What happened to the 2 channel audio mix?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jay McC, Oct 30, 2003.

  1. Jay McC

    Jay McC Agent

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    What is the deal with these dvd's being put out without a stereo audio mix? Has anybody else noticed how hollow the sound is coming from one of these discs (Matrix Reloaded, Resident Evil, Attack of the Clone, Hulk) when you listen to them through a non dolby digital surround system (TV, stereo speaker system, computer speakers)?
     
  2. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    Are you asking if discreet surround killed the stereo star? [​IMG]

    Couldn't resist the song reference there. Um, I think it probably has -- on older films for which theatrical prints carried mono or stereo mixes, I'm all for preserving these on disc (in addition to surround remixes as appropriate), but on newer films that have been designed for surround from the get-go, I think a decision to rely on the ability of your player to downmix 5.1 to stereo (or matrixed stereo surround) for the analogue outputs is a reasonable stance. Just think how spiffy those discs will sound when you get a Pro-Logic or Dolby Digital/DTS decoder. [​IMG] "Future proof," I think, is the idea, much as it is for those who don't yet own 16x9 capable displays. The cost in both dollars and bit budgets to creating and encoding a good stereo option can be applied to other areas of the disc.
     
  3. Sean Moon

    Sean Moon Cinematographer

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    But by not having the 2.0 option on there, doesnt the 5.1 track need to be somewhat tweaked so it downmixes correctly? I might be mistaken, but I always thought that the point of the 2.0 mix was to ensure the 5.1 mix was unaltered and was all it could be.
     
  4. Bill Burns

    Bill Burns Supporting Actor

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    I've heard that, but every 5.1 mix I've downconverted to Pro-Logic Surround sounds just fine -- both those on discs that include 2.0 tracks (which I never use, unless the film was released that way to theatres) and those that do not. I'd rather they optimize the 5.1 and leave off 2.0 (if the film wasn't released in 2.0) to use the bits and dollars elsewhere -- to my ears, the in-player (quality may differ player to player) downmix to 2.0 Surround is fine, and I much prefer the product be optimized for its maximum spec, rather than compromised to accomodate its minimum. When I finally upgrade to discreet 5.1 equipment, the native mix (the one that mimicks the theatrical mix) will still be the mix I listen to, and anything that went into a now-useless (to me, and to all who eventually upgrade) 2.0 downconversion mix will be missed in the maximum spec.

    For those who don't see themselves buying 5.1 equipment for many years yet, though, I can of course understand why they'd feel otherwise.
     
  5. Jay McC

    Jay McC Agent

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    The problem i have is that not every dvd player is hooked up to to a DD surround system. These discs don't sound right through the players analog outputs and they don't sound any better when feeding a digital signal into my Rotel and having it downmix DD into 2 channels. And this same void carries over into the network broadcasts of the same movies.

    The sound actually reminds me of the time i went to see League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in a theater that was experiencing problems and only had the front left and right channels playing. Needless to say you could tell there was a lot of information missing from audio track and its the same impression i get from DVDs wihout a stereo surround mix. I just can't believe that this is viewed as acceptable by movie studios and consumers.
     
  6. Jan Strnad

    Jan Strnad Screenwriter

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    Jay,

    Did you sit through League of Extraordinary Gentlemen despite the sound problem? Do you still buy DVDs without 2-channel mixes? If so, I guess you've explained why this is viewed as acceptable to studios.

    No sarcasm intended, BTW. I'm just pointing out that people vote with their wallets.

    J.
     
  7. Arnie G

    Arnie G Supporting Actor

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    Lots of people, myself included, would like a 2.0 mix for headphone listening.[​IMG]
     
  8. Darren Haycock

    Darren Haycock Second Unit

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    Honestly, does it really matter if there is a 2.0 track or a 5.1 downmixed track when it's coming out of tv speakers? You're still getting all the sound, it just won't sound the same as having a surround sound system.
     
  9. Topher

    Topher Stunt Coordinator

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    With all the talk on these forums about keep the "original" mix and the the "directors vision" I think the newer releases are doing just that. To remix, in stereo, a track that was recorded for discreet 5.1 is to alter it from the original... just like when people complain about MONO tracks or stereo tracks being remixed for 5.1. PERSONALLY speaking I agree with you and like to have the option, I guess what I am trying to say is no matter what these companies do there will ALWAYS be complaints about it. However, I do disagree with one point... when I listen to these 5.1 only mixes on my other tv in the bedroom that doesn't have surround, I don't think it sounds hollow... at least no because of the mix... maybe because it is coming out of TV speakers.
     
  10. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    Topher, I believe most films still have a stereo/surround mix created for backup purposes during theatrical exhibition. The film at the theater has an analog optical stereo or Dolby Surround track and a Dolby Digital 5.1 track on it. If playback of the Dolby Digital track fails while the film is running, the analog optical track is played. I think one of the big selling points of Dolby Digital was the fact that it allows this redundancy.

    I'm sure somebody will let me know if I'm wrong.
     
  11. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    Yes, all films still have the 2-channel analog stereo soundtracks as they've always been done- some theatres still don't have digital sound yet! [​IMG] (Analog sound CAN sound good, but for $9 I want digital!)
     
  12. Jay McC

    Jay McC Agent

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    Its not the fact that the sound is comming from a television. Take a DVD like LOTR Twin Towers that has the insight to have BOTH a 5.1 and stereo mix. Now pump the audio through a television, computer, car audio system, or a stereo that has all speakers disabled except for the Left, Right and the Sub. Listen to the 2 channel mix and then go back and listen to the 5.1 mix. Then you'll see what i'm talking about. There is a difference, a BIG difference if its going through the right system.

    Now this grip isn't about maintaining directors vision or being in the theater, or any of that nonsense. What this is about is that if a 2 channel mix exhists (and it probably does) then it should be included on the dvd. DVDs are viewed in way more ways than just through a 5.1 home theater system and because of that the 2 channel mix needs to be included. Omitting it to cut cost should not be an acceptable option. And as far as picture quality goes, the two LOTR movies, the Phantom Menace, the 1st Matrix, and countless others have it as well as a great looking picture.

    And NO, I DID NOT SIT THROUGH THE MOVIE, AND I HAVE NOT BEEN BACK TO THAT THEATER SINCE.
     
  13. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Jay, You have me TOTALLY CONFUSED!!!!

     
  14. Jay McC

    Jay McC Agent

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    yes, you are.

    Here's what i did.

    Go into the reciever's speaker setup menu and set the center and surround speakers to none. Then using a dvd like say LOTR Fellowship of the Ring. In the DVDs setup menu select the 2 channel surround mix. Then watch the part of the movie where they are battling the goblins and the cave troll. Then stop the disc, go back into the DVDs setup menu and select the Dolby Digital surround mix and watch the same part of the movie all the while leaving the reciever's setup the same. Then tell me if you notice a difference. Thats what you get when they apparently don't think its important enough to put a 2 channel mix on a DVD.

    Now, if you don't notice a difference, then i would like to know what reciever and DVD player you are using so i can dump my Rotel.
     
  15. Topher

    Topher Stunt Coordinator

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    I wasn't aware that ALL movies were still mixed with both sound mixes, my bad... sorry for the oversight. My best friend doesn't have surround, but he doesn't change the soundtrack on anything he watches (which NORMALLY defaults to DD) and we have never noticed any hollowness or loss of sound because of it. Could be happening, but we have never noticed it. I will have to pop in a few movies and try this. I will select the DD track, and set my reciever for Stereo, that should essentially be what you are talking about, yes? Because turning off the center and surrounds IS NOT the same thing as stereo. It is just muting channels, while the stereo mode will move ALL sound to the mains. Should be the same on any receiver OR TV set to stereo mode. "should be" I am not sure about it...

    If ALL movies are still made this way, with a stereo and discreet track, then this is a DEFINITE oversight on their side and both tracks should most certainly be included.
     
  16. Jeff Swearingen

    Jeff Swearingen Second Unit

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    What's the average bit rate for a 2.0 mix compared to DD 5.1 or DTS? How much would this cut into a normal disc?

    I'd much rather have an extra commentary track than a 2.0 mix that I believe most people won't be using in a few years. What it has to come down to is bit rates and space on disc. That extra documentary or a trailer or two would probably be greater appreciated by the general public than having both a DD 5.1 and a 2.0 track. And let's face it: all movies do not warrant 2 disc Special Editions.

    A special 2.0 track is great for people who can tell the difference on a downmix. But how many of those are there? Odds are if you know the difference between DD and DTS and 2.0, or for that matter are even reading this forum, then you probably have a surround sound system that can support 5.1.
     
  17. jonathan_little

    jonathan_little Stunt Coordinator

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    Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks are typically encoded at 192kbps. Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are usually encoded at either 384kbps or 448kbps. DTS tracks occupy either 754kbps or 1509kbps worth of bandwidth. The 1509kbps DTS tracks are rare these days.

    I doubt that adding a 192kbps audio track is going to make much of an impact on the video performance of a typical film.
     
  18. Rick Blaine

    Rick Blaine Stunt Coordinator

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    Jay,
    Just so I run the experiment properly please clarify,
     
  19. Jay McC

    Jay McC Agent

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    I did some poking around Dolby’s website hoping to find some insight into what I was hearing and this is just a small part of what I found in their 5.1 Channel Production Guidelines.pdf.

    They start off making the point that Dolby Digital is backwards compatible and because of this, studios are able to present it as the sole soundtrack option reducing the need to produce a separate 2 channel mix.

    But under the heading of Format Compatibility it says:

    Dolby Surround-compatible, stereo, and mono mixes are often created when multichannel material is downmixed to fewer channels. It is important to check a number of aspects of each downmix to confirm that it translates as closely as possible to the original intent of the mix. There are many consumers who will listen to Dolby Digital sources such as DVD or DTV without having a full 5.1-channel Dolby Digital playback system. These consumers will hear the two-channel analog or PCM outputs of their DVD players or DTV set-top boxes through existing stereo or Dolby Surround Pro Logic systems. All DVD-video players and DTV set-top boxes have the ability to create and deliver a Dolby Surround compatible or stereo downmix from the two-channel analog or PCM outputs.

    Then it goes on about reverb affects and spreading center information across the front three channel and how the LFE channel is meant to enhance low frequency effects and not to take the place of them in the audio mix until eventually it gets to:

    Remember that some listeners will hear a downmix of the 5.1-channel mix. It may be decoded with a Dolby Surround Pro Logic decoder or heard in stereo. It is important to check the downmixes and to listen for center channel buildup or unwanted surround information from the Pro Logic decoding process. Some effects that work well to create a 5.1 mix do not work with Pro Logic decoding. The 5.1-channel system is discrete, i.e., where a sound is put is where it will stay.

    I did some more listening and this somewhat sums it up. The sound isn’t really hollow, its just lacking the definition that comes from the center channel. Other sounds like wind and crashes and other ambience effects seem to have a much stronger presence. This conveys this feeling that what I was watching and what I should be hearing were not in sync.

    So hopefully, that is a better explanation of the difference I hear. I will continue to listen to see if there are DVD’s that seem to sound correct when listening to the DD soundtrack through a stereo system.
     

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