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

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On 8/31/2019 at 11:35 AM, maxmercy said:

MK/SME,

I remember doing some comparisons:

I can revisit this if there is enough interest.  Apparently we will get a 4k version in 2021.

JSS

I would be interested.

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Sorry.  I'd hoped to get around to redoing the FOTR:EE comparison this week but didn't get around to it.  I'll try to do it early next week.

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OK!  I re-did the FOTR:EE Tomb fight / Balrog comparison.  This time, without the spider webs between my speaker terminals!  Another factor that may have affected my earlier assessment is my low frequency response.  It's a bit of a long story, but what I have now is not really stable vs. small environmental changes, particularly the precise locations of the MBMs which are light enough to be accidentally slid.  You'all will think I'm *nuts* when I say that fractional millimeter changes to my MBM positions matter, without being able to hear a kick drum literally change tune upon such a manipulation.  It's not subtle stuff, and I find that bass response has a *huge* impact on perception of higher frequencies too.  (Really, every part of the spectrum interacts with every other part of the spectrum.  As perfection is approached, new properties emerge.)

This time I put one disc in each player and synchronized them, so I could bounce back and forth.  This time, I perceived the sound to be much better overall and the differences between them to be much more slight.  In terms of subjective loudness, they were identical.  Both sounded "right" at -6 dB vs. cinema ref.  The biggest difference is that the Blu-ray sounded more extended and just a bit brighter.  I also noticed that the DVD sounded a bit warmer, and the bass had a bit more of a "rounded" quality.  However, I suspect these differences could have had everything to do with the extra treble in the BD.  Because of this interaction, I don't think I can reliably judge differences in the bass quality.  For all I know, the bass in the tracks could have been identical.  In a blind test under the circumstances, I think I'd lean slightly toward the BD version because the treble sounded more extended, but I think it would have been better if they'd toned it down just a bit, to let more warm mids (and mid-bass) through.

Regardless, both tracks sounded fantastic this time.  I'd never noticed before but when the cave troll swings the huge chain around, I could actually *feel it* as it swooped by overhead.  The score was mixed very hot into the surrounds and hearing it was like being right in the middle of the orchestra, albeit surrounded by a bunch of timpanis which were pounding my chest like crazy.  Again, I thought the DVD had a warmer sound, but the transient detail seemed to be there just as well in the BD as in the DVD.

As I post-note, I want to point out that I spent easily thousands of hours trying to optimize my treble response (with particular focus on the top end) to figure out how to get the sound I have now.  In that time, a lot of tracks that I'd found to be very harsh and loud sounding changed completely in character and now sound absolutely wonderful.  It's convinced me that top-end response quality is a huge deal, and yet few if any transducers do it justice.  I would guess that the DVD would sound cleaner than the BD for a lot of people, simply because the extra top-end on the BD is likely to add a lot of hash to the sound on less-than-ideal systems.  I'm not sure how to judge this decision, from a mastering standpoint as it's a case where the extra treble does improve sound quality on "nice" systems but likely at the expense of enjoyment on lesser systems.  The resolution I prefer is for everyone to have better playback systems, but I may be a bit of an idealist.  :)

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Very nice write-up, SME. I just wish I cared for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But I always enjoy audio analysis/impressions on movie tracks.

On the spider webs, my house is filled with spiders, so what I've always done is cover the speakers (and subwoofer) with the plastic/foam bags the speakers came with in the boxes. Not nice looking, but when I'm not using the speakers, which sometimes can be days or even weeks, I don't have to worry about spiders or other insects messing up with my system. But this "solution" may not be for everyone.😌

 

 

 

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I wanted to add that I understand your perfectionism. I can be as well very obsessive with detail, and I just wish sometimes I didn't notice those small things. But I don't really want to go that route, because in my case it's not healthy. I'd just rather sit and enjoy things, to the best of my ability. I'm sure the moment I get into REW, I'm gonna get into some serious rabbit hole.

I'm impressed by your passion for audio and never ending perfectionism; I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

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I'm not a perfectionist.  I just have high standards.  That's what I would say, anyway.  :)

However, perfectionism seems to actually be a virtue with audio, provided one is able to identify the aspects that actually matter.  Under normal circumstances, nudging MBMs probably wouldn't change much of anything.  This is true even for me when they are far from "optimal" placement (presumably close to where they were when last measured).  I'm hoping I will be able to improve my optimization methods to reduce this issue.  I am fairly confident I can, but we'll see.

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Over at AVS it was found out some interesting thing regarding two recent mixes by Fox (Disney?), Battle Angel: Alita and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

The UHD Atmos mixes are boosted by several dbs under the 40hz region, in the case of Alita the boost is around 9 dbs. So, right off the bat the Atmos tracks sound more impactful, and, at least on paper, the mixes are "better" down low. Here's the heat map for Dark Phoenix provided by a member:

fNRuaFm.jpg

Looking at it, I'd take the 7.1 DTS-MA over the Atmos, at least regarding the bass. The Atmos mix seems artificially boosted in the 25-40hz, just to give it more impact, but I'm afraid the mix will sound more unbalanced at higher listening levels. What are you thoughts on this new "practice"? It's not like they're redesigning the audio track specifically for the UHD, they're just simply boosting specific ranges. I read something similar about Deadpool 2, but now it's starting to emerge as a trend.

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My thoughts on the practice?  I think the sound engineers should act like professional engineers and do a professional job.  It seems like they have 100 soundtracks a year to do and can’t be bothered to do it right.  It’s maddening that a Blu-ray would be released to millions of customers with such shoddy work.  They should be ashamed but for all I know, they have little control.  Whatever the issues, it is a pretty poor practice for something involving millions of dollars.

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14 hours ago, AmerCa said:

Over at AVS it was found out some interesting thing regarding two recent mixes by Fox (Disney?), Battle Angel: Alita and X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

The UHD Atmos mixes are boosted by several dbs under the 40hz region, in the case of Alita the boost is around 9 dbs. So, right off the bat the Atmos tracks sound more impactful, and, at least on paper, the mixes are "better" down low. Here's the heat map for Dark Phoenix provided by a member:

Looking at it, I'd take the 7.1 DTS-MA over the Atmos, at least regarding the bass. The Atmos mix seems artificially boosted in the 25-40hz, just to give it more impact, but I'm afraid the mix will sound more unbalanced at higher listening levels. What are you thoughts on this new "practice"? It's not like they're redesigning the audio track specifically for the UHD, they're just simply boosting specific ranges. I read something similar about Deadpool 2, but now it's starting to emerge as a trend.

I'm not surprised. It's probably used as a tactic to sell Atmos & get higher penetration into the market by how much obviously "better" it sounds.

Or perhaps they have 2 different mixing teams working on the tracks separately? Resulting in 2 different mixes? That seems like a monumental waste of time and money though. For coherency and efficiency you'd want to change as little of the mix as possible between formats. One would think at least.

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3 hours ago, Ricci said:

I'm not surprised. It's probably used as a tactic to sell Atmos & get higher penetration into the market by how much obviously "better" it sounds.

Or perhaps they have 2 different mixing teams working on the tracks separately? Resulting in 2 different mixes? That seems like a monumental waste of time and money though. For coherency and efficiency you'd want to change as little of the mix as possible between formats. One would think at least.

Two different mixes could very well be the case, and I'm thinking they may have an exclusive room for Atmos mixes that's different from what they use for the other mix(es).  This is only a guess, but it's based on my impression from things I've read.  It's also entirely possible that the two rooms use very different technologies including "room EQ" or whatever, so the greater bass in the Atmos mix certainly could be compensation under the mistaken assumption of being "calibrated".

Or maybe the Atmos mixes are getting pumped bass on purpose in response to all the angry people on forums complaining about mixes with weak bass made for TV speakers.  So they put a lot more bass in the Atmos mix to try to stop that.  I guess people here would rather have a more balanced / less-loud mix.  More extension instead of more 25-40 Hz would be great, right?

16 hours ago, dgage said:

My thoughts on the practice?  I think the sound engineers should act like professional engineers and do a professional job.  It seems like they have 100 soundtracks a year to do and can’t be bothered to do it right.  It’s maddening that a Blu-ray would be released to millions of customers with such shoddy work.  They should be ashamed but for all I know, they have little control.  Whatever the issues, it is a pretty poor practice for something involving millions of dollars.

Honestly the more I try to figure stuff out in audio, the less I'm convinced anyone knows what they are doing.  :)  It's unlikely any of these mixers are hearing what's on the track honestly enough (neutral enough) to make judgments about what kind of bass should or shouldn't be there, from an objective standpoint.  And that says nothing as to what various people at home are using, which is probably also far from neutral and likely to be deficient in most respects, so they'll appreciate MOAR too, right?

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People who got to compare both Alita invariably preferred the Atmos mix. And if you like your bass as hot as possible down low probably are fine with this practice for the UHD.

At first, and just looking at the graphs and reading the comments, it was easy to think the BD got shafted. It was looking at the heat maps that became apparent they were just boosting the bass in a specific region, to made it look it was a better mix, because otherwise the mixes are pretty much the same. Someone made the experiment of boosting his subs 9db to compensate for the Alita BD levels, and found the experience much better than the Atmos mix, and thinking about it, it makes perfect sense. That's why I speculate the BD tracks are closer to the theatrical mix than the Atmos versions. That said, I can't make a proper comparison between for both mixes, so there's the possibility the bass boosting isn't as bad as it would look on paper.

It's a good think that Warner, Lionsgate, Universal and Paramount use the same Atmos track for the BD and UHD, so this artificial boosting isn't needed. That said, it seems studios are not even doing a proper implementation of the Atmos platform, at least in home environments, so the overall state of audio is quite possibly at its lowest, taking into consideration bass filtering. I was looking at graphs for movies between 2006-2013, give or take, and I was surprised to find a lot of mixes were basically fullbandwith, and overall pretty good audio mixes. These days it seems it's either a bass assault at high levels, or it's lacking in bass. And I love my heavy bass movies as everyone else (I love bass!), but most of the time I'd take a more balanced and well done audio mix than pure bass pyrotechnics.

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12 hours ago, Ricci said:

I'm not surprised. It's probably used as a tactic to sell Atmos & get higher penetration into the market by how much obviously "better" it sounds.

Or perhaps they have 2 different mixing teams working on the tracks separately? Resulting in 2 different mixes? That seems like a monumental waste of time and money though. For coherency and efficiency you'd want to change as little of the mix as possible between formats. One would think at least.

This part.

The amount of over-generalizations that continue in these discussions never fails to make me chuckle but I gotta tell ya there are so many variables that account to what we end up getting on disc and play back at home. Nobody (who creates/produces what we hear) has time to go through each and every release made with a fine tooth enthusiast-audiophile "is-this-gonna-sound-awesome-on-my-home-stereo" kind of mentality. The important part is that dialog is intelligible and there are no downmix artifacts/issues and tell a story. That is about it. Next movie on the production line.....next and next and next. There is money to be made, people.

There is no need to sabotage legacy versions to sell the new hottness. People will buy the new hottness anyway and they are. Sometimes you just get crap because that is where the chips fell. Trust me, I think the reality of this sort of stuff is just as dumb as it sounds. I just enjoy what I get because even with the warts, it's still all awesome. My HT room has never sound better. What say you guys? Better time than ever to have an HT system. :)

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Maybe they just assign the home movie soundtracks to the interns.  I mean, it’s only for the home, people will just listen on TV speakers anyway.  Of course that doesn’t explain why some of the theater soundtracks are also so bad.

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1 hour ago, Infrasonic said:

This part.The amount of over-generalizations that continue in these discussions never fails to make me chuckle but I gotta tell ya there are so many variables that account to what we end up getting on disc and play back at home. Nobody (who creates/produces what we hear) has time to go through each and every release made with a fine tooth enthusiast-audiophile "is-this-gonna-sound-awesome-on-my-home-stereo" kind of mentality. The important part is that dialog is intelligible and there are no downmix artifacts/issues and tell a story. That is about it. Next movie on the production line.....next and next and next. There is money to be made, people.

While I for the most part agree with you, I would ask then: why does bass so often end up different on different versions of a mix?  If we presume that the mixes are being mostly let through untouched, why does the sub balance get touched so often?  Do these mixers frequently identify undesirable bass (whether too much or too little) as a down-mix artifact?

1 hour ago, Infrasonic said:

There is no need to sabotage legacy versions to sell the new hottness. People will buy the new hottness anyway and they are. Sometimes you just get crap because that is where the chips fell. Trust me, I think the reality of this sort of stuff is just as dumb as it sounds. I just enjoy what I get because even with the warts, it's still all awesome. My HT room has never sound better. What say you guys? Better time than ever to have an HT system. :)

Oh yes!  My HT system is definitely at its best, so far.  And I find that this is a good defense against crummy content.  Too little bass?  I'm still feeling and enjoying it.  Too much bass?  It's heavy-handed but doesn't pull attention away from the presentation.  The perfectionism I exhibit above has led me to realize that if I find a soundtrack annoying in some way, it's almost always partly a problem on my end.  That's great, because it means it's worth striving for better.  I don't have to give up because "most soundtracks suck and it's not worth more investment of time and effort".

To connect this with above though, I suspect mixers aren't getting good bass if they are so inclined to make changes to it.  That's unfortunate, and hopefully that will change for the better some day.

One last thing about movie sound.  I'm finding these days that I often enjoy the sound in lower budget movies more because they are likely to do a lot more recording on set rather than green-screened.  My system is so transparent now that it's distracting when the acoustics in the sound don't match what's on-screen.  I also have to give credit to the sound designers of many animations who clearly go through pain-staking effort to make the acoustic spaces believable.  And then there are many 9 figures budget visual effects bonanzas with sound not much better than TV programs.

34 minutes ago, dgage said:

Maybe they just assign the home movie soundtracks to the interns.  I mean, it’s only for the home, people will just listen on TV speakers anyway.  Of course that doesn’t explain why some of the theater soundtracks are also so bad.

This will really shock you, but it turns out that some entire movies are really quite terrible too.  ;)

And yes, bad movies often get accompanied by bad soundtracks.  Anyone remember "Mortal Engines"?  There was some messed up stuff in that one!

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56 minutes ago, SME said:

And yes, bad movies often get accompanied by bad soundtracks.  Anyone remember "Mortal Engines"?  There was some messed up stuff in that one!

Well movies are much more subjective and creative from the initial story to how it is converted to a movie.  Then there’s the direction and cutting of the film and many, many other pieces.  So I can understand when that isn’t so good.  But come on, for a blockbuster, there really isn’t an excuse for these amateur heavy handed shortcut filters that boost and filter audio for no good reason.  Sound is much less subjective and could be more scientific or at least prescriptive.  At the very least for a given studio, it should be consistent but we don’t even see that.  Movie audio today is the wild west with little quality and absolutely no consistency.  McDonalds may not be good but they’re popular due to their consistency (and marketing).  Anyway, I could argue for hours due to how frustrated this makes me when hearing different movie soundtracks. I’m done venting.

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21 hours ago, SME said:

And yes, bad movies often get accompanied by bad soundtracks.  Anyone remember "Mortal Engines"?  There was some messed up stuff in that one!

What is wrong with Mortal Engines?

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On 9/12/2019 at 1:57 PM, SME said:

It's also entirely possible that the two rooms use very different technologies including "room EQ" or whatever, so the greater bass in the Atmos mix certainly could be compensation under the mistaken assumption of being "calibrated".

 

On 9/12/2019 at 11:12 PM, Infrasonic said:

The amount of over-generalizations that continue in these discussions never fails to make me chuckle but I gotta tell ya there are so many variables that account to what we end up getting on disc and play back at home. Nobody (who creates/produces what we hear) has time to go through each and every release made with a fine tooth enthusiast-audiophile "is-this-gonna-sound-awesome-on-my-home-stereo" kind of mentality.

Agree on both points.  Queue the "Circle of Confusion" lecture by Dr Toole....and add that everyone is under time pressure, and director's intent, as well as adding their 'style' to the mix.  

On the plus side, while it sounded a little heavy handed at times, Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse was a pretty good ride.  No TIH bass, but pretty good.  I'll graph it, and see if I have time to dig into the LOTR trilogy.  IIRC, The DVD:EE and BD:EE were very similar.

JSS

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Hey guys, are the LCR clipped in godzilla king of monsters uhd/blu ray? Was watching at a fairly low volume level and could hear some distortion especially from center channel in the scene when Godzilla swims past the submarine type vessel

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It does seem like lower budget films have more extension, they don't pay somebody to mess with the mix.  I just want them to utilize the channels they are creating without all the loud clipped audio. There are certain disc you put in and it sounds so dynamic and good just from the opening musical score. 

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In the end, audio engineers keep in mind what the average system looks like, which the mix will be played on. I'm pretty sure the average Atmos system is expected to have a beefier sub than your average consumer HT system. The mix is usually optimized to sound as good as possible on as many systems as possible, plus minus human error.

Of course this is only a small factor, contributing to the whole, but it's certainly one of the reasons why low-cuts are used.

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But why neuter the sound below 25 Hz unnecessarily?  If a system can’t play that low, it’s just like systems that can’t play to 20,000 Hz, no big deal.  But once they start putting these canned filters in the bass, they’re negatively affecting the soundtrack for no good reason.  I wonder how many would cry if they started rolling off the top end at 18,000 Hz.  Oh well, 

 

I was about to write, I wish I knew how to get through to these soundtrack engineers and then I thought about them having a trade group or society.  Does anyone know what group the soundtrack engineers might be members of?

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On 9/17/2019 at 6:18 PM, Smk86 said:

Hey guys, are the LCR clipped in godzilla king of monsters uhd/blu ray? Was watching at a fairly low volume level and could hear some distortion especially from center channel in the scene when Godzilla swims past the submarine type vessel

GKM clips only a few times in the LCR.  Center is the worst, but only a few samples worth of flat-tops.  From the waveforms, great use of the SPL available without obvious flat-tops.  But a horrible dynamic range, Only 24dB in dynamics for a 3-Star score.  This film must have loud scenes throughout.  Will try to check it out this weekend, it got the 'Pacific Rim' filter.  Not unforeseen, as Legendary did both PacRim and Godzilla.

Nice that they included ATMOS on the BD release, though.

JSS  

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4 hours ago, dgage said:

But why neuter the sound below 25 Hz unnecessarily?  If a system can’t play that low, it’s just like systems that can’t play to 20,000 Hz, no big deal.  But once they start putting these canned filters in the bass, they’re negatively affecting the soundtrack for no good reason.  I wonder how many would cry if they started rolling off the top end at 18,000 Hz.  Oh well, 

 

I was about to write, I wish I knew how to get through to these soundtrack engineers and then I thought about them having a trade group or society.  Does anyone know what group the soundtrack engineers might be members of?

I only know one film composer and he said he'd "stay away as far as possible from social media" since it would be consuming way too much of his time 😄

I'm more active in the music production business thou, so I don't have much insight on movie production

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2 hours ago, peniku8 said:

I only know one film composer and he said he'd "stay away as far as possible from social media" since it would be consuming way too much of his time 😄

I'm more active in the music production business thou, so I don't have much insight on movie production

Maybe your film composer buddy could ask some of the audio engineers that finalize the soundtrack to speak to some of the things we find when reviewing movie soundtracks, especially some of the filtering that appears to get applied.  I’d be interested if they could speak to what is being done (software, plugin?) and why.  And then a way to reach out to that community so we can nicely ask them to stop putting out neutered soundtracks.  One could wish. :)

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