Movies - TV
Here's Why Movie Dialogue Has Gotten More Difficult to Understand
Purposeful Choice
Sometimes the unintelligible dialogue is done on purpose according to the director’s storytelling goals, and Christopher Nolan is the number one example of this. In his movies “Tenet” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” there are characters that wear masks, so the muffled dialogue was intentional to be in line with reality.
Present-day acting styles have gotten more naturalistic than the more theatrical styles of the past. Karen Baker Landers, who has worked on the sound for "Gladiator” and "Skyfall, says that the “mumbling, breathy, I call it self-conscious type of acting, is so frustrating” and while sound professionals try to “surgically” improve clarity, they can only do so much.
Not Fully Respected
Mark Mangini, the Academy Award-winning sound designer behind "Mad Max: Fury Road," pointed out that visuals have taken precedence over sound in today’s movies. One example of this he says is not being “[...] allowed to put that boom mic right where the actor is, because it's probably going to drop a shadow [...and affect] the perfect look of the shot.”
Thomas Curley points out that in today’s age of digital audio, filmmakers can “[] around with ambiance and sound effects” whereas before, sound design was more purposeful since everything was filmed and edited on tape. Because it could get “[...] so cost-intensive and labor-intensive, they wanted to make sure that the story got across first.”
Donald Sylvester, an Oscar-winning sound editor, explained that when a sound editor comes across unclear dialogue the first time in post, they might ask another person for clarification instead of fixing it. So when they come across it again and again, “[...] they get familiar with the bad sound to the point where they no longer find it to be a problem."