Amazon Is Using AI To Mess With The Volume Of Its Movies And TV Series

Amazon's AI-assisted Dialogue Boost will make it easier to understand movies and shows.

By Jonathan Klotz | Updated

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Turning on subtitles for everything was a sign of getting older, but now it’s a common practice for millions of viewers trying to get through Rings of Power. reported that Amazon is trying to solve this problem by using AI to provide better volume control. Referring to the new program as Dialogue Boost, users can opt-in and experience the new feature with certain original programs, including Jack Ryan and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Rafael Soltanovich, Vice-President of Technology at Amazon Prime Video, explains that AI technology works by analyzing the original audio and identifying points where dialogue may be difficult to hear over background music. Audio levels are then artificially boosted to compensate, resulting in a targeted listening experience allegedly superior to boosting the central channel. Of course, in all of the examples, only background music and effects are mentioned; there’s no discussion on adjusting dialogue for movies made in the indie film “mumblecore” style.

Amazon is pitching the new AI technology as a way to make more films and shows accessible to viewers. Closed-captioning and audio-described content are, as Soltanovich was certain to point out, increasing every month, with the hope that Dialogue Boost will continue to provide acceptable alternatives to viewers that want it. The question is, can Dialogue Boost make dialogue understandable when it’s an artistic choice by directors, for example, the famous first preview of The Dark Night Rises in which Tom Hardy, as Bane, couldn’t be understood by anyone.

Tom Hardy Bane The Dark Knight Rises
Tom Hardy as Bane

Christopher Nolan is an easy target for the trend of unintelligible dialogue, not only with Bane but also with issues audiences had with Interstellar, Inception, and Tenet. It’s not out yet, but it’s more than likely Oppenheimer will also have dialogue that’s hard to understand. The real test of Amazon’s AI Dialogue Boost technology will come with the big-budget blockbusters and their booming scores combined with rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin-esque exchanges.

Sound designers have more tools at their disposal now, and there’s a push for “realism” in sound; since not everything can be heard in perfect clarity in real life, why would it be that way in a movie? Amazon’s AI technology won’t be perfect, not now and not for a few years, if ever, but it’s at least presenting a possible solution. The first big test for the new capability will come with Citadel, an original series for the streaming service that’s also one of the most expensive shows ever made.

Citadel stars Game of Thrones and MCU star Richard Madden alongside Priyanka Chopra as super-spies that had their memories wiped and are now trying to combat the Manticore syndicate. Amazon’s AI Dialogue Boost will likely have its work cut out for itself trying to keep sounds level during the blockbuster production.

Users that want to enable the setting can go to Amazon Prime Videos’ “Audio and Subtitles” menu, then allow the AI program access by selecting Dialogue Boost. There are two levels, medium and high, though it’s unclear what difference each setting will make since the program works on a case-by-case basis. If the new program can make it easier to enjoy a theater at home, it’ll be one of the first positive uses of artificial intelligence publicly available.