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Gatsbygirl

Sound quality

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Hi!

 

Has anyone else had a problem with the sound on TCM? I have turned my TV up to the maximum level and it is still hard to hear. If I go to another channel, I am blown way with the sound. I have had this problem on more than one TV Anyone else noticed this ?

 

Thanks!

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I haven't noticed any problems. The only sound level problems I have are with the broadcast networks, who seem to tape all of their shows in a whisper, then blast me out of the house with the commercials.

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Yes, I've had the same problem, but I've had it on other movie channels too.

 

There are several things that can cause it.

 

First, the commercial stations purposly turn the movie sound down, so you will turn your TV sound up, so when the commercials come on they will blast you out of your chair.

 

Second, every company that makes video tape copies of movies seems to have a different level of loudness. What might seem loud to them on their recording and playback equipment, might actually be low volume when played back on TCM.

 

IN THE OLD DAYS, every TV station had an engineer on duty all the time, and HE turned the output volume control up so his VU meter would swing a little into the red zone during average dialogue. He would also turn the playback volume up during soft episodes in a film, and he would turn it down during loud episodes.

 

Today, engineers generally don't bother with this. They use AGCs (Automatic Gain Controls), and the AGCs don't always work properly. For example, if TCM receives a tape recorded with low sound, their system's AGC units (there might be several) might not turn the volume up to compensate. That means that you and I have to do it today when we watch a movie on TCM or other movie channels.

 

Whereas years ago the FCC required TV stations and networks to do this, today they don't require it, so you and I and everyone else have to adjust the sound quite often.

 

I can barely hear this film that's on now.

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Oh, and there is another factor too.

 

You are watching TCM and all cable channels via a cable system or a Satellite system. They also have AGC controls. Sometime a cable or sat system engineer will accidentally bump a setting and the sound will go either too loud or too low, and it will stay that way for hours or for days. Since they have maybe a hundred or more channels, they don't often check to see if the volume level is even and steady on each one.

 

I get "local" TV via an antenna. I get signals from "repeater" transmitters. The original signals come from a big city 200 miles away. The TV signals reach the local repeaters, which are completely automated, although they seem to be set or adjusted from time to time.

 

One time the picture on one channel went bad every time titles or lettering were shown on that channel, such as during commercials and during the news and weather shows. There is a specific technical reason for this. This went on for a couple of weeks. Finally I made a long distance call to the headquarters of that TV station. I asked to speak to the chief engineer. The lady said he was busy. I asked her to tell him about the signal in our city. I told her the picture broke up and the sound went bad every time there were titles on the the weather shows. I told her something was turned up too hot and the Chief Engineer would know what I was talking about. She said he would tell him. Two days later the problem went away. He had evidently contacted the local guy who makes the local adjustments on our repeater here, and he fixed the problem. Lol.

 

So, if you knew who to call, you could tell the engineer to turn the dang sound up on this current movie!

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Enchanted April, seemed low in volume... but as I'm writing this it seems to have improved!

 

TCM often seems to have volume problems for me. Sometimes RO's intros are way too low. Sometimes it's the movies that are way too low. At first I suspected my cable provider, but when the volume change happens between intro and movie, or between one movie and another, it leads me to agree with Fred's explanation.

 

I don't mind adjusting my volume control, but when the volume gets too low, the signal to noise gets out of hand. I'm willing to say that TCM would benefit from better audio consistency.

 

Message was edited by: ccbaxter

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>I haven't noticed any problems. The only sound level problems I have are with the broadcast networks, who seem to tape all of their shows in a whisper, then blast me out of the house with the commercials.

 

This is done on purpose.

 

A TV control room has a separate output volume control for each tape player. They also have a MASTER volume control that all the signals are fed through. They turn the output volume on the movies down low, and they turn the output volume up loud or "normal" on their tape machines that play the commercials. They then set their MASTER control to "normal". The result is that we have to turn our TV sound up to hear the movies, then when the commercials come on they blast us out of our chair. They've been getting away with this since the late 1940s.

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ccbaxter, if you go to the TCM control room, you'd probably see banks of automated equipment.

 

I think the days of an engineer "riding gain" all during a movie are over. The engineers try to let the AGCs handle everything, and of course they don't handle everything.

 

During this last movie, the volume was much too low during the quiet conversations, then at the end the music came up loud, then Robert Osborne came on with a normal voice.

 

I don't know what to do about this. You would think that a major TV network would notice it and do something about it, but this is often a problem on TCM, even though they don't show any commercials.

 

Now you notice how loud this Joe McDoakes short is. You would think that someone among the dozens or hundred or so employees at TCM would notice this... but they either don't notice it, or they don't know what to do about it.

 

One other problem, by the way, is the hiring of young people who don't know any better. Many of them don't even know that sound volume should remain consistant from show to show.

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*They've been getting away with this since the late 1940s.*

 

Yeah, but Fred, it's never been this bad. When I watch *ER*, I have the volume on 38! Commercial comes on, down to 18! The dramas seem to be the worst.

 

As for TCM, I can easily hear anything with the volume as low as 12-15, and that's sitting 12-14 feet away.

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I get really frustrated by sound problems because I never know if it's my hearing or a problem with the sound on the television.

 

This is very interesting and informative stuff you've written here.

 

So, if you knew who to call, you could tell the engineer to turn the dang sound up on this current movie!

 

I make a motion that TCM hire Fred C.Dobbs as a consultant! :)

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}

> During this last movie, the volume was much too low during the quiet conversations, then at the end the music came up loud, then Robert Osborne came on with a normal voice.

>

> I don't know what to do about this. You would think that a major TV network would notice it and do something about it, but this is often a problem on TCM, even though they don't show any commercials.

>

> One other problem, by the way, is the hiring of young people who don't know any better. Many of them don't even know that sound volume should remain consistant from show to show.

 

Interesting comments, Fred. I'd agree with you that there may be abnormal fluctuations in the volume during the movies, and that this doesn't seem to be a problem during the intros, promos, etc. Those can actually be quite loud, especially when heard with a 5.0 sound system.

 

If they haven't done anything by now, and they're almost on their 15th anniversary, maybe it just hasn't seemed like a big priority to them. One could only hope they might consider addressing this.

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*IN THE OLD DAYS, every TV station had an engineer on duty all the time, and HE turned the output volume control up so his VU meter would swing a little into the red zone during average dialogue. He would also turn the playback volume up during soft episodes in a film, and he would turn it down during loud episodes.*

 

Fred,

 

Another thing we had back in the old analog days was standards for video and audio masters, dubs, etc.

 

In the quickly changing world of digital technology that we now live in, those standards seem to have fallen by the way side and each studio/distributor has different standards for what they release.

 

Audio CDs no longer seem to have any standards as far as volume goes and DVD audio varies as well.

 

That would help explain why Robert O's intros and outros are at a respectable volume but the movies sometimes need to boosted or lowered in audio.

 

It's not necessarily a TCM problem but a problem with the digital print provided by the studio/distributor.

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The big problem that I have with TCM's sound is that it is often out-of-sync with the video portion. This doesn't happen to me on any other cable channel, and I even had a Time-Warner cable person over to check things out. He swapped both cable boxes, and while the sound appeared OK at first, later it went back to its old tricks.

 

This isn't a constant thing, but it's especially annoying during musicals.

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Just a thought...

 

Does TCM broadcast in stereo - or any form of Dolby Digital? I have never seen any indication that they do. Could a conflict between a Dolby signal and a non-stereo presentation create some of these issues - especially (and obviously) for more recent movies?

 

I remember when TCM presented Michael Mann's *Heat* last year (or in 2007) and the dialogue was very low in relationship to the music score. It appeared as if the sound was "missing" from what would be the "center channel" of a five channel Dolby recording.

 

Even if TCM could present a two channel stereo film recording (left-right mix) with no sound loss, what would happen with a five channel sound when the dialogue is set in a non-left/right channel? Is it possible that TCM sometimes fails to compensate for films with a Dolby sound mix?

 

Kyle In Hollywood

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I would say that they do broadcast in stereo, possibly more. The promos definitely come across on several speakers. And I have 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on right now and the music comes across on multi speakers (sides as well as front). I just checked out the first few minutes of Enchanted April and couldn't detect anything other than the front speakers, so maybe they got a mono print of that one.

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>That would help explain why Robert O's intros and outros are at a respectable volume but the movies sometimes need to boosted or lowered in audio.

 

>It's not necessarily a TCM problem but a problem with the digital print provided by the studio/distributor.

 

I agree with you about the loss of "standards" in the electronic business. But TCM is responsible for the sound level they send out. If they need to add a pre-amp to the audio output of their tape players to boost the sound to levels that we can actually hear, then that's what they need to do. An excuse that "Oh, that's what they sent us, there is nothing we can do about it", is not enough. They can go right down to Radio Shack today and buy a set of pre-amps for their audio system.

 

There is no reason why they should be putting out movie sound that is so low we can't hear it, while we can hear Robert Osborne talk about that movie.

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I should also add that for some of us, our TVs sound will turn up only so far and no more. A few years ago I had an RCA TV that had very low maximum sound. I think RCA was trying to get people to add a new RCA home sound system so they could hear normal TV broadcasts. But what RCA did for me was make me decide to never buy anything else from RCA.

 

For my Bedroom TV, I opened the back and wired in an extra amplifier, a small one from Radio Shack, with a speaker on it. So, now I turn the volume up all the way on the TV, and then I can turn the volume up more on the amplifier, during movies that have low-level sound.

 

I'm going to check with radio shack about a pre-amp that I can use between my new TV and my stereo hi fi system, so that when I turn up my TV to the maximum limit, and I still can't hear the film, then maybe I can turn on the pre-amp and the stereo system and turn it up loud.

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The sound quality was very much off last night for ENCHANTED APRIL (a relatively new film)

I found myself turning the volume up then down, then up, again

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Yes it was very annoying. I gather the actresses were told to "whisper" their lines. Well okay. But PLEASE let the audience hear the whispers!

 

And Fred C. - we've even written the DGA abt the sound quality of newer movies on tape (a while ago) and of course didn't get a reply. The idea that it seems more important to have the sound of a car door slamming (or whatever) be as loud as if you were there and then have the dialogue barely audible is a mystery. Maybe the dialogue is so dreadful they don't want the audience to hear it.

 

Golden Age movies are for the most part very audible. The sound people somehow knew the obvious and weren't concerned abt "realistic" sound. The play is the thing...

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>Golden Age movies are for the most part very audible.

 

Yes, I agree. When people whispered, the sound man would turn the volume up so we could actually hear what they were saying.

 

There is something unusual about the sound track of "San Francisco" (1936). I saw it in a theater in SF that had a nice hi-fi sound system, and there are low notes in the music, especially during the organ song in the church, that can not be heard on regular home TV set speakers. Also, there is a rumble of the earthquake that is so low, I never heard it before when I saw the film on TV, but I could hear it in the theater. It sounded like a real earthquake rumble, which is a very low-frequency sound.

 

One problem today is too many different systems. Has anyone ever asked how "Gone With the Wind" or "The Wizard of Oz" ever got along without Dolby??

 

Dolby was a system designed to take the hiss out of narrow tape tracks back in the 4-track and 8-track audio cassette days. There is no need for Dolby today.

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The reason characters whisper is because the other characters in the scene are not supposed to hear what they have to say. It seems many directors, especially in movies today, seem to think that applies to the audience viewing the movie as well,

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I know its not a movie, but it really bothers me when the music is louder than the dialog in programs such as Law and Order. At times it drowns out the actors lines!

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Yes!!!!! The sound is very often out of sync with the picture. The sound arrives first so you see the lips trailing after. It's disconcerting to say the least. And in musicals it's crazy to see the dancing be off the rhythm of the music. Clore you are so right.

 

It's been like this for a very long time, through many different TimeWarner cable boxes.

 

TCM please take note.

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Golden age films often depend upon the recording system employed. When a film used variable density (horizontal bars) sound systems there was a far wider dimension in ambience (especially important in pictures like SAN FRANCISCO). The variable area (single or double verticle line) track reduced inherent noise but also reduced the ambient range. I watch television with a sub-woofer system and I can always tell when an original variable density track is being played - even through the myriad systems it travels for telecine and broadcast.

 

I have a 16mm print of WAY OUT WEST struck in 1955 from a 35mm negative (collectors call this a "printdown") and the variable density soundtrack is the most lifelike track on any film in my collection. You can hear every piece of silverware in Mickey Finn's saloon!

 

Sound engineers today have manic paranoia about inherent noise and tend to filter it out to the serious detriment of the filmtrack. There is a company in Hollywood that created an industry for itself doing this but, thankfully, most of the pros now recognize that their films were being harmed by overemployment of this process.

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> {quote:title=visualfeast wrote:}{quote}

> The sound quality was very much off last night for ENCHANTED APRIL (a relatively new film)

> I found myself turning the volume up then down, then up, again

 

The movie is showing again now. I can't understand much of what they are saying.

 

The sound is too low and everyone is mumbling.

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