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October 15, 2010

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Flassie

Yes I've experienced it. I have really good hearing after I had my ears cleaned out. lol!

That's one reason I'd rather watch a movie
when it comes out on DVD because the volume is up way to loud in the theatres.

Commercials are way to loud also.

It is really rather ridiculous isn't it

God Bless You and Yours!!!

mh

glad to see you write about this. had the same experience last week at Wall Street (movie) it was close to unbearable.

Maiz

The last time I complained about the volume at the theater (I think I may have beaten you to curmudgeonhood), I was told that the volume was set extra loud for a full theater. They said it just sounded loud because the theater was empty! Some excuse!

Whatever happened to kids' movies with lower volume and dim house lights? And appropriate content, for that matter?! Uh-oh, I'd better stop ranting, I feel an attack of curmudgeon coming on!

Elsita

I feel the same way Billy.
My common sense tells me that extreme noise is not healthy for the hearing system and the body in general.
I hope that someone does something about it.

Alex Mora

It is a shame, our son Alex loves movies and he refuses to go to the movie theater because the sound is way to loud even during commercials! I agree something needs to be done.

Becky

I find that the previews are the loudest. I bring a kleenex to stuff in my ears if I have to.

Colleen (bcharmer)

I totally agree with your perception; my husband and I had to quit going to the theater because we couldn't take it anymore. So sad!

Flassie

How is Natalie?

Great ear sketch!

James Longley

As someone who has worked as film projectionist, and as a filmmaker who's gone through the sound mix and listened to the real-world results at festivals and cinemas, I've had to deal with this issue from both sides.

From the projectionist side, the fact is that there IS a kind of standard level at which films should be mixed and projected, and when a theater's sound system is calibrated correctly that level is something like between 6 and 7 on the Dolby volume knob.

However, it's only because of private companies like Dolby trying to create standards for mixing and projection of sound that any kind of standard exists at all. In reality, every theater sounds different, every film sounds different, and every projectionist must make a personal judgement about the sound level at the start of a film by actually GOING INTO THE THEATER and listening to it, at least in the first couple times they project a film. Importantly, the appropriate projection volume level varies based on the number of people in the theater, such that a volume that may be appropriate for a packed theater may be far too loud for a sparsely-attended screening.

Of course, in today's cineplex culture where one projectionist is tasked with starting and overseeing a number of screens simultaneously, things can go all haywire. The most common problem I encounter in multiplex cinemas is that the volume is TOO LOW - and this is particularly grating in comedies, where the audience needs to feel that the film is loud enough to mask the sound of their own (otherwise self-conscious) laughter.

One reason for low sound levels in features projection can be that the TRAILERS and ADS are mixed much louder than the feature film itself, so that if a projectionist sets the volume by the sound level of the trailers and then leaves to start another film elsewhere, the actual feature film will be projected too low, not too loud. A good projectionist will stay in the booth to set the trailer volume at around 5.5, say, and then raise the feature film level up to 6.5 or 7.

Filmmakers usually dread having their films projected too quietly, particularly after all the work they went through for their sound mix, and so have a tendency to ask the mixing studio to err on the loud side during a final mix. The better to compete with the trailers. Good studios resist this pleading and try to shoot for a mix that will sound full at "7" and not at "5". There may be an added danger to watching first-run films in Los Angeles, in that the actual filmmaker may be there, behind the scenes, badgering the projectionist to make her film louder than it needs to be.

In the end, the only thing that makes watching a film in a theater bearable is the experience and showmanship of the projectionist, making sure the sound is comfortable and the darn thing is in focus and framed correctly. One theater is not like another, and quality does matter. So let's keep the theater experience special by demanding great projection from every theater we frequent, and every screening we attend.

And thanks, Bill, for your amazing blog.

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