You’re in the middle of a movie. The climax of the film is happening and just as the lead character delivers a mind-blowing speech, the dialogue suddenly becomes garbled. You’re now on the edge of your seat (literally) because you’re trying to hear what’s being said. Even when you turn the volume up to max, you still can’t understand a single word.
So what do you do? Turn on the subtitles, of course. It’s something that’s become more and more common. Were our parents right when they told us that we’d lose our hearing by listening to music too loudly? Turns out, technology may be to blame.
Uptick In Subtitle Use ‘Doesn’t Have A Straightforward Answer’
For the past few years, subtitles have become a staple in my home. From TV comedy classics shows such as The Office to new Netflix releases like Stranger Things, subtitles have helped me finally pick up on dialogue I’ve missed for years.
Plus, as a mom of three, subtitles are a great and easy way to encourage my kids to read and pay attention to the show they’re watching.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who uses subtitles. In a recent survey from Vox, over 105,000 people responded and 57% said they use subtitles while watching TV shows and movies. It’s so commonplace that Austin Olivia Kendrick, a dialogue editor who uses subtitles herself, is often asked why we all use subtitles now.
“It doesn’t have a straightforward answer,” Kendrick said. “It’s very layered and very complex.” While that’s true, the dialogue editor shared that the main reason is due to technology (and not necessarily because we’re all getting old).
Over the past several decades, technology changes have improved microphones and moved sound recordings from analog to digital. Plus, sound engineers typically record a film’s sound for movie theaters, not for our smartphones.
In fact, some theaters carry Dolby Atmos which has 3D sound and up to 128 channels. If you’re not in the theater, you’re hearing a version that’s been downmixed from 128 channels to one or two channels. No wonder it’s hard to hear!
With all these technological “advances,” it’s no surprise that movies and TV shows sound different today. While our best options are to either connect to better speakers or simply continue using subtitles, at least we know that we’re all in this together.