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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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