Can’t watch without subtitles? Prime Video’s new feature makes dialogue easier to hear

Can’t hear the TV anymore? You’re not alone. TV dialogue has gotten harder to understand over the years, leading everyone to turn subtitles on while watching. Today, that problem is top of mind as Amazon Prime Video introduces a new feature that may make subtitles no longer necessary — at least on some titles. It’s debuting “Dialogue Boost,” an option that allows Prime Video viewers to boost the volume of spoken dialogue relative to the background music and effects. The feature will first become available on select Amazon Original programs globally, including “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “Harlem,” “The Big Sick,” “Being the Ricardos” and “Beautiful Boy,” among others.

Similar features to increase the volume of dialogue are available on other platforms, like high-end theater systems, specialized audio equipment and some smart TVs and streaming media devices. Roku, for example, offers something called “speech clarity,” which also boosts dialogue content relative to other sounds, like background music or louder sound effects, like car crashes.

But Amazon notes that it’s the first global streaming service to offer this type of feature.

Though the option was first created with the needs of customers who are hard of hearing in mind, Amazon believes it may help everyone better enjoy its service.

Image Credits: Amazon

To create its Dialogue Boost tracks, Prime Video first analyzes the original audio in a movie or TV show and intelligently identifies the points where human speech is harder to hear above the background music and effects. Then, the speech patterns are isolated and the content is enhanced to make the dialogue clearer, Amazon tells TechCrunch. The company says the AI-driven approach is able to deliver targeted enhancement to portions of spoken dialogue, rather than general amplifications at the center channel in a home theater system. That means the boosted audio can be listened to on any device where Prime Video can be streamed, rather than being device-dependent like some other solutions.

The boosted tracks are made available to end users to select from the subtitles and audio options widget on the playing video. Here, viewers will be able to select from options like “English Dialogue Boost: Medium” and “Dialogue Boost: High,” depending on their preferences.

Prime Video users know if a title is available with a dialogue boost option as it will be displayed on the show or movie’s detail page on the service.

Image Credits: Amazon

At launch, the feature is available on roughly 100 Amazon Originals — though some only offer the option for select seasons. In addition to those shows noted above, Dialogue Boost is available on other titles like “Bosch,” “Fleabag,” “Modern Love” and “Crown Heights.” Amazon says it will continue to roll out to more titles in the future as it expands, but didn’t provide a time frame toward covering its full Originals library.

“At Prime Video, we are committed to building an inclusive, equitable, and enjoyable streaming experience for all our customers,” said Raf Soltanovich, VP of Technology at Prime Video and Amazon Studios, in a statement about the launch. “Our library of captioned and audio-described content continues to grow, and by leveraging our technological capabilities to create industry-first innovations like Dialogue Boost, we are taking another step to create a more accessible streaming experience.”

Prime Video isn’t the only service to address the issues around muffled audio, but rival Netflix recently took a different approach. Last month, Netflix introduced a feature that lets subscribers customize the size and style of subtitles and closed captions, in an acknowledgment as to how popular watching with subtitles has become.

Dialogue Boost is available across all devices that support Prime Video, starting today.