Dialog is one of the most annoying parts of modern shows and movies. You just can’t understand what actors are saying without subtitles! While there are several (relatively expensive) ways to get around this problem, Amazon Prime Video has a fairly simple solution—make voices louder!
Starting today, all versions of the Amazon Prime Video app (mobile, smart TV, etc) offer a Dialog Boost setting. All you need to do is open the “Audio and Subtitles” menu while watching a show or movie. Then, set Dialog Boost to “medium” or “high.”
The technology here is pretty straightforward. Amazon is analyzing the audio in shows and movies to identify sections where dialog is masked by “background music and effects.” From there, speech is boosted and enhanced by an AI to make the dialog clearer.
Unfortunately, Amazon has to scan and process all of its videos to implement this effect. And as a result, the selection of Prime Video content that currently supports Dialog Boost is quite small. Amazon points to Jack Ryan, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Harlem, The Big Sick, Beautiful Boy, and Being the Ricardos as the first titles with Dialog Boost support.
Dialog boost and loudness normalization are usually a simple software trick that doesn’t require scanning (or an AI, for that matter). It seems that the main benefit of this AI is that it can treat dialog that’s been obscured by other sounds. In any case, Amazon will expand Dialog Boost’s availability over the coming months.
I should take a second to explain why TV dialog is so hard to hear. Basically, modern TVs are too slim to accommodate good speakers, and most new movies and shows are created specifically for theatrical surround sound. Adding a soundbar or a set of speakers to your TV is usually the best way to solve this problem. (It’s also worth noting that soundbars and A/V receivers offer dialog boost and dynamic volume settings, which you can apply to any streaming service, video game, DVD, and so on.)