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Forbidden subject - hearing damage
Old 10th May 2008
  #1
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Forbidden subject - hearing damage

I found this thread in the "Moan Zone"

https://gearspace.com/board/moan-zon...cant-hear.html

This a very pertinent topic for feature mixers and editors.

I contend that if you are a feature mixer or sound editor who works on anything other than adult dramas and children's movies (and even some of those), you will inevitably suffer from hearing damage if you stay in the business long enough. I know many elite mixers who I suspect have severe hearing damage, though no mixer in his right mind, including myself would ever admit it.

How do you deal with clients who demand excessive levels in the mix?
Old 10th May 2008
  #2
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James Meeker's Avatar
1.) Hearing loss is inevitable due to aging. Most adults in their 30's can't hear 15 khz.

2.) Most of the freq's above 12 khz are practically worthless in a real mix. Yeah, they gotta be there, but in controlled amounts that are "just right." Most of your real high end is around 8 khz. Heck, most mastering engineers filter stuff over 16 khz pretty sharply.

3.) Obviously hearing is important to this job. That's why I watch my volume levels when working, avoid exposure to loud noise, avoid going to live shows and concerts, avoid listening to headphones and so forth.

4.) Believe it or not, but it would take pretty significant hearing loss to really hamper your abilities as an engineer. Like I said, most of your mix happens at 8 khz and under. If you get everything under 8 khz right, the ultra high end just seems to mix itself.
Old 10th May 2008
  #3
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kk@jamsync.com's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
I found this thread in the "Moan Zone"

https://gearspace.com/board/moan-zon...cant-hear.html

This a very pertinent topic for feature mixers and editors.

I contend that if you are a feature mixer or sound editor who works on anything other than adult dramas and children's movies (and even some of those), you will inevitably suffer from hearing damage if you stay in the business long enough. I know many elite mixers who I suspect have severe hearing damage, though no mixer in his right mind, including myself would ever admit it.

How do you deal with clients who demand excessive levels in the mix?
I mix at my comfortable level and if they want to hear louder levels, I either take a break while they listen and leave the room, or I pop in my earplugs which are on a plastic line and hang around my neck. I just explain that if I listen too loudly, I'll lose the ability to be sensitive to high-pitched sounds. I always have earplugs with me wherever I go and I order earplugs on strings by the hundred pack.

This is my job. I don't want to lose the only real tools I have because someone wants to listen with playback set on "stun".
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #4
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker ➡️
1.) Hearing loss is inevitable due to aging. Most adults in their 30's can't hear 15 khz.

2.) Most of the freq's above 12 khz are practically worthless in a real mix. Yeah, they gotta be there, but in controlled amounts that are "just right." Most of your real high end is around 8 khz. Heck, most mastering engineers filter stuff over 16 khz pretty sharply.

3.) Obviously hearing is important to this job. That's why I watch my volume levels when working, avoid exposure to loud noise, avoid going to live shows and concerts, avoid listening to headphones and so forth.

4.) Believe it or not, but it would take pretty significant hearing loss to really hamper your abilities as an engineer. Like I said, most of your mix happens at 8 khz and under. If you get everything under 8 khz right, the ultra high end just seems to mix itself.
Actually, I agree with a lot of what you are saying, but you are obviously not working on many action or horror movies, so you don't appreciate the severity of the problem.

If you are working on action movies and the most horror features, you don't have a choice in the matter. If you aren't willing to crank the mix to damaging levels when the director tells you to (notice that I didn't say "asks you to"), you won't be sitting at the console for long.

Short of refusing to work on action and horror movies, what are your strategies for dealing with this?
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #5
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soundboy's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I really sweated through my last hearing test. It really stressed me out. Luckily, no damage yet.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by k[email protected] ➡️
I mix at my comfortable level and if they want to hear louder levels, I either take a break while they listen and leave the room, or I pop in my earplugs which are on a plastic line and hang around my neck. I just explain that if I listen too loudly, I'll lose the ability to be sensitive to high-pitched sounds. I always have earplugs with me wherever I go and I order earplugs on strings by the hundred pack.

This is my job. I don't want to lose the only real tools I have because someone wants to listen with playback set on "stun".
This is a very sensible approach, which, unfortunately, I have never felt was appropriate on any of the films I have worked on. I actually envy you that you are in a position to take that stand, which I feel is the correct one. But we all know that the Fletcher-Munson curve changes everything as you change level. If you mix with earplugs, you are working in an inaccurate listening environment, so your choices are somewhat arbitrary, other than to merely execute instructions from others.

There are many very worthwhile films that require levels that can cause hearing damage over the course of a mix, for example "Saving Private Ryan". In order to immerse the audience in the horrors of the D-Day landing, the director obviously felt it was necessary to try to recreate the audio landscape of the event. I'm sure the landing sequence took at least a week or two to mix. It can't be done with that kind of finesse without listening at full level.

Now, let me say that I don't think the levels of that scene in "Saving Private Ryan" were excessive artistically, because I believe they were absolutely necessary to tell the story in a visceral way, but they were definitely loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage over the course of a couple of weeks of mixing.

When mixing action movies, the director will often demand levels that are exponentially louder than anything in "Saving Private Ryan". Let's take an example like "Fast and Furious". I went to the Academy bake off screening of "Fast and Furious" and it was approximately 20 minutes of the loudest soundtrack I have ever heard in my life. I was sitting in the back of the Academy theater and had my earplugs in (because I knew what was coming), and I still was in a state of shock after it was over. The levels were literally compressing my chest during collisions and other impacts and the sustained levels of the car engines and tire skids were surely at levels approaching FSD. That film took close to six weeks to mix and most of the time had to have been spent on the action sequences, so you can imagine what it was like for the mixers. No mixer is going to subject themselves to that kind of abuse unless they are told to. What do you think would have been the consequences if Dan Leahy had put in earplugs or left the room?
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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starcrash13's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Just the other day, I was thinking about this so I put the RTAS Signal Generator on a track in Pro Tools and started ratcheting up the frequency. It's an unsettling feeling when the sound suddenly disappears...

For me, it was around 17k. I'm actually surprised it's not worse since I'm 33 and have spent half my life playing in really loud rock bands. I also hear a slight ringing in my ears at night or when I'm in a very quiet room.

Working in film, we don't really have a choice when it comes to monitoring level since we're all on calibrated systems. I usually cut at a lower volume, but on the dub stage it is always at 85. It can be brutal on some of these big action movies.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #8
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by starcrash13 ➡️
Just the other day, I was thinking about this so I put the RTAS Signal Generator on a track in Pro Tools and started ratcheting up the frequency. It's an unsettling feeling when the sound suddenly disappears...

For me, it was around 17k. I'm actually surprised it's not worse since I'm 33 and have spent half my life playing in really loud rock bands. I also hear a slight ringing in my ears at night or when I'm in a very quiet room.

Working in film, we don't really have a choice when it comes to monitoring level since we're all on calibrated systems. I usually cut at a lower volume, but on the dub stage it is always at 85. It can be brutal on some of these big action movies.
I would say that you are still probably pretty close to "normal", though hearing damage doesn't always manifest itself as high end loss. It may also show up as holes in the midrange, where most of the loudness is concentrated, or sometimes as excessive sensitivity to certain frequencies or an inability to clearly hear foreground sounds when there is significant background noise.

I would pay a lot of attention to keeping your hearing good if I were you.

Which gets back to my original question: How do you deal with protecting yourself when you are required to work at high SPLs?
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #9
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Henchman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Huh?

Did someone say something? heh
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #10
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by James Meeker ➡️
1.) Hearing loss is inevitable due to aging. Most adults in their 30's can't hear 15 khz.

2.) Most of the freq's above 12 khz are practically worthless in a real mix. Yeah, they gotta be there, but in controlled amounts that are "just right." Most of your real high end is around 8 khz. Heck, most mastering engineers filter stuff over 16 khz pretty sharply.

3.) Obviously hearing is important to this job. That's why I watch my volume levels when working, avoid exposure to loud noise, avoid going to live shows and concerts, avoid listening to headphones and so forth.

4.) Believe it or not, but it would take pretty significant hearing loss to really hamper your abilities as an engineer. Like I said, most of your mix happens at 8 khz and under. If you get everything under 8 khz right, the ultra high end just seems to mix itself.
1: Are you quoting a researched fact or an opinion?

2: This is not true at all, even in television. I'm in my mid 50's, have hearing damage, and still notice the lack of high freqs on some instruments and sounds.

3: I've done production sound on location for 33 years. My observation: headphones kill your hearing. My second observation: distorted lofi audio heard through lofi headphones loud kills your hearing even faster. I see people listening to MP3 players thru cheap earbuds very loud in noisy public places. This is a bad idea if you want to keep your hearing intact.

4: I'm glad that is working for you. On my jobs if I let things go nuts or disappear above 8k I'd be looking for a new line of work.

I feel for you folks mixing big action movies on dubstages that can develop serious acoustic power--I know that I simply cannot do what you do any more. I have a piquant combo of types of hearing loss and damage, and the levels have to stay middling or I can't do the job. Your employers should be defending you, but maybe you ARE your employer so you have to suffer. On the last really loud film I worked on on a big dubstage, the mixers were pretty clear about how many hours they would do the jet planes and guns, and fortunately we had some quieter stretches that we could jump to when we needed some space. At one time I was deeply involved in the mixing of audio for theme-park attractions--that was what finally pushed me out of the Really Loud Movies. The tinnitus alone was keeping me awake at night.

What strategies do you folks doing the Big Loud stuff use to recover, esp. on a long mix?

Philip Perkins
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #11
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Okay, here's my approach.

This is how I deal with directors who insist on abusive levels, when I can pull it off, which isn't always possible.

During the predubs I try to keep things at a reasonable level that is loud enough so I know that it will pretty much work if I crank it up during the final, but low enough to avoid problems.

I mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and when I am done address the loud sequences.

I try to mix the least loud elements first and build from the bottom up, scaling level of the loud elements to the lowest sweeteners and spending as little time as possible on the loudest elements and at the end adjust the overall level to where I think is appropriate. For instance, for an explosion, I will mix debris, detail elements etc. first and then at the end unmute the actual explos and quickly set them at a level that doesn't obscure the details but still has impact. I then do one or two passes where I work with submasters to set the overall levels appropriately for the final effect. I then mute those channels while I address other loud sounds such as gunshots etc. in the same way and never listen to the explos again until the final.

During the final we try to mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and get the entire reel where we want it before we address the loud stuff. If the director is one of those guys who insists on excessive levels (it's always the male directors) then the first time I play the loud sequence I push it to the loudest level I legally can while his ears are still virgin. I want to scare the guy and actually hurt him the first time, because if I hold back, he will make me play it over and over to get it louder and louder because he thinks I'm holding back and all the while his hearing is getting compressed each time through so that he can't even tell how loud it really is. If I slam it the first time, generally he'll freak out and tell me to turn it down much lower, so I only have to hear it really loud once (usually with my fingers discretely plugging my ears).

I used to try to hold the levels down in those situations and appeal to reasonableness, but I learned that the directors who insist on abusive levels couldn't care less about being reasonable. I have had them tell me that they actually want to hurt the audience. Fine. Turnaround is fair play and it helps to keep things under control. Every once in a while you get some maniac who reacts with, "Awesome, give me more!" and then you know you're in trouble, but generally inflicting pain early on when their ears are still fresh does the trick. I've been accused of being a maniac, but what they don't realize is that there is method to my madness.

Anyway, during the final, once the loud sequences have been quickly addressed, we mute those elements, the object being to spend as little time as possible on the loud stuff.

After some of those crazy loud days I'll stop at Trader Joe's on the way home and pick up a nice bottle of wine to split with my wife. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio, I just find a quiet corner and read a book or do a crossword puzzle.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #12
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
Okay, here's my approach.

This is how I deal with directors who insist on abusive levels, when I can pull it off, which isn't always possible.

During the predubs I try to keep things at a reasonable level that is loud enough so I know that it will pretty much work if I crank it up during the final, but low enough to avoid problems.

I mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and when I am done address the loud sequences.

I try to mix the least loud elements first and build from the bottom up, scaling level of the loud elements to the lowest sweeteners and spending as little time as possible on the loudest elements and at the end adjust the overall level to where I think is appropriate. For instance, for an explosion, I will mix debris, detail elements etc. first and then at the end unmute the actual explos and quickly set them at a level that doesn't obscure the details but still has impact. I then do one or two passes where I work with submasters to set the overall levels appropriately for the final effect. I then mute those channels while I address other loud sounds such as gunshots etc. in the same way and never listen to the explos again until the final.

During the final we try to mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and get the entire reel where we want it before we address the loud stuff. If the director is one of those guys who insists on excessive levels (it's always the male directors) then the first time I play the loud sequence I push it to the loudest level I legally can while his ears are still virgin. I want to scare the guy and actually hurt him the first time, because if I hold back, he will make me play it over and over to get it louder and louder because he thinks I'm holding back and all the while his hearing is getting compressed each time through so that he can't even tell how loud it really is. If I slam it the first time, generally he'll freak out and tell me to turn it down much lower, so I only have to hear it really loud once (usually with my fingers discretely plugging my ears).

I used to try to hold the levels down in those situations and appeal to reasonableness, but I learned that the directors who insist on abusive levels couldn't care less about being reasonable. I have had them tell me that they actually want to hurt the audience. Fine. Turnaround is fair play and it helps to keep things under control. Every once in a while you get some maniac who reacts with, "Awesome, give me more!" and then you know you're in trouble, but generally inflicting pain early on when their ears are still fresh does the trick. I've been accused of being a maniac, but what they don't realize is that there is method to my madness.

Anyway, during the final, once the loud sequences have been quickly addressed, we mute those elements, the object being to spend as little time as possible on the loud stuff.

After some of those crazy loud days I'll stop at Trader Joe's on the way home and pick up a nice bottle of wine to split with my wife. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio, I just find a quiet corner and read a book or do a crossword puzzle.
You are a wise man.

Philip Perkins
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Nut
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
Okay, here's my approach.

This is how I deal with directors who insist on abusive levels, when I can pull it off, which isn't always possible.

During the predubs I try to keep things at a reasonable level that is loud enough so I know that it will pretty much work if I crank it up during the final, but low enough to avoid problems.

I mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and when I am done address the loud sequences.

I try to mix the least loud elements first and build from the bottom up, scaling level of the loud elements to the lowest sweeteners and spending as little time as possible on the loudest elements and at the end adjust the overall level to where I think is appropriate. For instance, for an explosion, I will mix debris, detail elements etc. first and then at the end unmute the actual explos and quickly set them at a level that doesn't obscure the details but still has impact. I then do one or two passes where I work with submasters to set the overall levels appropriately for the final effect. I then mute those channels while I address other loud sounds such as gunshots etc. in the same way and never listen to the explos again until the final.

During the final we try to mix all the lower level sequences of each reel first and get the entire reel where we want it before we address the loud stuff. If the director is one of those guys who insists on excessive levels (it's always the male directors) then the first time I play the loud sequence I push it to the loudest level I legally can while his ears are still virgin. I want to scare the guy and actually hurt him the first time, because if I hold back, he will make me play it over and over to get it louder and louder because he thinks I'm holding back and all the while his hearing is getting compressed each time through so that he can't even tell how loud it really is. If I slam it the first time, generally he'll freak out and tell me to turn it down much lower, so I only have to hear it really loud once (usually with my fingers discretely plugging my ears).

I used to try to hold the levels down in those situations and appeal to reasonableness, but I learned that the directors who insist on abusive levels couldn't care less about being reasonable. I have had them tell me that they actually want to hurt the audience. Fine. Turnaround is fair play and it helps to keep things under control. Every once in a while you get some maniac who reacts with, "Awesome, give me more!" and then you know you're in trouble, but generally inflicting pain early on when their ears are still fresh does the trick. I've been accused of being a maniac, but what they don't realize is that there is method to my madness.

Anyway, during the final, once the loud sequences have been quickly addressed, we mute those elements, the object being to spend as little time as possible on the loud stuff.

After some of those crazy loud days I'll stop at Trader Joe's on the way home and pick up a nice bottle of wine to split with my wife. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio, I just find a quiet corner and read a book or do a crossword puzzle.
This is all absolutely brilliant.

"If I slam it the first time, generally he'll freak out and tell me to turn it down much lower, so I only have to hear it really loud once (usually with my fingers discretely plugging my ears)."

You have to be a psychologist to be a mixer. Again, brilliant.

I know only 1 high level hollywood mixer that uses ear plugs. And they're the high end westtone plugs.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Guru
 
charles maynes's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
This is a very sensible approach, which, unfortunately, I have never felt was appropriate on any of the films I have worked on. I actually envy you that you are in a position to take that stand, which I feel is the correct one. But we all know that the Fletcher-Munson curve changes everything as you change level. If you mix with earplugs, you are working in an inaccurate listening environment, so your choices are somewhat arbitrary, other than to merely execute instructions from others.

There are many very worthwhile films that require levels that can cause hearing damage over the course of a mix, for example "Saving Private Ryan". In order to immerse the audience in the horrors of the D-Day landing, the director obviously felt it was necessary to try to recreate the audio landscape of the event. I'm sure the landing sequence took at least a week or two to mix. It can't be done with that kind of finesse without listening at full level.

Now, let me say that I don't think the levels of that scene in "Saving Private Ryan" were excessive artistically, because I believe they were absolutely necessary to tell the story in a visceral way, but they were definitely loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage over the course of a couple of weeks of mixing.

When mixing action movies, the director will often demand levels that are exponentially louder than anything in "Saving Private Ryan". Let's take an example like "Fast and Furious". I went to the Academy bake off screening of "Fast and Furious" and it was approximately 20 minutes of the loudest soundtrack I have ever heard in my life. I was sitting in the back of the Academy theater and had my earplugs in (because I knew what was coming), and I still was in a state of shock after it was over. The levels were literally compressing my chest during collisions and other impacts and the sustained levels of the car engines and tire skids were surely at levels approaching FSD. That film took close to six weeks to mix and most of the time had to have been spent on the action sequences, so you can imagine what it was like for the mixers. No mixer is going to subject themselves to that kind of abuse unless they are told to. What do you think would have been the consequences if Dan Leahy had put in earplugs or left the room?
Gary Rydstrom has a fantastic sense of dynamics- It shows in all of his work.

All of the "fast and furious" films have been OSHA violaters. shrill- distorted over limited.

YMMV...
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #15
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danijel's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
I don't watch TV or listen to the radio, I just find a quiet corner and read a book or do a crossword puzzle.
since i started working on louder stuff two years ago, i have almost stopped listening to music at home, which really troubles me.

when you do union jobs, don't you have very strict rules on how much time can be spent on dub stage / day? as far as i can remember, a professor told me that mixing day is 6 hours, but it's hard to believe that....
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Addict
 
Lipflap's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Double Standard

Most producers wouldn’t have a second thought about hiring a director of photography who wears eyeglasses, recognizing that raw visual acuity isn’t really the most important consideration when developing the visual language of a film. But imagine the sound designer or mixer showing up at a pre-production meeting wearing a hearing aid or showing obvious signs of hearing damage. Would he/she be given the same benefit of the doubt?

I'm happy to be a dialogue editor, rarely having to subject myself to truly loud sounds.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 15 years
I'm glad this is being talked about. I went to see Sunshine at the Arclight in Hollywood and it was the loudest experience I've had in my life other than a fighter jet passing overhead at the air show. Very unpleasant and ruined the whole film for me.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #18
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by danijel ➡️
since i started working on louder stuff two years ago, i have almost stopped listening to music at home, which really troubles me.

when you do union jobs, don't you have very strict rules on how much time can be spent on dub stage / day? as far as i can remember, a professor told me that mixing day is 6 hours, but it's hard to believe that....
The minimum day is 9 hours but you stay until the client or employer releases you.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #19
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kk@jamsync.com's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
There are many very worthwhile films that require levels that can cause hearing damage over the course of a mix, for example "Saving Private Ryan". In order to immerse the audience in the horrors of the D-Day landing, the director obviously felt it was necessary to try to recreate the audio landscape of the event. I'm sure the landing sequence took at least a week or two to mix. It can't be done with that kind of finesse without listening at full level.
Ugh, if you only knew how many times I've had to listed to an intern play me his/her/its version of sfx from "Saving Private Ryan" for his or her or its class at MTSU; that, or "Terminator".

I've done a film with a dozen different guns for a huge gang fight in surround. It definitely brought home to me that I had to watch levels and take breaks. I've certainly mixed explosions (and nearly blown our small building apart with 18" dual subs), but I also do mastering and music-only DVDs, so I want to keep my hearing. Tim McGraw's "Something Like That" isn't "Private Ryan", but the SFX for it paid some of our bills the first month we were in business ten years ago. He had explosions in his live show, and for some of the other cuts we were doing explosions with young girls screaming. Actual ambient levels at the concerts were probably over 100 dB SPL. The camera audio was the only stuff that wasn't distorted for the screams.

It's no badge of honor to say you must go deaf doing a film, any more than the deaf rock engineers who say "my ears are STRONG" deserve credit for going deaf. No one told me I have to be in this business, and if I'm going to be in this business a long time, I have to protect my ears. That has been my credo since I was playing clubs in my teens. It's not a macho thing for me, it's simply staying in shape to work. In the end, it's my responsibility, not my clients', no matter how obnoxious they might be.

You're free to disagree, but please don't imply I have kept my hearing because I didn't work in Hollywood on some war film. Audio has guns and explosions in Nashville, believe it or not. It also has deaf engineers...in fact, there's a study of threshold shift by Wesley Bulla (a Nashville engineer) who studied shift and how it changes from Monday to Friday. It's frankly an alarming piece of work that confirmed my suspicions
(I wasn't part of the study) about what happens at some of the studios here.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
If I mix a long week and then take a day or two off, I'm pretty sure that I'll come back to what I left off on wanting to change, and probably lower the levels. As was said--your hearing seems to "compress" a good deal if you are exposed to loud sound for a long period of time, and you start pushing the EQ around to bring out detail in a way that will sound wrong or at least odd to me after I've had some rest. Bringing people in for a "virgin listen" to a mix, the way an audience member will hear it, is very valuable too.

Philip Perkins
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #21
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hociman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thumbs up plugs

Quote:
Originally Posted by BVoss ➡️
I know only 1 high level hollywood mixer that uses ear plugs. And they're the high end westtone plugs.
I just had my hearing tested again this month. No change since the last test. I also have a set of the westtone plugs with 25dB inserts. I don't go to concerts without them. I may not mix regularly, but I need to keep what I've got. We all do.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #22
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Henchman's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Another tip. If you like driving with your window down, you'll will develop hearin loss because of it.
I think the reason some directors want to mix so loud, is because they themselves have hearing loss.
Be it from wearing headphones all day on set, or listening to Ipods all the time.

I don't have an MP3 player at all.
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #23
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jahtao's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I seem to remember George Martin making a passing comment about this in All You Need Is Ears. Something like: Older producers' sensitivity to frequencies increases as the amount of frequencies they can hear decreases.

Kinda like a snake or a lion or something. Not sensitive to much of the visual spectrum but can still **** you up!!
Old 10th May 2008 | Show parent
  #24
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by [email protected] ➡️
Ugh, if you only knew how many times I've had to listed to an intern play me his/her/its version of sfx from "Saving Private Ryan" for his or her or its class at MTSU; that, or "Terminator".

I've done a film with a dozen different guns for a huge gang fight in surround. It definitely brought home to me that I had to watch levels and take breaks. I've certainly mixed explosions (and nearly blown our small building apart with 18" dual subs), but I also do mastering and music-only DVDs, so I want to keep my hearing. Tim McGraw's "Something Like That" isn't "Private Ryan", but the SFX for it paid some of our bills the first month we were in business ten years ago. He had explosions in his live show, and for some of the other cuts we were doing explosions with young girls screaming. Actual ambient levels at the concerts were probably over 100 dB SPL. The camera audio was the only stuff that wasn't distorted for the screams.

It's no badge of honor to say you must go deaf doing a film, any more than the deaf rock engineers who say "my ears are STRONG" deserve credit for going deaf. No one told me I have to be in this business, and if I'm going to be in this business a long time, I have to protect my ears. That has been my credo since I was playing clubs in my teens. It's not a macho thing for me, it's simply staying in shape to work. In the end, it's my responsibility, not my clients', no matter how obnoxious they might be.

You're free to disagree, but please don't imply I have kept my hearing because I didn't work in Hollywood on some war film. Audio has guns and explosions in Nashville, believe it or not. It also has deaf engineers...in fact, there's a study of threshold shift by Wesley Bulla (a Nashville engineer) who studied shift and how it changes from Monday to Friday. It's frankly an alarming piece of work that confirmed my suspicions
(I wasn't part of the study) about what happens at some of the studios here.
I'm not implying the things you think I am. I'm just saying that I see the realities of my situation different than you see yours.

I totally agree that there is no badge of honor in going deaf, which is why I started this thread.
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #25
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
I'm not defending the directors who keep on pushing the mix up and up, but generally speaking the reasoning for driving such high SPLs in the mix theatre is that the reproduction in most cinemas is so poor.

I've been in my fair share of projection booths and seen Dolby faders sitting as low as 3.5.

This is the biggest challenge most feature film mixers face...How will the soundtrack translate to the average cinema.

What if my dialogue driven drama mix is on after "The Fast and the Furious" and the projectionist laces up the film, leaves the fader where it is, hits play and moves on to the next screen.
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #26
Lives for gear
 
ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lake ➡️
I'm not defending the directors who keep on pushing the mix up and up, but generally speaking the reasoning for driving such high SPLs in the mix theatre is that the reproduction in most cinemas is so poor.

I've been in my fair share of projection booths and seen Dolby faders sitting as low as 3.5.

This is the biggest challenge most feature film mixers face...How will the soundtrack translate to the average cinema.

What if my dialogue driven drama mix is on after "The Fast and the Furious" and the projectionist laces up the film, leaves the fader where it is, hits play and moves on to the next screen.
Unfortunately you can crank up the mix as far as you want, but the projectionist can always turn it down more. Often we keep the logos and title sequences somewhat restrained in the hope that we won't encourage the projectionist to turn it down before people get caught up in the movie and the projectionist gets busy with other duties. Don't know if it works or not.

My primary goal is to make the movie sound a good as possible at the premier screening rooms around town, such as the Directors Guild and the Academy Theater. Screenings in those type of venues are likely where my next job will come from. Also, mixing for the lowest common denominator is a losing proposition. I think it's better to give patrons an incentive to seek out high quality theaters and thereby give theater owners an incentive to invest in good equipment. Generally speaking, I don't try to second guess the exhibitors' systems except for doing three things,

1) I try not to get so subtle that sounds will get lost in the popcorn noise

2) I try not to put excessive loud low frequency info in the surrounds since they are a weak link in many systems

3) I avoid putting sustained low frequency info in the subs because it will reproduce at a different level in different parts of the theater, often especially loudly in the back rows, and can obscure more important info such as dialogue, etc. I try to keep boom info short and sharp, and don't overuse it. It is my exclamation point and if one puts an exclamation point at the end of every sentence, it just becomes a period or a comma. Anyway, if the boom impulse is short, it won't hang around long enough to do too much damage if there are low frequency standing waves in the theater, which is pretty common.
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Great thread!

I edit and mix mostly TV series and a lot of animated series these days. One series had a lot of rock tunes in it - I had my 25dB musician's earplugs and convinced everyone I needed them on for part of the review so my ears would still be fresh to mix THEIR show later that day. These musician's earplugs actually sound great - like some others above, I never go to any concert or performance without these. The producers were musicians themselves and actually bought some plugs themselves for when they perform.

For what I do, I find if I mix too loud, the balances are not what they should be by the time a show airs - I have been able to sometimes get prodcers to buy this. Obviously, this does not seem to fly in the feature world.

After any exposure to loud sounds of any sort, siginificant rest periods are vitally important, so my audiologist always points out. After a long day, no radio on the drive home, always cut the grass or snowblow with protection. I never listen to an Ipod either.

Had a tour at the Gennum plant near hear - they make most chips for hearing aids and in-ear monitors. Interestingly, they noted that in North america, most hearing damage is caused by environmental factors as you might suspect. But, in Asia, it is usually caused by prescription drugs. For those of you who work long hours, watch the intake of too much aspirin and 222s which can apparently also cause tinnitus and hearing loss!

If I do location sound, as I do on occasion, I have been using the Bose Noise cancelling headsets - while they emphasize the bottom end a little, I could monitor at a decent level and hear any background problems with no problems. That is a far cry from those horrible Sony headsets most location guys use, and I used to use as well.

I have also done a lot of pro sports in mobile work - you would be amazed how many announcers, producers, directors have sigificant hearing damage. No one here ever discusses hearing damage.
I have reluctantly increased levels to announcers who cannot hear what they are doing due to their hearing loss and the ambient crowd noise around them. Everyone is always either wearing intercom headsets, listening to cue speakers on top of the mix plus an assortment of communications which all sound thin and distorted. During these shows, I always make an effort to lower the level for a while. In most things I mix, I find it helpful to mix at various levels to give myself a break and to see how it sounds.

Roberto Capretta
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #28
Lives for gear
 
ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Perceptual Audio Demonstrations

The web page above will explain all about the Fletcher-Munson curve.

If you think about the ramifications of how your ears reproduce frequencies at different SPLs, it is obvious that if you put a 10dB or 20dB attenuation ear plug in your ear, it doesn't matter that it is supposedly "flat", the sounds you hear will not exhibit the same frequency balance and sonic effect as they would at 85dB spl. In other words, the client is paying a lot of money for you to mix their movie using a totally inaccurate standard. Your decisions will be arbitrary and out of sync with reality.

What's the point of calibrating and tuning a room if the mixer is going to stick a piece of plastic in their ear that totally nullifies the calibration?
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #29
Lives for gear
 
kk@jamsync.com's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ggegan ➡️
Perceptual Audio Demonstrations

The web page above will explain all about the Fletcher-Munson curve.

If you think about the ramifications of how your ears reproduce frequencies at different SPLs, it is obvious that if you put a 10dB or 20dB attenuation ear plug in your ear, it doesn't matter that it is supposedly "flat", the sounds you hear will not exhibit the same frequency balance and sonic effect as they would at 85dB spl. In other words, the client is paying a lot of money for you to mix their movie using a totally inaccurate standard. Your decisions will be arbitrary and out of sync with reality.

What's the point of calibrating and tuning a room if the mixer is going to stick a piece of plastic in their ear that totally nullifies the calibration?
You're not saying that when you mix, the readings have to be at 85 dB SPL are you? Because calibrating with pink at 85 dB SPL implies *nothing* about how loud things have to be when you mix. Dialog is often way, way below 85 dB SPL. But yeah, I don't mix with earplugs in or with headphones either. I learned to mix in the music field before I went into post and we often would turn audio down until we could barely hear it to make sure that we could hear the essential mix at low levels. It's a good tool to use because you often hear things that are dominating a mix at that level that you have ignored at higher levels.

I do check at full-blown 85, but I don't feel the need to pull a mix into focus at that level. I do progressive roughs at lower levels. If not, there's severe threshold shift and goodbye high frequency perception. Today severe threshold shift, tomorrow silence and no birds sing. My mom is 84 and she can probably hear a gnat sneeze; I want to be able to hear like that when I'm her age. I don't think a client could pay me enough to take away my hearing.
Old 11th May 2008 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
kk@jamsync.com's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by robcap ➡️
For those of you who work long hours, watch the intake of too much aspirin and 222s which can apparently also cause tinnitus and hearing loss!



Roberto Capretta
What are "222s"?
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