Monday, July 15, 2024

Here’s Why Actors Speak So Quietly Now, And No, It’s Not Just In Your Head

Must read

We’ve written before at HuffPost UK about why movies and TV shows are so darn dark now.

But what about the sound? Is it just me, or have actors gotten a little bit harder to hear?

Well, according to the pros, it’s not just in our heads ― and advances in technology may be to blame.

What’s going on then?

Speaking to The Guardian, sound mixer Guntis Sics (who’s worked on movies like Thor: Ragnarok) said, “As technology evolved, especially when it took the leap to digital, a tsunami of sound appeared all of a sudden.”

Portable mics became an option on-set, meaning actors didn’t have to project their voice and could speak more naturally.

Customers can buy more advanced sound systems now too; and according to Sics, studios began to rely more on consumers to assemble elaborate speaker systems for them at home.

“[Today] you might get lucky, plug your speakers in and it sounds perfect. But most people plug it in, and all of various frequencies bounce off the walls and confuse what you’re listening to,” Sics said.

But “If you set it up in a room with no carpet and just floorboards, it’s going to sound like crap. Whereas the old tinny speaker managed to cut through that.”

Academy Award-winning sound designer, Mark Mangini, told Slash Film that impressive visuals can sometimes leave sound experts on the back foot, too. “As movies have matured in the last 15 years, movies have become more visually exciting,” he said.

“And because of that, it is less likely that you’re going to be allowed to put that boom mic right where the actor is because it’s probably going to drop a shadow because it’s in front of a light that the camera team insists has to exist to get the perfect look of the shot. So [the visuals have] taken precedence over what we hear,” he added.

Anything else going on?

Well, as with long (and dark) movies, growly, whispery vocals appear to be a trend in movies.

Slash Film says that directors like Christopher Nolan deliberately keep actors’ voices muffled to add a naturalistic feel to scenes. In fact, Nolan has even dealt with complaints from other directors about the vocals in his films (though it doesn’t seem to have stopped him).

Oscar-winning sound mixer Thomas Curley also told the publication, “It seems to be a little bit of a fad with some actors to do the sort of soft delivery or under-your-breath delivery of some lines. That’s a personal choice for them. Our job is to record it as well as we can regardless.”

Slate spoke to Grammy-winning recording engineer and producer Zane Birdwell, who said that when an actor speaks quietly, it’s hard to bring their voice up in post-production without also amplifying the background sounds.

When you do manage to bring their vocals out, he says, sometimes “the voice will end up sounding thin” if you go too far.

So, before you feel bad for switching the captions on for your favourite movie at home, don’t ― it’s likely a combination of Hollywood trends, technological advances, and on-set power struggles.

Latest article