I am so very tired of youtube clips and shorts that have extreme differences in audio. Even the big budgets do it, the dialogue is faint but the gunshots blow your ears out...
What is the best method/program to make audio as enjoyable as possible for your viewers?
Are there some golden rules as far as db's go?
Any programs that offer a quick solution?
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Thread: Best way/program to level audio
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06-27-2012 10:29 PM
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
06-27-2012 11:04 PM
There's a lot to cover in your questions and many variables. Depending on the budget of the film, there maybe many mixes for each show, i.e. theatrical mix, home theater mix, IMAX mix, web mix, airline mix and so on..
There are a few threads in this forum and on other major audio forums regarding mix levels, etc. that are really worth checking out and reading.
Can you be more specific in what you're watching? And in what environment/setting? Where are you watching big budgets? In a theater? In a living room? Listening to the BluRay? DVD?
I think web-based mixes tend to be all over the place when it comes to comparing loudness between different content. I feel the same way you do. I also feel the same way about feature films beings played on cable networks, where the commercials are literally 10x louder than the movie - so you constantly have to "ride" the volume buttons on the remote.
Theatrical mixers mix by ear, and according to some industry pros, no theater plays the theatrical mix at "level" aka Dolby 7. It is turned down a few dB. Smaller film festivals also turn down the volume in their theaters. I've experienced this myself with my own mix for a film festival being played at a theater in San Francisco. It was so low that the director scheduled a listening session with me after just to see where the levels were really were in a real mix stage. The director couldn't believe it herself!RJF
Sound Editor/Sound Designer/Mixer
San Francisco, CA
06-28-2012 08:27 AM
All you can do is MIX on decent speakers. You have no control over how people are listening to your film. Maybe a little with a theatrical release but zero for web stuff.
Probably most of what you don't like was mixed by folks on their multimedia game speakers and the normalized till it was just below clipping. They grew up with iPods and video games and they LOVE explosions, who cares about dialog anyway?
This unfortunately also shows up in big budget films from time to time.
Listen to the balance of a film and you can learn a lot about a director.
The rest may well be what you were listening on. Were you streaming to a real system? Or laptop speakers? of headphones? All very different worlds.
06-28-2012 08:49 AM
- Join Date
- Apr 2012
Noiz and Ryan,
Thanks for the prompt responses. I am glad to see the craze in fluctuation isn't bothering me alone.
I thought that I had overheard or read a blurb somewhere about trying to make sure all audio is around the xx.db mark... Maybe that was just someones preference, I can't recall.
My outlet is for normal dialogue with some external noise mostly viewed on the web/dvd but also on commercials.
Thanks again for all the help.
- Join Date
- Jan 2007
- Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
06-28-2012 09:38 AM
I recall back in the early days of DVD, that some movies were difficult to hear the dialog to- movies that I remember being able to hear clearly in the theater. I recall renting one of the Jurassic Park installments, and finding the dialog was almost entirely inaudible. Turns out, my DVD player was decoding the audio improperly. The disc was feeding it Dolby 5.1 surround encoded audio, but the player was improperly sending it to 2 speakers. It got even more complicated when I actually HAD a dolby surround system on my desktop, the disc had a dolby surround option in the menu, but the player software did not know what to do with it.
Its gotten better these days, most software and players know how to handle this stuff well enough to adapt to the situation. But every now and then, I find someone struggling with a mismatched setup. Either the source and/or hardware are not communicating signals as intended by the author, and that may very well be what you are describing. I would turn up the volume so I could hear the dialog, and then there would be ear piercing sound effects.Need Adobe CS Production Studio? I happen to have one retail box for sale!
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06-28-2012 11:06 AM
If the material is something other than dramatic/narrative, I'll usually take it into audio post as if it's for broadcast. If it's narrative, I'll mix as if it's for theatrical release. When I'm done, I'll send the mix through a little mastering for the Interwebs, which means using compression and a limiter/maximizer to reduce the dynamic range a little and give the mix a brick-wall peak of -3dB. I've found this to give me the best results on the 'Net across a broad range of speakers (from decent systems to cheap/weak laptop built-ins).
Last edited by Alex H.; 06-28-2012 at 11:17 AM.Formerly known as C2V
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06-28-2012 08:46 PM
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- Apr 2012
Thanks. Dial norm seems to be the closest to what I am looking for.
Thanks for the tip on hardware. I will be sure to switch it up in post to see how it sounds on many fronts.
06-29-2012 08:30 AM
The thing is that Dial Norm is a number that comes from looking at your full mix. It's an after the fact thing. And (though the cable networks don't use it this way) it is supposed to be something you do after you mix and the broadcaster gets to deal with it knowing what your Dial norm level is. The networks have turned that on it's ear and have been making mixers hit certain Dial Norm levels, but that is not how it was designed to work.
But you can't mix by looking at the Dial Norm because it needs the whole track to come up with the number. It's based on an average of the entire program, it's not a level meter.
In theory when properly implemented it should make the dialog audible, but the explosions can still take your head off since the number, in theory, is based only on the dialog levels.
06-29-2012 08:53 AM
Your mix is as big a skill as shooting, writing, scoring - but if you have to go one-man-band, I'd suggest:
Get the best reference monitors you can afford - the home recording craze means there's far more semi-pro audio gear than video gear, there's some excellent stuff marketed to the home/musician level - stuff like KRK Rockits, the Event line, Mackie. Look for a self-powered pair; if your room is small or your desk is right up against a wall, avoid anything with rear-firing bass ports. You can get in the door for under $500 if you shop around...
If you do a lot of bass-heavy stuff, sci-fi effects, explosions... you may want to avoid anything with woofers under 8"... I'd really say try for a pair of 8's regardless.
There's a world of info on where to place monitors for optimal listening (start with the instructions)... and if you want to hear a beautiful (and pretty prominent) difference, look into killing early reflections at your mixing area. I started with 2x2 sound-deadening panels on my left and right walls, and the detail and clarity took a huge leap. (Google "Ethan Winer Forum" for tons of DIY room treatment ideas). Just sheets of foam won't cut it, but a couple panels are cheap to buy and easy to make yourself.
Have a way to switch between reference monitors and computer speakers for web mixing.
Exporting everything to a dedicated audio software (ProTools, Logic, etc) can give you far more editing and treating options than your NLE's mixer (I use FCP and it just sucks compared to ProTools). A good compressor and EQ (especially those that emulate vintage gear properly) are a good start - the big push for "analog warmth" in digital and home recording means there's stuff out there that works great on dialogue... I find just putting the Analog Channel plugin on dialogue gives you a luscious "cinema" sparkle to voices.