Why Some Young People Are Now Using Subtitles to Watch TV and Movies

Vox producer Edward Vega gave a resounding explanation about why television and movie dialogue seems harder to understand and why people of a younger age are using closed captioning subtitles to watch television.

It’s not you — the dialogue in TV and movies has gotten harder to hear.

Vega used the films of director Christopher Nolan as an example of diminishing dialogue volume. Nolan told Indiewire in 2017 that he wasn’t making films for small viewing.

Nearly every film of his has been criticized for its hard to hear dialogue that essentially begs for subtitles. …And in his 2017 interview with Indiewire, he said “We made the decision a couple of films ago that we weren’t going to mix films for substandard theaters” And this is kind of the crux of the matter.

Vega further notes that people are watching films on smaller and smaller screens, which also affects audibility.

Rerecording mixers mix for the widest surround sound format that is available typically like big release films. That is Dolby Atmos…. which has true 3D sound up to 128 channels. The thing is, if you’re not at a movie theater that can showcase the best sound Hollywood has to offer…you can’t experience all of those channels.

Vega turned to sound producer Austin Olivia Kendrick to explain this further.

A lot of people will ask like”Why don’t you just turn the dialog up?” Like, just turn it up. And… if only it was that simple. Because a big thing that we want to preserve is a concept called dynamic range. The range between your quietest sound and your loudest sound. If you have your dialog, that’s going to be at the same volume as an explosion that immediately follows it. The explosion is not going to feel as big.

A String Board Can Always Help

Why we all need subtitles
Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.