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Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:02 pm

I'm always quite surprised at the high quality of the video and sound on 70's sit-coms, like The Good Life, Man About The House, Ever Decreasing Circles, etc etc etc. The lighting seems very good as well.
The worst program for sound was always The Old Grey Whistle Test, I don't know what the problem was, but it always sounded like all the instruments and performers were in different studios, it was all cold and seperated out, nothing felt mixed and it didn't gell.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:12 pm

And you couldn't hear the dialogue, but that might have been down to 'Whispering Bob' ;)
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Arpangel » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:24 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:And you couldn't hear the dialogue, but that might have been down to 'Whispering Bob' ;)

Do you know what I mean though? OGWT just sounded sort of dead, and flat, cold. Everyone I knew just laughed at it, we just enjoyed the music anyway.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:42 pm

Dynamics and spatial masking are the biggest parts of it.

In a cinema the reproduction system is large and loud. Peaks will be well up over 110dB SPL, and even very quiet dialogue will be well over 65dB SPL.

When the film is shown on TV, peaks will be 80-ish at most, and quiet dialogue will quite possible disappear into the domestic background noise level.

Most broadcasters implement some form of dynamic range control -- usually boosting the overall level and limiting peaks -- but it's not always very effective basically because a one-size-all approach really doesn't work very well. Ideally, the sound track should be actively remixed for TV, but no one has the budgets, time, or interest in doing that.

The other issue is the spatial masking one. In a cinema, 99% of dialogue comes from the centre speaker which is a long way away from the left and right speakers. This makes it relatively easy for the brain to separate dialogue from the rest of the music and effects using the 'cocktail effect'.

When reproduced at home on a TV, either there is no centre speaker (so centre dialogue is mixed in as a phantom centre), or if there is the physical separation between the centre and left/right edges is typically quite small... so it's not so easy for the brain to separate out the sound sources.

Andrew mentioned the downmixing aspect -- if your TV is switched to stereo but receives a surround source, it downmixes that source according to a set of rules encoded with the material. The LFE track is always discarded, but the surround channels are mixed into left and right at a prescribed level, as is the centre channel at an independently set level.

Dolby's original concept was that the film's producers would decide on the optimum downmix values (and dynamic range control parameters, actually) , and that data would follow the film whereever it was shown. However, the broadcasting practicalities have meant that each broadcaster simply imposes its own static set of downmix values and compression settings. The last time I checked, Sky's set the downmix values for the centre at -3dB and surround at -6dB. The Beeb's settings were very similar.

So, whereas it might be desirable in some cases to have a higher level of centre dialogue in the downmix because of the busy music and effects, say, the broadcaster won't pass that on or adjust it's transmission settings itself.

What you can potentially do, as an end user, is adjust your system at home to have more centre-dialogue in the downmix... but few TVs let you do that. Most home-theatre surround system do, though.

As for centre dialogue and TV... most TV sound supervisors tend not to use an exclusive centre-channel dialogue as they do in film. They Instead, most prefer to use a phantom centre. There are a variety of reasons, but the main one is complaints that centre-only dialogue just doesn't sound right in a domestic viewing context. It 'isolates' the sound of whoever is talking rather than integrating them into the rest of the soundtrack.

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:44 pm

Arpangel wrote:OGWT just sounded sort of dead, and flat, cold.

A combination of limited technical facilities, limited production time, live performances, and the constraints of TV broadcasting...
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Sam Spoons » Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:47 pm

Thanks for the explanation Hugh :thumbup:
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Tomás Mulcahy » Mon Nov 25, 2019 1:13 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:TV is a 9-to-5. Monday read-through, Tuesday and Wednesday walk-through, Thursday rehearsals, Friday taping. Rinse-repeat - Monday read-through . . . Retire at 65 and then wait for death.
Nihilism FTW. Bringing in guests as often as possible so you can pinch a lunch voucher seems to be the standard method to make what you described more bearable.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Jake Knott » Tue Dec 03, 2019 2:52 pm

Tomás Mulcahy wrote:My favourite example of great live TV dialogue/ sound is University Challenge. Teams are on super-cardioid desk mics, desk is acoustically treated and the 3:1 rule is (almost) always adhered to. Presenter has a lav where the bas tilt is deployed to add to the gravitas. Defo fig 8s on audience as well. I think that format is about 50 years old?

Haven't been around these parts for a while, but popped in and found this. I've been the sound supervisor for this show since 2001, and your comments are most kind. Here's a bit more info if anyone's interested.

The desk mics are currently Sennheiser 8040 cardioids; I've tried 8050 hypercardioids and although the extra suck was welcome it caused the dialogue while the teams chat to each other to go more off-mic. The desks aren't great acoustically, being mostly wooden tops with glass panels for TV flatscreens, but it works ok with the proximity of the mics.

Roger Tilling performs the VOs live in the studio; he sits next to the audience and has a Sennheiser 416.

Jeremy has a Sony ECM77 omni lav mic, mainly because a desk mic would pick up noise from his question cards, as well as being blocked sometimes by them. It's always put on the same position high on his tie, on the right side away from the teams, and then as you spotted it has a specific EQ curve to make it work. His desk DOES have some acoustic treatment on the raised edges to stop the "honk" from the height and distance of his tie mic.

All mics have 5:1 soft-knee compression tickling for normal speech, and go into a group with 10:1 to even out and give a nice average speech level. No auto-mixer is used; the show is hard-mixed by hand with lots of fader movements. There's also a CEDAR DNS 1500 stereo noise reduction unit across the group because there's quite a high noise floor from the studio lights.

Audience is about 70 people, and are covered with 4 Audio Technica cardioids dropped from the roof to about 8 feet above their heads. Lots of gain for the occasional laughs, 10:1 pre comp and then 50:1 on the main audience group. Whole mix then goes through a final TC6000 brickwall at - 3dbFS for R128 compliance, and goes off to the edit.

The whole mix is kept at around - 23 LUFS, and I deliberately keep the loudness range fairly small so it hopefully translates ok on domestic tellies.

(Just to contrast with the comments on large mix environments, I mix this and all our other shows with a pair of Harbeth Monitor 20 bookshelf speakers which sit just behind the meter bridge.)
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:58 pm

Brilliant -- thanks for all the detail Jake. Really interesting.

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Eddy Deegan » Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:05 pm

Jake Knott wrote:Here's a bit more info if anyone's interested.

That was fascinating stuff. Thank you Jake.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Wonks » Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:55 pm

Yes, thank you. Much appreciated.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Dec 03, 2019 10:58 pm

Indeed - a real insight into the nitty gritty of quality audio recording to suit a particular scenario.

Thanks Jake!


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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Dan LB » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:27 am

Thanks for the info Jake, very interesting.

What equipment is used to provide FOH sound for the audience?
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Jake Knott » Wed Dec 04, 2019 11:00 am

Dan LB wrote:Thanks for the info Jake, very interesting.

What equipment is used to provide FOH sound for the audience?

We've got 3 Nexo PS10 speakers slung on trussing above the front corners and centre. They're nicely directional, and don't have an extended bottom end response, which is just what you need for TV speech. No subs; there's only a small amount of music in each show and it's never at concert volumes. They're at least 25 years old and currently showing no signs of breaking down. The audience mics then sit in between them, 2 front and 2 rear, and their group fader is worked very heavily to control PA colouration.

The teams each have a K-Array Anakonda speaker hidden in their desks, and Jeremy has a small active Fostex speaker by his chair, although he hears the teams mostly through his earpiece.

Teams and presenter hear a "mix-minus" of speech with everyone but themselves in it, which are all sent from post-fader channel auxes. This and the hard mixing style keep any spill under control.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Dan LB » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:27 pm

Jake Knott wrote:We've got 3 Nexo PS10 speakers slung on trussing above the front corners and centre. They're nicely directional, and don't have an extended bottom end response, which is just what you need for TV speech. No subs; there's only a small amount of music in each show and it's never at concert volumes. They're at least 25 years old and currently showing no signs of breaking down. The audience mics then sit in between them, 2 front and 2 rear, and their group fader is worked very heavily to control PA colouration.

Thanks for the detail Jake. :thumbup:

Coincidentally, we are looking at replacing our current PA system in our main studio with Nexo PS10s also. The current system was installed sometime in the late 80s/early 90s and is comprised of 8 EV SX300s powered by Crown Macrotech amps. Each speaker is hanging from the studio grid on its own lighting ‘scope.
It seems crazy to me to be driving these ancient budget speakers from a beautiful new Digico SD5 but it’s what we’ve got for the moment. The audience for most shows in that studio is 200 people but the configuration changes from show to show so we need to be able to reposition speakers to suit the production.

Do you do the FOH mix for from the broadcast desk or is there a dedicated FOH console?
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby ef37a » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:45 pm

I have not entered the debate so far but last night I watched the first Dirty Harry film. I have a modest, mainly home built 5.1 system (but no rear speakers at the mo) and I was struck by the high quality of the music and the crisp dialogue.

So yes, much modern sound production is poor to dreadful IMHO and I agree that a large part of that is due to the lack of consideration of the rubbish speakers in FSTVs but even in my quite decent system 'FX' music often drowns out speech and is often totally unrelated to the picture and unecessary.

The picture quality was also excellent and even in the night scenes they lit the action where it was needed so you could follow it.

Contrast that with the recent production of War of the Worlds. I know it was SUPPOSED to be soul destroying but the lack of light became such a strain I gave up in the end. I will confess I found the plot line hard to follow. Maybe I should read the book?

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Jake Knott » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:53 pm

Dan LB wrote:Do you do the FOH mix for from the broadcast desk or is there a dedicated FOH console?

It's all fed from a post-fader aux on the broadcast desk. The actual mix to FOH is more or less the broadcast mix minus the audience mics, with odd tweaks depending on the studio geography; for example the VO is slightly lower because he's virtually in the audience. I set it up all by ear with feedback from the floor crew, then it's saved and recalled each time we come back.
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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Dan LB » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:59 pm

Jake Knott wrote:
Dan LB wrote:Do you do the FOH mix for from the broadcast desk or is there a dedicated FOH console?

It's all fed from a post-fader aux on the broadcast desk. The actual mix to FOH is more or less the broadcast mix minus the audience mics, with odd tweaks depending on the studio geography; for example the VO is slightly lower because he's virtually in the audience. I set it up all by ear with feedback from the floor crew, then it's saved and recalled each time we come back.

Thanks again for the insight Jake, very helpful :thumbup:

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:25 pm

ef37a wrote:Contrast that with the recent production of War of the Worlds. I know it was SUPPOSED to be soul destroying but the lack of light became such a strain I gave up in the end.

This is another common problem. The gamma curve of Plasma TVs screens is quite different to that of LCD TVs. Plasma screens can cope very well with low-light images -- you can still see detail in the dark bits. But LCD screens tend to just go black and all detail is lost.

Needless to say, with the increased sensitivity of modern cameras, it is genuinely possible to light a scene with single candles these days and, as most productions are shot, edited and viewed using expensive plasma screens (moving to OLEDs now), or projected in low-light viewing theatres, it all looks great and 'moody'. Meanwhile, viewers at home with the £50 LCD sets from Tescos (which they're viewing from well off-axis) can't see half of what's going on!

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Re: Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Dec 04, 2019 2:40 pm

ef37a wrote:Contrast that with the recent production of War of the Worlds. I know it was SUPPOSED to be soul destroying but the lack of light became such a strain I gave up in the end. I will confess I found the plot line hard to follow. Maybe I should read the book?

Dave.

Naw, don't bother just listen to the Jeff Wayne version......
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