Question regarding DVD sound levels

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Joe McCabe, Jul 31, 2003.

  1. Joe McCabe

    Joe McCabe Second Unit

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    This question has been asked on another forum that I post on, and I have wondered about it myself for quite some time.

    Why is it that when watching DVDs on just a TV (no surround setup), the background music is so loud, that it actually drowns out the dialog??

    For instance, in The Matrix, there are many scenes that you simply can't hear the dialog in, when the techno music is playing in the background.

    Is there a way to correct this?
     
  2. Martin Fontaine

    Martin Fontaine Supporting Actor

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    This is called Channel Aggregation.

    The track is still in 5.1 and meant to be played in 5.1. That your DVD Player downmixes it to 2.0 for use on a TV involves mixing the front/rear left into the single left channel, the front/rear right into the single right channel and the center get spread on both.

    So when an action scene comes up, the fronts and rear are yelling so they get louder when added up in the downmix process.

    To help, you can look in your DVD Player's menu for an option called something like Dynamic Range Compression or sometimes DRC or Audio DRC (Depends on the player). Enabling this will reduce volume of loud passages so that you don't have to crank up the volume to hear the dialog only to be blasted when some action or music comes up. It might not work with all movies, but when using the TV's speakers, it should be enabled.

    Also some DVD Players have an option sometimes called "Dialog Enhancer" which increases the volume of the center channel data before putting it on the 2 sides.

    Also, when given a choice, you should select the 2.0 track instead of the 5.1, that one was designed to be played on a TV so it should be ok.
     
  3. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Joe,
    Martin brings up some very important points that I can address in a little more detail for you but it will bring me to another conclusion.

    First Channel Aggregation is a very important issue which Dolby ac3 addresses extremely well. Dolby recommends that the studios do special downmixes of their dynamic 5.1 tracks specifically for home theater. The changes are very subtle and for the most part will never be heard in 5.1 playback. Two things that are usually done are surround level adjuustments and LFE redirection. This helps the tracks sound better in Stereo and ProLogic modes. There are also parameter settings for surround and center downmix on the ac3 bitstream. The level on playback will be adjusted in the fold-down according to these parameters. Of course all this has to be done correctly to be effective.

    Second is the issue of DRC. It is my understanding that DRC is always applied when you use your analog RCA outputs and go directly into your TV or Receiver. Now DRC may not really help the exact situation you are troubled with. DRC will even out the levels between Dialog and Mx/Fx when they are not playing at the same time. When Dialog is buried in FX the dialog will usually get compressed along with the FX and still be buried.

    I believe the issue you are talking about is really in the MIX itself. There is a tendency today to mix audio in big action movies for visceral effect at the cost of everything else - including dialog. Smart directors will keep important dialog as isolated from action as possible.
    Anyway I tend to think the issue you are talking about is in the source itself and the problem is magnified in Stereo downmix.
    The real partial solution is probably a separate mix for LT/RT included on the DVD. But this will never happen.

    Rick :b
     
  4. Jeff*S*C*

    Jeff*S*C* Second Unit

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    This has always bothered me. I have the same problem (music loud, dialog low) and I DO have a 5.1 setup. Would a proper calibration with Video Essentials (which I've had for years but have yet to use :b) fix this problem? Does any music come from the center channel or does it depend on the mix? Thanks.
     
  5. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  6. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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  7. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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  8. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Can you give a specific example?

    Thanks,
    Rick
     
  9. ShaunS

    ShaunS Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm with Jeff on this as well. I have a DTS/5.1 receiver and a lot of the times am riding the volume button on my remote between soft dialogue and loud fx. I've tried the "Midnight" mode on the receiver, as well as the DRC effect on both the receiver and dvd player. Granted my speakers aren't the greatest, but they ALL aren't the greatest (i.e. the center and surrounds are all the same quality). I've done the "Tone Test" so that each speaker sounds at about the same volume from where I'm sitting. But no luck. My thumb muscle is HUGE from the volume button! [​IMG]

    ShaunS
     
  10. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    ShaunS stated
     
  11. ShaunS

    ShaunS Stunt Coordinator

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    Rick:

    I've had it set so Midnight was on for the receiver and DRC was on for the dvd player. You would think the combo would flatten everything out to the same level, but no luck. I was watching Punch Drunk Love last night and found I had to turn it up at times of dialogue and down at times of loud fx (i.e. when the truck crashes at the start - nearly blew my speakers!!). Oh well, guess it's volume riding for me..

    ShaunS
     
  12. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    Yep, that is why the thread is here, and not in hardware. Not all DVD's are created equally. On some, you may have to
    increase the volume on the center channel. If that isn't enough you may have to decrease the volume on the other channels. As an extreme you could move the center channel speaker closer to you, but I have not had to do that yet.

    Glenn
     
  13. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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  14. Lou Sytsma

    Lou Sytsma Producer

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  15. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Jonathan,
    Thanks, your LINK hit the nail right on the head, and it is straight from the horses mouth.

    This is why when ShaunS said he put the receiver in "midnight mode" and Player in DRC I was very[​IMG]
    "midnight mode" is DRC for digital output - DRC from Player is analog outputs (always).

    Ain't confusion FUN.

    Rick

    Repeat: the problem is in the source material - not the hardware! Try HEADPHONES?
     
  16. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Upps! Forgot to say

    DRC (Midnight mode) is in Dolby .ac3 metadata. It does not exist in DTS. Midnight mode has no effect on DTS - ever.
    You will also notice that DTS never plays out of the analog outputs of the DVD Player either!

    Rick
     
  17. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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  18. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I cannot disagree more. If what you are saying is true then every DVD that I own would have low dialogue during action sequences, and that is not ture. It is just a few of them.

    No matter what/why/who/where/how sounds are captured, they still have to be mixed, by a human, and if someone says that it be set up this way, (even if it is not correct) that WILL, and DOES happen. I guess that the sound mixers should know better, but I don't want to get into all of that.

    Glenn
     
  19. David Judah

    David Judah Screenwriter

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  20. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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