Sound designer Kunal Rajan on the debate around the sound of ‘Ponniyin Selvan: Part 1’

Posted on October 3, 2022


Dear Exhibitors, Film Technicians and Cinema lovers,

I want to write a note to give everyone my opinion on the Ponniyin Selvan Sound Mix debate.

Let me start by congratulating the PS1 team on an enormous success. I also want to congratulate the sound team on an excellent job. Such detailed, sophisticated and classy sound work!

One of the issues I have always had as a Sound Designer is the audience rarely gets to experience a movie as intended by the filmmaker… be it the Picture quality or Sound quality. Of course there are a few theaters where the Projectors and Speakers are perfectly Calibrated and everything plays back exactly the way it was intended. But this is not the case in 90% of the theaters.

A lot of “Mass Commercial” films have been mixing extremely loud with no dynamics in the mix. Theaters turn the volume down so their speakers don’t get damaged. And Sound Mixers in turn start mixing even louder to compensate for Theaters turning down the speakers. This is a never ending loop. Someone needs to make a change and I feel PS1 team actually made a statement with the sound mix!

Even though i didn’t work on PS1, I feel a certain sense of responsibility to speak up when i see people complaining about something without completely understanding the situation. I request the entire Film fraternity and Exhibitors to come together to make sure all theaters are calibrated frequently and playing back movies at the right volume. It’s not hard to mix a film extremely loud with no dynamic range and match the overall loudness levels of other movies.

That’s the easy way out of this situation. That doesn’t make it right! There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Sound Mix of PS1. It’s just a little subtle compared to other loud film mixes. And when theaters have their volume turned down in fear of damaging speakers, this has caused some people to complain about the sound levels.

At a time when We, as an industry are struggling to get audiences back into the theaters after the pandemic and with home entertainment technology getting better by the day, I strongly feel we need to take extra care to give the audience an experience they can’t get at home.

This is a change that needs the support of the entire community as a whole. It’s not just about this one movie. This is a change that is important for the entire Indian movie industry. I look forward to working together with the entire film and exhibitor community to try and figure out a solution so the audiences get to enjoy a movie exactly how the creators intended!

Kunal Rajan

Posted in: Cinema, Cinema: Tamil