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intelligible volume control

separate out the noise which matters from the incidental.
  [vote for,

It is not uncommon for there to be complaints that the background music in a particular television program or film is too loud. Usually, they really mean that they can't hear what is going on (typically - what people are saying) because of it.

This is basically a personal preference - presumably some fairly significant proportion of the audience likes to have music and sound effects as a large proportion of the audio mix, as otherwise the problem wouldn't arise.

From a user perspective, this should be easily fixable - at least for domestic viewing : TVs could provide two volume controls; one for forground (mostly speaking but perhaps also some relevant sound effects which don't interfere with this, at a balanced volume), and background (background music, incidental sound effects and other noise). Or equivalantly, a single volume control and a secondary foreground/background balance control.

Now, technically this is trivial. The extra electronics, buttons etc. on the TV are straightforward, the interface wouldn't trouble many, the transmission bandwidth isn't significant. This technology has essentially existed in other media (i.e. computer games) for many years.
When footage is recorded, typically some trouble is taken to isolate each sound so that they can be mixed to the desired level. Therefore it is a fairly small change to maintain the foreground and background noise as separate channels (or groups of channels, for stereo or surround sound etc.) throughout production.

Politically, one may argue that it's pretty difficult. The entire broadcasting chain needs to be in place for the function. However, I see some reason for hope. Broadcasters such as the BBC routinely add subtitles, closed captioning, signing or audio description to their programs. This proposal is perhaps easier than that to piecewise as a gradual transition than many.

I strongly believe that if people were offered this as an option they would take it. I think they may even prioritise it over the other improvements currently being touted in new television sets.

Loris, Apr 20 2017

amplitude compression produces greater loudness https://www.researc...e-Compressed_Speech
The level of broadcast sound is usually limited to prevent overmodulation of the transmitted signal. To increase the loudness of broadcast sounds, especially commercials, fast-acting amplitude compression is often applied. This allows the root-mean-square (rms) level of the sounds to be increased without exceeding the maximum permissible peak level. In addition, even for a fixed rms level, compression may have an effect on loudness. Why Are Commercials so Loud? - Perception and Modeling of the Loudness of Amplitude-Compressed Speech. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288727864_Why_Are_Commercials_so_Loud_-_Perception_and_Modeling_of_the_Loudness_of_Amplitude-Compressed_Speech [accessed Apr 20, 2017]. [beanangel, Apr 20 2017]

It's being baked! https://www.thetime...n-the-way-6kmh0zqwl
I think I pretty much nailed this one. [Loris, Jul 25 2019]


       well, I have this vague idea that commercials as well as some movie effects are louder because they make the audio look more like a square wave (not a real square wave just bulkier distribution of each audio wave) Online though it says that they heighten RMS of sounds with amplitude compression [link] i think that possibly doing something to the waveforms that makes it nearer the average RMS of say the previous minute would gradually heighten sound rather than create startling effects.   

       Your idea though is to automatically find different perceptual audio channels then address each separately. Possibly a RMS modifier for each channel (conversation, music) could balance foreground and background RMS differences.
beanangel, Apr 20 2017

       You have both missed the point. It's not something you can do by adding a feature to the receiver alone.
I didn't explicitly state that the TV set (or actually, radio, come to think of it) needs to receive separate foreground and background channels (although it was implicit in my mention of transmission bandwith). I've added two sentences to hopefully make that clear.

       It's actually quite different from the auto-volume and normalisation requests people usually ask for. The thing is though, that when I thought of this method I went from "this is great and novel" to "this is the obvious solution which everyone should want" in the space of a few minutes.
I can't claim to be the first to think of this method, but somehow it doesn't seem to ever be the technical fix people suggest when complaining that e.g. they can't hear the words because of the background music, and I couldn't find it on the halfbakery, so I posted it.
The obvious downside is the need for separate channels to be supplied, but there seems to be enough thrashing around for new features in the industry that it seems to me to be worth a punt.
Loris, Apr 21 2017

       //Wow, that paragraph was a trip.//   

       Mean. You 'even' misquoted one of the fragments.   

       //It really depends on what kind of content you are talking about. Streaming films now comes with a playback option of audio track, so in that respect its already done. But just try telling that to low budget productions.//   

       I think ideally, at least everything which is broadcast. And all domestic media (films on DVD, blueray, streaming etc).
One good thing about this approach is it could be done piecemeal without additional work. If a legacy programme doesn't have separated foreground, you could at minimum just supply the mix to both channels. Just as mono can be split for stereo. (That's not the most elegant approach, but it would work.)
Whether there's the ability for the data path to pass extra sound channels without much engineering I don't have the ability to say. I doubt most existing TVs probably have the reprogrammability. However, I expect that many set-top boxes do, and given the attempt to move to higher resolution data streaming I think the bandwidth is more than sufficient.
DVDs seem to be pretty adaptable beasts, with the ability to play different soundtracks, so 'faking' it on a disc-by-disc basis is almost certainly possible by supplying several mixes. The format is almost legacy already, so doing it at the player level is unlikely
. I assume blueray is at least as adaptable as DVD.
Depending on what exactly we mean by it, streaming should be at least as good as TV, or better. I've not seen the option you mention on films via my cable company, but unless it lets you mix in your favoured level of background I wouldn't call it 'done'.

       Regarding budget, if fore/background channels were a standard I doubt it would make much difference to production cost. There may be a temporary spike of getting mixing equipment which outputs to the new format, but then again if it's all done on a desktop PC we're only really talking about a software upgrade. Compared to going to 4k we're talking peanuts.
Loris, Apr 24 2017


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