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Best audio levels in FCPX

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Claude Lyneis
Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 19, 2013 at 5:16:09 pm

Any guidelines for setting the audio levels in FCPX using the built in audio meters? I usually try to keep them between -6db and -12db, but then when it is sent to other devices via iTunes or a DVD, the level seems a little low. The conventional TV broadcast levels seem higher. Also, if most of the sound is -6db or less, what about running important sounds up to 0 db?


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Bill Davis
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:41:43 pm

Big topic.

At heart, you're mapping sounds onto digital numbers. Elements like dynamics (loudest to softest in a file) are so variable that no matter what tools you use, there will always a huge need for judgement along the way. One inescapable truth is that with digital sound encoding, we've lost the "soft clipping" performance of analog systems. When you run out of bitspace because you've over-modulated a sound in the digital domain - it disintegrates. Also, if the signal you're encoding is clean (low noise floor) you can easily bring the levels back up later - so there's a value to keeping levels modest to preserve dynamic headroom.

But then at mixdown, you need to optimize your levels for the file's intended use.

Editing is an intermediate stage, all other things being considered. So I think your idea of keeping levels between -6 and -12 during editing is spot on.

The issue is whether or not you want to add a "Mastering" phase to your workflow where you take the mix of your edits and optimize that summation for output.

That's how most pro audio is still done - but it's a process that's often lost in the "I do everything myself" world we work in today.

Nothing to stop you from adding that step to your workflow if you like. Just search audio mastering and you'll find plenty to learn about how that works.

Good luck.

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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Claude Lyneis
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 20, 2013 at 4:29:33 pm

Thanks for the comment. I definitely fit the "I do everything myself." At least the project I am working on has no deadline, so I can use some time to come up to speed on the audio-mastering portion. The audio in the project is important because it features a restored 65 Mustang, which sounds great now after the new owner injected $30k into it.


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Nikolas Bäurle
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 19, 2013 at 6:43:40 pm

For Internet and online content you can go close to 0db. You can get away with peaks going up to 3 db but you still run the risk of overdrive.

For TV broadcast you should keep it at -9db. The important thing for broadcast is to give sound enough headroom so there's no risk of overdriving. Slightly Overdriven Analog Sound is still workable but with digital overdrive your screwed.

"Always look on the bright side of life" - Monty Python



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Dave Gage
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 20, 2013 at 2:24:36 am

[Nikolas Bäurle] " For Internet and online content you can go close to 0db."
I was trying months ago to keep my levels between -6 and -12, but I got complaints that it wasn't loud enough for my websites, so I now routinely add the Logic Compressor/Limiter (I do use both) and then adjust the FCP X master audio volume (per Clip) so that the peaks are at about -3. This has been working great for me for the web. Of course, if you have some low level noise the compressor will bring it up, but then I add in the Denoiser and a bit of Channel EQ and that seems to give me the best volume with least amount of noise.

Dave


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David Eaks
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 20, 2013 at 9:10:02 am

Dave, do you find that using both the compressor and limiter is better than just enabling the limiter built into the compressors interface? Because that's what I've been doing.


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Dave Gage
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 20, 2013 at 8:26:12 pm

[David Eaks] "Dave, do you find that using both the compressor and limiter is better than just enabling the limiter built into the compressors interface? Because that's what I've been doing."

David,

I'm basically forced to use the compressor as well as the limiter (which I max out at 10) because I do live online classes via Adobe Connect that I screen capture via ScreenFlow and within these classes I'm talking and also playing harmonica and guitar for the instruction. I do my best in the recording phase to keep my levels as even as possible, but they still can vary greatly. So, I've found using the Compressor helps quite a bit to smooth out the levels.

My biggest problem is that since I don't have an assistant to help with any of the different technical aspects, I need to keep everything fairly simple to make it all work (you know, being the "talent" and all). I use my 17" MB Pro's built-in mic and camera to keep everything as simple as possible. And to Apple's credit, both mic and camera do a good job. I've tried using an external mic, but it adds another layer of complexity and frankly is not that much better for my purposes.

But... the problem I have is that once I start the class and then turn on ScreenFlow, my MBP fans rev up way up. The internal Apple mic is only 12" from the fan noise, so it picks it up quite clearly. I have to be very careful how much of the compressor I use so that it doesn't also increase the fan noise. I think as I mentioned earlier, I also use the FCP X built-in Denoiser plugin and the Logic Channel EQ to eliminate some of the fan noise. But, if I over-do the Denoiser, it starts to add weird (bad) artifacts to the harmonica notes. So, I have to be very careful how I balance the compressor and the Denoiser.

To (finally) answer your question, I do need to use the compressor, but I keep the ratio as low as possible.

Dave


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Nick Toth
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 19, 2013 at 8:33:32 pm

I try to hit -6 but with fairly heavy compression. That is what makes TV sound louder.

anickt


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Geoff Addis
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 20, 2013 at 5:52:38 pm

For broadcast use attention should be paid to newly adopted Qualis Audio CALM act in the US which is based on ITU R Recommendation BS1770-3 that prescribes the value for momentary, short term and integrated (programme) loudness range. Google CALM or ITU R 1770 or EBU Tech Specs 3341, 3342, 3343 and 3344 to get the full detail, but note that the target level is -23LUFS (equates to -23dBfs in old money) and it is recommended that for domestic listening programme loudness range should not exceed 15db around the target level and that any peak should not exceed -1dBLUFS (-1dBfs). A good document to view is EBU R128. Conformance to these specifications is a legal requirement for broadcasting in the USA and presently a recommendation in Europe, although likely to become a requirement there too.

Unfortunately FCP X does not include the appropriate software metering to make these measurements although I expect that they will eventually appear as they have already done so in Edius and probably in PP. Suitable metering is also available in Wavelab 8.

Geoff.


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Claude Lyneis
Re: Best audio levels in FCPX
on Jun 21, 2013 at 6:27:00 am

Thanks for all the great information. I am deep into the FCPX audio compressor add on.


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