TV volume

Why is it that more often than not, when I am watching some movie on TV, the volume is all over the place. The dialogue is always way too low, so then I raise the volume to hear it, and when a commercial comes, the commercials blast through the speakers. Any music in the movies are always way too high as low. Does anyone attempt to equalize the volume?

I remember back in high school, when I was doing stuff for the schools public TV channel, the way I was taught to do production work was to start the recording tape with 30 seconds of black, then 30 seconds of color bars with 30 seconds of an audio tone. The point of the color bars and audio tone was to allow whoever/whatever was playing the tape to calibrate the color and audio. You raise the volume on whatever is playing it until it is at the appropriate level. Then, you dont have all these problems. Am I completely missing some reason for why all these TV stations cant do it? or are they all just insanely lazy? and what about the music in the movies? why are they a ton louder than the dialog in the same movie? does anyone listen to their work before releasing it?

vote Mike for president.

[tags]TV, audio, movies,dumbasses[/tags]

  1. Commercials are louder because TV stations have caught on to the fact that if commercials came on and the channel didn’t change, it’s because the person watching TV took a walk to either the kitchen or the bathroom, so they have to crank up the volume to be heard down the hall.

    Some stations are worse about it than others. The broadcast networks aren’t *too* bad — ABC, NBC, CBS, etc — but the basic cable ones suck these days, they keep going back & forth between blasting commercials and inaudible shows.

    What I don’t get is why there isn’t a “client-side” fix for this. There’s circuitry for iPods, car stereos, etc to level out the volume between highs & lows, or better still to have a microphone so that the volume can be balanced against the ambient noise in the room (or car, or whatever). Why don’t TVs have this kind of ability? Or cable boxes? Or TiVOs? Hell maybe you could get it to work with one of those media PCs (Windows media center, Linux MythTV, OSX EyeTV, etc) then that might be a selling point for those devices. There’s an obvious demand for it, I’m not sure why there isn’t a solution available…

  2. It’s easy. Volume levels rise during commercials, so that they grab your attention.

    If you have your TV volume at, say 6, while watching some procedural cop drama that thinks it has an interesting plot twist, and then the commercials come on and the volume jumps to 11, You’re gonna be aware of that commercial. Sure, you’ll be pissed off, but somewhere, they hope, in the back of your head, you’ll remember “Oh, yeah, I need to dust the curio… I’ll purchase endust!”

  3. What I don’t get is why there isn’t a “client-side” fix for this.

    I make it a habit to always mute the TV when commercials come on, for exactly this reason.

  4. actually, before I got satellite TV I had a computer DVR hooked up, I think I had Beyond TV running on it, and it was fairly accurate with guessing when commercials started and stopped. So I could just skip the loud ass commercials all together. Chris is right though, it is odd that noone makes an automatic volume leveler for TV

  5. Besides all of the “TV stations make the commercials louder on purpose” comments that you’ve received so far, there are a couple of other factors that you may wish to consider.

    There probably isn’t a person panning from the show to the commercial and back now. The backhaul feed has an out of band signal to where to drop the commercial segments, and the systems drop in the commercial that the ad management app says to. As a rough analogy, saying that the sound levels don’t match is like saying that the colors for the ads on Boston.com clash with the layout. With the current structure of cable and satellite TV providers, where the commercials get stitched in is getting more varied. For a long time there have been national and local spots. I strongly suspect that satellite receivers stitch in the appropriate local commercials at the receiver itself. (the same video stream is going to both my receiver and people in lets say NY. At the commercial, each of our receivers switch to the local commercial “channel” for our region, and then switch back once the show starts.

  6. for the “automatic volume leveler”, if you had a decently complex home entertainment system, you could probably hook up a simple analog audio compressor. (raises volume when the source is too quiet, lowers volume when source is too loud, effectively reducing the dynamic range.) but it is odd that a feature that it common on nearly every MP3 player (either portable appliance or software application on the computer.) has some sort of “sound check” or similar feature.

  7. i can see the reasoning behind Andrews “stitched together” comment, but it seems like there should be a standard practice sort of deal. Like if everyone agreed that a 50khz tone should be at a 10db volume level, or whatever it ends up being, than aside from playing things purposely loud to draw you into buying a bag of doritos, the volume problems should be fairly rare.

  8. Oh, another thing I meant to mention before is that commercials seems louder even at the same decibel level based on the type of audio content it presents. A string quartet a few dozen seats away is “louder” than someone talking at close range. The music in a commercial is going to seem louder than the dialog of a drama, even if they read at the same volume level. Commercials have people talking excitedly, bombastic music, and generally are built to be noisy, and would probably have to be put at a /lower/ volume to match many television shows. (a TV show just can’t keep up that sort of excitement level for the 20-40 they have of non-ad space.)

Leave a Comment