You are here

Is TV/ video/ film sound getting worse?

Page 3 of 7

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

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 1:24 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
The Red Bladder wrote:Add to that, broadcasters are viewing the final product on either very large 4K monitors and with 5.1 sound systems, or even in a proper viewing theatre - hardly the pokey little set-up most people have in the UK TV market in their living rooms and bedrooms!

:-) Back in the 80s when I was a the forefront of broadcasting, When I finished editing a programme it had a 'tech review' which meant watching it critically -- usually with the director sat beside me -- on a 'Grade 1' CRT television (625 lines -- I'm not as old as Andrew! ;-) ) while listening on a 'Grade 1' speaker (usually an LS5/8) in a room with decent acoustics and lighting. Top quality for the day...

At the same we recorded the programme onto VHS and that tape was then taken up to the Producer who watched it on a standard domestic TV either in his office or at home before signing the programme off as fit for transmission. ... And the producer had probably never seen the script, either...

As Andrew says, that kind of independent 'domestic viewing' check is rarely performed these days, and a lot of shows -- especially the bigger budget stuff -- is signed off by production staff watching it in a professional viewing room with very high quality projection and powerful surround sound. Dark scenes, dynamic sound tracks, and mumbled dialogue are easily accepted in such environments, but render programmes unwatchable to the average viewer at home...

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

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 2:11 pm
by The Red Bladder
VHS and 625-line television? Sheer luxury!

At Granada (up to about 1967 or 8) we just had B&W cameras that had four lenses on a turret and the ones in Studios 1 & 2 couldn't be synced. Reel-to-reel videotape and a five-second gap between camera shots, so the tape had to have a magnetic liquid put on the gaps to see where the black-burst came and the editor had to cut into that and stick the bits together.

The outdoor Coronation Street set was at two-thirds real size (so the actors had to always stand away from the buildings) and the indoor stuff was all in one small studio. Studio One - about 200 sq m. The outdoor set was recorded on the one and only OB truck - that could be synced, as could the newsroom upstairs.

Colour was coming and so no money was spent on old B&W 405 stuff. Everything was cash-strapped and the OB truck was just a cardboard box in a hole in the ground. In fact, the cameras were so bad that the role of Ena Sharples was played by a whippet.

And the editing suite? Well, I say editing suite - until we got colour, we had to edit all our programmes on a sewing machine.

Microphones? Luxury! We used to dream of having real microphones! All we got was some bits of string, a couple of matchboxes and a hearing-aid valve! And if we could not make that work, the floor manager of Studio Two used to beat us to death.

But we were happy!

But when you tell that to engineers today, they just laugh in your face and drive you over in their sports cars!

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

PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2019 2:21 pm
by Wonks
The Red Bladder wrote: (BTW - watch out for Mendes' and Deakins' new movie '1917' coming in December - I've seen some of the 'rushes' and if it lives up to that which I have seen so far, it is going to change the way movies are made and what we expect from an action movie!)

So definitely over the top then! :D

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

PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:39 pm
by The Red Bladder
Wonks wrote:So definitely over the top then! :D
In every sense of that expression - one of the lighting rigs (there were many) had 500kW of HMI lights in one array. Several were placed at intervals to reproduce the effect of a village on fire. Most of the movie is one continuous shot, filmed on a brand new large-frame camera developed by Arri.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqNYrYUiMfg

You get a short glimpse of one of the arrays here at 1:35 and 2:15

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hSjs2hBa94

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

PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:05 pm
by Wonks
Looks totally unconvincing. Won't be seeing it.

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

PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 5:17 pm
by The Red Bladder
Wonks wrote:Looks totally unconvincing. Won't be seeing it.
This is from someone who has just seen the film yesterday at a Directors' Guild of America special event in NY -

"Just saw 1917 and want to encourage all who might read this as strongly as possible to go see this film on the largest screen possible. Beyond astonishing on all levels. Total immersion.

The only other time I experienced this level of immersion within a movie was the long 'mental institution' shot in Werkmeister Harmonies, but that analogy is rough and doesn't really begin to compare to what happens onscreen in 1917."

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

PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:37 pm
by baward
The Red Bladder wrote:Add to that, broadcasters are viewing the final product on either very large 4K monitors and with 5.1 sound systems, or even in a proper viewing theatre - hardly the pokey little set-up most people have in the UK TV market in their living rooms and bedrooms!

Bring back the Auratone! (oh, they did...)

I look forward to the day when you can mix your own sound (which it seems is not that far off. In general, I would be happiest with just the dialogue tracks(s).

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

PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2019 10:52 pm
by Sam Spoons
baward wrote:I look forward to the day when you can mix your own sound (which it seems is not that far off. In general, I would be happiest with just the dialogue tracks(s).

I wish they did the sensible thing and restricted the centre speaker to dialogue and, maybe, the odd SFX, then we could balance the dialogue ourselves with a suitable decoder. I had hoped that might be the case but, having asked the question on here, the consensus is that the centre speaker does not isolate dialogue with any consistency so I haven't bothered yet.

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:44 am
by The Red Bladder
Centre speaker - this is where usually dialogue is lurking, the trouble is, most TV sounds systems do not have separate volume controls for the channels.

But we have a pukka viewing room here at Bladder Towers 2.5m screen, Genelec 7.1 surround and 24:10 mixing desk and I always (so far) have left the audio flat for all channels - no EQ, all eight or six channels at the same volume - and no problems with understanding dialogue whatsoever.

HOWEVER, there is a fundamental movie v. TV audio philosophy problem that Hugh touched upon. In a movie, the dialogue is of less importance than in a TV show. I would almost state that in an action movie, the dialogue is just another set of noises that belong to the overall sound design and the viewer should be able to follow the action without even knowing what is being said. A good script should push the story forward through acts and action and not words.

Conversely, a bad script is filled with much flapping at the lip, trying (and often failing) to explain to the audience what the hell is going on! The occasional plot-twist can be spoken ("Luke, I am your father!") and of course zippy one-liners to amuse the audience ("Go ahead, make my day!") are a must-have. Every good action movie has a string of ironic one-liners that make you sit up and take notice.

TV is still largely just radio with pictures, especially in the UK where TV sets are quite small and shows are dialogue-driven. A made-for-TV movie is being pulled between two stools. On the one side, there is the need to punch through the family living room banter, the small TV set with crappy audio and the need to explain several times to the audience what is going on. On the other side, it's a movie. It is trying to be big. It is mixed in 5.1 or 7.1 or even Atmos/DTS-X and the TV-mix is a fold-down from that.

Most importantly, in a movie, the dialogue comes from a different set of speakers and from a different direction. When folded down for TV, it comes from the same crappy little rear-facing speakers everything else comes from. If the dialogue is kept at the same volume as the score and overall sound design, it can get swamped on a small TV set. If it is made louder and/or sharper, it spoils the quality of the film.

And behind all this is an overriding HUGE difference in attitude between those who make movies and those who make TV. Each movie tries to be a work of art. It is a one-off, a unique experience that must stand alone. Making a movie is similar to going into battle: a year or two of planning, months of preparation and a couple of months of fierce action, followed by mopping-up and cleaning. Right at the end comes the assessment - did we succeed?

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.

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 11:50 am
by Sam Spoons
So if that's the case why can't I hear the feckin' dialogue over the background nonsense :headbang:

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:02 pm
by Arpangel
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.

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:12 pm
by Sam Spoons
And you couldn't hear the dialogue, but that might have been down to 'Whispering Bob' ;)

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:24 pm
by Arpangel
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.

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:42 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
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.

H

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

PostPosted: Mon Nov 25, 2019 12:44 pm
by Hugh Robjohns
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...