Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

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Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by takenoko » Tue Sep 01, 2015 10:35 pm

I received this question via e-mail. The reader was asking why the audio was so quiet in movies compared to the TV series. I told him I thought it was because the movies tend to be in surround sound, so maybe something makes it quieter. Perhaps when the different tracks are converted to stereo?

But honestly, I don't know. I'm sure someone here does though, so I'm asking the fans if they know.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by ViRGE » Tue Sep 01, 2015 11:38 pm

Dynamic range

Movies are mastered first and foremost for theaters, which have large, complex speaker systems. This allows you to master a movie for a wide dynamic range - the quiet parts can be very quiet, the loud parts can be very loud. This tends to be retained for Blu-Ray/DVD releases.

TV shows on the other hand need to work well on televisions, which have speakers ranging from absolutely awful to home theaters, so you can't go quite as crazy. Also, people don't appreciate the nightly news unexpectedly blowing out their eardrums.

Also, keep in mind that people tend to perceive louder as being better.

Extra credit reading: the Loudness War, which is the observation that music has been getting louder and louder over the years due to the aforementioned matter of people finding louder music to be better

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by takenoko » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:00 am

So basically the loud parts are just as loud, but the quiet parts are just more quiet?

I'll have to read that article. I love the psychological explanation of things.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by ViRGE » Wed Sep 02, 2015 12:58 am

takenoko wrote:So basically the loud parts are just as loud, but the quiet parts are just more quiet?
I'd say it's a bit of both. The quiet parts are quieter, but the loud parts are also louder. You can get away with this on theaters since they have such nice sound systems. Of course what happens is that home viewers tend to normalize at one end or the other, turning up the volume to get the quieter parts up to spec, or turning down the volume to keep the loud parts in check.

Which is why home theaters tend to have Dynamic Range Compression to counter this. :P

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by ry632 » Wed Sep 02, 2015 4:36 am

I've noticed this quite often when watching videos through the surround sound receiver. Stereo audio videos are always louder than videos with multi-channel audio, I always figured it was because of reasons posted by ViRGE.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by jomelcaelum » Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:13 am

I also noticed this, frequent. Im using my PS3 Slim as my player and an LG home theater and ive seen that the movies you have been posting has two tracks on it. (im always downloading the HD Movies) The 1st is Stereo Sound which emulates the sound into 2 speakers or 2.0 Stereo and the 2nd is 5.1 surround sound which is good for watching this movies. Sometimes i noticed that if i change it into Stereo, the voices somehow gets louder but the music or battle music went soft or low volume but the sound effects is noticeable. In the 5.1 Sound, the voices gets too low so i have to increase the volume of my home theater but the music gets a bit high in this sound mode and the sound effects is sometimes low on volume. My theory with my experience is that when im watching sentai / rider movies, the problem maybe is with my ps3 connected into the tv using hdmi cable but my tv has no digital or dolby surround for it to encode on my LG home theater. (My LG Home theater is old with no HDMI) My LG home theater is just connected to the TV using a RCA cable the red and white plugs for Aux and for that it can only emulates sound that my TV can produce and its like streaming only on my Home Theater, the tv im using is LG with only Surround sound or Stereo but cannot emulate an Dolby 5.1 surround sound. As for this, you should have a tv that can emulates a sound with Dolby 5.1 Surround sound for the best movie experience and sound to hear it completely and balanced. I hope this can help you guys! Still, im enjoying all of your uploads Takenoko! Thanks a bunch! Looking forward for more HD Movies anD tv series! :D

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by Ryouga » Wed Sep 02, 2015 9:00 am

Speaker quality does come into it too, I have some 50 year old Wharfdales (went on Gumtree wanting speakers for tv and this pensioner gave me them, he must of got them in his youth!) if I try the 5.1 mixes everything is excessively loud bar the talking, the stereo mix everything is balanced perfect.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by TorchWood » Wed Sep 02, 2015 5:01 pm

Here's what got me a while ago. Loudness is often expressed as a decibel (dB), and it is expressed as both a positive AND negative number. Now, we are probably familiar with a lawnmower running at 90 dB, a rock concert is 110 dB, and a jet taking off being 140dB. However, decibels are also expressed as a negative number, with 0 dB being the maximum that one can go. Because modern movies have a wider dynamic range (from quiet to really loud) than television shows, they are often normalized at a lower volume. While VHS tapes were, at best, capable of stereo sound mix, DVDs were capable of 5.1 sound, thus movies that had a 5.1 sound mix were often remixed for Stereo sound, and some DVD releases had both a stereo audio track and a 5.1 audio track.
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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by MadCow » Thu Sep 03, 2015 6:13 am

Dolby Digital/DTS/etc are generally mixed for a wider dynamic range while stereo is generally compressed for a narrower dynamic range -- i.e. basically what ViRGE said.

Here's a practical example: Say you're recording a drummer in the studio. I picked drummer because drums because of their extremely wide dynamic range, from as soft as swishing the snare with a brush to hitting cymbals or snare drum with a lot of energy. If you take that recording and play as-is, you'll notice there's a very huge gap in loudness. Such a wide dynamic range might be desirable in hi-fi audio where you often listen in a quiet environment, and you have good equipment that is able to play back the full range of sounds well. But other times, you may want to compress the dynamic range by raising the quiet parts and somewhat reduce the extremely loud parts so that the overall volume is more or less evenly matched -- this can sound better on cheaper equipment, of when played in noisy environments. Sometimes compression is also necessary due to limited bandwidth, like when music is played through the FM radio, but often it is done just for the sake of loudness (as ViRGE's link to the Loudness Wars explains).

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by Catastrophe » Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:16 pm

It's the same with western movies as well...

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by gumbyx84 » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:11 am

Are the more recent Toku shows stereo or surround sound? I've been noticing that on my ps4 when the audio format is set to Linear PCM, I hear some audio from my rear left and right channels (good example the background music and voices in the Ninninger opening and closing themes) but not with DTS or Dolby. I ask add I've been having issues with certain games not outputting in surround sound under certain settings but losing what seems to be surround sound with videos

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by takenoko » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:31 pm

The TV shows are just in stereo. Theatrical movies tend to be in surround sound (they're the second audio track on our releases). The Gaim Gaiden from earlier this year was a direct to video release, and only had stereo sound.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by gumbyx84 » Fri Sep 11, 2015 12:52 pm

takenoko wrote:The TV shows are just in stereo. Theatrical movies tend to be in surround sound (they're the second audio track on our releases). The Gaim Gaiden from earlier this year was a direct to video release, and only had stereo sound.
Thanks for the heads up. I wonder why I got that semi-surround sound when I had it set to LPCM.

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by takenoko » Fri Sep 11, 2015 1:10 pm

Maybe your system takes stereo sound and emulates surround sound by taking the two channels and making it more dim for the rear speakers?

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Re: Why are Japanese movies so quiet?

Post by gumbyx84 » Mon Sep 28, 2015 2:58 pm

A very late reply, but thought I'd get back to you that it was reproducing the normal stereo channels to the rear speakers. It was nice because it sounded much louder (in a good way) than the "correct" stereo tracks tracks

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