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Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?

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Guthrie Andres
Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 10, 2010 at 7:27:22 pm

Hi,
So I'm the GM of a small poorly funded student TV station. When I got the station, there were no broadcast standards, so we have an archive of hundreds of small 5-15 minute projects, 30 minute recorded shows, and a few full length movies, all of which have seemingly arbitrary audio levels. This means that when we broadcast them, sometimes the channel is blasting your ears loud, and sometimes it is so soft it is almost inaudible. My question is this:
Is there a device that can find a happy medium between these two extremes, essentially leveling out the loud and soft? Otherwise, I suppose we would have to re-import each thing into Final Cut and make them conform to broadcast standards which would take loads and loads of time.
thank you,
Guthrie


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Bob Kessler
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 10, 2010 at 11:41:21 pm

There are a whole bunch of working professionals here that can give you more detailed answers.

An audio dynamics processor is usually used is to reduce dynamic range. It can limit how loud the sound will go. It can increase the (apparent) volume of quiet sounds. It can do both at the same time, compressing the dynamic range. The range can be very wide - the quiet sounds are only a little louder and the loud sounds are only a little softer - or very narrow, to the point where the loudest and softest sounds are the same volume. Many radio stations do this and it is often referred to as "Steamroller" compression. The overall volume of the compressed dynamic range can be increased or decreased.

You could set up a series of pre-sets for the half dozen or so situations that will probably be regular occurrences, but there are no "set it and forget it" compressor settings that will solve all problems; dynamics processing will still have to be applied on a case-by-case basis. When using audio compressor/limiters you have to be aware that, even though they can increase/decrease the overall volume of a piece of audio it also increases the accompanying noise of low audio levels, and can create unpleasant "pumping and breathing" with hot level audio.

Peace,

Bob
____________________________________________________________________
Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
If anyone notices your work you haven't done your job right.


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Bill Davis
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 11, 2010 at 1:02:00 am

Bob's answer is right on and gets you a long way to understanding this.

A simple audio compressor is the tool for reducing dynamic range (the ratio of loud to soft sounds) in an audio chain.

BUT - if the noise floor of the signal with a low output is boosted you get MORE NOISE.

Depending on your budget - go to the Markertek and/or B&H catalogs and search on both Compressor and on Automatic Gain Control and you'll find a variety of solutions.

What will work best will be dependent on your signal chain.



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Brian Reynolds
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 11, 2010 at 8:41:38 am

Over the years I have used devices like "Optimod" and "Audimax" which were a unit that went into the audio chain just prior to the transmitter feed. [used only on more gentle settings for best results]
I have seen a domestic VHS machine in used in pause mode to use the AGC in it to level an audio feed [both up and down] but with marginal quality.
Maybe something like a Zoom H4n might work as a transfer loop through or if you are transferring to a computer based server many have a normalize setting for the audio track.

The difference between Knowledge and Wisdom is... Knowledge is the knowing of facts.... Wisdom is the sensible application of good quality knowledge...


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Peter Groom
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 11, 2010 at 11:03:02 pm

Have a look at Levelator.
http://www.conversationsnetwork.org/levelator
Its an app for pc and mac that uses a pretty eficient combination of limiter, compressor and agc, but doesnt just apply globally. It seems to analyse moment by moment and results are pretty good when ive used it recently.
Cheers
Peter



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Thax Clave
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 19, 2010 at 7:10:00 pm

[Guthrie Andres] "So I'm the GM of a small poorly funded student TV station."

[Guthrie Andres] "Is there a device that can find a happy medium between these two extremes, essentially leveling out the loud and soft?"

We always called ours "the master control engineer." ;-)

Do you have someone operating the station... playing the programs, and "breaks?"

Yes, AudiMax and VoluMax -type gear will help keep you "legal," but a human being operating the on-air board can manually set the proper level on each source.



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Guthrie Andres
Re: Is this what a dynamics compressor is for?
on Dec 21, 2010 at 8:09:16 pm

We actually don't have anyone operating the station usually, because we are all students, and thus, we all have classes, homework, and everything else associated with college. The station usually runs completely on its own, except when it fails, but that's a whole different problem. Our entire broadcasting setup is very jury rigged, and would probably make a professional cringe. We're slowly upgrading, but as it stands right now, there is no "on-air board" per-se. There are volume sliders that can be adjusted on our Globecaster, the volume sliders in the playout program we use, and the system volume of the computer that runs that software. So basically, there are three different places where volume could be adjusted, but none of them are manned.


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