A few years ago, I accidentally turned on the subtitles on Netflix and, well, never turned them off. Now I watch everything, including shows in English, with subtitles on.
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Pen Pearson, a critic at Slashfilm (/Film), does likewise. That’s because he’s noticed that it’s increasingly hard for him to understand what actors are saying. It’s not because he’s suffered hearing loss. Movies are intentionally made this way now.
In his deep dive into the issue, Pearson discovered that some filmmakers choose a sound design that makes the dialogue difficult to follow beecause they often want to show hard, difficult situations for characters–the sorts of situations that might make it difficult to hear what’s going on. If the audience can’t understand the the actors, they can empathize with the challenges of the character in that given situation.
Futhermore, actors vocalize differently these days. If I understand Pearson correctly, he means that actors aren’t trained to speak clearly on an open stage, but to talk, or even mumble, into a microphone. This is a popular acting style that makes a sound engineer’s work difficult. And because the modern visual style of movies calls for wide shots, it’s not always possible to simply lower a boom mic over an actor.
Other trends contribute to this problem, such as the transition from sound design for theaters to online streaming video. Read about them at /Film.
-via Kottke | Image: Warner Bros.