Things Suck

Check out the article in Wired about Things that Suck. Lots of things suck, baby. Big time.

An example:

Why Things Suck: DVD Sound

By Lucas Graves Email 01.18.08 | 6:00 PM

The dvd player spread faster than any other consumer technology in history (yes, including cell phones). That’s because the digital video disc is a better medium for viewing movies at home than its predecessors, VHS and 8-mm celluloid. But the wee silver platters have one great failing: Why, 12 years into the DVD age, is the sound still so gosh-darn, infuriatingly inconsistent?! You know the drill: You want to sink back into Mr. La-Z-Boy and enjoy the film, but instead you’re perched on the edge of your seat, nervously clutching the remote, because the volume fluctuates violently and unpredictably between whispery dialog and window-rattling special effects.

What gives? Basically, DVDs are just too lifelike for the living room. Their dynamic range β€” the continuum of sound levels they’re capable of reproducing β€” is more like the real world, where exploding cars and hails of gunfire really are a lot louder than casual conversation. We expect earsplitting music and effects in a movie theater, but at home we have cranky cohabitants to worry about, so we turn down the volume. Presto: Every actor ends up mumbling like Marlon Brando. To make matters worse, a lot of people either don’t have surround sound or don’t set it up properly, which tends to mute the center channel β€” the one that carries most of the dialog. Happily, many DVD players can compress the dynamic range, either by trimming the audio peaks or enhancing the frequency range in which dialog commonly occurs. Or you can down-sample surround sound into stereo. It’s all right there in the user’s manual.

What are you all hating on right now?


One Response to “Things Suck”

  1. Lindendale’s suggestions for dealing with crazy DVD sound:

    1. If you have 5.1 sound, boost the center-channel signal. This will probably be under something like “Levels” on your A/V receiver. If you are using your TV’s speakers, you won’t have this problem and you are also an idiot.

    2. Some DVD players have sound settings. My Panasonic player has “Dialog Enhancer.” Look for something like that.

    3. Some A/V receivers have sound settings that decrease the dynamic range — basically reducing the differences in lowest and highest volume. I think this is for punks who don’t care about sound quality. The sound from a DVD is better than CD quality by a large margin. Don’t downmix to a stereo signal either. Why you want to muddy it up? What the hell is wrong with you?

    4. Watch TV far away from where the life-like sounds of automatic weapon fire will disturb the sleep of your loved ones (easier said than done).

    5. If you are watching alone, wear high-quality headphones. It will be stereo, but it’s intimate. That can be pretty cool too.

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