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


maxmercy
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Is turtles really filtered? i have to say i felt something very low around 1.29.30-1hour30min

A few moments like that sweep subjectively seemed to get down to around 20hz or so, but I don't think it goes much deeper than that. I am curious to see it graphed though. Even though not the deepest bass, I really enjoyed the low end on this track.

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The Loudness War: Reference Level is Already Dead

 

At several points in the past, I've raised the question of whether "0" (calibrated according to Dolby's theatrical standards) is really the correct reference playback level for Blu-ray soundtracks.  I discussed my belief that Blu-ray releases are typically mixed at a level lower than theatrical reference and argued that this may unnecessarily cause considerable damage to the sound including loss of transient resolution, clipping (sometimes severe), and application of high-pass bass filtering to raise the maximum level of the rest of the sound.  My running hypothesis has been that this damage is typically done in the process of "remixing for the home".  Some here have countered that playback "0" is too loud for home releases because small rooms sound louder at the same SPL compared with large rooms.  This is an important detail to keep in mind, however, even after adjusting level trim down by an appropriate amount (or perhaps better, calibrating against an EQ curve that slopes down toward high frequencies) "0" is still too loud for almost all mixes.  What's going on here?

 

I think I'm getting closer to some answers.  I came across a Gear Slutz thread with some interesting discussion between industry people about loudness in movies:

 

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/post-production-forum/768373-cinema-playback-levels-mixing-again.html

 

My take-aways from it are as follows:

  • Most movie theaters do not playback at reference level.  The number that do are likely very few.
  • Most movie theaters likely play most films at or under -5db.  Some theaters may play at -10db or even lower, especially in Europe.  Note that the Dolby system used by most theaters labels reference level "7" with the scale being rather.  The paper I link to below describes the scale well.
  • Many theatrical mixes are being done at levels below reference level and are louder to compensate.  This means that much of the damage I have been blaming on the "home remix" process may be happening to the original theatrical tracks in many cases.
  • Until recently, the fact that Dolby requires monitoring of the print master mixes (for the old reels) at "7" has helped limit the loudness of mixes because the engineers must sit in the room at that level.  Unfortunately, with DCP becoming widespread, many houses are choosing to save money by skipping the print mastering process.  This means they may never receive guidance from Dolby on standards for monitoring, and they may never hear their mix played at the standard reference level.
  • Because movie theaters usually run with limited staff, playback levels are often only adjusted downward in response to customer complaints of loudness.  One loud movie or even one loud trailer can potentially lead to a complaint and a lowered playback level that adversely affects playback of films mixed at higher levels.  This in turn leads to a downward spiral, a loudness war.
  • Blu-ray mixes are all over the map; sometimes the Blu-ray gets its own mix; sometimes it gets the theatrical mix;  sometimes the Blu-ray, TV, and video-on-demand mix are on and the same.
  • Many audio professionals are frustrated by having to try to convince directors to accept a mix that plays too quietly in most theaters in order to abide by standards.  Many directors refuse to compromise for a variety of reasons.
  • Responding to an actual medically documented case of hearing damage in a movie theater (presenting "Inception" of all things), the Belgian government is moving (or already has) to draft actual limits on loudness in movie theaters.  There is some speculation that similar legislation may arise in other parts of the EU.
  • Interest appear to be building to add loudness measurement metadata to DCP using a method like the R128 standard developed for TV in the EU and to update playback hardware to allow this information to be used in some useful way such as enforcing an upper bound on loudness.

Anyway, there's a lot of stuff here to chew on.  It does look like the loudness war in movies has been raging for quite a while, perhaps since the time digital formats came into being and the Christoper Nolan's of the world found ways to abuse all that extra headroom.  Perhaps the industry is taking note now because the situation appears to be taking a turn for the worse as of late.  I expect it will keep getting worse unless and until the industry can come up with a good standard like R128 for TV in the EU.

 

I found a paper that discusses the issue in detail and outlines a possible solution along these lines:

 

http://www.grimmaudio.com/site/assets/files/1088/cinema_loudness_aes_rome_2013.pdf

 

They give an example of a production in which the TV release actually has more dynamic range than the theatrical one.  They propose using the same K-weighting scale used by R128 to measure loudness in LUFS.  Interestingly, a wide variety of material mixed at theatrical reference level appear to have K-weighted loudness measures of around -27 to -29 LUFS.   The paper suggests having most theaters limit average playback level to -27 LUFS with up to -6 LUFS on short passages.  Note that LUFS is relative to the full-scale level of a single channel.  I believe the standard band-limited calibration pink noise at -27 LUFS is around 80 dBA.

 

Anyway, I hope others find this interesting.

 

I read the .pdf and some of the thread...I had no idea it was this bad.  I saw Skyfall at a LieMAX where I can guarantee the fader was set at 7, it was simply painful.  Last films I saw that loud in theater were The Dark Knight Rises and TF2.  Both of which must have been at fader 7, while TDKR was such a total bust sound-wise, TF2 was loud, but not a clipped mess like TDKR, with terrific slam effects given the 25-30Hz limitations of cinemas...  I know TF3 at the cinema I saw it at had to have the faders turned down....too bad.

 

Lets hope a new standard get sorted out that retains dynamic range and makes directors choose: If you try to make everything loud, you have to turn it ALL down.  If you actually use the dynamic range available, you can have very loud parts, as long as the playback systems at the cinemas can handle it (the weakest link in that chain).  The LUFS/LKFS scheme sounds like a good idea, but I don't know enough about it to completely endorse it.  I have yet to measure BD releases with it to see where they would lie.  I can nearly guarantee TF4 would be at the top of the loudness war heap.... 

 

JSS

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Dynamic compression, limiting, clipping, too loud overall sound level.

 

This is the most important issue with sound quality today.

Music is now improving, while movies have not yet seen the top.

In the days of 24-bit lossless you get soundtracks with actual resolution more like the 8-bits game music from early days of computing.

 

Awareness and knowledge about how sound works and how we perceive sound will help.

 

Continuing in the loudness direction will drive people away from cinemas because they find the sound annoying and uncomfortable, and people like me will not buy movies with 8-bit sound simply because I don't like bad sound quality.

And the "home-nearfield" mixes, with even more compression and louder dialogue certainly does not help.

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The folks on the gearslutz thread made it sound like their 'home mixes' sometimes had more dynamic range than the theatrical, because they were often mixing theatrical at a lower fader level to match the levels that it would likely be played back at in cinema, and having to push up dialogue level and use nearly all available headroom to satisfy directors/producers.  For the home mix, ATSC has definitive standards....the larger and more well-damped/treated a room is, the higher the dBC 'Reference Level'.  I hope those conventions are followed, but it is still a crapshoot either way.

 

It was very enlightening to hear that for the Cannes Film festival, the 'theaters' are essentially built, and they do not use existing cinemas.  One poster stated that the 'Main Venue' had non-JBL speaker system, and that films played back at fader 7 in that theater sounded much less loud/harsh and more dynamic than films played at 7 in the other venues, leading them to playbback at 7.5 for the non-JBL venue, and turn down the playback level for the JBL equipped venues...

 

The X-Curve and RTA measurement need to go away, SMPTE needs to embrace new measurement methodology, and come up with better and more repeatable standards for audio reproduction.  As one poster noted (in paraphrase) 'could you imagine if the video portion (color balance/contrast/brightness/black levels) of cinema exhibition was as random and varied as the audio presentation'?  People would be in an uproar.

 

Sad thing is, as jacked up as Hollywood is, most people with soundbars and HTIB still think that the cinema is awesome.  Even here, people have voted 5-Star execution over and over again for compressed and clipped offerings....apparently, louder is better for the majority who cannot tell the difference between a clean and clipped presentation, and square waves will continue to be a part of BluRay Audio....too bad.   

 

This year's least clipped, unfiltered track (X-Men:5) still had the fingerprints of soft limiting all over it....

 

It would be nice if we could get the 'Sound Mixer's Mix' mixed at Proper Reference Level, on BD disc, and then see if it would be all clipped to hell, and if true dynamics were preserved or compressed/limited away, prior to a director/producer's input of 'make it louder', knowing that the film will likely be played back at a lower level in cinema.....

 

The saddest thing is, I can understand the actions of everyone in the loop.  If the theater owners don't turn the levels down, they can lose patrons.....and with no experienced projectionists that can 'screen' a film and probably determine the best playback level to avoid loudness complaints but still have a decent presentation, I can see why they would say 'play everything back at fader 5'......The Mixers know that this will likely be the case, and push the levels up to clipping/compression knowing that their presentation will be hamstrung in theaters, esp with a 'bang-bang/sis-boom' director like Michael Bay at the helm.  The directors want loud, as louder is generally perceived as better (proven fact), and the monitoring setups on the mixing stage are probably light years ahead of what the local cinema has (with 15-year-old speakers, blown drivers, and amps the theater owner 'saved money on'), which will distort the hell out of what may have sounded cleaner on the better equipment the mixing stage had. I don't know of a great solution for any of this, and I just look forward to the film-sound teams that actually turn out a great product, despite all of the above pulling at them to do otherwise.

 

JSS

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I play electric bass (terribly), I like screwing around with home-made guitar and bass fx pedals, I have a drum kit I refinished but it doesn't get used much, my only 'mixing' experience is BEQ'ing films and other stuff and working on the upcoming 7.1 test disc.  I am an amateur (at best) at all of it except BEQ, I have been doing that for a while now, experimenting with different corrections, and I think the corrections I apply now really sound good, and I can sometimes turn some filtered tracks into more watchable movie experiences...but it can only do so much.  Garbage in = Garbage out most of the time.  Like for TF4, the BEQ is simply a compressed, clipped track, but now with more ULF.

 

If you guys remember, drsound from The Dub Stage posted here about Oz the Great and Powerful, as they did the home mix.   When I showed them evidence of clipping on the digital track, I got no response.  Like I said above, I understand that the sound team eventually has to answer to the directors/producers, and they probably need to play nice if they want to keep their jobs (just like every other job in the world, no one wants to be in charge of someone who continually questions everything and states that their way is 'right').  So drsound was not going to respond and possibly throw a director/producer under the bus, essentially 'blaming' them for the clipped audio, and create ill will towards his potential future employers (and I cannot blame the dubstage at all for not responding, I would have likely done the same if some amateur had pointed out clipping in a mix I did not have final cut/mix privileges on)....so while I understand it, I don't have to like it.  Check this out:

 

Check out 2:02 - 2:09, and look at the max'ed out waveforms on the console....no clipping there, right?  

 

 

Apparently the compressed/clipped/crap presentation was INTENDED, and possibly even monitored to be that way, as Greg said, to fulfill "the director's vision"....nice out he made for himself there at the end for the folks that heard the poor quality of the track and see right through the BS in that glorified ATMOS commercial....

 

But again, we get right back to it:  People voted 5-Star execution for that film.....

 

Again, all of the above is my opinion.  I am amateur at all of this, but tend to have a decent understanding of things coming from a science/math background.  In the end, a sound mix is NOT science.  It is art, and art can include a square-waves abound presentation, just as a 'painting' can be a bunch of splatters on a canvas.  It is all in the eyes/ears of the beholder.

 

/rant.

 

JSS  

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I don't know if red means clipped or not.  Those are some ugly level meters.  I can barely read the number scale on them.  Is that a zero at the top and then it goes down in 5's from there?  Maybe that 0 is full reference.  I don't get why it wouldn't show anything above that though.  There would have to be some kind of indication to easily view if the channel went above 0 into clipping right?  Weird. 

 

If clipping is indeed becoming something of an artsy trend, that makes me want to kick the mixers doing it square in the sisters.  A sound engineer who puts out clipped material is like a pilot who likes to crash into mountains.  I don't care who told him he should do it, he just shouldn't.  Oh, and if it is actually a director making the call for the sound, he gets 3 kicks in a row because sound is in no way his job. 

 

I have watched in horror as the loudness wars has taken a fat crap on music in the last 15 years, but a lot of that can be blamed on how inept the industry is and how absolutely apathetic and ignorant musicians have become.  I hope at least it never gets that bad in film.  It will be like watching a 2 hour commercial.  F square waves. 

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If clipping is indeed becoming something of an artsy trend, that makes me want to kick the mixers doing it square in the sisters.

 

Nice pun.

 

People still consider Imax sound state of the art, so the voluntary consumption of distortion does not surprise me.

 

The final fader levels at the cinema I used to work in (during school) were also dependent on the prescribed levels by the studios / directors / management, in addition to the staff or the manager.

 

It does make me appreciate Imax's remote sound management and the thereotical uniformity it can achieve with regards to sound re-production.

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Equalize was outstanding movie. And those bass scenes. Oh so sweet. The walls were flexing!!

Heck yeah, bosso posted some graphs.  That movie is legit.  http://data-bass.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/284-bossobass-raptor-system-3/page-23-bottom of the page. 

 

Ninja Turtles Specs are on the following page posted by me if anyone is curious. 

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I don't know if red means clipped or not.  Those are some ugly level meters.  I can barely read the number scale on them.  Is that a zero at the top and then it goes down in 5's from there?  Maybe that 0 is full reference.  I don't get why it wouldn't show anything above that though.  There would have to be some kind of indication to easily view if the channel went above 0 into clipping right?  Weird. 

 

If clipping is indeed becoming something of an artsy trend, that makes me want to kick the mixers doing it square in the sisters.  A sound engineer who puts out clipped material is like a pilot who likes to crash into mountains.  I don't care who told him he should do it, he just shouldn't.  Oh, and if it is actually a director making the call for the sound, he gets 3 kicks in a row because sound is in no way his job. 

 

I have watched in horror as the loudness wars has taken a fat crap on music in the last 15 years, but a lot of that can be blamed on how inept the industry is and how absolutely apathetic and ignorant musicians have become.  I hope at least it never gets that bad in film.  It will be like watching a 2 hour commercial.  F square waves. 

Not the level meters, but check out the waveforms at the same time-stamps abovein the vid....they look like they are full scale to me...the difference between full scale and clipped is a very subtle one.  And I do realize that mixers can only work with whatever the sound design/editing crew has given them.....like I said before, garbage in = garbage out.

 

JSS

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Sorry Max, I must have zoned out during the sequencer shot... Sonofabitch! You're right, there's no reason that I can think of for those waveforms looking like that.  Even if you squash em' small like that and stretch them out over the course of a whole movie they shouldn't look like that.  I wonder who else we can bug about this as far as getting an explanation.  The thought of clipped levels as a standard for any audio is painful to think about.  Not to mention dangerous to our equipment and for the sake of what?  Loudness wars? 

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Nice pun.

 

People still consider Imax sound state of the art, so the voluntary consumption of distortion does not surprise me.

 

The final fader levels at the cinema I used to work in (during school) were also dependent on the prescribed levels by the studios / directors / management, in addition to the staff or the manager.

 

It does make me appreciate Imax's remote sound management and the thereotical uniformity it can achieve with regards to sound re-production.

Aren't the new Liemax theaters all calibrated with Audyssey XT32?  It does a great job, except that it suffers from so many quirks that require an attentive engineer to fix.

I wonder if anyone tweaks the target curve and/or delay settings post-calibration to suit the room and speakers?  Without that, there is likely little hope for uniformity.

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not that sweep, just few pulses that made my pictures on the wall jumping.

 

well, good bass movie

So I guess TMNT does have some low stuff.  I thought I heard some at the very beginning and a few odd moments later on, but other than that, most of the content seemed very 30-40 Hz heavy early in the movie with the mid-bass getting heavier later on.  I misjudged it to be steeply filtered at 30 Hz based on what I thought I heard in the heavier bass sweeps.  I assumed I would dislike this movie and love the soundtrack, as was the case with Transformers.  Unfortunately, I thought the soundtrack was only slightly better than the film, which was atrociously bad in my opinion.

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