Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holy ear perforation Batman!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Whether you watch movies through your computer or on a traditional TV you will have noticed that there is often a dramatic contrast between the volume levels of the audio depending on what's happening on screen. The dialog can be so subdued the actors appear to be whispering making it impossible to determine what's being said, whereas the action sequences, explosions, gun shots and so on are loud enough to blow your socks off!

This is done deliberately and is known as 'dynamic range'; it's supposed to provide a more realistic interpretation of the natural soundscape. If you ask me it's enough to make you want to take Spielberg and his ilk by the throat and choke them to death.

In the cinema the projectionist 'works around' this issue by ramping up the volume to ear-splitting levels. Your head is usually ringing by the end of the film, but at least you'll know what it was all about. You're probably used to resorting to the same measures at home too, but not if your media playback software incorporates sound-shaping technology known as 'dynamic range compression'. This operates by standardising the extremes at each end of the auditory spectrum. In other words it amplifies softer sounds and dampens down louder ones so you don't need to keep your thumb poised on your remote control's volume button.

The image below is a screen capture of VLC's 'preferences' panel. It shows that ticking a box (well leaving the default setting alone actually) is all that is required to enable DRC.

'Normalisation' is another audio-taming feature often built into more advanced media players. It homogenises wave forms by applying a consistent gain ratio in conjunction with an upper volume cap.

Below is another screen capture of VLC's slick GUI. This one depicts its 'extended controls' panel, located under the 'window' menu. As before it's not difficult to guess how the 'tool-tipped' function operates.

So that's your DVDs covered, but what about the video content you record through your computer's TV tuner? If adding sound effects to a blog wasn't really irritating I'd insert one of me hitting a brick wall here. No audio manipulation gizmos of any kind are to be found in the EyeTV software, though I have an alert configured to give me a nudge the instant this situation changes.

Maybe the TV Volume Regulator could be configured to work with computer audio output. Still I'd rather wait for a software solution.



I'm not at all surprised you'd pick up the changes in volume. I look at all these features and options and feel like a grandpa wondering what happened to the wireless. I doesn't help that i can't hear the difference between most of the options either.

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