How To Fix Movies That Are Really Quiet, Then REALLY LOUD

Have you ever watched a movie where the dialogue was almost inaudible, but then all of a sudden an action scene comes in and shakes your house with noise? Here's how to fix that problem in VLC.

While these volume changes exist to make the movie more immersive, they can be really annoying if you have sleeping kids or neighbours that like to file noise complaints against you all the time. The fix is something called dynamic range compression, and it's available in VLC. You may have to play around with the settings a bit, but in general, here are some good settings to tweak (courtesy of some fellows over at Reddit):

  1. Head to Tools > Effects and Filters and click on the Compressor tab.
  2. Without changing your TV's volume from its usual spot, find a quiet scene in the movie and raise the Makeup Gain slider until the volume is at a comfortable level. This will boost the volume of the entire movie so you don't have to change your TV or computer's volume from its usual setting.
  3. Raise the Ratio slider all the way up. This will ensure that any sound over a certain volume threshold will be turned down to a level you set.
  4. Without changing the volume, find a loud scene in the movie and start playing it. Lower the Threshold slider until the sound is at a non-earthquake-inducing level.
  5. Lastly, move "Attack" up to about 50ms, and "Release" up to about 300ms. This makes everything a bit more fluid, so your movie will change volumes when necessary but it will happen a bit more gradually.

Now try watching your movie. You should notice that, without changing your volume from its usual spot, the dialogue is much easier to hear, but the action scenes stay at an appropriate level. You may have to go back and fiddle with the settings to get everything just right, but it's an invaluable feature for those of us that want to keep the noise level down. Check out the video above for a demonstration using The Matrix, one of the worst offenders of this phenomenon, or hit the link to read more.

[LPT] Watching a movie and the dialogue is too quiet and the action too loud? [Reddit]


Comments

    If only I could do this with my blu-ray player and so fourth.

      Same here...all good for my Man Cave but the lounge room is still victim to this and I swear I will run the remote batteries flat just from using the volume buttons

        I wonder whether someone could develop a proprietary compression module that slips between the audio input and output of a TV (eg. RCA cables run from DVD player, through module, to TV)... Wouldn't need too complex a circuit to do the job...

          You could do this.. just need a compressor with RCA outs. Put it in exactly where you said, DVD - RCA - Compressor - RCA - TV (Or Audio Amplifier - Speakers). Tweak your settings until you are getting a nice even sound and there you go. :D I havent done it, but should work in theory?

        Interesting tip - I'll have to try it out soon.
        Mind you, I wouldn't mind a software tool that would quickly process the video file before I play it (or read ahead as I play the video), find the soft and loud parts, and then pre-empt the volume control depending on a pre-calibrated profile of my listening preferences.
        We can call it "Audilocks" - or you can, because I'm buggered if I know how to program & patent something like that.

      Get a decent amplified with "night mode". Infact most middle level amps and above have this sort of feature.

      Also if you are running a 5.1 setup and speach is a problem just crank up the middle channel. A decent amp should let you adjust individual volumes.

      I find this problem isn't just related to poor quality rips or stuff downloaded from the net. I think its poor production when creating the 5.1 mixdowns on Blu-ray or DVD. They just dont take into account that some frequency don't sit well with voice so perhaps they shouldn't have loud rain and driving noises while characters are trying to communicate. Perhaps the sound guys figure the scripts crap anyway so noone wants to hear what the characters are saying.

      The best option is instead of running a blu ray or dvd player, one could simply make a computer fit for playing blu ray and use that instead. Most video cards now-a-days have hdmi ports. Using this as an alternative, you can have your entire library of TV shows and movies readily available, and you can use VLC player to adjust all your video and sound problems, from quiet talk/earthquake action, to video and sound delays.

      Uh.......

      Why isn't your Bluray player in you PC, which is connected to your 4k TV??

      Nobody uses set top boxes anymore unless you're a grandmom lol.

    I am so grateful for this article!
    Cheers :)

    Lifehacker seems to be heavily relying on the Reddit LifeProTips subreddit of late.

    if only they do that for all commercial.. they are always freaking loud while the tv is just right.

    I hope they add this to XBMC... maybe there is an add on for that ;)

      +1 to xbmc. Considering how much LH push it you would think they would look into it.....

      Its already in XBMC 11 (eden) Look the volume amplification.

    This issue annoyed me for a long time, until I worked out what was causing it.
    Have a look at what the audio track is (ie 5.1, or 2.1, or whatever) and what codec is being used to decode it. Ideally they should match. I find 5.1 tracks sound weak (especially for dialogue) on a 2.1 system - maybe because the audio engineers use the centre channel for most speech when mixing the movie, but that gets watered down a lot when forced through a 2.1 system. Different codecs handle this differently - sometimes simply switching from WMP to VLC or MMC can make all the difference.

    I've never seemed to have these issues using ffdshow and headphones. Maybe that's just that my headphones do great at low volumes or people need to just get some real codecs as you say.

    What Lifehacker really need to do is write some decent articles on installing and configuring proper codecs so you don't need to play around in your options in VLC to get just SOME movies sound how you like.

    I wish VLC could fix movies that suck and turn them into awesome

    Alternatively just right click on volume control in your task bar -> playback devices -> select your speakers/headphones -> properties button -> enhancements tab -> check loudness equalization -> hit OK and enjoy your movie/game, regardless of what software you use.

    Now what I need is a tip to *boost* volume on older iTunes movies. Some of them just don't enter audible levels. I had to plug into my guitar amp on full whack, just to hear the sound on The Rock.

    Anyway to save those settings in, so you don't have to keep doing it every time you close VLC?

    thankyou for allowing me to watch the girl in the dragon tattoo without being raped in the ears!!!

    @DrunkGuy - you can mute the sound if you only want to watch the girl in the dragon tattoo ;)

    ​Hello, I was having this issue when I was watching Netflix or You Tube etc.. on my Surface Pro Someone had told me about this PC APP called SoundShielder. It keeps the levels at a set volume that you choose. So there are no surprise loud volumes. Its also great if my kids are watching something and I want to set the volume to one level. I did the trial first and then bought. I think it was 4.95 very well worth it.. http://soundshielder.com/

    so is there a way to do this on a TV with audio settings? I am so tired of trying to watch great shows like Hawaii Five-O and Blue Bloods and not being able to understand the spoken word when they are playing the dramatic music so darn loud! Thank you in advance for your assistance!

    Why do we have to learn, decipher and use more technology to correct technology? Can't they just make movies that don't have this problem? Some of us don't buy TV's, related equipment and rent or watch movies thinking it's normal to discuss Apps, modes, compressors, WMP, VLC, MMC.... and play with that crap just to hear a movie the way it should sound in the fist place. There shouldn't be 6 steps to fix it. Sorry.... I'm right. You my not mind getting technical and learning all this stuff, and there may even be a small feeling of achievement and intelligence for figuring out and using technical functions.
    It's unnecessary. Feel smart another way please. You're encouraging the selfish inconsiderate engineers that made the unbalanced equipment and/or movie to not work together, and continue to fiddle with their individual "accomplishments". Somebody has to start thinking about the hassle we, the customer (remember?) is going through. Come together and complain about these systems, so that maybe the people making them come together and makes things not so unbalanced. Their individual differences for the sake of competition can be done in other ways; picture and sound quality, not quantity. Don't believe me? They USED to be able to do it. It's not our fault that now it's a problem.

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