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Poll about Cinema mixing levels Dynamics Plugins
Old 12th January 2017
  #61
Quote:
Originally Posted by Steven1145 View Post
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.
yes, difficult issue and it should be changed worldwide at the same time or it doesn't work. And then you still have the issue of all the archives that then suddenly are too loud.
TASA 85LEQm spec for trailers was a "maximum level" allowed. You don't need to mix it at 85...but how do you think this standard ended up being used :-)

Commercials used to be 82 LEQm here, but are now 85 LEQm as well to be consistent with trailers.

The argument of "trailers are the reason for the level turned down" doesn't really hold, as indeed all DCP playlists are automated on the server these days (as TheMuffinMan01 mentioned) and it's very simple: they set commercial/trailers around 3 and the film at 4 to 4.5 here.
One big multiplex chain here has a rule for projectionist that goes something like this:
theaters below 200 seats or children morning/afternoon viewings:playback level -12dB
theaters between 200-400 seats: -10dB
theaters above 400 seats: -8dB (absolute allowed maximum, but often playing -10dB as well)
I've checked films I mixed in these sorts of conditions and of course the above results in a mix feeling exactly 4 dB lower in the smaller theater compared to the bigger :-)

International Filmfestival in Gent last September, average playback level: -10dB
I walk into a theater and often can say how much down fader levels are. For films I mixed myself, I can tell it within a dB.

and I could go on...

It's a disaster out there.
Over on DUC somebody posted a very interesting thesis about the subject here:
Cinema mixing levels poll - Page 4 - Avid Pro Audio Community

Greetings,

Thierry
Old 12th January 2017
  #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMuffinMan01 View Post
I don't understand the conplacency 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.
All the local theater chains here do exactly this. They test run the DCP when it's delivered and uploaded. I can't think of any theater that doesn't do this. They test the level too since playback is currently fully automated and the level has to be programmed. A feature mixed at 7 is played back at 5.5 because they think it sounds just about right at 5.5.
The problem isn't lack of testing. The problem is difference of opinion. Months of work is now in the hands of the operator doing a test run. And his job is to make sure the complaints go down.
Old 12th January 2017
  #63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Farhoof View Post
All the local theater chains here do exactly this. They test run the DCP when it's delivered and uploaded. I can't think of any theater that doesn't do this. They test the level too since playback is currently fully automated and the level has to be programmed. A feature mixed at 7 is played back at 5.5 because they think it sounds just about right at 5.5.
The problem isn't lack of testing. The problem is difference of opinion. Months of work is now in the hands of the operator doing a test run. And his job is to make sure the complaints go down.
The problem IS also lack of testing. I don't know many cinema chains here that actually listen to each film to set the proper level. Projectionists have gone the way of the dodo in many multiplexes, due to the arrival of digital film.
And when there is testing, I agree Farhoof, it then turns into the projectionist deciding what level the film should be played at.
How many times, when doing screenings in smaller cinemas, have I heard the projectionist telling the director "you are crazy, we NEVER turn it higher than 6, 6.5, 5 etc...". Except that you then insist to having it play back at 7 and everyone is happy.
Old 12th January 2017
  #64
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I once met a projectionist who tested a cast & crew screening at 3.8 because he got startled by a barking dog (which was intended).
We really need some kind of solution, or at least some attempt.
Old 12th January 2017
  #65
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Farhoof View Post
I once met a projectionist who tested a cast & crew screening at 3.8 because he got startled by a barking dog (which was intended).
We really need some kind of solution, or at least some attempt.
I've shared this before but I was talking to a projectionist at a cinema chain here and he said " We play everything at 5.1 because its a 5.1 mix".
Old 12th January 2017
  #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garret View Post
I've shared this before but I was talking to a projectionist at a cinema chain here and he said " We play everything at 5.1 because its a 5.1 mix".
That's why 7.1 was invented..
Old 12th January 2017
  #67
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
That's why 7.1 was invented..
:-)))

makes me think of a HiFi shop salesman that explained to me in the early days of CD, that the AB repeat button was for playing the B-side of the CD :-)

gt
Old 12th January 2017
  #68
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thierryd View Post
yes, difficult issue and it should be changed worldwide at the same time or it doesn't work. And then you still have the issue of all the archives that then suddenly are too loud.
Yes, it's difficult. But it's possible. We in broadcast changed from peak normalization to loudness normalization as well, with all the problems mentioned by you as well (archives etc.) And not all stations / countries changed at the same time either.

So, yes, it is possible, it was done just recently, and on a vastly bigger scale.
Old 12th January 2017
  #69
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It's important to note that it's very easy to automate one level for the trailers in the playlist and another for the feature. It's true that maybe the popcorn stand manager isn't yet trained to be able to call volumes, but why not implement policy to empower at least someone to tastefully set levels.

Arrival was my example because I saw it in cinema and it played at 5.0 (it was mixed at 7) and it was sad how quiet it was. I asked the management and they said "we play everything at 5.0". This was a major downtown multiplex.

It's funny that projectionists and presenters are so adamant about using one standard level. I guess they are operating under the assumption that there must be standards on our side too!
Old 12th January 2017
  #70
Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
Yes, it's difficult. But it's possible. We in broadcast changed from peak normalization to loudness normalization as well, with all the problems mentioned by you as well (archives etc.) And not all stations / countries changed at the same time either.

So, yes, it is possible, it was done just recently, and on a vastly bigger scale.
True, but as I mentioned earlier, there are no sound engineers balancing what goes on antenna anymore. That job has gone to automated play-out systems, with or without R128 level checks before hitting an output chain that contains possibly a R128 leveller of some sorts, maybe even combined with a multiband "station sound" compressor/limiter like Orban/tc electronic/Junger.
I know the chains of several broadcasters and have recorded TV series broadcasts from mixes I did, digitally straight out of the cable box. A plain crash in my mix became the most quiet thing on the broadcast, but the crickets were sometimes louder than the dialog...great...

Just to say that the transition in Broadcast was a bit "simpler" with all this processing.
I wouldn't want to have Orbans in a cinema theater.

I could agree to some sort of offline level metering of the mix file, resulting in a playback level for the theater. That's what the paper is about I mentioned earlier.

It's a bit like Dialnorm from Dolby for DVD. It was a really GOOD idea, but it was never implemented for what it was invented and nobody on the consumer side understood it or knew how great it could be if implemented correctly...

Greetings,

Thierry
Old 12th January 2017
  #71
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Trailers are VERY COMPRESSED. That is one of the reasons why they sound much louder than anything else. They are also mixed differently than film. This is a fact.
The two are similar .... one is 2 1/2 minutes the other is 2 hours but that is where it ends. The trailers have less dynamics, films more. Dynamics in cinema is what separates us from all other sound mediums including TV. Don't suck the life out of Films to hit a number. At no time should a Feature be compared to a Trailer.
Old 12th January 2017
  #72
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I don't think the level of most trailers is way over the top, except for the LFE, which trailer mixers seem to be using as a cheat to get more impact while staying within the rules. I absolutely detest their abuse of the sub. These mixes sound horrible, but the client gets what the client wants and they obviously want ridiculous. One facility I work at regularly has a trailer stage and when they are working the entire building is shaking like there is an earthquake. The ceiling tiles and picture frames are literally rattling all day long.
Old 12th January 2017
  #73
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And they are booked 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Old 12th January 2017
  #74
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I guess I don't think that anything will change until the source-cause of the non standard playback levels: film mixes that the audience perceives as being too loud, is dealt with. If the films play in such a way that complaints stop happening @ Dolby 7, then we can start the discussion about having the staff do test screenings and at least trying to show films @ their intended level.
Old 13th January 2017
  #75
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
I guess I don't think that anything will change until the source-cause of the non standard playback levels: film mixes that the audience perceives as being too loud, is dealt with. If the films play in such a way that complaints stop happening @ Dolby 7, then we can start the discussion about having the staff do test screenings and at least trying to show films @ their intended level.
So what you're saying is mixers should mix at 85db. I totally agree.
Old 13th January 2017
  #76
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMuffinMan01 View Post
So what you're saying is mixers should mix at 85db. I totally agree.
Yes, of course. And directors should understand that if they blow-out their mixes to the extent now possible on the dubstage that that will be the last time anyone hears that mix at that level. Otherwise the 85/7 thing on the stage is meaningless.
Old 13th January 2017
  #77
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This discussion is coming up every few weeks, always with the same point of views. Now this might have something to do with the fact we are all working "in the box" and should be thinking outside it. Let's hear those ridiculous, unpractical, unachievable solutions to this problem, don't be afraid!
How about each seat with a personal 3D audio headset and vibrating chair as LFE extension!
Old 13th January 2017
  #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
Yes, of course. And directors should understand that if they blow-out their mixes to the extent now possible on the dubstage that that will be the last time anyone hears that mix at that level. Otherwise the 85/7 thing on the stage is meaningless.
I completely agree. The problem is not the cinema chains, nor the trailers, nor the projectionists IMO.
It's that (at least some) movies are just too frickin' loud on 7.
I guess no one would be happier than the cinema chains if they just wouldn't have to care about the fader setting and leave it at 7 without many complaints from the audience. No work and no worries is what they want.

Case in point, when I watched Pacific Rim in a big London theater I'd really wanted to get hold of the rerecording mixers and director to tell them (VERY LOUD) that they almost made me loose my hearing. And I don't think the projectionist turned the fader to 10 when I read that this was mixed with hearing protection(!!).
Old 13th January 2017
  #79
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kosmokrator View Post
I completely agree. The problem is not the cinema chains, nor the trailers, nor the projectionists IMO.
It's that (at least some) movies are just too frickin' loud on 7.
I guess no one would be happier than the cinema chains if they just wouldn't have to care about the fader setting and leave it at 7 without many complaints from the audience. No work and no worries is what they want.

Case in point, when I watched Pacific Rim in a big London theater I'd really wanted to get hold of the rerecording mixers and director to tell them (VERY LOUD) that they almost made me loose my hearing. And I don't think the projectionist turned the fader to 10 when I read that this was mixed with hearing protection(!!).
The reason they are too loud at 7 is because they were mixed with the monitors calibrated lower than 85db. If you mix at 7 and it sounds bad then it's a bad mix. If you mix at 5 and try to play it back at 7, of course it's going to be loud.

Last edited by TheMuffinMan01; 13th January 2017 at 04:48 PM..
Old 13th January 2017
  #80
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large cinema chains here in Spain have these disclaimers at the entrance. It says "The sound levels inside the theater can cause permanent hearing damage"
I went to see Rogue One the other day and it was quite loud. I would say it was at no less than 7.

Old 13th January 2017
  #81
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My 2 (euro) cents:

I am not so experienced re-recording mixers for cinema, as many of us here, however I have an experience, which might be important in terms of this topic:
Couple years ago, I did a sound design for a cinema network intro/outro. This was a nice short animation, giving me nice opportunity to prepare a soundtrack with a cinematic dynamic and creative use of all channels (5.1 at that time).
After that, we did an extensive test playing this in a large number of rooms in these theaters (small to quite large) to establish a proper loudness of this mix.

I have been told, that in most of rooms they play movies at 5.5. The reason of this, is quite simple - viewers compliments. Literal translation of a projectionist's statement: "if we were playing Hollywood blockbusters at 7, there would be a blood from viewers' ears".

The conclusion is really obvious.

regards,
Kuba

PS. The exeption are movies for young children: all content is played much softer, including trailers and commercials; lights (dimmed) are also on.
Old 13th January 2017
  #82
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMuffinMan01 View Post
The reason they are too loud at 7 is because they were mixed with the monitors calibrated lower than 85db. If you mix at 7 and it sounds bad then it's a bad mix. If you mix at 5 and try to play it back at 7, of course it's going to be loud.
But that doesn't seem to hold water as lots of people on here have mentioned, ALL Hollywood films are mixed at 7 but they are consistently turned down in the cinemas due to their loud levels. I've seen plenty in my time that were definitely not played at 7 but had sequences that were excruciatingly loud. Transformers, terminator salvation, assassins creed as examples where I've stuck my fingers in my ears. So something is way out of whack.
Old 13th January 2017
  #83
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I have to admit that after a few decades of mixing features and having directors constantly push for ever louder, uncomfortable mix levels I am quite happy these days to be mixing primarily for broadcast and new media, where there are mandated restrictions on levels that must be observed. My job is much more pleasant now. While I do wish I had the amount of time to do my work that I had on feature mixes, overall the tradeoffs are worth it.

In the beginning of my career, levels were not an issue because the limitations of optical tracks kept everything in check, especially before Dolby SR, but once digital took over things got ridiculous.

One thing that I have thought about a few times is whether it might have been a mistake to establish the standard calibration level at -20dBFSD rather than at -14. Yes, -20 provides better fidelity, but it also often unleashes the worst instincts in people with big egos.
Old 13th January 2017
  #84
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheMuffinMan01 View Post
The reason they are too loud at 7 is because they were mixed with the monitors calibrated lower than 85db. If you mix at 7 and it sounds bad then it's a bad mix. If you mix at 5 and try to play it back at 7, of course it's going to be loud.
No, I don't think that is true at all. So far on this forum no one has said they are MIXING at a lower-than-7 monitor level that I can recall. I think most folks ARE mixing at 7 AND some are pushing the envelope by a lot. That's the issue: the hallucination that mixing that hot will result in equally hot playback in the theatres. So I agree: if you mix so hot (@ 7) that the theatres turn the mix down to 5 then you have made a bad mix, a mix that does not translate to the theatre well at all.

Last edited by philper; 13th January 2017 at 08:04 PM..
Old 13th January 2017
  #85
Phil, I'm closing the poll this evening. I'll post the results early next week, but a first look confirms at least one thing : around 30% of those who answered mix at 85...
And I got nearly 400 answers, ranging from ultra low budget to blockbuster. But these numbers need a bit of work to understand trends.
Old 13th January 2017
  #86
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One last question to folks mixing on dubstages for theatrical all or most of the time: it occurs to me that most feature directors are not stupid people, they are generally pretty smart and pretty perceptive. So why the excessive mix levels when they certainly know the mix will be turned down in some theatres? I wondered if this was done to impress studio execs and marketing people visiting the mixes--that the loud stage levels were a bit of theatre done to help "sell" the film to the studio, distro folks and other people who make decisions about how a film is opened?
Old 13th January 2017
  #87
Quote:
Originally Posted by philper View Post
One last question to folks mixing on dubstages for theatrical all or most of the time: it occurs to me that most feature directors are not stupid people, they are generally pretty smart and pretty perceptive. So why the excessive mix levels when they certainly know the mix will be turned down in some theatres? I wondered if this was done to impress studio execs and marketing people visiting the mixes--that the loud stage levels were a bit of theatre done to help "sell" the film to the studio, distro folks and other people who make decisions about how a film is opened?
Directors freak out when they hear their movies in theatres where the level has been turned down, and rightly so. But their answer to that is often to ask for the mix to be at a higher level, feeding the loop.
Old 13th January 2017
  #88
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Maybe directors aren't stupid, but I've certainly met a few ignoramuses over the years. Also some try to make up for action scenes that are not particularly exciting or well crafted by blasting the volume, thinking that if the scene isn't powerful in its content they can make it seem that way by pinning the audience to the backs of their seats.
Old 13th January 2017
  #89
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan View Post

In the beginning of my career, levels were not an issue because the limitations of optical tracks kept everything in check, especially before Dolby SR, but once digital took over things got ridiculous.

One thing that I have thought about a few times is whether it might have been a mistake to establish the standard calibration level at -20dBFSD rather than at -14. Yes, -20 provides better fidelity, but it also often unleashes the worst instincts in people with big egos.
Absolutely true! With digital soundtracks we gained at least 6 dB of headroom over analog, but we kept the old reference.
Old 20th January 2017
  #90
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Just read some NHK research material regarding NHK22.2 for cinema deployment from around 2005.

Initially, with an empty theatre, each channel in the system was fixed at 80dB(C) SPL. This corresponds to 5.5 on the Dolby scale.

In a full theatre (350 seats), each channel was adjusted to 84dB(C) SPL.

ISO2969 X-Curve was not applied to the system.
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