Smoker

Modern Movie Soundtracks

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Hello all,

I cannot be the only one who has noticed how noisy today's movies are.  I am a fan of older movies, and in those days the soundtrack was nicely balanced between dialogue and special effects.  These days it seems that the volume of special effects is boosted up, far above any spoken dialogue.  When I watch a newer movie, I am constantly playing with the volume....having to crank it up for the scenes where the actors are talking, and then pounce on the controls when a gun is fired or, god forbid, an explosion takes place. Perhaps one argument is that a gunshot or explosion IS many times louder than the human voice, so then it should be reproduced as such, but that doesn't make things very comfortable or entertaining for the viewer in my opinion.  Should we have our hearing damaged by a sound in the cinema, just because it would damage our hearing in real life? :)  Besides, even quieter sounds are reproduced unrealistically louder than the spoken word.

My cynical explanation is that today's audience is not interested in dialogue, or story telling, but just wish to be dazzled by special effects and imagery.  Well, that and the fact that the majority of movies today don't actually seem to HAVE a decent story/plot/script, and rely on noise, images, and camera trickery.  But then I suppose this stems from the audience demand.

Another thing that irritates me is the loss of colour!  It seems that a huge number of movies being produced now use filters to wash the colour out of the images.  This is supposed to make things all 'dark' and 'gritty', but it's just so common now, that it's a bit ridiculous.

Ok, this wasn't meant to be a rant....more like a question.....have these things annoyed anyone else?  And, does anyone know where it all started?  Was there a particular movie that was made this way, and then imitated by others, or was a it a gradual increasing of FX volumes?  My guess would be that it started gradually from around 2002 or so.

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1 hour ago, Smoker said:

These days it seems that the volume of special effects is boosted up, far above any spoken dialogue.

There is no question that the background music / sounds are louder than the dialogue. It certainly makes it more difficult to hear what's being said. My only though is that it might have something to do with surround sound, or whatever the current terminology is. Regardless, it's not very well thought out.

As for color, I'm a big fan of black and white both in movies and photography, so that is much less bothersome to me than the audio imbalance.

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This is my profession and I agree that it's a real problem. Personally I try very hard not to let this happen to the movies or TV shows that I mix. I am old enough to have started doing this before digital recording and theatrical exhibition existed and I lived and worked through the change to digital in the 1990's. This problem arose due to the vastly increased dynamic range which the switch to digital film exhibition enabled. This is exacerbated by the overuse of badly placed radio mics buried in the costumes of the actors resulting in poorly recorded dialogue tracks. This problem is most noticeable on commercial network TV shows which generally have much lower budgets and much shorter production and post-production schedules than feature films do. Then there is the problem of a lot of just plain old very bad mixing. Music and sound effects are favored over dialogue. These are choices made in the mix by the director or producer and again are exacerbated by squeezed budgets and mix schedules that are too short to allow the mixers to do a proper job.

Thanks for letting me vent.

 

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1 hour ago, TomF said:

This is my profession and I agree that it's a real problem. Personally I try very hard not to let this happen to the movies or TV shows that I mix. I am old enough to have started doing this before digital recording and theatrical exhibition existed and I lived and worked through the change to digital in the 1990's. This problem arose due to the vastly increased dynamic range which the switch to digital film exhibition enabled. This is exacerbated by the overuse of badly placed radio mics buried in the costumes of the actors resulting in poorly recorded dialogue tracks. This problem is most noticeable on commercial network TV shows which generally have much lower budgets and much shorter production and post-production schedules than feature films do. Then there is the problem of a lot of just plain old very bad mixing. Music and sound effects are favored over dialogue. These are choices made in the mix by the director or producer and again are exacerbated by squeezed budgets and mix schedules that are too short to allow the mixers to do a proper job.

Thanks for letting me vent.

 

So it's not a conspiracy by the studios, but more of a technical/budget issue?  I haven't noticed it as much with TV shows, but then I do tend to watch more movies than TV.  But even with big budget productions, the issue seems to be there.  For example with something like the Avenger movies, or other big-budget action spectacles.

On a less irritated note, I just watched Spellbound, one of the very few Hitchcock movies that I had not seen.  I recognised the score at once!  It has obviously been used in many other places and was excellent.  Hitchcock really did well with his choice of composers.  Movies like Vertigo and Psycho would never have been as successful without Herrmann scoring them, and here we have another great score by Miklos Rozsa, who also composed the fantastic music in Ben-Hur.

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I hope modern stays for 21st century, so I would mark some tracks of my favorite move Bad Santa:

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Andy Williams

Winter Wonderland - Eddie Waves

Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives

Edit: Yes! New year and Christmas are my favorite holidays during the year! ;) 

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