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Acoustic License

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Good thing Batman had his Bat-Noise-Filters in place or he would have missed that whole Info Dump.

In real life, even in the best of circumstances we often have to repeat ourselves to be understood by the people we're talking to.

In fiction, when conversations are taking place, they will sometimes benefit from a strange, localized phenomenon of crystal clear acoustics. It doesn't matter if they consist of several paragraphs of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, the words will be heard without any trouble by both target and audience, even in the midst of a crowded nightclub dance floor being buzzed by a Boeing 747. A particularly handy feature for The Quiet One, but also for action heroes making sure the villain hears their cool Pre-Mortem One-Liner despite them both dangling from a speeding helicopter.

A variation of this would be The Hero making a speech or any crucial information that somehow manages to reach his allies without any aids regardless of the distance.

Sometimes you might have to go so far as to TALK! LOUDLY!, but don't worry — unless it's a Plot Point that you shouldn't hear each other, then damn the acoustics, full speed ahead!

This is an Acceptable Break from Reality, as a scene consisting of a character repeatedly screaming "WHAAAT?" at another character trying to tell them something in high winds would only constitute Padding.

Related to Easily-Overheard Conversation, Seven Minute Lull, Stage Whisper and (distantly) Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic, as well as Talking Is a Free Action for a different sort of an unusually nonproblematic conversation. For the effect that loud sound doesn't have on the ears in Hollywood, see Steel Ear Drums.

Contrast Fake Static, Plot-Based Voice Cancellation and Sound-Effect Bleep for when the writers are inserting rather than ignoring audio obstacles.

Part of the Artistic License tropes.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan: Characters will often have long, complicated conversations while galloping on their horses. In real life, riding a galloping horse takes a bit of concentration, and you’d need to seriously be shouting at people riding next to you to be heard.
  • Bubblegum Crisis: The Tokyo: 2040 series has a great example in the episode "Minute by Minute". Priss and Leon have a quiet conversation together... while speeding down a highway on motorcycles. No evidence of radios here, and in fact it's even crazier because Leon is wearing an open face helmet while Priss's helmet is totally enclosed, which would muffle her voice even if they were at a dead stop.
  • In K-On!, the girls attend an open air rock concert and have no trouble talking to each other at a fairly normal volume.
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, people have no problem talking to another in-flight from gunship to gunship without their voices being drowned out by wind and the noise from the engines.
  • Zigzagged in Porco Rosso. Sometimes, people communicate plane-to-plane via morse code, as they did in real life. Other times, they simply shout, which in real life would have been impossible.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • In Death of the Family, the Joker has crudely reattached his face and can still talk, but he shouldn't be able to control his lip movements and speak without mispronouncing certain words.
    • Night of the Owls: All throughout a fight involving screaming jet engines, explosions, and men getting punched through brick walls, the head villain keeps up a steady stream of convoluted conversation regarding his backstory.
  • Blood and Thunder: In this Warhammer 40,000 comic book, the newly-proclaimed Ork Warboss Skyva gives a speech from the top of a Gargant (a war machine standing over a hundred meters tall) to the thousands of orks at its base. Justified in two ways: not only are Orks really really good at shouting, they can make physics bend to their will slightly based on what they think should be happening.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen actually shows the confrontation between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, something the original story by Arthur Conan Doyle that it's taken from, "The Final Problem", never bothered with (Watson just finds a letter and signs of a struggle and assumes what happened). Doyle thus sidestepped any problems of two men engaging in dialogue right next to a plunging, roaring waterfall, while Moore forges right through with sesquipedalian flair.
  • Superman:
    • Inverted in story arc Death & the Family when Supergirl is struck by Silver Banshee's sonic scream. So readers understand Supergirl has become temporarily deaf, everybody's speech bubbles become blank.
    • Adventures of Supergirl: Inverted. Supergirl flies villain Facet to the edge of the atmosphere. Kara notes she cannot hear anything what Facet is saying due to the lack of air, but a blank bubble speech says readers that Facet is indeed speaking.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Di and Steve regularly talk to people while dangling from airplanes and no one ever so much as asks them to repeat themselves.

    Fan Works 
  • Averted in the Freefall Romance scene from Chapter 39 of Kyon: Big Damn Hero. As it happens to skydivers and parachutists, it's normally impossible to speak to another person in such conditions. Yuki bypassed this by touching his skinsuit and transmitting her voice through bone conduction.
  • My Immortal: Enoby and Vampire manage to have a perfectly nice chat at a rock concert, in the mosh pit. Then they hear Draco crying, again, over the sounds of the mosh pit, and go to ask him what's wrong.
  • Averted in Stone in Love when the Scoobies are flying. Whoever's flying in front can be heard fairly easily but those behind them have to shout to be heard. Until they get headsets to use, their in-flight conversations consist of the person in front saying their piece then falling back so the next speaker will be up front.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Bee Movie, there are numerous cases when you have to wonder how is it possible that everyone can hear a tiny bee crystal clear, no matter the distance. It gets especially stupid during Barry's speeches in the court during a trial, where he doesn't use a microphone or anything like that, and yet everyone can perfectly hear him.
  • Subverted for laughs in BoBoiBoy: The Movie where Cici Ko (from a flying spaceship) reveals to the heroes (on the ground) that he was The Mole of the Tengkotak gang who was sabotaging the villains all the while to help the heroes, but no one can hear him. They do wave back when he waves at them though.
    Fang: Shouldn't we tell him we can't hear him?
    Papa Zola: No need! It's funnier this way!
  • Hilariously subverted in Kung Fu Panda 2. Lord Shen sails his ships to the open sea in order to conquer all of China. Then he sees Po atop a roof far away. Po stands heroically and then starts giving an inspiring speech... except no one can hear him. After a few confused "What?"'s, Shen gives up trying to understand Po and just orders his troops to fire.
  • Comically subverted in The Lion King 1 ½. When Timon sets off from his meerkat colony home, his mother gives him all sorts of encouraging words as he walks away. Eventually, however, Timon gets so far away that he can no longer understand her pep talk — he shouts a Big "WHAT?!" to get her to speak louder, but then just says "Goodbye, mom" and continues walking off while she keeps talking.
  • In Turning Red, Mei can distinguish Abby's yelling over the roar of thousands of concert attendees and the rush of air as Mei freefalls even while she is significantly far above her.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Airplane! has a scene where a couple continue to have a conversation as one is standing in the doorway of a plane in the midst of takeoff and the other is running along on the ground beside it, in parody of the Train-Station Goodbye.
  • In the movie Aliens, Bishop ends up in a very windy environment as he's calling down the reserve dropship. Even so, you'd think hollering into his headset to communicate with the people on the other end would be counterproductive, but they don't even flinch, and understand him just fine.
  • As Marty plays Johnny B. Goode at the dance in Back to the Future, Marvin calls his cousin Chuck (presumably long distance, as at the time of the movie's setting Chuck was living in Chicago) and holds out the handset, while the source of the music is emanating from across a cavernous, echoey gym. Yet somehow, it comes through clearly enough that Chuck would go on to write and record the song a few years later.
    • In Back to the Future Part II, Marty is hiding in the back of Biff's car while Biff is driving. Marty is talking to the Doc on a walkie-talkie. At first, it seems to be an example of this trope when you wonder how could Biff not hear him, he is talking so loudly. However, it turns out to be Fridge Brilliance and an aversion - we are hearing from Marty's point of view, but the car is an open-top convertible and Biff would have the wind in his ears.
  • In Crank, Chev Chelios calls his girlfriend and leaves a goodbye message on her answering machine as he is falling from a helicopter several miles above the city. There is practically no wind noise as he does this. This turns into a Parodied Trope in the sequel where it's shown that his girlfriend heard none of his heartfelt speech because the only thing recorded on the machine was the overpowering sound of rushing wind.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: An odd moment when Roxane is weeping over Christian's body, and Cyrano says out loud that he mourns too for his lost love (her), but that she "does not know...must never know." Roxane does not hear this even though Cyrano is sitting directly behind her. It's obviously an Aside Comment from the play that is somewhat awkward in a live-action film framing.
  • In El Cid (1961) The Cid arrives at Valencia (depicted by the coastal fortress of Peñíscola about 145km to the north) where his army has surrounded and besieged the fortress for weeks to starve them out. The Cid addresses the starving denizens to inspire them to revolt and has his army lob bread loaves into the fortress with their siege engines. Charlton Heston as El Cid applies BRIAN BLESSED!!!!! levels of vocal projection from the beach about 1/4 mile from the fort, and his words are heard over the surf to penetrate into every back alley within the fortress.
  • Freejack has a scene where the hero is overheard talking by a camera crew from across the floor of a nightclub pounding with music.
  • Full Metal Jacket The scene in the helicopter where the gunner is getting interviewed while wildly spraying civillians with his gun. Aircraft have headsets and microphones, but there aren't many examples where they USE them as intended, instead they act as though they're protective in nature (IE gun range earmuffs) rather than communication devices - instead electing to raise their voice or shout over the din.
  • Halloween: Resurrection: Sara is in a college classroom in the beginning. When the professor asks a question, and she answers, her voice is barely higher than a whisper, yet the professor hears her clearly and responds.
  • In Jerry Maguire, Dorothy is able to eavesdrop on a quiet conversation Jerry is having on an airplane while the engines are running, despite sitting in a completely different section.
  • Played straight in Lethal Weapon, where Riggs and Murtaugh carry on a conversation at a firing range, complete with earmuffs.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. When Saruman is addressing his army of ten thousand Uruk-hai, his voice appears to be magnified by magical means. However in the extended version of The Return of the King Saruman speaks to the protagonists from the top of Orthanc and no similar effect is used. Justified as Suruman is literally a wizard and amplifying your voice at will is shown to be a wizard ability and is used at other points in the films.
    • In one of the commentary tracks for Return of the King, Peter Jackson points out that despite being in the middle of a crowded, cheerful and very loud party in Meduseld, Gandalf and Aragorn can carry on a quiet conversation just fine.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road mostly takes places at high speed with a fleet of massive, mostly unmuffled V8s and the Doof Wagon around yet wind noise only shows up maybe once and the roar of the engines is only audible when the vehicles themselves are the focus. People have no trouble yelling to other vehicles across several meters of air that should by all rights be flooded with cacophony.
  • Mission: Impossible features a climax where hero and villain are indeed hanging off a speeding helicopter. Following just behind a TGV Bullet Train travelling hundreds of kilometers per hour. In a tunnel. Given this, it's probably just as well Ethan Hunt uses visual aids while shouting "Red Light! Green Light!", so that Phelps can properly recognize things are about to get a little 'splody.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian has a famous aversion during the Sermon on the Mount, when the people in the back of the crowd can't hear what Jesus is saying. One shouts, "Speak up!" and they later mishear "blessed are the peacemakers" with "blessed are the cheesemakers," which they immediately try to rationalize as profound.
  • Averted in The Naked Gun, where a hitman tries to deliver a "message" to Drebin from the Big Bad by cursing and opening fire on him. Drebin's response:
    "Sorry, I can't hear you! Don't fire the gun while you're talking!"
  • In Point Break (1991), Bohdi and Johnny Utah have a conversation in freefall.
  • Revenge Of The Red Baron has a doozy of an example of this trope. Two WWI pilots in open cockpit planes, dogfighting each other, are able to trade threats and insults through the communicative power of shouting their lines.
  • There were a few scenes in Saturday Night Fever where the main characters had to be dubbed over by voice actors because the discotheques were too loud for the actors themselves to hear what the other was saying, let alone the recording equipment and the audience watching the film.
  • Hilariously subverted in SHAZAM! (2019). During the last fight between Shazam and Doctor Sivana, the latter starts proclaiming how he'll never be defeated, but Shazam can't hear what he's saying because they're several dozen feet apart and flying over a busy city street. He even lampshades their situation.
    Shazam: Are you making some, like, big, evil-guy speech right now or somethin'? You're like a mile away from me, and there's traffic and cars and stuff! All I see is mouth-movin'!
  • Snake Eyes features Nicolas Cage's character Rick Santoro somehow not only hearing his cellphone ring while sitting in the front row of a crowded sports arena during a boxing match, but having a conversation on it with no problem.
  • Averted in The Thing (2011). During the helicopter ride at the beginning, Carter, one of the pilots, waves at passenger Kate to put on the headset next to her so that they can talk clearly.
  • This Is the End: Even a roaring party is not loud enough to prevent gentle knocking being heard at the front door.
  • At the end of the film version of 300, the narrator is talking to an army of over ten thousand men. Somehow, the guys way in the back, who are probably half a mile away, hear him perfectly fine.

  • Justified for Larry Niven's The Draco Tavern stories. The booths in the titular tavern have a technological doodad which creates an acoustic bubble around the booth. This allows patrons to have quiet, private conversations.
  • Lampshaded in H. P. Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, where it is mentioned that the Dreamlands have their own rules about sound and air.
  • The climax of Horton Hears a Who! has the entire worldwide (speckwide?) population of Whos making as much noise as they can in a last ditch attempt to be heard by animals other than Horton. It doesn't work, until the addition of the shout of one small child makes all the difference.
  • Redshirts: During a battle, Chief Engineer West replies to comments by Abernathy and Q'eeng just after entering the bridge, meaning he was somehow able to hear them through a door, with red alert sirens blaring.
    • Averted in at least one other Star Trek novel, during which Worf and Data are riding on top of high-speed vehicles. Worf is able to hear Data, who is sitting in front of him, but Worf is unable to reply because of the sound traveling backwards at such high speeds.
  • In The Tenets of Futilism, Sasha and Joe seem perfectly able to have conversations in noisy, crowded areas without speaking loudly or whispering into each other's ears.
  • The first Twilight book features Edward and Bella holding a conversation while he runs at superhuman speed and she clings to his back. In some cases, the dialogue even states that they are whispering, despite the fact that the wind whipping past their heads should make even yelling next to inaudible, at least for an ordinary human like Bella.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Barry: Subverted in the season 2 finale, in which Fuches exits a building and starts delivering a dramatic monologue to the Bolivian gangsters who have surrounded the place. After a Perspective Flip, we realize that the Bolivians are so far away that they can barely hear what he's saying and even have to ponder among themselves whether Fuches is talking to them or having a bluetooth phone call.
  • Played with in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode "The Mole". While Terry and Rosa are undercover in a club, they can have casual conversations without shouting... because it's a silent disco where people listen to the music on wireless headphones. Without the headphones, it's nearly silent. The first scene in the club has a bewildered Terry repeatedly putting his headphones on and off, represented as the music cutting in and out.
  • Game of Thrones: Daenerys makes a few speeches to assemblies of her followers that are so vast that she'd really have to screaming for even half of them to hear her.
  • Hilariously averted on The Goldbergs when Barry and his gang go to a nightclub where the music is so loud they can barely understand each other. The dialogue had to be subtitled for the audience; in fact, no sound other than the music is heard during the scene.
  • House MD - The episode with the rocker with epilepsy triggered by chaotic music. House brings in a marshal stack and plays REALLY LOUD MUSIC... and then asks "so what were your inspirations for this" over the cacophony.
  • How I Met Your Mother - Averted in the fifth episode of the first season. The gang goes out to a nightclub, and while on the dance floor no one can hear each other, except when there're momentary lulls in the music.
  • Averted in an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Casey turns around and speaks in low tones during a trial to prove that a witness could not have overheard a dialogue carried on some distance away in a crowded room. Indeed, no one could hear what Casey had said in the courtroom.
  • Subverted in the final episode of M*A*S*H, "Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen". As BJ Hunnicutt is departing, Klinger tells Col. Potter that Hunnicutt's discharge orders were rescinded, but Potter pretends to be unable to hear the message because the helicopter taking him away is too loud.
    • Also averted when orders have to be relayed down a long vehicle convoy when the 4077 is moving camp. This is then Played for Laughs when Father Mulcahy decides to bless the new site, with the words of his prayer shouted from one truck to the next.
    • Another subversion: Hawkeye and BJ put Margaret's fiance Donald Penobscot in a full-body cast as a prank. As the couple is leaving on their honeymoon the guys try yelling that the cast is a fake, to take it off. Over the chopper Margaret yells back "Taking off!"
  • The Mythbusters examined the plausibility of the Point Break (1991) example above by having another skydiver tell Grant a "pull my finger" joke in freefall. The joke was completely inaudible.
  • Both played straight and averted in Perry Mason, depending on the episode. Some witnesses would whisper or sob during their big moments and be heard perfectly; other times the judge would instruct them to speak up.
  • Also parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look, where the obligatory Coolest Club Ever turns out to be far too overwhelmingly and intrusively loud for any sotto voce discussions with the boss. They try to pack it in and head for a quiet pub to talk business, only to barely miss last call.

  • John Finnemore's Souvenir Programme: Mocked in a sketch about a badly written BBC radio drama, where two characters meet in a coffee shop, which you can tell because the scene begins with the staff yelling in Italian, only to drop off when the main characters start talking, something they notice after a few minutes.

    Video Games 
  • Battlefield 3 averts this trope in some scenes, notably in Going Hunting where the first Iranian fighters are encountered. You don't hear their planes' cannons until well after the bullets start hitting and/or passing by you. At the same time, though, the introductory sequence for the mission has the player character and her partner not bothering to put on their helmets, thus getting any sort of ear protection, until well after they've arrived on the flight deck, just feet away from their own already-running F/A-18 and a few more away from their wingmate launching from the catapult.
  • The begining of Drakengard has our Sociopathic Hero Caim riding on a dragon Angelus and destroying airships and whatnot good kilometer or two above the ground. Somehow he can still hear the messages of his soldiers staying back on the surface that don't possess any telepathic skills. Lampshaded by The Dark Id:
    The Dark Id: That soldier has one epic set of lungs to relay that message. Goddamn.
  • In Dynasty Warriors, Samurai Warriors, and Warriors Orochi, you are always cognizant of what's going on over the entire battlefield even though you're controlling a single warrior (or single team of warriors traveling together, in the case of Orochi)—you can instantly hear allies calling for help, ambushes go off, reinforcements show up, etc., and get a corresponding Notice This ping on the mini-map.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, you frequently participate in conversations with your fellow gang members while cruising down major roads and even highways on motorcycles. They're not even yelling at the top of their lungs. In real life, the noise of the motorcycles plus the wind would make this sort of conversation impossible.
  • In the iOS game Highborn, the characters are often able to talk from across the map. This even gets Lampshaded once:
    Trillian: Wait, how are we even talking?
    Enzo: It's a plot device; roll with it.
  • In Middle-earth: Shadow of War, each map features a large fortress that has a keep in the rear with a very high platform. During assaults, the attackers outside the gates and the defending Overlord on the platform have no trouble taunting each other. After capturing a fortress, Talion stands on the platform to give a victory speech to his horde of cheering followers far below.
  • Red Dead Redemption: It's quite easy to have a conversation with someone while you are both on different horses thundering down a hard dirt road.
  • World of Warcraft often has dialog during combat. Sometimes it's justified, the characters were given a radio and the questgiver is listening in, but more often than not, such as in the Battleground scenarios, there are dozens of fighters on both sides and the leaders are miles apart but carrying on conversations. Fanon sometimes considers the hearthstones to include a communication function, but there's nothing explicit in the game.

    Web Animation 
  • In the now-private GoAnimate video "Dora burn down Eri Karan's band/Concussion Time By Eri Karan/Arrested", Dora's father is somehow able to hear Dora gloating about her plan while she is in a helicopter that is operating, way above him, and to top it all off, right after a loud explosion and in the middle of a chaotic scene.
  • Averted in the Battle for Dream Island: The Power of Two episode "You Know Those Buttons Don't Do Anything, Right?", where nobody is able to hear Two explain a rule about the challenge while they are on the top of a large tower with no sound amplification, resulting in the contestants developing strategies that end up giving them all disadvantages due to not hearing the specific rule (not being able to go back down when they have gotten to the top of the tower).

  • Averted in El Goonish Shive. In the middle of an aerial chase, the bad guy starts boasting and making threats.
    Nanase: (speaking telepathically) Can you understand what he's saying?
    Ellen: (likewise) All I can hear right now is "Whoosh."
    Nanase: Me too.
    • Plot-relevant, as Ellen and Nanase miss a reveal this way.
  • Averted in this Oglaf comic (SFW, other pages not). Then played straight in the Alt Text regarding the tidbit of Fridge Logic.
  • Averted in this Paranatural comic. It's hard to understand someone when they're speaking with their back to you.
  • That Deaf Guy:
    • One strip (#175) occurs at a Deaf Convention, so Cedric signs really small to ask permission to use the bathroom. He calls it "whispering" because he doesn't want other people to notice what he's saying. In an aversion to this trope, his father (who normally understands American Sign Language) can't understand him because the signs are too small (quiet)!
    • One strip (#673) is set at a beach, where the roar of the ocean makes it hard to hear distant conversations, so the characters have to sign instead.

    Web Original 
  • Accidentally averted in Freeman's Mind. Due to technical issues, the scientist at the end of the Lambda Core segment (i.e. just before Xen) was virtually inaudible above the noise of the gate opening and the aliens attacking. Ross Scott decided to leave it in rather than re-recording the segment because it was funnier that way.
    Freeman: WHAT?
  • Honest Trailers pointed this out during their riff of The Avengers: "...battles so action-packed, that you won't even ask yourself: how are they even all talking to each other without earpieces?"

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time Zig-Zagged in the episode "Belly of the Beast". Finn and Jake are first ignored and then misunderstood as they try to talk to some bears in the middle of a noisy rave party, but then in the same space they have a quiet conversation with another bear with no problems.
  • SWAT Kats: Sometimes aircraft-to-aircraft conversations take place via radio or video comm channels, but oftentimes people would just say things, and the SWAT Kats would be able to somehow hear them inside their active supersonic jet. Really, the noise from the Turbokat was just severely played down or outright eliminated in a lot of circumstances, otherwise talking and sound effects would just be blared out by engine noise.

Alternative Title(s): Acoustic Licence