Last Updated on: 12th November 2022, 10:30 am
What? Huh? Why your favorite shows and films sound worse than ever
I’m not one who watches a ton of modern movies or TV shows, but even I have most definitely noticed this. And it’s not just because the television in our house is old as the hills. It doesn’t matter where I am or what I’m listening on. The sound really does seem to be getting worse.
There are a variety of reasons for this. Everything from the way things are shot and mic’d to the rise of streaming and every company having its own mixing specifications to just the plain simple fact that there are so many different devices now. Even if you manage to nail the perfect mix in the studio, there’s no telling how it’s going to sound once the networks get hold of it and start compressing it in order to get around the loudness rules for commercials, not to mention when you watch it wherever you watch it.
A lot of people have apparently started trying to get around this by simply turning on the subtitles and essentially reading all their shows. Not a great solution, but you do what you have to do, I suppose. But let’s say you can’t do that. There are people, the two in our house among them, for whom subtitles simply aren’t an option. The lack of usable vision rules that right out. No one has thought about this, of course. And to the extent that they unintentionally have, it basically boils down to buy more crap.
There are some things that we can do. For instance, there’s always buying a nice sound system. Even more important is setting it up properly. Most of the sound mixers interviewed recommended having professional help but also mentioned that many soundbars today come with microphones for home optimization. None sounded too convinced by soundbars, though.
“If you’re using a soundbar,” Bondelevitch said, “Get the best soundbar you can afford. And if you’re listening on your earbuds or headphones, get good headphones. If it’s a noisy environment, get over-the-ear headphones. They do really isolate sound much better and do not use noise canceling headphones because those really screw up the audio quality.”
But more than anything, they emphasized how this is a selling factor for movie theaters. If you want good sound, there’s a place that has “sound you can feel.”
“It’s a bummer because you want the theater experience,” said Vanchure. “People aren’t going out to theaters as much nowadays because everything’s just streaming. And that’s how you want people to hear these things. You’re doing this work so you can hear this loud and big.”
I realize that nobody with final say particularly cares, but a lot of blind people quite enjoy television, actually. Alienating them might seem like a small price to pay when you don’t think long-term or big picture because business is all about wringing the most money out of everything in the least amount of time quality be damned, but better sound is about more than just us. Like so much when it comes to accessibility, the things that are good for the disabled often wind up being good for everyone. If dialogue is something so easily sacrificed, why don’t we just go back to making silent films?