It seems like previews/trailers are crazy loud. I was just at a movie and had to step outside into the foyer and wait for these to end so that I would not damage my hearing. The movie itself was a normal volume.

It seems to me that the sound volume in movie trailers is higher than the features themselves.

Are there any specific regulations or guidelines regarding movie trailer sound levels?

Is there any scientific evidence behind this observation and, if so, what is the reasoning behind having the sound that much louder?

  • 2
    I feel this question may not actually be on topic; I have asked in meta. – Gnemlock Jul 18 '17 at 6:27
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    @Paulie_D, I would not go that far. This does not seem much like a rant, to me, and I have always thought that previews were intentionally louder - they have been at any cinema I have been to. I am more concerned with the fact that this deals with the theatre, itself, and not so much the actual movie. – Gnemlock Jul 18 '17 at 6:31
  • There's definitely a rant involved, and that part may or may not be necessary as "setting up the question" material. However, there is also an actual question related to the movie industry, which I think is perfectly in line with other movie-industry type questions that are fielded on this site. – Steve-O Jul 18 '17 at 13:24
  • I have edited the question to, I think, remove the ranty nature and bring it somehwat closer to being on-topic. Please feel free to enhance or improve the edit if this does not meet with the OP's needs. – Paulie_D Jul 18 '17 at 14:09
  • while i think this is a fascinating topic, I personally feel that this'll end up being more opinion-based answers rather than research-backed answers, even though that's what is explicitly asked for. I also don't feel that this question is on-topic for this site as it's more about sound shaping, etc. rather than the movies themselves. – DForck42 Jul 21 '17 at 13:21

I have done some additional research on this question and found out that trailers are, indeed, significantly louder than movies. One measurement found 90dB sound levels, which is about what you get when you operate a lawn mower. Since soundtracks often have heavy bass and booming noises, it is actually worse than a lawn mower, which has higher-frequency noise.

The reason for this is that apparently the common folk wisdom in Hollywood is that by making the trailer louder, it increases the chance that the audience will pay attention and remember the movie. This apparently is purely folk belief and is not based on any kind of scientific evidence. One blog that offers a short guide to filmakers on creating trailers, specifically advises "Be Loud", not only by using compression on specific sounds, but by increasing total levels of the whole trailer. The increasing loudness of trailers has apparently begun to generate calls for regulating movie sound levels because it can damage the hearing of children. Various blogs have simply commented on the loudness, others have gone into more scientific depth. An audiologist in Canada wrote an essay on the subject and gives the following references:

  1. Warszawa A, Sataloff RT. Noise exposure in movie theaters: a preliminary study of sound levels during the showing of 25 films. Ear Nose Throat J September 2010.

  2. Hannan G. No(ah), No(ah) – It’s Too Loud! 2014. Hear Health Tech Matter. Available at: http://hearinghealthmatters.org/betterhearingconsumer/2014/noah-noah-loud/.

  3. Ross J. A loud irony enters the mix: the film volume issue. Creat Planet 2012. Available at: http://www.creativeplanetnetwork.com/news/news-articles/loud-irony-enters-mix-film-volume-issue/383020.

  4. Hernandez S, Walker D, Byknish D. Dangerously loud? Monitoring movie theater volume. KXAN In-depth investigative. February 2014. Available at: http://kxan.com/2014/02/14/testing-movie-theater-volume-too-loud/.

  5. Young W. Writing in Hughes, P. Are the movies too loud? HeartheWorldbetter.com, March 26, 2014.

  6. Meek J. Standard mixing levels for movie theater, DVD, broadcast TV, commercials, etc. – Gearslutz.com.pdf, Undated.

  7. Young W. Excessive noise at movie theatres. Testimony and supporting documentation relating to SB 287 AN ACT CONCERNING THE MAXIMUM DECIBEL LEVEL AT MOVIE THEATRES, March 4, 2014, Legislative Office Building, Hartford, CT. Allen L. SVP Dolby Laboratories, January 30, 2009.

  8. Curry, M. A loud irony enters the mix: the film volume issue. Creative Planet, 2/15/2012.

  • Excellent piece of research. I hope my edit to the question was acceptable. – Paulie_D Jul 19 '17 at 7:13

Because advertisers compress the audio of commercials:

There's a common complaint from the viewing public that commercials sound too loud when compared with programmes.Why is this? To gain impact, commercial advertisers tend to "compress" the sound levels which means they lift them all up to the higher end - and this is what creates the greater impact. However, when compared against programmes which have a wider dynamic range - a wider variation in sound levels - this can cause irritation, because the two types of sound treatment don't sit very well together.

  • This link seems to relate to TV but is on point I suppose. – Paulie_D Jul 18 '17 at 8:52

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