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What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?

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Noam Osband
What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?
on May 7, 2015 at 2:45:11 pm

As a rule of thumb (knowing each project is different and you adjust accordingly), what are good levels for audio over music? I know generally for interviews you want voices at -6 to -12. Would I want that different if there is background music underneath? What is a good ballpark for background music? I'm just thinking about best practices.


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Richard Crowley
Re: What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?
on May 7, 2015 at 7:39:25 pm

The "-6 to -12 rule" is a guideline for setting record level peaks in order to leave enough "headroom" for unexpected loud sounds. It has nothing to do with mix levels.

There is no "rule of thumb". Sound is mixed to convey the message of the scene. Likely in most cases you want the dialog to be intelligible to the average viewer. So you would establish the dialog track level appropriate for the overall target and for the scene (is it someone whispering into their cell phone, or is it someone yelling across the street?) And then bring in the music (or SFX location noise or whatever) to establish the audio "scene", but without obscuring the dialog.

But then, in some cases (and some famous scenes) the music (or noise) is mixed to obscure the dialog so that it can't be understood (or even heard at all) because that is what the scene needed for audio.

You are asking a simple, generic question for which there is no simple, generic answer. Sorry.


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Noam Osband
Re: What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?
on May 11, 2015 at 4:17:32 pm

Good answer.

Relatedly...-6to -12 is good for baseline level of dialogue. I always tried to keep peaks to there. It's OK if the peaks are higher? (I know it's all project dependent...)


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Richard Crowley
Re: What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?
on May 11, 2015 at 5:47:51 pm
Last Edited By Richard Crowley on May 11, 2015 at 5:51:50 pm

The end-goal here is to stay in the "Goldilocks Zone". Audio levels not so low that they are "down in the mud" of noise. And not so high that they clip on loud peaks. The general guideline for dialog peaks is just a generic rule-of-thumb that clearly depends on particular situation.

Higher is always better UNLESS you let the audio hit the top and it clips, then is is MUCH WORSE.


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Bill Davis
Re: What are ideal audio settings for interview over music?
on May 12, 2015 at 2:05:14 am

Everything Richard said is spot on as always. The trick is to know what the audience needs to hear and make it easy for them to hear it. I've been given "client recorded" content with bad mixing technique and will happily completely bury the music bed 35db down just to keep it totally away from interfering with the message. Basically, know what's important.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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