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Mumbledom (Read 1996 times)
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Dec 28th, 2021, 12:11pm
This is taken from the Daily Telegraph:

Experts sound off over ‘mumbledom’ on TV

Inaudible dialogue is a deliberate choice by directors, leading sound technicians claim


IT IS an all-too common complaint from television viewers: you sit down to watch a gripping drama, only to find the dialogue inaudible.

Mumbling actors have been blamed, along with the design of flatscreen TVs.

But the UK’s leading sound technicians would like to highlight the major culprits: directors who think muttered conversations are more realistic.

“Mumbledom” is a deliberate choice by directors who have stolen the idea from cinema, they claim.

The BBC promised to address sound issues in 2016 after Happy Valley, a crime drama set in Yorkshire, attracted a slew of complaints. Yet its most recent detective drama, Shetland, suffered from the same issue, with some viewers turning off or resorting to subtitles.

“There is an issue with enunciation by some modern actors but, in fairness to the acting profession, the great majority know how to speak and how to project,” said Malcolm Johnson, secretary of the Institute of Professional Sound (IPS). However, over the last 10 years there has been a trend within film production, as well as drama for TV, of directors and producers going for a ‘natural’ performance – in other words, what we in the business refer to as ‘mumbledom’.

“Previously, a director would have said, ‘Sorry, I can’t hear you, can you pitch up a bit.’ Now directors are persuading actors to downplay their delivery, and almost throw their lines away, thinking that it is more realistic.

“Sadly, that’s become very fashionable … and that leads to a lot of issues.”

In decades past, Mr Johnson said, sound professionals worked in-house for the BBC or the ITV companies, and felt able to voice objections on set when the dialogue was muffled. But he explained: “The majority of sound people now are freelance, so for obvious reasons they are biting their tongues when something is wrong unless they have a very good working relationship with a director and can say, ‘You know what, that line’s never going to get north of Watford.’”

Shows that attracted complaints about mumbled dialogue this year include Vigil on BBC One and The Tower on ITV.

Mr Johnson suggested the clarity of Netflix productions is higher than those on terrestrial channels. “It’s an interesting phenomenon, but I’ve noticed that if you watch a Netflix modern production you can hear all the words. A high proportion of the original Netflix stuff is being produced in the UK using the same technicians and sound recordists who work for ITV and the BBC. The simple reason [for the difference], we believe, is that Netflix are paying much closer attention,” he said.

The mumbling trend in television drama can be traced back to the BBC’s 2014 production of Jamaica Inn, which attracted more than 800 complaints. At the time, the corporation blamed the actors for their poor enunciation.

Simon Clark, chairman of the IPS and head of production sound recording at the National Film and TV School, said the directorial trend “is referred to as ‘realism’ by people who are in favour of it, and as ‘unintelligible’ by technicians like me. If somebody stands on a set and they mumble, I will make a perfect recording of that happening. Yes, I can make it louder, but if a performer doesn’t make themselves clear I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Mr Clark said that modern television sets exacerbate the problem.

“If you look at adverts for a TV … [it] probably doesn’t mention the sound. Manufacturers genuinely expect you to buy the sound as a separate part of it.

“You can’t have a flat panel … only half an inch thick, and expect good sound to come out of it. That’s the laws of physics, I’m afraid.”
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Dickie Mint
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Solihull, West Midlands
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Re: Mumbledom
Reply #1 - Jun 13th, 2022, 6:37pm
You've got to laugh! Published yesterday on the RX:TV/ website is an item with the headline Germans solve problem that's bugged TV viewers for years and there's this gem;

On the 'clear speech' soundtrack, background music and sounds are played out more quietly.

You mean with the sound balanced properly?
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