Anyone Ever Take Their SPL To the Movies?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Jason Wolters, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. Jason Wolters

    Jason Wolters Stunt Coordinator

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    I was curious if anyone ever hauled their SPL meter with them to the movies? I would be curious to see how the analog Radio Shack meter reads compared to the home setting? For example: setting the meter to A and slow for a given movie and than going home to watch the same movie and then recording the difference? I wonder if our HT's calibrated to reference are blatantly louder than most movie theaters? I suspect so in many cases.
     
  2. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    Jason,

    Just remember, setting the meter to "A" changes the meter's ability to measure any bass frequencies. Everything below 500Hz is not measured with the meter set to the "A" setting.
     
  3. Craig Brandstetter

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    Don't worry, you're not the only freak that has thought of doing that. [​IMG] Be sure and take a pen light (along with paper and pen) so you can see what you are writing down.
    I took mine with me to see "The Mummy Returns" and wrote down peaks at 4 different scenes. I wrote the peak on the meter and a very short reminder for what was going on in the scene. I haven't rented the DVD to check against my setup. I just haven't been able to bring myself to rent the movie cause I was disappointed with the movie after enjoying the first one so much. There was one peak during the ballon take off sequence that registered 120db. I can tell you that if I played my system that loud during a movie, it would have to be when the wife was not in the house. And to be honest, it was a little loud for me. I remember gritting my teeth and thinking that I just lost some of my hearing ability.
    I wish I would have had my SPL meter with me at LOTR. It wasn't nearing loud enough IMO. It really makes me wonder if they ever calibrate the sound settings or if they just adjust it higher and lower all the time because people complain.
    Here is another thought. What if they calibrate the theater while it's emtpy??? I'm sure it would require a different setting when it was full. I would think all the bodies would act as sound absorbing material. Especially if it's winter and a lot of people brought coats with them. OK, so now maybe I'm reaching. [​IMG]
    -Craig
     
  4. Ergin Guney

    Ergin Guney Agent

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    Craig,

     
  5. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

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    I had asked this question on a different forum a while back and got no response except one person said you might scare people in the theater that may think the meter is a gun.
    I wish I could have taken reading at LOTR's also, the theater was blairing out during the screaming horsemen parts, it was way loud in there and a little too loud for my tastes and I was toward the back of the HUGE theater. I feel sorry for the people in the front. Anyway, I'm sure it was pretty close to reference level during that movie but I have also been to some theaters when the volume was too low. So, I don't know if there is a standard volume or any calibration methods used. I guess it is up to the Tech guy in the back as to how loud the movie should be played.
     
  6. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    Jeff,

    Which theater for LOTR?
     
  7. Christian Dolan

    Christian Dolan Stunt Coordinator

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    I don’t want to start a complaint thread here, but most theaters aren’t calibrated properly more than once. A theater that i use to work for would only call in their engineers is the problem was blatant enough for J6P to complain about. Anything else (unbalanced audio levels, misaligned aperture plates, etc.) would be tolerated until it generated that one complaint where someone would ask for a refund. It was so irritating, in fact, that even though we could see movies there for free, my girlfriend and I would drive 90 minutes away to a decent theater and pay full evening price. I was once told by a manager that the number one no-no in theatrical exhibition was burning the popcorn, because when it burns, it smells up the lobby for three hours, which means bad concession sales for at least two sets (the word ”set” denotes a starting block for the movies, i.e.:1:00 set, 3:00 set, etc.).

    -Christian
     
  8. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

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    I remember reading that higher frequencies are more emphasized in the front channels since those speakers are behind the screen, which tends to absorb those frequencies.

    What I really do not understand is why a soundtrack is mixed for different environments (well, I kinda understand seperate nearfield mixes). Shouldn't they just design it as if it is going to be heard exactly as mixed, and have sound systems calibrated to modify that soundtrack as necessary to account for the given listening environment?
     
  9. jeff lam

    jeff lam Screenwriter

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    Bruce,

    I saw it at AMC Mercado(fairly new theater I think) just off of Great America Parkway in Sunnyvale or Santa Clara(don't know which city it's actually in). I think it was theater 11, one of the HUGE ones.
     
  10. Jason Wolters

    Jason Wolters Stunt Coordinator

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    I know my local theater very seldom makes me grit my teeth. However, my HT will do it when calibrated at 75 db. It depends greatly on the DVD. TS2 for example shakes the walls when I play it at 60 db.

    Sometimes it makes you stop and think.....What am I working towards? Calibrating my HT to 75 db as per Avia instructions was not the "end all" that I thought it would be. One DVD at this level may sound great, while the next one is obnoxious and the next one yet is way to quiet. Sometimes I wonder if this "reference" level is just a superstition. Are we sure that all film makers are adhering to this or is this just how Dolby says it should be, and there is no guarantee either way?????

    Please help me get it!!!!
     
  11. Ergin Guney

    Ergin Guney Agent

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    Aaron,

     
  12. Ned

    Ned Supporting Actor

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    What I hate about most theaters in Toronto is that they don't have adequate subwoofers so to reach the high 110-115db peaks, so they have to play the main speakers louder. You get more harshness from the upper frequencies and still don't get the true, floor rumbling bass that should be there.

    How they reach the peaks is what really matters, not so much how loud it is overall.
     
  13. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

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    The largest screen, one of those 75-foot monsters, at the theater that I go to always has the sound turned way up. I practically cringed during LOTR when the horsemen (Ring Wraths?) where in a scene. At one point I even started to cover my ears and I listen to some pretty loud stuff. I mean when your a fan of rock n roll the louder the song is the better it becomes[​IMG]. I am have been the only person to ever have complained that a theater was too loud, but those high-pitched squeals from the horsemen were literally painful. It is definitely one of the reasons that I won't see LOTR in that large theater again.
    Chris S.
     
  14. AaronMK

    AaronMK Supporting Actor

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    Ergin,

    I know that nothing is perfect, and there will always factors and variables that won't/can't be accounted for. I was thinking more along the lines of extra treble being added to the front channels by the theaters' sound systems instead of during production, for example.

    It is more practical to have sound systems calibrated for their respective listening environment than to expect a sound designer to make a single or even a few mixes that will be optimal for a great deal of different setups and listening environments.

    Hope that claifies.
     
  15. Richard Favreau

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    Seems a few conclusions can be made from this thread.

    1- Not everyone's tastes for loudness are the same

    2- Not all movies are recorded at consistent levels

    3- Our H/T's are our toys. How they sound to us is the only important consideration.

    Given these variables it seems crucial to me that one be able to make adjustments on the fly. My settings for movies / DVD concerts and TV viewing are completely different. Especially Surround and Sub output. Listen to your ears and please yourself first. It's a friggin hobby!!!

    No more cinema's form me since Titanic. Pissed me off bigtime. Couln't wait for the ship to sink so I could get out of there.

    Personal tastes are a factor too often neglected.

    Rick Favreau
     
  16. Jason Wolters

    Jason Wolters Stunt Coordinator

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  17. JaleelK

    JaleelK Second Unit

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    Seems a few conclusions can be made from this thread.

    1- Not everyone's tastes for loudness are the same

    2- Not all movies are recorded at consistent levels

    3- Our H/T's are our toys. How they sound to us is the only important consideration.

    Given these variables it seems crucial to me that one be able to make adjustments on the fly. My settings for movies / DVD concerts and TV viewing are completely different. Especially Surround and Sub output. Listen to your ears and please yourself first. It's a friggin hobby!!!

    ---------------------------

    If you don't like your movies loud, you shouls attend a movie at most of the theaters in the San Jose area, they are never loud enough, digital movies not shown at reference level can be less than dynamic and thats the probelm I run into watching movies in the theater, its never loud enough. I remember watching LOTR, I might as well been watching "Briges Over Madison County", the sound was less than dynamic.
     
  18. Craig Brandstetter

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    I know what you mean. I went to see LOTR in a new theater (about a year old). I have been very impressed with that theater in the past. But LOTR was no where near reference level at all. And I never heard the first hint of surround. The sound was pretty flat. Of coarse it could have been worse. When I went to see Gladiator at the theater, the speaker directly to my left had a busted cone. Talk about sounding horrible!

    Craig
     
  19. Jason Wolters

    Jason Wolters Stunt Coordinator

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    I doubt if the general population will ever know the difference. I think the theater owners know this too. I guess one would have to go to a THX certified theater, to get a bang for the buck. Or just stay home and wait for it to come out on DVD like me.
    It sure is hard to pay money to go listen to junk when you can stay home and listen to it the way it is supposed to be for free. (sort of [​IMG] ) This seems to be a case where having to much knowledge is a bad thing. A few years ago I could have gone to the theater and thought that Matrix sounded awesome! [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  20. Jack Gilvey

    Jack Gilvey Producer

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