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post #1 of 15 Old 07-30-2014, 06:21 PM - Thread Starter
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This is how movie sound can improve

Movie sound can be improved significantly, and it is not Atmos or other new technology that will deliver this.
As for music, the true limitations of sound quality is the production - how the sound is made in the studio.
We already have the technology needed - if 24bit dynamics and lossless were fully utilized there is great potential for improvements.

Watching opening scenes from some movies earlier today.
The usual rumbling and booming exploding spacecrafts, distorted transients, one of the better ones - floating around in space accompanied by a droning, monotone 20hz.
Dialogue usually way too loud, surround presentation has improved some over the years, but still, it is definitely not the speakers that sets the limit.

It gets to the point where I can clearly understand why having a great sound system is not something that most people seems to prioritize.
I mean, for this kind of experience, why bother.

Then there is this one movie that is different.
It opens with a couple of drum hits, dynamic, hard, hits you right in the upper chest region.
Continues with subtle underlying low-frequency effects, the kind that slightly shakes the house, but you can not really hear it.
I am looking forward to see this one.

While there are better sounding movies around out there, it seems like quite many has suffered from the loudness-war disease; they are lacking in dynamics, low frequencies are filtered, and especially loud low frequency effects lack impact and weight, it all sounds like the same booming rumble.

As an experiment I listened to the same opening scenes at -48dB.
Then the bad ones sounds almost as good as the better ones; the lack of low frequencies are not noticeable and everything sounds more 'right', the droning booming bass suddenly sounds well balanced, the voices does not resonate in your chest, the lack of dynamics becomes a plus since the quiet sounds are still audible.
But listening like this can never give the experience of a good movie sound track played at reference, with true physical tactile feel.

So, while the media industry keeps pushing new technology like Atmos, they continue to deliver mediocre productions, which I suspect partly is due to limitations in reproduction equipment in studios, but also because they believe they are doing the consumer a favor by optimizing sound tracks for tv or soundbar and the likes.

The better of already existing productions shows what is possible, and in some cases they actually sound quite good.
I want more of those good ones, and would like to see a further development in that direction - full frequency range, more dynamics, and now with object-based audio available improved presentation of sounds behind, above, around.


How do you feel about movie sound and improvement - should we install more speakers in the roof, or is it likely that there is more to gain from improved production?
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post #2 of 15 Old 07-30-2014, 07:16 PM
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Watching movies in stereo is scary enough for me.

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post #3 of 15 Old 07-30-2014, 08:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
Movie sound can be improved significantly, and it is not Atmos or other new technology that will deliver this.
As for music, the true limitations of sound quality is the production - how the sound is made in the studio.
We already have the technology needed - if 24bit dynamics and lossless were fully utilized there is great potential for improvements.

Watching opening scenes from some movies earlier today.
The usual rumbling and booming exploding spacecrafts, distorted transients, one of the better ones - floating around in space accompanied by a droning, monotone 20hz.
Dialogue usually way too loud, surround presentation has improved some over the years, but still, it is definitely not the speakers that sets the limit.

It gets to the point where I can clearly understand why having a great sound system is not something that most people seems to prioritize.
I mean, for this kind of experience, why bother.

Then there is this one movie that is different.
It opens with a couple of drum hits, dynamic, hard, hits you right in the upper chest region.
Continues with subtle underlying low-frequency effects, the kind that slightly shakes the house, but you can not really hear it.
I am looking forward to see this one.

While there are better sounding movies around out there, it seems like quite many has suffered from the loudness-war disease; they are lacking in dynamics, low frequencies are filtered, and especially loud low frequency effects lack impact and weight, it all sounds like the same booming rumble.

As an experiment I listened to the same opening scenes at -48dB.
Then the bad ones sounds almost as good as the better ones; the lack of low frequencies are not noticeable and everything sounds more 'right', the droning booming bass suddenly sounds well balanced, the voices does not resonate in your chest, the lack of dynamics becomes a plus since the quiet sounds are still audible.
But listening like this can never give the experience of a good movie sound track played at reference, with true physical tactile feel.

So, while the media industry keeps pushing new technology like Atmos, they continue to deliver mediocre productions, which I suspect partly is due to limitations in reproduction equipment in studios, but also because they believe they are doing the consumer a favor by optimizing sound tracks for tv or soundbar and the likes.

The better of already existing productions shows what is possible, and in some cases they actually sound quite good.
I want more of those good ones, and would like to see a further development in that direction - full frequency range, more dynamics, and now with object-based audio available improved presentation of sounds behind, above, around.


How do you feel about movie sound and improvement - should we install more speakers in the roof, or is it likely that there is more to gain from improved production?
I can't tell you that you don't hear what you hear. But given that there are a couple million dollars in each soundstage sound system and they get retuned something like monthly i just would not assume that my system in my little room outresolves theirs.

Now it seems perfectly clear tha a mix for my 24x18x12 foot room would differ from the one that works in a 40X80x20 mixing stage or in the theaters they mix for, but that's entirely different.

I rather suspect you have reached the wrong conclusions from the data available to you.

Or maybe I am wrong. How do you correct for the phenomena, known for over 50 years, that the X curve is intended to address? How do you eliminate the bass peaks tha exist in home sized rooms but cease to be relevant in theater sized spaces?
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-30-2014, 08:12 PM
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Fwiw most folks who complain find the dialog too quiet in movies relative to other sounds. If you don't maybe it's personal preference or maybe the system isn't calibrated accurately

Or maybe you would only be happy if you could personally mix each movie to your own satisfaction. I often feel like that myself but its not going to happen, really.

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post #5 of 15 Old 07-31-2014, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JHAz View Post
..
I rather suspect you have reached the wrong conclusions from the data available to you.

Or maybe I am wrong. How do you correct for the phenomena, known for over 50 years, that the X curve is intended to address? How do you eliminate the bass peaks tha exist in home sized rooms but cease to be relevant in theater sized spaces?
First, thank you for showing interest, and posting your views.

To clarify - my conclusion was that there is great potential for improvement in sound quality in most productions, based on the fact that some movies actually sound much better.
This is based on listening to the sound tracks and noticing how the experience is different.
From a more technical objective point of view, there seems to be a connection between dynamic range and spectral frequency distribution, and sound quality.
The better sound tracks have larger dynamic span and a more extended frequency distribution, especially at the lowest frequencies.

Reproduction in a smaller space will always be different compared to a larger, but today it is possible to achieve a very high quality of the reproduction even in a smaller space.
It is much easier to satisfy dynamic headroom requirements in a smaller space.
A good set-up does not have peaks in the bass range, this is solved by using properly located subwoofers and dsp, and consideration of room acoustics, there are many examples in this forum of such systems where the response can be tailored exactly to the chosen target within few dB deviation.
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-31-2014, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JHAz View Post
Fwiw most folks who complain find the dialog too quiet in movies relative to other sounds. If you don't maybe it's personal preference or maybe the system isn't calibrated accurately
..
If you listen at a lower spl, say -30dB, then this will be very different from listening at louder levels, say 0dB.
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-31-2014, 02:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Okv View Post
If you listen at a lower spl, say -30dB, then this will be very different from listening at louder levels, say 0dB.
Can't decide whether to say "yep" or "duh!"
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-31-2014, 05:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
Movie sound can be improved significantly, and it is not Atmos or other new technology that will deliver this.
As for music, the true limitations of sound quality is the production - how the sound is made in the studio.
We already have the technology needed - if 24bit dynamics and lossless were fully utilized there is great potential for improvements.
A couple of audiophile myths spring out of the statements above.

(1) Lossy compression as used in video releases always causes a signficant loss of sound quality.

(2) 24 bit coding is required for handling the dynamic range of movies.

The evidence that you present is as follows:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
To clarify - my conclusion was that there is great potential for improvement in sound quality in most productions, based on the fact that some movies actually sound much better.
I know what you are talking about. Some movies do have clearer and more dynamic sound than others. But I think you have misidentified the reasons why.

For the longest time all videos were released in Dolby Digital or DTS and we had what exactly you have observed: Some movies did have clearer and more dynamic sound than others. But they were all lossy encoded, and they were all recorded with 16 bits. So then if lossy encoding and 16 bits are always such sonic bottlenecks, why was it that we had any really good sounding movies at all?

Weren't they all lossy encoded and 16 bits? Obviously then we had some great sounding movies that were lossy encoded and 16 bits. Therefore those must not be the absolute bottlenecks that you say they are, right?

Cut to the chase - clear, dynamic sound is the results of the orientation of the production at many steps of the way, not just the final encoding steps.

I'm convinced that just as various color tones set the mood for many movies and other productions, a various kinds of sound quality also help set the mood.

If the average person has to strain to make out the dialogue, maybe that was one of the director's intents.

If every video had CSI Miami bright colors it would be a boring world, no? The same producers also make CSI Las Vegas that is typically shot in dark brooding tones. Why wouldn't the people who contrive those kinds of varying video do comparable things to the sound tracks?
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-31-2014, 05:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Might be you are shooting in the wrong direction here, Arny, as I believe we share the same opinion about lossless and bit-resolution.
I have briefly watched some of the hi-res threads going on, and it is quite stunning to observe the kind of engagement this subject gets, considering a quick reality check easily reveals that this is not where sound quality is lost - I believe that was your point?

However, a 16 bit signal has a noise floor that is audible at around -3dB, while 24 bits needs around +6dB or higher to be detectable (you don't get 24bit resolution due to physical limitations in the electronics/DAC), and that is quite loud.
In a normal listening situation neither will be detectable due to masking from the sound track itself, noise in the soundtrack which is above this noise floor, and the fact that hearing will adjust in a way so that very quiet sound can not be heard right after listening to a loud sound.

My point was that with 24bit and lossless there is virtually no technical limit to what can be made.
Which means there is no reason to clip the signal, it is not a problem to leave headroom for transients and there is no reason to filter away parts of the frequency range.

A transient signal can be viewed as an energy pulse, it will have amplitude, a duration and a corresponding spectral frequency distribution.
If the mean signal level is already pushed to the limit, there is no room to increase the amplitude, and the transient must then be smeared in time to maintain the same total energy.
If there is headroom available it is possible to increase the amplitude and the transient will be shorter in time for the same amount of energy, it will also have a wider frequency distribution.
The experience of the two will be very different.
The short-in-time, high amplitude will have impact and physical presence, without sounding very loud.
The squashed transient will have little sudden impact and sound louder, and if it is in the bass range it will tend to sound boomy.
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post #10 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 04:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
However, a 16 bit signal has a noise floor that is audible at around -3dB, while 24 bits needs around +6dB or higher to be detectable (you don't get 24bit resolution due to physical limitations in the electronics/DAC), and that is quite loud.
Problem is, hiss during quiet passages is IME not what people are complaining about with modern video sound tracks.

The complaints I hear relate to things like sonic balance and clarity of dialog during normal passages.

Furthermore, attempts to ferret out audible evidence of the noise floor of a well-dithered 16 bit recording out of commercial recordings is generally mission impossible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
In a normal listening situation neither will be detectable due to masking from the sound track itself, noise in the soundtrack which is above this noise floor, and the fact that hearing will adjust in a way so that very quiet sound can not be heard right after listening to a loud sound.

My point was that with 24bit and lossless there is virtually no technical limit to what can be made.
But with 16 bits there is no practical limit, and audio is first and foremost about sound quality as perceived by humans, not test equipment measurements.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
Which means there is no reason to clip the signal, it is not a problem to leave headroom for transients and there is no reason to filter away parts of the frequency range.
Ditto for 16 bits done right.
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post #11 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 07:08 AM
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Some movie soundtracks sound already pretty good. ...It's all in the hands of the movie director working closely with his sound producer/designer and music composer and recording/mixing engineer.

The tools are there, the audio recording machines are there, the audio codecs are there, the resolution is plenty high (Dolby TrueHD, dts-HD MA, Multichannel LPCM 16/44).
* 20-Bit/88.2kHz is perfect.

It is the artists behind the sound design, the recordings, the decisions they made, the time they spend @ improving and perfecting their skills that makes Magic happening. ...Time spent ... with meticulous and dedicated efforts towards creating a happy marriage, a good balance, a matching pair between onscreen moving pictures and realistic/natural sounds of emotional wisdom in our eras and hearts.
Good blending/bleeding between picture (camera movements) and sound (music and natural sound elements) and actors/actresses.

Everything is already in place; just need few expertise hands behind it to put it all together in harmony. ...It's a magic human touch.
And it comes from experience plus the will to go further towards realism. ...Pleasant, and @ times less so, but still prone to realism nonetheless. The more convincing the actors/actresses, the moving pictures (vistas, cameras following the onscreen action, with realism, smoothness, clarity, focus, ...), the sound production, the realistic sound effects, their matching, the music, the composing notes, the instruments soul, the all together harmonies, all the blending and the we-are-there-there 'reality' like, the more absorbing, the more enveloping, the more convinced we are. ...In awe.

Bests, ~ Robert § (Bob)

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post #12 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 07:22 AM
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Very good topic by the way; movie directors and sound designers can take a hint from taking their time to create better sound experience, better and more realistic movie soundtracks, with music well recorded, of course.

But helas it mostly (in most cases) don't happen because of exactly that; "time" well taken to produce better sound experience.
Today they go too fast (not enough time), so they cannot create beautiful sound experience. ...Money, money, money...
...And the very best sound designers who can work fast are few and far between and they cost more money to hire too.
...Some studios can afford, most cannot, and will not.

Overall result: There are far less fewer movies with great moving picture soundtracks than there are bad ones.

Bests, ~ Robert § (Bob)

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post #13 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 08:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Okv View Post
Might be you are shooting in the wrong direction here, Arny, as I believe we share the same opinion about lossless and bit-resolution.
I have briefly watched some of the hi-res threads going on, and it is quite stunning to observe the kind of engagement this subject gets, considering a quick reality check easily reveals that this is not where sound quality is lost - I believe that was your point?

However, a 16 bit signal has a noise floor that is audible at around -3dB, while 24 bits needs around +6dB or higher to be detectable (you don't get 24bit resolution due to physical limitations in the electronics/DAC), and that is quite loud.
In a normal listening situation neither will be detectable due to masking from the sound track itself, noise in the soundtrack which is above this noise floor, and the fact that hearing will adjust in a way so that very quiet sound can not be heard right after listening to a loud sound.

My point was that with 24bit and lossless there is virtually no technical limit to what can be made.
Which means there is no reason to clip the signal, it is not a problem to leave headroom for transients and there is no reason to filter away parts of the frequency range.

A transient signal can be viewed as an energy pulse, it will have amplitude, a duration and a corresponding spectral frequency distribution.
If the mean signal level is already pushed to the limit, there is no room to increase the amplitude, and the transient must then be smeared in time to maintain the same total energy.
If there is headroom available it is possible to increase the amplitude and the transient will be shorter in time for the same amount of energy, it will also have a wider frequency distribution.
The experience of the two will be very different.
The short-in-time, high amplitude will have impact and physical presence, without sounding very loud.
The squashed transient will have little sudden impact and sound louder, and if it is in the bass range it will tend to sound boomy.
except that the way systems are calibrated, deeper bit depth doesn't add headroom from average to loudest encodable sound. On a mixing stage, each speaker has been calibrated to yield 85 dB at the main listening position with a signal at -20dBFS (ie, essentially, 20 dB below full scale, loudest possible. If I want a passage of dialog to average 80 dB at reference, it will be encoded at -25 dBFS, whether the system I am using is 16 bits or 24 bits, I have 25 dB of headroom above my 80 dB dialog (or whatever.) THis would be true with either a 16 bit or 24 bit system.

FWIW, this is tons more headroom than most music contains, on an average-versus-peak level . . .
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post #14 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Many good points here, from all.

Sound design is artistic, and of course there has to be room for different ways to implement it, according to how the producer or sound designer wants it to be.

If the tools for creating the sound has more freedom of choice, less limitations, that would give the designers more freedom to create exactly what they want, and that could lead to better sound tracks.

If dialogue must be 80dB loud, and 0dB is +25dB above that, then this is a rule that will automatically limit the dynamic range of the finished sound track.
If the mean level is reduced, say 20dB, then that would leave additional headroom of +20dB for peaks, and that would certainly open up for more artistic freedom and more realistic and powerful sound.
This is easy to do, it just requires a revision of levels and calibration standards.

Unfortunately the trend these days goes in the opposite direction, with less dynamics where different sounds are competing against each other to be louder.
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post #15 of 15 Old 08-01-2014, 12:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Dialogue.

According to above posts, general consensus seems to be that dialogue can be hard to understand sometimes.
Not necessarily something experienced first hand, but rather looks like "all others" think dialogue is hard to understand.

So, I listen to this opening scenes from a movie, yes, it's the one where they float around in space.
There are voices in front, to the sides, above me, from behind, they shift from radio-like to natural, and they move around in a 360 degree soundscape around me, seamless.

All voices sound clear and it is easy to understand what they are saying.
Regardless of direction and position around me, regardless of natural or radio-voice.
Then something very, very bad happens, usually does in this kind of movie.
And the voices are still clear and understandable, even though the accompanying low-frequency sound effects shakes the couch.

I turn it down to -30dB.
Still understandable, though rather low in level now, and all the physical tactile is lost.
(If I sit in silence for some minutes, and then turn it back on at -30dB, the level will sound just fine, as the ears adapt..)

I believe dialogue clarity is something the producers focus on very much, and I also think there has been an improvement over the years, they usually do a good job of making voices intelligible even in complex scenes with lots of other sound occurring at the same time.
This is not done by simply increasing the level, though I personally believe dialogue level could actually be reduced in many movies.

Still, some people complain.
Perhaps if someone could provide some examples where dialogue is not so good, that would be very interesting to listen to, so that I can hear this myself?
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