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Background music and sound on BBC TV programmes

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  • Message 1. 

    Posted by Peta (U24) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    smiley - star Volume control - do you think background music is too loud?

    Please have a look at this page first - 'Sound matters' www.bbc.co.uk/academ... We want all viewers to have the best chance of hearing our programmes. On this site is the BBC's best practice guide. Please have a read.

    smiley - star Did you know that you can customise the sound on your TV by changing the settings?

    Even if the sound of a TV set is tuned by a professional, it may not necessarily have been adjusted to suit your personal preferences. Many modern TVs have controls which allow you set 'music to take priority over speech', or 'speech to take priority over music'. If you are having difficulty hearing the spoken word, check your TV settings, you may find that yours is set to 'prioritise music' which is why you are having difficulty hearing the spoken word. Manuals for many TVs can be found online on this site - just select your TV from the dropdown lists at the bottom of the page www.digitaluk.co.uk/... or of course refer to your ownTV manual.

    smiley - star Tick 'Use ambient noise reduction' or 'no ambiant noise' to help cut down on background noise. This works on computers and TVs so if you haven't ticked it do so now - it really helps.

    smiley - star Sound balancing - Does the sound level change between programmes or between channels? M any newer TVs have a feature in the audio menu section called a "sound balancer" or something similar depending on your TV.

    If you switch that on, your TV volume will never get louder (nor softer) than the volume level you have it set at with your remote.

    So if you have your TV volume set to level 20 and something comes on the TV that is either louder or softer than level 20, your TV auto adjusts itself internally.

    Sometimes the sound levels can be different between different channels, or on promos or adverts. The sound balancer option compensates for this.

    smiley - star Why do we have background music anyway?

    Background music is added to programmes because production teams believe it adds atmosphere and mood to their work. TV is a creative medium and it uses lots of different tools to create the finished product.

    Natural background sounds are difficult to pick up when the filming is done from a distance, so if you simply remove the music that the producers have added, you're left with images on screen accompanied by a complete and utter silence that 'feels' totally unnatural.

    smiley - star Why don't the BBC provide programmes in two formats - one with background sound and one without?

    The reason broadcasters (and don't forget it's not just the BBC) don't provide alternative soundtracks for every programme is due to expense and limited resources. It would mean every programme would have to be recorded and edited in two completely different versions. It's not as simple as just broadcasting the original version before the music was added, they would have to be mixed from scratch.

    It also means broadcasters would have to transmit two versions of the same programme simultaneously, which would use up the available bandwidth currently being used for other red button options.

    smiley - star Why can I hear a narrative of exactly what's happening on screen? It never used to be like this and it's very intrusive!

    It sounds that you may have accidentally turned on 'Audio Description' Audio Description allows you to hear a verbal description of what is happening on screen in between the dialogue. The service was developed particularly for viewers with sight problems. More info here: faq.external.bbc.co..... You can turn off audio description using your own TV setting controls.



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    smiley - star Give Feedback

    If you have tried all of the above and still have problems relating to background music or background sound levels, please let us know by registering an official complaint. Please remember to tell us the name of the programme and if possible at what point or points in the programme you had difficulty.

    www.bbc.co.uk/compla...

    The sound levels of programmes have been changed when a number of complaints have been received, so don't just grumble here - register your views via the complaints site too!


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  • Message 2

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Peta (U24) on Thursday, 10th January 2013


    This topic has been discussed in depth on this previous discussion.

    www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mb...

    So please feel free to read through the above discussion too, to see what people have said in the past.

    The older discussion has now been closed, so please add new comments here.

    Report message2

  • Message 3

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by technologist (U1259929) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Can I just add two more comments

    the BBC guidelines - which every program maker has to comply www.bbc.co.uk/guidel...
    if they do not ..... Complain!!!- the BBC will give you an answer from the Programme maker....

    and just a note that soon the Loudness levels between channels and programmes etc will be resolved as the UK voluntarily accepts a thing called EBU R128 see tech.ebu.ch/loudness... ....
    this changes the meter that is used to something which better represents how we hear....

    But please comment here .... it has been all good comments in the old thread...

    Report message3

  • Message 4

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by seaglennon (U9259670) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Natural background sounds are difficult to pick up when the filming is done from a distance, so if you simply remove the music that the producers have added, you're left with images on screen accompanied by a complete and utter silence that 'feels' totally unnatural.  

    Hi Peta
    I wish to point out that I do not agree with the bit about totally unnatural. Some years ago I did the coast to coast walk and not once did I hear any music. What you are talking about is a norm where programme makers feel they have to add music. TV is a visual medium and pictures will stand on their own. So perhaps you need to include another star and ask about the appropriateness of bgm.

    Report message4

  • Message 5

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Peta (U24) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Hi seaglennon

    That's not what that bit means.

    It doesn't mean that people on the coast to coast walk hear music wafting over the hills!

    When you walk you hear other noises; your footsteps, the wind whistling past your ears, the sound of the trees rustling, perhaps the sound of a passing police car or people shouting in the distance or children playing.

    These 'natural noises' are very difficult to pick up on a microphone, so a recording made without adding any sound at all, is likely to come out with no sound at all - just blank. If you do pick up sounds, it's more likely to be the police car or the people shouting - so the natural sounds of the time might not fit the scene either.

    Adding the sound of whistling wind or adding birds cheeping later on in post-production editing, can sound rather fake.

    So, to add 'atmosphere' - programme makers often add atmosphere music, to fit the scene. Some people, but not all, find that it enhances the viewing experience.

    Report message5

  • Message 6

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by seaglennon (U9259670) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Can I refer the Honourable Lady to Rivers with GRJ about 24:30 to 25 mins. Is that fake? Are the sounds of birdsong and the river fake? I cannot tell but it is a good example of how silence ie no bgm at some points works effectively and GRJ can be clearly heard. If all programmes were like that the complaints would be very few.

    www.bbc.co.uk/iplaye...

    Report message6

  • Message 7

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Vox_Populi (U3226170) on Thursday, 10th January 2013


    So, to add 'atmosphere' - programme makers often add atmosphere music, to fit the scene. 

    Absolute stuff and nonsense!, a well made programme does not need any music to add atmosphere to a scene, it's only badly made programmes that need artificially induced atmosphere and most people probably don't watch them anyway.
    Much like "canned laughter", if a programme is funny people will laugh at it, if it's not, canned laughter will not make people think it's funny.
    Stop taking people for mugs!!!!!



    Report message7

  • Message 8

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by foxglove (U2178400) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Did you know that you can customise the sound on your TV by changing the settings?
     

    Peta,we've been through all this before. I've tried changing my settings through every imaginable permutation,with no improvement whatsoever.

    Report message8

  • Message 9

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Vox_Populi (U3226170) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Did you know that you can customise the sound on your TV by changing the settings?
     

    Peta,we've been through all this before. I've tried changing my settings through every imaginable permutation,with no improvement whatsoever.  
    So have I.

    Report message9

  • Message 10

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Peta (U24) on Thursday, 10th January 2013

    Did you know that you can customise the sound on your TV by changing the settings?
     

    Peta,we've been through all this before. I've tried changing my settings through every imaginable permutation,with no improvement whatsoever.  

    If you've checked your settings all well and good. New people coming onto the board might not have been aware of this, so certain bits of information are probably more relevant to them, that to you.

    Report message10

  • Message 11

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Peta (U24) on Thursday, 10th January 2013


    So, to add 'atmosphere' - programme makers often add atmosphere music, to fit the scene. 

    Absolute stuff and nonsense!, a well made programme does not need any music to add atmosphere to a scene, it's only badly made programmes that need artificially induced atmosphere and most people probably don't watch them anyway.
    Much like "canned laughter", if a programme is funny people will laugh at it, if it's not, canned laughter will not make people think it's funny.
    Stop taking people for mugs!!!!!



     

    Other people do not agree with you - that's your opinion, which of course is completely valid, for you.

    Some people *do* like atmospheric background music and enjoy programmes that have it.

    Anyway, it's good evening and goodbye for me for the day now.

    Report message11

  • Message 12

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by olewilliam (U14355381) on Friday, 11th January 2013

    Well Peta should you want an example of BGM FGN have a look at last nights Chippendale program. I got carried away with the number of different musical pieces inserted to prevent the plebs from falling asleep. Do tell was it 73.5 or did I fail the competition?

    Report message12

  • Message 13

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by captainMouse (U14652804) on Friday, 11th January 2013

    The adverts are much louder than the program's always hit the mute at the end of a program or change channel

    Report message13

  • Message 14

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by TotallyRadical (U829285) on Friday, 11th January 2013

    Peta,

    The general consensus with the previous post seemed to have been that background music (or noise, if you like – BGM or BGN) is often intrusive, inappropriate or a combination of both for a wide variety of the audience, over a wide range of programmes.

    It can add atmosphere and mood to a programme, if used effectively – the pleasant BGM on “Great Railway Journeys” spring to mind – but is all too often used to excess – the cacophony on “Dr Who” is a good example. It can ruin an otherwise excellent programme – David Attenbrough’s “Birds of Paradise” is a good, if dated, example (I gave up with nature progs soon after that, when my nerves jangled to wild plinky-plonking over an underwater scene). There was a recent showing (clip or programme, I cannot recall) where the dialogue was completely drowned out by the not-so-BGM – not a word could be heard!

    I shall now get my popcorn and a deck chair, and sit and watch the usual culprit tell us we are so wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

    Report message14

  • Message 15

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by EggOnAStilt (U7111730) on Friday, 11th January 2013

    The first night of Stargazing Live I thought threw up a nice example.

    K9 was introduced in a whimsical spot asking a question, master.

    Prof Cox, immediately echoed my thoughts on saying he couldn't understand what the question was as the background music/noise was too loud.

    smiley - friedegg

    Report message15

  • Message 16

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by TotallyRadical (U829285) on Saturday, 12th January 2013

    The first night of Stargazing Live I thought threw up a nice example.

    K9 was introduced in a whimsical spot asking a question, master.

    Prof Cox, immediately echoed my thoughts on saying he couldn't understand what the question was as the background music/noise was too loud.

    smiley - friedegg 
    How ironic, considering how petulant he was with viewers when they complained about the BGN being too loud in his programme about the universe.


    Report message16

  • Message 17

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Lee (U1149673) on Saturday, 12th January 2013

    K9 was introduced in a whimsical spot asking a question, master.

    Prof Cox, immediately echoed my thoughts on saying he couldn't understand what the question was as the background music/noise was too loud.  

    Did Prof Cox say he couldn't understand the question or that he couldn't hear the question? There's a big difference.

  • Message 18

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by foxglove (U2178400) on Saturday, 12th January 2013

    If you've checked your settings all well and good. New people coming onto the board might not have been aware of this, so certain bits of information are probably more relevant to them, that to you.  
    Peta,they can check their settings till they're blue in the face, but it won't make a
    scrap of difference,I can assure you.So there's not much point in getting their hopes up for nothing.

    Report message18

  • Message 19

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Dennis (U15571556) on Saturday, 12th January 2013

    Natural background sounds are difficult to pick up when the filming is done from a distance, so if you simply remove the music that the producers have added, you're left with images on screen accompanied by a complete and utter silence that 'feels' totally unnatural.  

    Hi Peta
    I wish to point out that I do not agree with the bit about totally unnatural. Some years ago I did the coast to coast walk and not once did I hear any music. What you are talking about is a norm where programme makers feel they have to add music. TV is a visual medium and pictures will stand on their own. So perhaps you need to include another star and ask about the appropriateness of bgm. 
    Hitchcock removed the music from many of his films to add suspense to some scenes, with great effect

    Report message19

  • Message 20

    , in reply to this message.

    Posted by Dover Soul (U14934992) on Saturday, 12th January 2013

    Lee, what Brian Cox actually said was that he couldn't hear the question because "that was the music from rugby special wasn't it", he was then told that K9 had his own programme and that was the theme music. But either way I think Brian was saying he couldn't hear the question because of the music.

    Report message20

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