AN EXPERT in film sound may have the answer to a question that has been hotly contested by filmgoers: was Dunkirk too loud?

The volume of the music and effects in director Christopher Nolan’s World War Two epic prompted debate in the news and letters pages of the Daily Echo.

Those who saw it at Bournemouth’s new Odeon, where the big iSense screen boasts a 56-speaker Dolby Atmos sound system, had an especially intense experience.

Steve Rafter – a sound designer who lectures at Bournemouth University and runs his own company, Bomo Sound – used a smartphone app to measure the volume.

“I don’t normally get my meter out in a film. That’s a completely geeky thing to do,” he said.

“It’s not a completely scientific experiment. I think it’s about 114-117 decibels (dB).

“To put it context, the threshold of pain is 130dB. The threshold for discomfort is 120dB, so it’s slightly off the threshold of discomfort.

“It’s not illegal, but it is loud.”

He said the sound systems on which the film-makers play back their soundtracks were normally calibrated to 85dB. “Anything over 100dB is pretty loud,” he added.

Bur he said director Christopher Nolan had intended an unremittingly loud experience to suit the story of the effort to evacuate thousands of Allied troops from France.

“I’m not sure it’s too loud. It’s what the director intended it to be. He’s going for that same loudness all the way through,” he said.

“If you look at something like Saving Private Ryan, the opening scene in that, it’s not loud all the time. This is pretty much full-on, with music going all the way through. It’s very much a deliberate effect that he wants you to feel.”

He added: “Christopher Nolan always pushes the boundaries on his films. He’s very deliberately playing with this, but there’s a wider debate raging about all the superhero films and Transformers films that are being mixed too loud. What seems to be happening is that cinemas are turning down the volume because they’re getting complaints, so people are mixing louder.”

The film, with scenes shot at Swanage Railway and Weymouth harbour, has been widely praised.

Mr Rafter was impressed by the sound system in the iSense screen, which opened earlier this year.

“It’s great to have a Dolby Atmos cinema right here in Bournemouth. It’s great for our students as well because they don’t have to go to London or Southampton to see the latest film as the director intended,” he said.

Mr Rafter will be taking part in Short Sounds, the Daily Echo-backed festival which will celebrate music and sound in films, from October 12-15. Details are at