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The Low Frequency Content Thread (films, games, music, etc)

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What say you about Black Panther? Many over @ AVS are extremely down on the mix, similarly to The Last Jedi.  However, views here differed greatly on the Last Jedi and so I'm curious to what views on Black Panther are here.

Respect,

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I'll look at it.  I enjoyed the film, but wasn't really impressed by the LF, much like Thor:Ragnarok.

JSS

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Well this story sure is a mixed bag:

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[...] it’s a real shame that many fans who try to watch their favorite Marvel and Disney-produced Star Wars films at home are finding their experiences being spoiled by some bizarre sound quality problems.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/johnarcher/2018/07/09/hey-disney-stop-getting-your-star-wars-and-marvel-soundtracks-wrong/

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The issues are two fold. First, when Disney provides a Dolby Atmos or DTS HD Master Audio mix with one of its films on Blu-ray or 4K Blu-ray, it pretty much invariably sounds much quieter than the similar mixes provided by other studios on their films.

For instance, with my own Dolby Atmos/DTS:X systems, I routinely have to turn the volume up to around 20% above my usual reference level when watching Disney titles. Countless other users have reported having to do the same thing.

Oh how terrible!  One has to actually adjust the master volume.

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Second and worse, even if you crank the sound up high, Disney’s digital sound mixes still more often than not sound weirdly compressed. Bass extensions are limited, the mid-range sounds cramped and muffled, and the rear and (in the case of Atmos) height channels that are such a key part of the latest audio experiences seem muted and low on detail.

No doubt Disney has put out some pretty lackluster mixes lately, particularly with regard to surround/Atmos usage.  Though, excepting the odd one or two with major issues (Thor:Ragnorok Atmos mix / SW:TFA limiter) I don't know if I would call them "weirdly compressed" or complain about "cramped and muffled" mid-range.  And bass extension?  Sure most releases are filtered, but the same is true for other studios.  And the same was true before this:

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The problems seem to have started with the 7.1-channel DTS track on the Blu-ray of Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Certainly this seems to be the first track that caused a wide outcry about its lack of consistent bass, its weedy score and its generally muffled, flat, undynamic sound.

Undynamic, really?  True, Avengers AOU wasn't exactly an award winning mix, but it also wasn't full of nasty clipping like so many others before it.  I and others thought it had plenty of dynamics after compensating for the lack of loudness using the Master Volume.  Either way, it seems like the author's motivated to complain primarily because of the lack of loudness.

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Also, I’d argue that while Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 does at least have some genuine low frequency information in its Dolby Atmos soundtrack and doesn’t feature the usual ‘too quiet’ Disney mix, it still sounds a little muffled when there’s a lot of bass to handle. The rears seem fractionally short of detail and refinement, too.

Umm.  Last I checked the bass on GOTG2 is just as filtered as the others, and while the track is slightly louder than the overall average for Disney (at the cost of some dynamic range of course), we're talking about maybe 2-3 dB difference?

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To be absolutely clear here, I and other AV fans aren’t saying that Disney just isn’t very good at doing sound mixes. In fact, the mixes for many of the films that sound strange on home video formats sounded great in movie theaters. It’s just that there seems to be some actual technical problem with Disney’s sound mixes when they arrive on home video.

Not according to recent comments by @Infrasonic.  I don't visit the cinema that often, but I would concur.  In fact if a soundtrack, pretty much any movie soundtrack, sounds better in the cinema than at home, then I would argue that the home playback system is not suited for making these kinds of judgments.

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I can only speculate on what this problem might be. The best suggestion I’ve heard from someone who works on the production side of the film industry is that Disney is using ‘multimedia’ mixes (designed with limited dynamics that suit audio-challenged devices such as mobile phones, tablets and PCs) for all of its home video formats - even premium home cinema ones such as Blu-rays and 4K Blu-rays.

Ahah!  They are mixing for TVs and phones.  Except, not really.  While I'm sure that Disney and others are mixing with an eye toward smaller devices, the low level of the content in the mixes has nothing to do with achieving that goal.  The problem with limited output playback devices is that they have limited maximum gain, and their users find they can't turn up their master volume enough to hear the dialog clearly.  So all else the same, such users are better off with mixes in which the content is *louder not quieter*.

In fact standard loudness recommendations for streamed content of -16 to -20 LUFS are *much* louder than the typical loudness of cinema content, which comes in roughly between -27 to -31 LUFS but varies more because there are no hard standards.  (Disney's UHD/BD/DVD releases probably come in very close to those numbers.)  Also note that most streaming involves only 2 channels, so 7.1 soundtracks (including home Atmos) effectively have another ~11 dB headroom or ~14 dB if the LFE channel is counted.

So the complaints about lack of dynamics and lack of bass are just silly.  Indeed, even excluding the TV/laptop/phone viewers that don't own a "home theater" system, probably fewer than 0.1% of viewers have systems that are capable of playing these soundtracks with good sound quality (i.e., properly sloped in-room response curve) and at the reference level used in the studio (e.g. 79-82 dBC for a small room) without overloading.

But never fear!  Linked to the article is a Change.org petition:

https://www.change.org/p/walt-disney-improve-audio-dynamic-eq-lfe-bass-levels-in-disney-home-video-releases

Dear Disney: please fix the dynamic eq lfe bass levels.  Or something.

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Take a recent Disney/Lucasfilm/Marvel Studios film on a home video format. Start it up, and get to a really heavy action sequence (or better yet, go to the Holdo Maneuver scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Do you remember in theaters how loud that scene was and how packed with bass and rumble?

Umm, yeah, I think there was some bass there.  And yeah, the cinema sub sound quality was above average overall FWIW.

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Well [...] if you have a decent subwoofer or speakers that can hit some of the lower frequencies in films, well wait, you can't really hear or feel any bass or rumble, and if you do it sounds flat and compressed.

Compared to the cinema?  No way!  The cinema sounded like a faint murmur compared to the slam and roar experienced at my home.  (OK, the BEQ probably helped some, but still!)  And that was on the DTS-HD vs. Atmos track, which was apparently even more dynamic.  Of course, I only have 5.1 instead of full Atmos, so maybe that's my problem.  ;)

Anyway, I think Disney deserves some criticism for some of its recent mixes for sure, but it's mostly not technical stuff as far as I can tell.  By my judgment, dynamics, tonal balance, and bass levels and extension are fine compared to the stuff that comes out of other studios.  Rather, it just seems like overall production quality has diminished a bit, especially in the last year or two.  The weird dynamics issue on Thor:Ragnorok (Atmos) was probably not intentional; it was just sloppy.  It's less clear that this was the case for the -3 dBFS limiter on SW:TFA, but these are one off things.  More notable is the lackluster sound design and unimaginative surround usage in a lot of recent films.  Why, it's almost as if the crews are experiencing franchise fatigue or something.  Though more likely it has to do with excessive cost cutting and tighter production schedules.

Either way, it would help if Disney took criticism for the stuff that actually justifies it.  Lack of loudness is not one of those things.  We can only hope that Disney is *not* listening.

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^^^
May I ask what is your view of the Black Panther mix? Many of the same concerns from the quotes that you responded to have even more critical views on that title.

Respects,

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I haven't watched "Black Panther" yet, so no comment.

On the subject of loudness vs. MV, I have noticed more soundtracks recently with the dialnorm offset set to something other than 0.  A non-zero dialnorm offset causes the AVR/processor to attenuate the soundtrack uniformly when playing it back.  The attenuation can be counteracted by turning the MV up, but most people just set the MV at their preferred level anyway.

As for why dialnorm offset is used, the intent behind dialnorm was to ensure that different content with different dynamic ranges always played back at a similar loudness.  The problem is that, dialnorm rarely gets set correctly, even though it's been around for many years.   Most people have no idea when it is active.  For example, almost all AC3 tracks on DVDs used the default value of "-4", which attenuates playback by 4 dB.  OTOH, the DTS mixes that shipped on a few DVDs often specified "0", meaning they played 4 dB louder than the DD track.  Later when BDs came out, most tracks were being authored with "0", so lots of people probably got fooled into thinking the BD tracks were "more dynamic" when instead they just played louder.  Truth be told, there's little difference in sound between a DVD AC3 track and a DTS-HD track unless the latter is 7.1 instead of 5.1.

Anyway, as I said, it appears that Disney is starting to actually set it to meaningful values.  I think the idea is to move toward mastering home releases with consistent track-to-track loudness after dialnorm, where the loudness is measured in LUFS.  As far as I know, there are no positive dialnorm offsets, so the most dynamic one can go is offset "0" which I believe is standardized to -31 LUFS.  I think a typical home theater release would be at like -27 LUFS, which is about 3 or 4 dB more dynamic than a standard TV mix at -23 LUFS or -24 LUFS, depending on where you live.  I believe movie trailers shown in the cinema are standardized to -21 LUFS.  As I mentioned above, -16 to -20 LUFS is recommended for Internet content that's likely to be played on speakers on portable devices.

IIRC, both "Thor:Ragnorok" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" DTS-HD tracks had dialnorm "-2".  So if the mixers are setting it correctly, it means the tracks are up at -29 LUFS.  That's pretty good.  Some of the Atmos tracks may be even better.

Edited by SME
clean up extra spaces from forum glitch

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It's painfully obvious, especially after all this time and with a strong consensus in the community.... that there is not a technical limitation in play but rather a creative one. These start out as crummy mixes outright and they stay that way all the way to home video. So at least they are consistent.... consistently average at best.

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Ready Player One - Dolby ATMOS (7.1 bed measured)

Level - 5 Stars (112.67dB composite) <=NOTE that this is with dialnorm REMOVED=>

Extension - 3 Stars (16Hz)

Dynamics - 5 Stars (29.53dB

Execution - TBD

Notes - Clipped but decent soundtrack to accompany terrific visuals.  I still do not have overheads, but my surrounds are mounted high and some overhead effects were experienced.  Possible BEQ for this one.

JSS

RP1.jpg

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Alien - Covenant: Anyone measured this? Could not find any graph.

Just watched it, sounded quite good to me, did not feel like much was missing in the low end. In my opinion, it does not need BEQ.

Sound aside, it is note a very optimistic film. Would not recommend it as a good way to pass time while on your first journey to March. If you do, since such a trip takes quite some time, you can watch the whole Alien series, then top it off with Prometheus and Covenant.

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On ‎8‎/‎23‎/‎2018 at 8:11 PM, Kvalsvoll said:

Alien - Covenant: Anyone measured this? Could not find any graph.

Just watched it, sounded quite good to me, did not feel like much was missing in the low end. In my opinion, it does not need BEQ.

Sound aside, it is note a very optimistic film. Would not recommend it as a good way to pass time while on your first journey to March. If you do, since such a trip takes quite some time, you can watch the whole Alien series, then top it off with Prometheus and Covenant.

There was a graph. Must have disappeared with the rest.

I remember it graphed (and sounded/felt) well on my system. Thought the sound was pretty terrific actually. Nobody seems to like this movie though. I liked it well enough. Just wasn't the Prometheus sequel everyone wanted and expected. 

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8 hours ago, Infrasonic said:

There was a graph. Must have disappeared with the rest.

I remember it graphed (and sounded/felt) well on my system. Thought the sound was pretty terrific actually. Nobody seems to like this movie though. I liked it well enough. Just wasn't the Prometheus sequel everyone wanted and expected. 

I agree about both the sound and the movie.

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On 6/22/2018 at 8:57 AM, minnjd said:

I finally got around to watching my Blu-Ray of Blade Runner 2049.

Like in the theater, lots of bass.  Most of it hovered above 30Hz but it was definitely weighty and sounded pretty good.

But I did run across an acronym that is really appropriate for this movie (plus Interstellar and TDKR):

ZIHL, or 'Zimmer Induced Hearing Loss'. 

 

Good lord was the music fucking loud.  And not for short amounts of time either.  One sustained synth tone had to be red lining in multiple channels and it went on, continuously, for over ten seconds.  There was no modulation, no variation, just "BWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH"

Something's wrong with your mixing when I have to lower my volume for that but can keep it constant through gunshots, spinner crashes and explosions.

I just watched "Blade Runner: 2049" tonight.  The movie dialog seemed a bit louder (2 dB?) than average, so early on, I turned it down to "-8" instead of the typical "-5 to -6".  No adjustments were made for the music vs. effects.  This one definitely could have used a bit more mid-range, like many cinema tracks.  The bass was just off the charts LOUD,  like sustained square waves from 16 Hz up.  The chest throbbing on the low notes was intense.  Unfortunately, the house noises were also rather severe.

I will say that while I appreciate the score's tribute to the original, the original Vangelis score was *way* better.  This movie was also quite good, but not as good as the original.  Indeed, even though the surround and Atmos effects were nice, I think the soundtrack of the original (albeit "Final Cut" remix) was better and more immersive.

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Regarding Disney's recent HT mixes, I can only second what others are saying about them : they are disappointing, and no, it's not just a question of loudness or master volume.

What's interesting is to compare how it pored through video releases : the Forbes article has the starting point wrong : AOU was already problematic on BD. It was under-cranked, but also flatter than expected and with empty bass (I suppose the track doesn't go particularly low in frequencies).

Its unfortunate the article is imprecise regarding this (though I guess that can only be expected from a non-technical publication like Forbes), but having now listened to many of the recent Buena Vista BDs, they do feel disappointing outside from the master volume being too low. They certainly aren't all the same, and some sounded better than others, but AOU, Black Panther, Last Jedi, Thor Ragnarok, GoG 2, but also things like Coco.

Infinity War sounds a bit better and mostly is slighlty under-cranked, but even once the MV is increased, it still feels less impactful that one would expect.

I can't say if it's a creative issue more than a technical limitation. But what I do know is that something definitely changed in the way these tracks are mixed, and despite whatever people might say (especially regarding how other studios have clipped or filtered tracks, as if it explains why the BV tracks are picked up but not the other ones, or as if it would somehow makes it better to know that), it's telling to see in the first post of this very thread the scores obtained by earlier MCU discs (Winter Soldier, Incredible Hulk, Thor 2) and then look at the scores for more recent movies.

I don't know what Disney changed, but clearly, if they didn't change anything, we wouldn't have this discussion. If they changed it in a way that didn't feel this obviously debatable, we wouldn't have it either.

So if Disney wants to simply go back to whatever they were doing 6 years ago, I'm all for it, and I DO hope they listen to the complaints to just go back and do that.

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On 9/14/2018 at 2:33 AM, tenia said:

I don't know what Disney changed, but clearly, if they didn't change anything, we wouldn't have this discussion. If they changed it in a way that didn't feel this obviously debatable, we wouldn't have it either.

I don't have confirmation of this, but I believe that many Disney and Skywalker Sound mixes in general have more mid-range and less bass than typical cinema content.  I believe this is actually a good thing, even though it may reduce apparent loudness and/or dynamics compared to most other mixes.  These mixes are likely to sound better on the vast majority of audio system out there including systems optimized for music playback.  However, the response of different home systems varies a lot, and the variance is not necessarily any better for "full blown home theaters" vs. TVs and hand-held devices.  For example, a lot of auto-EQ calibrate to targets that are bass deficient, IMO.

If the Disney/Skywalker Sound movies sound whimpy, even after adjusting the master volume up, it may be in part because the playback system is calibrated to a bass deficient target.  Cinemas are also bass deficient because the lower part of the X-curve is flat, whereas a natural in-room response from an anechoic flat speaker typically rises toward the bass in the bottom.  Cinemas are also treble deficient because of the steep -3 dB/octave roll-off in the upper part X-curve vs. between 0 and 1 dB/octave with an anechoic flat speaker.

I personally find most of the Disney/Skywalker soundtracks to be quite satisfying on my system, which has a substantial "house curve", consistent with a flat anechoic response.  I do wish the tracks were more consistent though.  Even though most of the Disney/Skywalker stuff has better balance between bass, mids, and treble than typical cinema tracks, the balance within each region is often weird.  A lot of this probably reflects the limits of existing calibration technology, which is an area I'd like to see improvement.  While most rooms exhibit fairly similar in-room response characteristics when using anechoic flat speakers, the differences are enough that calibrating to the same in-room target in different rooms won't lead to consistent sound.

In the long run, it would be good to see the X-curve standard for cinema and dub stages go away to be replaced by a truly accurate calibration standard.  This would likely eliminate one of the biggest differences between cinemas and home systems.  Better yet, with all the production done on accurate systems, much less EQ would be applied to the mixes overall leading to a much better result overall on *all* systems *including cinemas*, where sound is often the worst.  Indeed experiments suggest that cinemas sound better with anechoic flat speakers than with the X-curve calibration, *even when playing cinema content* mixed in X-curve calibrated dub stages.  Yeah, really!

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