NewsTV Subtitles: Reasons Why Dialogue is Hard to Hear

TV Subtitles: Reasons Why Dialogue is Hard to Hear

– Sound design for television is becoming more complex and intricate
– Often, dialogue in TV shows is drowned out by other audio elements, making it hard for viewers to understand
– Several factors contribute to the increasing need for subtitles when watching television

Television sound design has evolved a great deal over the years, resulting in more intricate and refined audio tracks. A downside of this refinement, however, is that dialogue in TV shows can sometimes be hard to hear or understand for viewers. This has led to an increasing need for subtitles, even for those who can generally hear well.

There are multiple factors contributing to this phenomenon, and one of them is the rise of home theater setups. People are less likely to miss dialogue when watching in a cinema with a well-calibrated sound system. But at home, where TV speakers or soundbars might not be as balanced, dialogue can easily reside in the shadow of other audio elements.

Another possible culprit is the loudness wars. This refers to the ongoing trend in television to make the louder and more dramatic elements even louder, often at the expense of dialogue clarity. In an attempt to stand out among the abundance of TV content, shows are competing for viewers’ attention by making sounds bigger and more bombastic.

Additionally, Tim Walton, a dubbing mixer for Netflix’s “The Serpent,” suggests that the rise of streaming services and the advantage of anytime, anyplace viewing has resulted in more situations where environmental factors might hinder the clarity of dialogue. Viewers might be watching in noisy environments or on devices with less-than-ideal audio setups, like laptops or tablets.

On top of that, television shows themselves are changing. Ambiguity in dialogue is sometimes a creative decision, where the creators aim to make the viewer listen more attentively or leave them guessing about certain plot points.

Regardless of the reasons behind it, the increasing reliance on subtitles does point to an issue that both content creators and technology developers need to address. If the ultimate goal is to create an enjoyable and immersive viewing experience, then the clear and intelligible dialogue should always be a priority.

“It’s one of those areas where it really is about consistency,” says Simon Sherbourne, an audio product specialist from Avid, a company that makes the software used in television production. “I think one of the main things is to make sure that the dialogue is always at a level that can be understood and that anything elseā€¦ is not drowning it out.”

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