended level will be owned by the director whether they like (or understand) it or not. Directors who don't understand how theatres operate in this regard (and who it is that actually gets input into the level the film plays at on a theatre-by-theatre basis) are fools.
Old 11th January 2017
  #57
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Larry Elliott's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post
Same issue just explained differently.
Thanks for the clarification - I didnt consider it might have been the same issue.
Old 12th January 2017
  #58
Gear Nut
 

I don't understand the complacency Phil. It's just a matter of setting the automation in the DCP playlist. When you have Arrival come in the door of your 13 screen venue, where it will play maybe hundreds of times to thousands of cinema goers and you think "oh we'll just play it at 5 because films are so loud these days", then you're lazy.

Take an hour out of your day Thursday and set levels for the weekends new releases. Have a colleague in the booth cue up the film, get on walkie-talkie with them and start the film off at 7.0. Listen to some dialogue, listen to some sound effects. Listen to the end credit music. How's it feeling? Is the dialogue clear but not fatiguing? Does music sound right? Adjust until it does. Congratulations, you're a competent cinema manager.

This isn't television or advertising, it's film and no one in the chain should be forced to compromise their professional or artistic integrity to allow for the laziness of others. Not in pre, production, post, or presentation.

Last edited by TheMuffinMan01; 12th January 2017 at 04:22 PM..
Old 12th January 2017
  #59
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Quote:
Originally Posted by apple-q View Post

That's because they have to because the LEQ stardard for trailers is completely ridiculous. It's at least 10dB too high, IMO.

It's literally impossible to listen to a trailer at fader 7 (which was the original idea when the standard was introduced: clamp down trailer loudness (not fader position) and everyone will be happy. The projectionist doesn't have to turn the trailers down. Great idea but total fail in execution).

Now they play the trailers at fader level 3 (!!) even though there is a loudness standard.

So much for loudness rules will solve the problem
Intersting thing is that I recently read the TASA specs for cinema trailers. It seems they specify LEQ(m) there, but not an absolute level, and expilcitly say there that the absolute level is subject to change.
So it seems they are aware of the problem.

Maybe a fist step in this (sorry) cluster**** would be for the rerecording mixer community to lobby at TASA to reduce the LEQ(m) level for trailers?
Old 12th January 2017
  #60
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
Intersting thing is that I recently read the TASA specs for cinema trailers. It seems they specify LEQ(m) there, but not an absolute level, and expilcitly say there that the absolute level is subject to change.
So it seems they are aware of the problem.

Maybe a fist step in this (sorry) cluster**** would be for the rerecording mixer community to lobby at TASA to reduce the LEQ(m) level for trailers?
I have asked about that a few times here in France, and Dolby and the CST (Commission Supérieure Technique) answered that it's very complicated to change the trailer levels as there would be a moment where, worldwide, you would have trailers and commercials at different levels. I can imagine that some older commercials would have to be remixed/remastered to the newer spec, which has a relatively small cost for the client, but other than that I don't see what is preventing the change apart from politics.
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