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« Continuing Ed: The Chaos of History | Main | Learning from Las Vegas »

October 31, 2002

Tacit Knowledge -- Sound Levels

Friedrich --

About ten years ago I spent time talking with some movie sound editors and technicians. The issue of the day was the new audio systems that were being installed in movie theaters.

One of the interesting bits of not-in-the-textbooks knowledge the sound guys (all guys, no women) passed along was that people have strong volume-level preferences, and that these preferences change predictably with age.

For most young people, loud noises are enjoyable, even exciting -- young males are even more prone than young females to be excited by loud noise. It's sometime around the age of 30 that people start losing the taste for loudness. By the time they're in their 40s and 50s, most will actively dislike loud noise, finding it annoying or even painful.

The sound guys were thrilled by their new toys, which offered possibilities for wonderful sonic detail and atmosphere. Yet what they were mostly being ordered to do was pump up the volume: to deliver shake-the-floor thunderclaps, rib-rattling explosions, thumpa-thumpa scores.

The sound guys weren't surprised by the result -- which was that movie attendance was skewing ever-more-pronouncedly towards the young. Older people simply don't want to be knocked around by sound in that way.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at October 31, 2002




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