DVD Diaglog Audio Low

Discussion in 'Playback Devices' started by Dan Mertz, Nov 1, 2005.

  1. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    I have a Panasonic DVD player (DVD-CV50) and when I watch a DVD the dialogue is much to quiet compared to other noises in the movie. I have to constantly have the remote in my hand to adjust the volume because in order to hear the dialogue the volume has to be up to a point where any other noise or sound effects are blaring. The DVD player has a setting that is supposed to make dialogue louder, but it doesn't seem to help.

    My DVD audio is only through my surround sound speakers, but I don't have the same dialogue audio problem when I'm watching TV (whether I'm using the surround sound or the TV speakers).

    Could my problem have something to do with the cinema modes that my receiver selects when it plays a DVD? It usually selects a dolby digital 5.1 cinema mode for DVDs, but when I'm watching TV it uses Pro Logic II. I'd hate to have to listen to DVD is Pro Logic, but I'll test that out next time I watch a DVD to see if I have the same problem.

    Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
     
  2. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    The difference between the dialogue and other high-level sounds is called “dynamics.” DVD’s are made like that on purpose, as are the movies in the theaters. The intention is to give impact to things like explosions, gun shots and car crashes.

    The reason it’s not like that with TV viewing has nothing to do with Pro Logic. It’s because TV audio is highly compressed. Compressors are studio processors that boost the low-level signals, and “squash” the high-level signals. The result is that whispers sound as loud as shouting, and car doors closing sound as loud as explosions.

    If you don’t like the dynamics, there should be a “midnight” or “late-night viewing” setting in your receiver’s menu. It will compress the audio and make DVDs sound like TV shows.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  3. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    As annoying as it is to have to constantly adjust the audio when I watch a movie, I don't want my DVDs to sound like TV. But is this as annoying to everyone else? I like my explosions loud, but I can't believe that in order to hear the dialogue I have to turn it up to a level where above average noises are TOO loud.
     
  4. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Usually, if you have a problem in which the dialog is too low and the explosions are too high while watching DVD, you may need to calibrate your speakers. If you have already done this, ignore the following. To calibrate, you need a calibration disk (Avia or Video Essentials) and a SPL meter (Radio Shack is the most common brand). Look in the Primer under calibration, it explains it in great detail. Essentially you have to make the volume of each speaker equal while playing a set calibration tone through each one. After doing this correctly, your explosions (from the sub, surrounds and mains) will not overpower your dialog (mainly the center speaker). Calibration is an essential step in the setup of a good theater and should not be ignored.
     
  5. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Jeff is right – make sure the speaker levels are calibrated right. Specifically, your center channel could be set too low.

    If you’re still having problems, it could be your particular speakers. I have a buddy whose speakers had a “hot spot” in response that made shattering glass sound like your ear drums were about to be pierced.

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  6. John S

    John S Producer

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    Even once calibrated, you can turn up the dialog only by turning up your center channel if you feel it is to low. On Dolby Digital this only effect dialog of all practical purposes. So next time, try turning your center channel up some.
     
  7. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    For the specific reason that most people do not have homes large enough to accomodate the long-throw, high-displacement speakers used in theatres, or various other acoustic "tricks" which make for roughly equal sound levels in all parts of a movie theatre and just incidentally make large dynamic ranges possible without the loud sounds being painfully loud or drowning out the soft ones, Dolby Digital includes something called "dialogue normalisation". This scales the various signals to keep dialogue at a roughly constant level, and everything else within a certain range of it.
    Set this switch to "on" -- it may be the "midnight" setting Wane Pflughaupt mentioned, but my Yamaha decoder just calls it "Dynamic Range: Standard" while the default position is "Max", with no compression applied. My decoder also has a "High level cut" and a "low level boost" which I can use to bring down loud sounds or bring up soft ones; while I haven't used those, the "standard" position is useful for a small room with plenty of background noise.
     
  8. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    I also have a Yamaha receiver and it has a Dynamic Range setting. For this problem, should I set it to "Max", "Std", or "Min"?

    I will also try turning up the volume on the center speaker.
     
  9. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Dan,

    Have you calibrated using an SPL meter and a calibration disk? You may see a vast improvement in sound by doing it correctly before fine tuning the center. Getting the system "dialed in" is important and doing it "by ear" usually results in the volumes being way off from what is optimal. Read the Primer entry on Calibration for more details.
     
  10. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Set to "std" first, assuming you have your system calibrated. It the system isn't calibrated, set it to "Max" before calibrating or you'll have errors. Once you have it calibrated, find a passage in some film or music which is particularly difficult to follow [soft voices, loud effects/music] and switch from "Max" to "Std". If and only if that isn't enough, consider changing to "Min"; but I would try either "high [level, NOT frequency] cut" or "low boost" first.
     
  11. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    Can I get some opinions on which calibration disk is better, Avia or Video Essentials? Keep in mind that I'm not familiar with a lot of this technical stuff so I will probably just be using it, along with a SPL meter, to make the basic adjustments, so let me know which disk is more user friendly as well.
     
  12. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    Will an analog SPL meter do or do I need a digital one? And do digital meters get any cheaper than $50?
     
  13. John S

    John S Producer

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    Analog will work just as well if not better. And $50 is about right, be it digital or analog.

    For audio a disc is not really needed, the test tones provided by your AVR will be good enough in all likelyhood.
     
  14. Dan Mertz

    Dan Mertz Stunt Coordinator

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    I can't even find one on Ebay for less than $50.

    A couple weeks ago, I'm sure I saw one on Radioshack.com for only $19.99...it looked analog, and was kind of cheap looking compared to what I've seen since, but now all they have is a digital meter for $49.99.
     

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