September 3, 2020

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Hard to pardon: why Tenet's muffled dialogue is a very modern problem: Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster is already infamous for its barely-audible exchanges. As sound technology advances, why are films getting harder to hear? (Ralph Jones, 3 Sep 2020, The Guardian)

There is a wonderful exchange in Christopher Nolan's latest film, Tenet, between Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. "Hngmmhmmh," says Pattinson. "Mmghh nmmhhmmmm nghhh," replies Washington. Marvellous.

This is how much of Tenet sounded to viewers in cinemas. The film's dialogue has been criticised by reviewers and audience members for often being impossible to make out. Given how hard Nolan's blockbuster would be to understand even if all the dialogue was crystal-clear, it is curious that the director has made it doubly difficult to hear the story of a screenplay he supposedly spent five years writing.

But it isn't just Nolan's films. It's a much-repeated claim that movie dialogue is becoming harder and harder to hear. What is going on?

Mathew Price is a production sound mixer who has worked on The Sopranos and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. "When they take the sound we record on set and kind of undermix it, it feels like, 'What did we try so hard for?'" he says. Price believes the problem is partly that modern directors have so many more tracks to play with, causing "track overload", the result being that "the dialogue gets short shrift a lot of the time".

Films don't just look better on your home screen, you can also turn on the subtitles.  Why would theaters ever re-open.

Posted by at September 3, 2020 8:14 AM

  

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