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Vox producer Edward Vega has a solid explanation for why TV and movie dialogue seems harder to understand, and why younger people use closed captioning to watch TV.

You’re not, dialogue in TV and movies is harder to hear.

Vega used director Christopher Nolan’s films as an example of reducing the volume of dialogue. In 2017, Nolan told Indiewire that he doesn’t make films for small audiences.

Almost every one of his films has been criticized for hard-to-hear dialogue that essentially requires subtitles. …And in his 2017 interview with Indiewire, he said: “We made a decision a few movies ago that we weren’t going to mix movies for low-quality theaters.” And that’s the crux of the matter.

Vega further points out that people are watching movies on smaller and smaller screens, which also affects audibility.

Re-recording mixers mix for the widest surround sound format available, typically for large release films. It’s Dolby Atmos… which has true 3D sound up to 128 channels. The thing is, unless you’re in a movie theater that can feature the best Hollywood sound… you can’t experience all those waves.

Vega reached out to voice producer Austin Olivia Kendrick to explain this further.

Many will ask like this. “Why don’t you just turn the dialogue on?” Like, just turn it on. And… if only it were that simple. Because one big thing that we want to keep is a concept called dynamic range. The range of your quietest and loudest volume. If you have your dialogue, it will be at the same volume as the explosion that immediately follows it. The explosion will not be so big.

A string board can always help.


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