I can’t hear you, the music’s too loud

A Season Pass reader apparently thinks we’re experts and asked us the following question (grammar fixed for your reading pleasure):

I am hoping you can tell me, or direct me to someone, that can explain to me why new shows like, “The Bionic Woman,” “Damages,” “Journeyman,” etc. have such loud background music or noise to the point that you can not hear the actors dialogue. It has gotten so bad that maybe I should complain to their sponsors.

In response, most of us said we hadn’t really been bothered by this as much as we are by, say, the intrusive laugh tracks.

Brian thought maybe it had to do with the target demo of said shows: “As for the noise issue, my dad has long complained of just that.  You don’t see that occur as much with shows like “ER” and “CSI,” I think, because their auds don’t skew younger. But “CSI Miami,” “Bionic Woman,” “Gossip Girl,” etc. all incorporate heavy music cues as part of the storytelling and mood.” Presumably to draw in younger viewers?

Phil adds that “sound editors and music editors always butt heads over which should be louder and the winner is usually the one who gets to touch the print last before it is locked. Everything is done louder on new shows to make them seem more exciting. Also, HD shows are quieter so when a switch made from HD to regular the volume of everything rises.”

While Jon offers up this pithy solution: “(Why doesn’t) a person who’s above both the sound editors and music editors find a happy medium. I would call him … a ‘showrunner.’”

But Brian responds: “I don’t think showrunners are typically in the room during final mixes unless it’s a pilot or major episode. Those chores are typically handed off to other producers and the sound team. There’s supposed to be one sound mixer in charge on the final mix, but the others are sometimes in the room, and that final decision can be shaped by that person’s particular background.Over time, most shows find a good working balance and settle into a rhythm. But early on, everyone’s so wound up over representing their craft and freaking out that a show’s going to last that the competition can be heated unless they’ve got prior working relationships.”

Anyone out there think they have a better answer for our reader? We’re here to help.

— KL

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