Too Loud; What’d They Say?

The Real Problem

Most often, people complain: “I can’t understand a thing anyone is saying!”

A Monologue On Dialogue

This may be the most technical of articles that you read here. Or, it may be OK. Fair warning. You might have to read it a few times. I must say, it took a few times to write it correctly.

We might have been taught that the pitch of the sound of a typical man or woman’s voice is around 150 and 300 cycles per second…which is true. That pitch – those frequencies – are just about an octave below the sound from the center note of the piano. Continue reading “Too Loud; What’d They Say?”

Too Loud~! Danger

The subject of sound causing damage to ears is filled with problems.

One point to know is that most standards for sound levels in the workplace are not based on safety. They are based on whether the person can listen to a sound for a number of hours for a number of years and still understand their spouse when they are told that dinner is ready.

Maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but it is mostly true. Continue reading “Too Loud~! Danger”

It’s Like, Too Loud~!

The first instinct for controlling “Too Loud” in the movie theater is “Turn it down.” From the viewpoint of the patron: We drive to the movie theater. We pay for our ticket. We sit for a while in soft lighting (wondering if we’re going to be bothered by the sound and smell of our neighbor’s popcorn all night).

Then the room goes full dark and a movie preview music begins. It’s all mystery-building-like with cool, dark logos and – Bright and Loud!!! Turn it down!!! Continue reading “It’s Like, Too Loud~!”

Too Loud~! More, But Not Now

There is more to this. But it is best to get some experience. Run around and think, “Someone lowered this for some reason, perhaps because one movie seemed too loud to a person who complained…and no one spoke up to say, ‘Hey~! I like it louder.'” But what movie is playing now?? is it a different movie playing at that lower level also? Was it just turned down because it had loud trailers?

Check it out. You’ll find a lot of variations on that theme. Continue reading “Too Loud~! More, But Not Now”

Too Loud~! Fixed Already

“Fixed” Already

The last complicating factor is that very often the audio level has already been turned down. There is enough anecdotal evidence – evidence from people talking about it, but not properly written down with each point studied by experts in the field –  to say that most movie theaters have turned down their audio processors from the optimum level – the level that the auditorium was designed and set up for. )Usually, that means that the level was set up to follow a set of Recommended Practices from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE).) Continue reading “Too Loud~! Fixed Already”

Too Loud~! A Little Theater Theory – Architecture

Mix In Theater Theory

At first, sound seemed like it should be a simple subject. And in the old days, before stereo or before 5.1 sound, maybe it was. But things changed. And one of the biggest changes has been stadium seating, with the tall ceiling and a lot more space to fill.

In practice, it means that for your theater owner to fill this stadium seating challenge with quality sound, there needs to be a lot of amplifier and speaker power. As we learned in the previous article, that power needs to be balanced so that it can deliver more amplification power at low and high frequencies, so they can keep up with middle frequencies as they get stronger. Continue reading “Too Loud~! A Little Theater Theory – Architecture”

Too Loud~! A Little Ear Theory

Introducing: Ear Theory

In none of these conditions is the appropriate move “Turn It Down”. It might make some things softer, but the exciting parts of the movie won’t be as good, and the entire movie will sound like it is being played though a tin can. The high pitch and low pitch sounds will be gone, and surprisingly, that will make it harder to understand the dialogue. Oops! Continue reading “Too Loud~! A Little Ear Theory”

Too Loud! Adverts Before Impact After.

Adverts Louder Than Movie

Loud is also often due to the way that the advertisers overdrive their message. They have 60 or 90 seconds to tell their message, and too often they tell it too loudly.

They forget (or don’t care) about that shock of going from relaxed, dark and nearly silent. Perhaps they never see a movie in a cinema with previews and ads and trailers. Continue reading “Too Loud! Adverts Before Impact After.”

stick figure looks at screen and speakers

Too Loud; Distance

What To Do?

The solution could be as simple as choosing a different seat.

In an auditorium with a big slope, or ‘stadium seating’, the sound is often actually louder in the 2nd half of the room!

Technically, someone who has studied physics will tell you that sound levels decrease as you increase distance. Don’t argue with those people – they and their graphs are absolutely right. Out in an open field, you can measure with great detail how much less the sound decreases with distance. Don’t even mention to them that the theater is not an open field. Just nod. Continue reading “Too Loud; Distance”

Too Loud, Because Distortion

Sometimes turning the audio level down may be the correct response. But probably not most of the time.

“Too Loud” might really be “Too Distorted” – something wrong with a speaker or amplifier – or some other piece of equipment. If you turn down the level of everything, the distorted sound will still be there, but everything will be now be unbalanced.

Or it might be “Too Loud For Your Age” – the chronologically-enriched (the polite way to say ‘older people’) who may have certain frequencies that don’t sound as clear as they used to. A younger audience member might hear the same sounds and not think that there is anything but an exciting set of music and effects. This means that turning it down will make it easier for one person, but most people will not get the full dynamics that the director intended. …which is your job. Continue reading “Too Loud, Because Distortion”