Why is it so hard to understand movie dialogue these days?

@Leo I saw this on slashfilm and thought of the discussion you and Scott had recently about movie dialogue. Evidently it’s a known problem, and more complex than one might imagine.


In related but different news, localisations have become markedly better in the past, say, ten years. Before, I tried to watch most movies in English. Now, the German localisation is usually kind of well done and, coming back to the point, acoustically easier to understand.

The idea of being able to listen and understand the movie has become more important than that of hearing the original words to cancel out bad translations or weird voices. James Bond now just sounds slightly corny. But if the movie is just as corny, it fits again…


Very much this.

Steve and @Leo was moaning about Foundation being unintelligible on Security Now. But I was watching it with the German soundtrack and it was very clear.

One of the reasons for this, and I missed this in the article @ChrisKez posted, is that they voice actors are in the sound studio recording the sound as they watch the film. In the past, I’ve watched film-making documentaries (70s and 80s) and after filming was complete, the actors were herded into the sound studio to pick up dialogue in scenes where the on-set dialogue couldn’t be cleanly captured (E.g. medieval film and an aircraft flies over and drowns out the actors, or action scenes, where the sound of explosions etc. drowned out the actors’ voices and due to the complexity of the scene, they couldn’t re-film it).

I found it surprising that this wasn’t mentioned at all - either that actors are loathed to go into the sound studio or that the sound people didn’t request it. Has this been totally eliminated from film making these days?

As my wife doesn’t speak English, I tend to watch nearly everything in German these days and it is often hilarious to then watch something with the original soundtrack. Case in point was NCSI:LA. I watched the first 4 seasons in German, the 5th was available in English and German and Prime decided to play the English soundtrack… The voices were so funny, it actually detracted from watching the show - the German voices of LL Cool J and Chris O’Donnel are at least an octave deeper than their natural voices; it makes them sound like they are squeaking, if you have been listening to them in German for hours on end.

Worf in Star Trek: TNG is the same, he has a much deeper voice in German, which actually passes much better to his character than Michael Dorn’s voice.

Getting back to the point, I think the fact that the voice track is recorded separately in foreign languages and dubbed onto the original, you always have a pristine voice track to start with. I also think that modern voice actors, at least in Germany, are also very good, they really put a lot of effort into the dubbing, something that is sometimes missing in older series and films.

They also tend to do a lot of reading for Audible, which also means they have to speak clearly. I love listening to Dietmar Wunder (best known Daniel Craig and Don Cheadle), and Tobias Kluckert (voices for actors as diverse as Simon Pegg, Karl Urban and Joachim Phoenix), for example.




You’re telling me Worf’s voice gets deeper?? My windows will be rattling! :joy:

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