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Why we all need subtitles now
- Published on Jan 19, 2023 veröffentlicht
- It's not you - the dialogue in TV and movies has gotten harder to hear.
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Have you ever been watching a show or movie, and then a character delivers a line so unintelligible you have to scramble to find the remote and rewind? For me, this moment came during the climax of the Pete Davidson film “The King of Staten Island,” where his most important line was impossible to understand.
I had to rewind three times - and eventually put subtitles on - to finally pick up what he was saying.
This experience isn’t unique - gather enough people together and you can generally separate them into two categories: People who use subtitles, and people who don’t. And according to a not-so-scientific Clip-Share poll we ran on our Community tab, the latter category is an endangered species - 57% of you said you always use subtitles, while just 12% of you said you generally don’t.
But why do so many of us feel that we need subtitles to understand the dialogue in the things we watch?
The answer to that question is complex - and we get straight to the bottom of it in this explainer, with the help of dialogue editor Austin Olivia Kendrick.
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Comments • 19 116
One interesting fact that didn’t make it into the piece is that movie theaters didn’t always have consistently great sound - it only became consistent thanks to Star Wars.
The story goes like this: George Lucas was trying to find a theater to premiere ‘Return of the Jedi.’ and every theater he went to had terribly set up sound systems. He was like, “This is unacceptable! Why am I asking all of my sound designers, editors, and mixers to put in all this work if I can't guarantee it’s going to be heard properly on playback?”
So he enlisted Tomlinson Holmman to create, THX - yes, that THX - the one with the way-too-loud booming sound at the beginning of all those old movies you used to watch as a kid. THX was a sound quality certification made to ensure that ‘Return of the Jedi’ was presented in the purest form possible. But it did so much more than that by standardizing good sound playback in movie theaters across the board.
Sound has progressed a ton since then, but Star Wars set the precedent for good sound quality in theaters.
For more awesome content about sound in your favorite movies and TV shows, check out Austin on TikTik: email@example.com
Thanks for watching!
netflix and hbo..go into settings and decrease dynamic range...also we saw "Earthquake" in the 70's... theaters had woofer systems from Cerwin Vega..was pretty good..albeit cement floor... premiere at Graumans Chinese theater some plaster fell from ceiling
Lucas also founded Skywalker Sound
As if I didn't love Star Wars enough, I can now add this to the list of reasons why!!! Thanks for sharing that amazing detail!!
stop promoting tiktok
This is actually a massive relief, because I started believing I had developed hearing and concentration problems from not being able to understand quite literally half of all dialogue in most media.
as a non native speaker it is a real struggle to make out what they're saying 😅
I've been feeling the same way! The downside is that, when I watch stuff with my family, I still seem to be the only one in the room that needs to have the volume boosted 😜
Me too 😂 I’m glad to know it’s not my brain malfunctioning .. actors are just mumbling
It is a relief to know this.
Very brave of Nolan to revolutionize movies by making them sound worse 99% of the time
He made interstellar, the man’s a genius.
I saw Tenet at the cinema and it was still too loud to hear some of the dialogue.
I mean, for movies like Interstellar, it helped sell the intensity and confusion of some of the moments, and for Dunkirk, it gave a bit more realistic feel since, in war, hearing people talk over the noise of engines and stuff is naturally gonna be hard.
Not saying Nolan is right all the time. He's like a stopped clock, lol
@Luke DiCosimo Or to make the Hobbit unwachable after the first part.
Nolan openly admitted that he views dialogue as another sound effect. So, yeah.
It has nothing to do with sound technology. It's his questionable artistic vision.
As an English teacher and non-native speaker myself, I get asked a lot by my students whether they'll be able to eventually watch movies without the subtitles. It feels lame to tell them that I don't do that myself, but I'm honest with them about that anyways. I understand Clip-Share videos and podcasts fully no problem, but not movies. After watching this video, I indulge myself to feel actually relieved that the limitation is not on my part, but a phenomenon that affects most people, native speakers and all. Thanks! I'll let my students know about that!
If your students mean can they watch without non-English subtitles the answer is "yes, one day". If they mean without any subtitles at all the answer is no.
Yes, the same. I study in Australia as an international student currently. In my day-to-day life and study, I have no trouble understanding. But sometimes especially with TV series, being unable to understand is not a rare case. I was a bit worried about that. But this video gives me relief by knowing that even native speakers sometimes cannot hear the bumbling clearly.
Yep, same problem. I recommend cartoons if they're into that - animated shows and films are usually easier to understand, in my experience.
@tami Same goes for music. In my own language not always I understand it all. That multiplies a lot when it comes to English songs. I'm learning German and I speak a little of it already. Silbermond has songs that are so easy to understand! German has such diverse regional variety that they are simply impossible to understand if you go deep into a town's dialect - the fact that Dutch is a language itself apart from German seems to be just a matter of politics, since the variety within German could perhaps encompass Dutch if it were the case. And let's be honest, Luxembourgish is German, isn't it?
I'm not a native speaker (I'm German) but I would say that my English is pretty fluent. Because of my work it's become kind of my second every day language and I consume many Clip-Share videos and podcasts in English without any problem. But when it comes to movies and shows a lot of times I doubt my English skills and wonder why I didn't understand every single sentence. Now that I know that even native speakers have that problem I really do feel relieved 😅
And now that I think about it, I recently watched a German Netflix show and sometimes I even had to turn on the subtitles because I couldn't understand what they were saying! 😂
I think there´s another reason behind it, too. Sure, we can call it "naturalistic" but it's a fact that the actors who were acting in all those old Hollywood movies actually knew how to speak clearly and correctly. Most of them also had a musical education so of course their diction was much better than the one of today's average actor.
@Promise648 He clearly did not. Even with good audio he couldn't keep up.
@A J Did you watch the video? The dialog sound is intentionally low.
They came from the stage, didn't they? (Well, many did, anyway.) They *had* to have good diction!
Todays actor is better and more natural, the fact you can’t understand is more realistic and it’s pretty easy to understand films if you have the volume up or have context
I am a Brazilian learning English and I was always tough on myself because I was still not able to watch a movie without subtitles. Now that I found out that native English speakers are also using subtitles I fell much better 🤣
@C. Moriarty caraca! Bravo!
As someone who is a native English speaker, trust me, movies are just hard to hear.
I'm an American learning Brazilian Portuguese and I always use subtitles. Eu acho que sempre vou precisar de legendas haha
Nossa sim, me sentindo muito aliviada agora
As someone who has Auditory Processing Disorder, having subtitles on is a must, but this video made me realize the fact that this is an issue that affects everyone because of the industry optimizing audio for the highest end speaker setups possible, and not just my brain playing tricks on me. This was a really interesting watch!
Yeh I can’t process audio either. I can mostly handle audiobooks now, although I used to not be able to, but a lot of songs, videos, anything, I need subtitles unless people really enunciate
I'm also so glad it wasn't some patronising, boomer-level complaint about how 'people's attention spans are smaller nowadays' or something similar :) I'm diagnosed with ADHD and hearing people say things like that makes me lose hope for the few bits of accessibility we get that's relevant to us.
We all love those movies where you can’t hear the dialogue so you turn up the volume… just in time for an explosion that shakes your entire house
Use speech setting and keep the remote close to you for action bits and adverts lol
This happened to me in the 90s with The Last of the Mohicans. My roommate at the time had a video laser disc system set up with surround sound, including a decent subwoofer. I turned up the volume to hear the quiet dialogue and a few seconds later a canon shot went off. It shook the whole apartment and my roommate came out of his room to see what was going on.
@Ontario Norton Owners President Right. So, what I hear is rich people with lots of space and disposable cash get to listen and the rest of us don't. And the explosions are still going to be too loud.
You need more than two cheap speakers to hear motion pictures properly. Remember they are mixed for surround sound!
This has been a relief, I'm partially deaf so I've always used subtitles. There was a point, a bunch of years ago, that people stopped thinking me asking for subtitles was annoying. It's been a relief
Bonewulfe - My Hubs has partial hearing loss (despite reconstructive surgery on his ear canals), and I started using subtitles for him when we met...a lot of movies didn't have that option back then (and some *still* don't, even today, which gets them an automatic '👎' from me).
I believe a lot of movies are stuck with being compatible with Dolby Atmos then as it converts to Stereo or Mono for anything that isn't a home theater set up resulting in audio issues. We can't hear anything as Dialogue is Volume 5 and Explosion are at 100. Like can we just keep everything 50/50?
Weeaboo Netflix Brats: I want the subtitles to be dubbed as well. Where is the CC. My Legally Blind Friend: have the Audio Description Version. Me: Allow me to be deaf so that the movie is not spoiled in the first paragraph please...
Now we’re all like you!
@booblikon wait a minute, that means your getting annoyed by them being annoyed....that annoys me!
People who get annoyed are annoying. 😊
I'm Italian (fluent in English) and I've noticed that our dub is usually clearer than the source material. I've never had to put subtitles on dubbed movies (while I have to use them for original italian movies most of the time cause actors tend to have heavy accents), but when I watch the original english version the dialogue is much more muddled. It could be a different way of mixing, or the fact that dubs are recorded in a studio and not on set but idk, I thought it was interesting
Same here in Canada (French). Because dialogues have to be replaced, the movie's soundtrack has to be re-mixed - everything then sounds better 98% of the time as the dialogues have a cleaner separation from the rest of the movie sounds (music and sound effects). It's plain ridiculous. I'm also a sound engineer. :D
I agree, I watch a lot of shows that have a foreign language as the original. If dubbed is available, it is usually much better especially when combined with sub-titles. Dubbed used to be bad, but now it’s much better. In fact, I love it when I find out that the actors in the original language, are also doing the dubbing!
@Myrte because it is a movie not a book. Moving pictures are distracting while reading.
@Myrte Als een Duitser hou ik van de Nederlandse manier van principiële ondertiteling van buitenlandse taal (of onduidelijke Dutch) in TV en filmpjes. Daar zijn de details niet compleet "Lost in Translation" zoals hier.
As a Dutch person ive no clue about this cause why would you dub a movie, just read the subtitles!
I worked on the HBO show Deadwood. There was a scene between Calamity Jane and the Doctor. Robin kept getting closer and closer to Brad until in one take she had her ear on his mouth. The director called cut and scolded Robin for being "too intimate" with Brad. Robin's response was, "I wouldn't have to be so intimate If I could hear him!" .The director said, "Watch his mouth and when it stops moving, say your line."
that's WILD omg xD no wonder it's hard to find genuine chemistry between actors these days, if none of them can actually hear each other enough to interact
Would've loved an explanation about why dialogue (in some movies / series even close to all of it) has to be in whispers.
There can be two characters in an enclosed room, no one in earshot, yet they whisper as if they were talking about the most well-kept secret in the universe, why?
@timotheninja Well, they do. Some even have ears on their backs.
@ItsKarl What if the mice don't have ears?
@Why On edge? I'll say! Though I think I'd describe the feeling as *irritated* when the dialog is unintelligible. :-)
The one example (in this video) of a perfectly intelligible, entirely whispered scene (clip) tells me all I really need to know: it can be done.
I think it was actually overdone in that example, but let's find a middle ground, eh?
I always thought it was a dramatisation thing. If people whisper there is more tension and you directly feel more on edge.
This video is a relief. I'm not a native English speaker, however I can have conversations with English people with no issues.
I also understand very well podcasts, youtube videos and the news but I've always struggled with movies and TV-series.
Happy that I'm not alone in this :)
What's really frustrating about this dynamic range is that the dialogue is so quiet that you need to turn the volume up drastically, and then when explosions happen, it's way too loud that you scramble to lower the volume
@Joel Chambers so why not make explosions so load and realistic that your windows shatter and walls fall down? It is more realistic in the end!
Problem is that movies used to be a visual story, but now became just visual effects.
netflix and hbo ...go into SETTINGS to decrease dynamic range
@TheForsakeen - they are artist, but they forget that art should be consumed by the masses. Don't they remember watching Ghostbusters or Back to the Future in their tvs with decent audio mixing? Do they think those movies would have been better if they couldn't understand the actors?
So relatable lol
@Blair Spurtburgler The problem with music is reversed because theres almost no dynamic range.
I used to work in TV sound and my initial answer was "because actors mumble and you're watching it on your phone", but I like the way you talked through the whole signal chain and showed the obstacles at each stage.
@Eli M. It's complicated. The trend has been for more naturalistic performances, and there are many directors with sensitive egos and little technical knowledge. Instead of accommodating technical challenges, the attitude is often: "This is how we're doing it. You make it work technically."
Why not ask actors to enunciate? Is it that hard?
Dunno if you noticed, but your own mic is just dipping into shot a little when you're on the couch.
This reminds me of my theatre kid days. I tended to be hard to hear and we often didn't have mics. Eventually I learned to speak more clearly not just by raising volume, but by adjusting my pitch and register to keep them out of phase with the ambient noise I was currently sharing space with. Sometimes crisper is better than louder.
Even in theaters with "impeccable sound," you only get that sound when you sit in the dead-center of the theater
I've been turning subtitles on for over ten years because I have ADHD. Even if I'm fully invested in what I'm watching, being able to both hear and read what they're saying simultaneously allows me to absorb the information a lot better.
I remember learning while working at Best Buy that as the demand for thinner and thinner TVs has gone up, built in speaker size and quality has had to go down to compensate, which is part of why soundbars have become so popular.
Subtitles have also become more widely available and easily accessible, meaning it's easier for people to start relying on them (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).
For the last 5-10 year I've felt more and more psychotic with the remote volume. I move it up and down constantly throughout a show.
Right? Same. And it really doesn't matter if it's movies or netflix or whatever. it's incredible :/
@Hazed Exactly! Also, I understand that it's a movie. It doesn't need to be as loud as a literal explosion in order for me to feel immersed in the experience.
@Hazed also, what does she think we're doing all the time with the remote? Could it be "limiting the dynamic range by making quiet scenes louder and loud scenes quieter"? No, of course not, we just like to push buttons!
Like, mam, we're already doing your job for you, at home, in our spare time. How about you dafuq just listen what we want and do it accordingly, instead of explaining to us why we don't actually want the thing we definetely, absolutely do want!
As someone who always use closed captioning because of hearing impairment: I just want to say I love that this video has the proper captions as opposed to just the "auto-generated" ones, which are the worst. There are plenty of times that I will immediately close out a video because of it only having auto-generated captions.
The worst is when we go to the theater, and it's sort of ok to hear the conversations, but then all of a sudden an explosion louder than a gun shot beside your ear happens. That's horrible.
As a director, a part of my job is to make sure that actors keep the dialogues audible, and articulate. Especially for web and TV. I think it is possible to keep a realistic performance and have an intelligible scene. It is one thing that make an acting performance great.
Another way to fix these problems is doing it from the very source: actors. I bet your job is as fun as frustrating sometimes...
After listening 10 times, my best identification of the words at 0:09 is: _"Let them do it, it´ll be all right."_ Native speakers can discern mumbling 5 to 10 times better than non-native speakers who learned the language at adult age.
When I was in audio engineering school, I remember downmixing being a big part of one of my final exams. I had to take the taxi chase scene from The 5th Element, replace every sound effect with ones I'd chosen from a library, mix it in 5.1 and then downmix it to stereo in about four hours. Up until that point, I had really wanted to go into post production audio work but the idea of doing that every day kinda soured me on the idea.
I'm a non native speaker and I've always thought it was a personal issue, even if I'm studying for my master's degree in English. This video is a huge relief pill, thanks Vox.
Edit: It's unbelievable how many native speakers or bilingual people used to think it was their fault too. Makes you think how humans are ready to doubt themselves and find excuses, even for something so natural such as language.
I think a huge part of me becoming native level in English was watching stuff and having to rewind and repeat when someone was being mumbly and getting annoyed enough to try to imitate them 🤣
Francesco Alaimo, me too. I thought I didn't have enough exposure to English to understand. I just realized it wasn't me. 😀 Now it makes sense because when I watch documentaries I can almost always understand the speech. Documentaries typically don't have the problems Vox is talking about in this video.
Was just about to say this! Started to think my ability to understand English has gotten worse. :D
@Morgan s This gets complicated because, actually, regional languages in italy are way older than italian, every one of them was the local way of speaking latin, mixed up with other languages, that differ depending on the melting pot you got in the individual region's middle age. Italian is a mix up of lemmas and influences of these languages, with the main core based on tuscanian. The problem is that the difference between the words language and dialect is mostly sociolinguistic but they're usually the same thing. In a pragmatical way a whole discussion or text in sicilian wouldn't be understood by other regions speakers, (I'm talking proper sicilian, not the regional variant of italian spoken in Sicily, that's another whole layer of discussion ahaha). In a legal way, sicilian is a language according to the european framework, but not to the italian one.
Hope my answer was detailed enough ahahah
Same, I'm an English teacher in a non English speaking country and I've always felt ashamed when I needed subtitles, now I feel so much better
My first language is Spanish and I watch a lot of movie reactions in English, I noticed that most of them have the subtitles on and I assumed they only did that so their viewers would follow the story better, since the film’s audio is usually lower than the reactors’ voices
But now I’m finding out that may not be the only reason, I had no idea English native speakers have a hard time understanding the dialogues in Hollywood movies, this was a really interesting video
There's actually another reason reactors have subtitles on. It's because reactors make noise while reacting: whether this be by making some emotional expression or they decide to make a comment without pausing. Their own noise/comment may accidentally drown out something important a character says. By having the subtitles on they are more likely to be able to see what the character said even if they didn't actually hear any of the dialogue.
Another helpful factor for reactors using subtitles is just to help their brain absorb more information faster. There are movies and TV shows out there that a person simply will not catch everything on a first watch. But often the idea of reaction channels is to see films for the first time. By having the subtitles on this helps the reactor stay focused on what is being said so that they don't miss or misunderstand a key bit of information. So that they can pick up on as much as possible on that first watch through.
As a not native English speaker I learned English through watching English movies with dutch subtitles (I’m from the Netherlands) and so I’m used to reading the subtitles because it’s what I’ve been doing my whole life so for me I think that’s the reason I can’t watch a movie without subtitles
English isn't my native language, but as a translator i've always felt embarrassed when i play subtitles .. watching this video, i was relieved to know that it's not only me that needs subtitles, it's the audio's problem. I always had this misconception that my standards in english are not up to bar because of this.
I watched some old movies where they deliver dialogues with gusto and we can hear them loud and clear, even when ‘whispering’. But these days, I can’t hear some of the dialogue with the actors mumbling, as if we are sitting next to them- I have to rewatch or read the Wikipedia to understand the story!
I worked on the film "Boys" with Lucas Haas. In the scene I was supposed to push an elevator button on one of his lines. In the scene he was supposed to be screaming at his dad however Mr. Haas hardly made it to a dull whisper. I could not hear him at all and said so.. The sound man grabbed me by the collar and took me over to the playback and showed me the scene and lo and behold Mr. Haas was screaming so loud I had to hold my ears. I looked at the sound man and said , "That is not what Mr. Haas was doing." The sound man replied , "Of course not, that's my job!"
He grabbed you by the collar? Why so rude tho?
I love how she's like "You can't just turn the speech up without keeping explosions impactful", yet the very annoyance most people have is that the explosions are too loud, so people turn down the volume and can't understand dialogue anymore.
@Nemamka you just didn't pay attention. They are balanced for theatres. Not your TV speaker.
Exactly! She talks about dynamic range but??? The logic she applied here doesn't make any sense, the exact problem is that movies/shows are not balanced out on that range and we have to keep turning the volume up and down.
You can't really reason with audio people.
The real question is why tf do there need to be explosions in everything
They also said its not for home its for theatres. Have you been to a theatre with dolby atmos?
It's comforting to know that I am not alone in using subtitles, not only for English dialogue (which has become blurrier to me in recent years) but also for my native language, Italian. Sometimes the music track in a film produced in Italy is sooooo loud that the dialogue becomes unintelligible in parts. Being partly deaf now and working in video and sound QC for a video distribution company, I have been noticing this from a technical standpoint as well. My suggested solution would be: DO NOT use effects and music when it is not absolutely necessary!
dude i've been saying this for years 😭😭 i think for me its genuinely partly due to audio processing disorder but i'm glad its also more than just that!!
i have such a distinct memory of being in an english lesson in school watching the macbeth film and just. NOT being able to hear a single thing anyone was saying. it was all just sound to me. it was such a nightmare.
I wish more theatres had captions! I miss so many details without them
The editing of this video alone is art. I love how you put printed pictures and addedd words on a table then even showed us your hands collecting them again! 7:27
This is the definition of how to not do things.
With shows seemingly getting darker and darker and also the sound being so unintelligible, it's a task watching anything nowadays
Thank you for pointing this out!
On top of that majority of the movies are just bigger visual effects and louder sound effects. Less and less story in the movies.
@Jesus Freak it’s “Good evening Clarice,” Mandela
True. I hate not being able to watch something in the middle of the day, which is when I have a bit of free time, unless I close every door and window, because the smallest ray of light renders the screen a black rectangle of nothing
OLED + Surround Sound system. Get that cinema experience at home, yo.
@K C back to the radio days
My Hubs and I started using subtitles years ago...we like foreign movies (especially Spanish & Japanese), and rather than listening to 'dubbing', we opt for subtitles - the natural beauty of the languages are undisturbed and our reading skills stay sharp.
*That's* a 'win-win' for everyone. 😌
As a non-native English speaker I've grown up watching media with subtitles on, so I'm so used to it, I now turn the subtitles on automatically just for comfort, even when they're the same language as the spoken word of whatever I'm watching. 😅
I didn't even realize people actually used subtitles very much. I've never noticed very many people using subtitles IRL anyway. I've been using them quite a bit the last few years. I listened to quite a bit of loud rock/metal music on headphones when I was a kid, and also was stupidly running chainsaws for about 5 years without using ear protection as much as I should have. I was guessing I have a combo of slightly bad hearing and my fleeting attention span. I believe I may have had ADHD or something my whole life because my attention span has always been really bad, long before the internet era. I never had myself officially checked out for it.
But anyway, I have to rewind stuff all the time because I frequently can't understand what is being said, or simply zone out due to my attention problems. If it gets too bad I just turn the subtitles on, but I hate using them because it distracts from the visual element.
I am not a native english speaker, but I consume a lot of english spoken entertainment. I can usually understand a dialogue in english but I always watch movies and shows with subtitles on for this exact reason. This video is a relief for me actually. Because I always thought that native speakers could understand english dialogues with no problem, and I felt kinda bad for not being able to do the same. I attributed that to my english level not being good enough, but now I see this is actually due to poor sound quality in english spoken media lol.
I don't like using subtitles if I can avoid it, because my brain will read ahead and then I'll get impatient waiting for the actors to finish their lines.
Nothing quite like sitting at home with my hand on the remote turning the volume up during dialogue moments and waiting for the inevitable explosions that are going to blow my ear drums out.
@OMGWTFLOL “just stop watching movies with explosions in them then”.
I hate dynamic range. I get it, there’s an explosion, stop making me have to change the volume please
Quit watching American action movies then. You don't find too many explosions in foreign made films. That's mostly a weird Americanism. They use explosives to mask poor writing.
Have a look on your TV (or your amp if you're using one) for some kind of dynamic range reduction / night mode / auto volume setting. It's usually a compressor that basically acts like you on the volume control turning it down when it gets too loud, only it's automatic!
And now imagine being a translator/subtitler and having to figure out what the dialogue is saying in order to do our job when I'm sure even the actors themselves don't understand what they said in certain scenes. 😫
dont they have a transcript?
Another issue is it's getting harder to toggle subtitles on/off. It's a single key press in software like VLC, but it's buried in slow, hard to navigate menus in a lot of commercial streaming services.
People: we hate this thing, please change it
Sound engineers: we can't, it needs to be that way so you like it more
This is regarding dynamic range. If everyone is turning down the volume at the loud parts, and up at the quiet parts, I'm pretty sure we can suspend disbelief and know the explosion is louder than voices.
Way to just like....completely ignore the audience :(
Edit: I'm back and the video's conclusion was worse than I imagined. Just accept it? What kind of journalism is this? Smh very disappointing, especially from this channel.
i used to think my english was simply kinda bad, since it was so much harder to understand original US movies or TV shows than the dubbed version in my native language. I feel so validated knowing it's not exclusively on me!
This is done so well. My husband was a film major so I knew a lot of these processes. So thankful for subtitles as I have been slowly losing my hearing.
What makes these realistic performances less realistic, is that none of the characters ever ask each other 'sorry, what did you just say'??
In the Shazam movie he did while flying, and the antagonist was giving his villain monologue.
And then the second time they still don't understand so they just smile and nod.
Yup. If they gonna have a theatrical, heavily-edited dialogue, instead of Buffy speak full of "umm", "ahs", repeating yourself and whatnot, then they should speak in theatrical manner. If you want to put realistic speech, write, err, realistic dialogue.
@susu the movie The Marriage Story has pretty believable dialogue. It's obviously polished, but it still feels way more real than most other movies I've ever seen.
This comment is pure gold
It's really unfortunate because subtitles really takes away that immersive movie experience even when you have a decent home theater set up. The weird thing is when I watch foreign films or foreign language animes with subtitles, it doesn't affect the immersiveness as much.
Speaking 4 soon 5 languages, I take pride of not needing subtitles, but I do sometimes have to replay a scene and put them on. I'm relieved to learn it isn't quite a me issue.
I have been diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder and subtitles make movie watching possible. Thank you for touching on the science of what is going on with film.
since I was little, I loved having subtitles on for everything I watched. I watched a lot of anime as a kid growing up so subs were very common to me. Then it slowly branched out to english media and so forth. now, I find that my reading speed is actually quite fast so I have 20+ years of reading the screen to thank for that. i read so much faster than I can hear that it happens in just a glance. I didn't realize how fast it was until i started reading in another language that I wasn't fluent in and became frustrated that I read so much slower!
As a non-native speaker, this feels very reassuring ! I swear I used to be able to watch things without subtitles, unless I was very tired. It's still true for social media videos (yt, insta). Glad to hear it's not an attention span problem, or my english getting worse somehow.
The issue with having that big sound difference to make explosions and such seem bigger is that we've turned up the volume to hear people whisper and then all of a sudden your house is shaking from the ensuing gunfight.
@mogznwaz I tend to watch more tv so the whispers straight into the blaring theme tune is generally the worst but moves do it too I’m not going to appreciate your music score or your fight sequence when it prevents me from understanding what’s going on in your film! I’m dyslexic so subtitles often change before I’ve finished reading the lines anyway so It’s not even a solution for me in the first place
@Guilherme Santos Going deaf is NOT part of the movie experience ……
I HATE the unnecessarily loud action sequences and explosions it really really angers me
Add ringing ears to the mix after the explosion, and now you definitely can't hear the next conversation. Rinse and repeat until deaf
Just waiting for the same thing to happen to subtitles. "Text won't seem impactful if all the letters are the same size. We want to preserve the dynamic range between letters, so vowels have to be 3 foot tall, and consonants by contrast shouldn't be more than a quarter inch."
Being an English as a second language speaker, I do find it really helpful to always watch with subtitles on, but I don't watch with subtitles in Spanish; rather in English. I do this to have a much better understanding of what I'm hearing and also practice my listening and pronounciation skills.
I love it when the music is higher volume than the actors lines. The best ever
This actually is something that happens to me in my job, I’m not an English speaker and is really hard to understand when people speak fast in the meetings plus some of them are mumblers and they use terrible mics, it was super frustrating when they didn’t activate the option of subtitles on zoom.
that's a giant relief for me. I'm a non-native english speaker and my exposure to english is primarily through media. I always felt I'm just not proficient enough to watch movies with no subtitles, even though I'm fluent. Very glad to know it's not me lol
Honestly this makes me so relieved I'm not secretly going deaf from playing music too loud.
Sadly people nowadays do have bad hearing due to playing music too loud on headphones. I wear earplugs when I go to concerts.
Pay attention especially with in-ears though, they are the worst for potential hearing damage. I'd try to get used to lower volume levels - in general if you're like many blasting music, but especially on in-ears. Also, higher quality equipment could perhaps help in having less of a need to drive volume levels up.
@Aniruddha Kabbya Depends on what headphones you use. I'm assuming you're talking about headphones on a phone (due to the volume too high notification). This notification, at least on Android (does iOS have this?), doesn't take into account the equipment you use and phones normally don't have much power to drive high quality/studio headphones. So, I always cross this barrier with my 250 Ohm headphones, restricting myself to volume levels before this notification would definitely be too quiet, and I'm not one who listens on high volumes.
Also the phone, or more specifically the internal AMP, makes a difference. I think the notification pops up at half volume level, on my current phone I would need to go close to max for a normal music listening volume (for me anyways, for most probably higher), on my previous phone it was between half and 3/4 though (60-65%).
@iyōna Yeah I have tinnitus too for a few years now. It's only going to get worse with more cases now since everyone's using earbuds, headphones, etc
I actually find that when i watch movies at home, the high dynamic range is actually one of the most annoying things, as i'm rarely in a setting where i can turn the sound up enough without the loud sounds being to loud, while tv shows etc. is not mixed in this way and i usually find them more enjoyable to watch. so i kind of feel like at least the sterio mix should have a narrower range.
I also don't watch with subtitles in English, (even though it's my 2. language), only for parts where they speak a different language in a english audio movie for example (like elvish in LOTR)
netflix and hbo have in the settings an option to decrease dynamic rangs
I agree-this is a massive relief! I sometimes can’t hear people’s words over the movie or show’s background music. So now I know why. Thank you!
yea this is honestly true,started with subs while watching anime now almost any and every piece of media i consume has to have subtitles it feels like a massive relief watching with subs compared to without them
I also watch subtitles because I have processing issues so sometimes Im a bit slow to it, reading it visually helps. But I also think mumbling and accents etc. also play a part. My old manager was a big mumbler and talked too quick, I hated getting instructions from him XD no shame in subtitles!
Lol, thank god for this video! 😂 I thought it was just because I was getting old. I’ve actually stopped going to movies in theatre’s and just waiting to watch them until they come out on a some sort of streaming service…where I can watch them with subtitles. 😣
If people in movies are going to mumble like in real life, they also need to put in a lot more "Pardon?" and "Could you say that again?" like in real life.
And "Sorry, I couldn't hear you over all the whooshing, explosions and accompanying orchestra."
also, there's a thing known as suspension of disbelief. You can have quiet dialog that the audience hears and it be understood that other characters are not supposed to be able to hear it. And there's blue light to imply darkness but still have the audience be able to see even if in real life, we wouldn't be able to. Cuz what is the point of having a scene we can't see or hear?
and the "hehe" you make when someone tells you "excuse-me could you pass the m,dasjhfklashdf?" and you hope its a joke, not a genuine question.
Sounds like a Mel Brooks movie. :)
I think it’s a mix of what you’ve mentioned and the aspect that people are watching more content on the go. Personally speaking I have subtitles on bc the surrounding environment is loud or unpredictable in sound.
I always turn on subtitles right away and don't wait until I don't understand something. Sometimes though the only subtitles available are the ones in German and I don't like watching a movie in English with different subtitles, because then I don't understand anything either 😅
I love subtitles, because it feels like I'm reading a book.
Subtitles aren't always a bad thing. They actually help to bolster reading speed and comprehension :)
I personally prefer to watch a movie, not to read a movie
This is why I don't watch movies at home. Because I have to have the movie at such a volume to hear what people say that other sound effects become so loud I'm worried I'm gonna get evicted.
I’m a re-recording mixer. This video leaves out what is in my opinion the biggest factor. They explained how a wide dynamic range has a negative effect in home environments but did not elaborate and did not explain that we have no choice but to mix with these wide dynamics due to network requirements, which most of us mixers want changed!! Television used to be mixed with very little dynamics. But now the line between TV and film is blurred and companies like Netflix want their content to “sound theatrical” so they require us to keep the dialog at a -27dB average while allowing us to peak at -1 for the big moments. That range is too wide for most homes because of the acoustic environment. Acoustics play SUCH a huge role in how we hear things, I can not overstate this enough. Without proper absorption in the walls and corners you get all kinds of buildups of certain frequencies that resonate the room, especially during loud moments. So often times it’s the room itself that’s muddying the dialog and not even the speakers or the mix. Any kind of natural reverberation in the room also makes dialog a little less intelligible so the natural response is to turn it up during the quiet moments. Then suddenly the loud moments become WAY too loud due too resonant frequencies in the room. The fix for this is to mix with a narrower dynamic range but the networks won’t allow us to do that.. for now. I always tell people to try listening in headphones and I guarantee you won’t be riding the volume up and down cause you’ve eliminated the room out of the equation.
Seems like a business opportunity to me. Some exec should adopt narrower dynamic range as a feature, give it a cool name, develop a logo and slap it on some of their media. I’m sure it would be a hit. Clearly this is an issue for a lot of people.
@Bill Bombshiggy Still forbidden to have ads louder than non-ad content on broadcast TV.
Great info for the masses Gary.
That makes perfect sense, except for the fact that cinemas are, or should be, tuned precisely for perfect sound with none of the problems you cite with sound reverberation in the home environment, but the problem is (for me) exactly the same in the cinema as it is at home.
As a lot of people in the comments are saying, I also used to think that the problem was that my English wasn't good enough. But then when I started learning a 3rd language, I noticed that even though I was a lot more used to english than to my 3rd language, I wasn't having so much of a hard time understanding movies as I was with English. So I just assumed it had something to do with English phonetics
I am glad that subtitles are an option. However, I get distracted by reading the subtitles and miss what's happening in the video, so I don't like having subtitles on. I like listening to things using headphones because it makes audio much more clear, it gets rid of distractions,, and (if I'm in a place with other people) doesn't bother others.
Being a non native english speaker, the fact that every movie I find online has its subtitles helps a lot to learn the language.
Thank you!!! For a long time I believed that sometimes I can't catch phrases because english is not my native language. So even though most of times I can understand it, sometimes there's no way I can watch something without subtitles. So I always thought that native english speakers wiould understand what I don't, and I felt that it's just I'm not good enough. It's a huge relief.
4. Add a compressor between your TV and your audio output.
Works like charm on the dynamic range issue.
It seems like many filmmakers haven't figured out that people can't hear dialogue if there is music blasting over it
Joke’s on them because I know to mute them every single time, since I know they’ll be obnoxious. If they’d maintain a normal volume, I might actually hear some of it.
Change your audio settings
@Dale Wilson ah fairs! Maybe it’s just an urban legend then cause I was always told it was just advertisers being slimey haha. It’s what most ppl assume in the UK from my experience
Right? It's really not that complicated to just turn the music down.
@jacob edwards Television editor here, this is incorrect. M Brady's comment is the correct answer. We have a "peak" audio that gets applied to *all* content (movies, shows, ads, promos). Ads are shorter and have little dynamic range: so the audio usually stays within a couple dB of the peak, where long movies with high dynamic range will seem quieter.
Or put more simply: *everything* we send to your homes we send as loud as we can without distorting any audio.
I'm always confused about the subtle plot and think that somehow understanding every word of the dialogue will help me. It doesn't though because so many films are purposefully vague and open to interpretation. I don't think that fixating on the words for me adds to the experience but i can't stop doing it.
Thank you so much! I seriously thought I was going deaf because I couldn't hear movies and videos clearly anymore. Now I know it's not me. Whew!
This is such a huge relief. There have been several times where I think something is wrong with me. I don't have trouble hearing. I have trouble UNDERSTANDING what people are saying. I sometimes even have this trouble just talking to people. Certain accents can be hard to understand and a lot of people mumble and don't properly enunciate their words.
I’m fairly self-conscious of having my tv too loud and it is so annoying when my dad watches tv and it’s literally yelling because he can’t hear what they’re saying. Thank god for subtitles.
I prefer to believe i turn on subtitles because i want to be *absolutely positive* what everyone is saying. That or something is making too much noise in the background (relatives during family visits, roommates in the other room, a plane flying by, etc).
I choose to believe that everyone else just has a hard time listening. This is because i like to put myself on a pedestal to boost my self-esteem.
All jokes aside i have stopped using subtitles as much as possible in order to practice being a*better listener.*
Another reason I use subtitles is for when words are not common English ones, like in Avatar 2. The entire movie I thought a character's name was Noak and it turns out to be Lo'ak. If I'd had subtitles, I could have better understood and remembered that name because I would have seen it written out
I heard itam and Novak
On the d-low, subtitles have also helped me correct pronunciation and/or spelling of more obscure English words tbh😅
@PLUTO it wasn’t???
This happened to me with Rings of Power.
@Reynd_Out fool of a tuk
I do come from an era where subtitles were only ever needed for the hard of hearing and the elderly, but now I and younger members of my family use them.
I love that you mentioned the deaf and hard of hearing communities and how important CC is for them. It's something we can so easily forget about and take for granted.
With such audio tracks everyone belong to hard hearing communities.
Same applies to the lightning of scenes - lots of scenes are so dark that everyone belongs to vision impaired communities.
a fantastic view into how involved - and powerful - sound can be. amplifiers, people.
I like subtitles and watching movies. Because reading is faster than listening. The reason why I always turn on the subtitles is because I want the maximum clarity. The text amplifies the visuals and the audio of the movie, thus giving the most clear understanding.
We, in the low lands (Belgium and The Netherlands) are so used to have subtitles ( i.e. France or Germany always had dubbed movies), and while it helped me as a child to learn English, I always turn them on, even on Dutch spoken movies, because it's just easier to understand the story like that.
True fact: I used to work as a subtitle editor for major hollywood studios, and even we sometimes had trouble figuring out what was being said in the dialogue... and we (usually) had access to the scripts!
@Unknown2Yoo -- I think we (the audience) lose a lot when most actors nowadays (and we've lost a lot of our big name, big talent faves in the last decade or so) don't have theater training or the like. Which definitely doesn't seem to be as common anymore. One noticeable part is the lack of projection and ennunciation. Another is how they often don't really inhabit their characters, and make you feel like you are looking at "character so-and-so" instead of "actor such-and-such" in a wig, you know? It's just really unfortunate.
@Neon Heart Honestly, I don't remember. I happened to have a Masters, but I think the requirement was just for a Bachelors in some sort of humanities- or English-adjacent field. (For me, it was history.) I seem to recall that there was some sort of sample editing test they made us do, but I couldn't tell you anything about it at this point - it's been a long time. If it were me getting back into things again as a freelancer, I'd probably familiarize myself with the various social media transcription tools (like Clip-Share, TikTok, Zoom, etc.), figure out how those worked, and start pitching myself to larger content creators who still use auto-generated transcriptions. If I wanted to get in as an employee, I'd contact my old company (Deluxe Digital Studios) or try to figure out who their competitors are and check their application criteria.
@May Kabir Agreed. Love older movies for this very reason. Plus, I'm not convinced many newer actors have had theatrical training, because that 'naturalistic mumbly' stuff would not work for the audience in the balcony seating.
@Julie Golick This is fascinating - thank you for the information! Did you have to go to university or study any qualifications to get into the role? For people who are interested in this line of work, what's the best way to start?
@BrotherCheng Yep, sound effects and background song lyrics, especially when they overlap with dialogue; really distracting
Even this videos has such a range of sound. From when you’re narrating to also having your mic covered up by your jacket
This just gives me a relief on English-learning. A popular method to learn English listening skill is to watch films and TV series. I had no problems to understand what actors were talking when I watch Friends, but had no idea when I watch recent films. I thought my listening skill was getting weaker.
DVDs and streaming services should deliver their movies with separate tracks for music, noises and dialogue, so that consumers can choose if they want to experience the recommended settings or to tune around for their own liking.
Honestly thought it would be more about how we’re all a bit ADHD nowadays and can’t focus that much.
That’s usually why I use subtitles, even in Clip-Share, it helps me focus and I don’t have to rewind constantly to fully grasp an idea.
It's weird because in old Disney sitcoms and the like, all the characters would shout their lines loudly and I would always think it was so funny how the extras in the background pretending not to notice that giant convo in front of them were super unrealistic. But with cinema it's like a complete reversal. I noticed even in certain older animated pieces (i'm watching 1999 anime Hunter x Hunter now) the dynamic range poses an issue. In one part a character will be speaking intimately something secret and then one second later there is a random sharp, loud explosive noise and I have to turn it down super fast so my family doesn't get mad.
In summary: Everyone involved in making those shows/movies know that you can't hear the dialog but they don't care.
@Richard Witt I stopped watching as soon as the lady said "I basically perform audio surgery"
Amazing to hear a professional sound engineer say that obviously loud explosions are more important than intelligible dialogue.
@ophid Honestly, by the end I despised everyone in this video.
@Maia Palazzo Obviously not, but I don't think it needs to be IMAX quality. It just needs a basic surround sound system and it will be infinitely better than a mono phone speaker.
@Jorge Martinez "Nolan has always been the kind of director that makes movies specifically tailored to viewing in a theater." BUT most cinemas in the world are subpar with older machines, or you (and Nolan) think every cinema is at least IMAX quality?
OMG!! Thank you so much!!! I'm not a native English speaker, but I have a good level. good enough to understand videos and songs in English without subs quite well. I stopped watching movies in English a little back because I noticed I could not understand what some of the actors were saying. I thought I was losing my listening skills!!!
I wonder if english could be a reason as to why it’s sometimes hard to get what the actors are saying because as someone who speaks both french and english i have no trouble understanding french stuff without subtitles even if they whisper or mumble a bit (which is not very common in french)