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audio levels for web video

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Danny Greer
audio levels for web video
on Jul 30, 2009 at 8:54:45 pm

Hey FCPers,

I'm cutting 60 short spots for a client...all for web distribution. When editing I usually keep my audio levels in the -12 range, with nothing really peaking over -9db. I've applied these standards to these videos as well.

Is there a different standard for web videos? The client has mentioned that it seems too low (not loud enough with their laptop speakers turned all the way up). The videos are compressed ("broadcast high" setting) but I can't imagine this would effect volume. Do they just have a crummy set of computer speakers? Interested in thoughts, etc. Is there a web standard that suggests running levels hotter?


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Jeff Handy
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 30, 2009 at 9:25:39 pm

Good question, actually. I have normalized to -10 for years without even thinking about that too much.


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george manzanilla
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 1:34:40 am

for web, i will go as loud as it can go without peaking above 0.

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Bill Dewald
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 1:42:32 am

_Everyone_ has a crummy set of computer speakers.

Normalize that web audio like a CD - all the way to the top.

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Bouke Vahl
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 8:18:46 am


This is a very much misunderstood function.
What it does is finding the highest peak, and use that as a max.
If you did not mix with a brick wall limiter, chances are HUGE that nothing will happen if you normalize at 100%.
(Even one little unnoticable high peak, like from a raindrop or scissors will set the maximum level)
So it is highly unpredictable, and there will be a huge difference between your clips.

If you mix to -12 with peaks to -9, you can add 9 dB gain and your peaks are still safe. But there WILL be some distortion then. (small peaks that you cannot see.)
Adding 6 dB probably gets you where you want to be without any effort.
But again, adding a brickwall limiter first is the best way to go. After that it does not make a difference if you use gain or normalize.

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John Ward
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 1:54:09 pm

Hi, folks -

since all audio material differs, I wouldn't say this is a formula but we generally use compression / limiting on higher dynamic range material ... sometimes even interviews / vox if they're all over the place. We tend to leave material with a smaller dynamic range alone. The net effect is that the entire mix can then be bumped up a bit if we need it to go web / CD /whatever because most of the aberrant peaks in the high dynamic range tracks are taken care of by the compressor / limiter. It's a little more targeted than normalizing an already completed mix and is less likely to produce unintended consequences. But we're always looking for a better so feel free to critique.


John Ward

Editor / Animator,
Synergetic Productions

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Herb Sevush
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 2:25:23 pm

Bouke -

Well there is normalizing and then there is Normalizing ... if you are referring to the totally inadequate normalizing tools that you find in Final Cut and Soundtrack Pro then I totally agree - do not normalize.

But if you have a proper normalizing tool like (Sony) Soundforge then normalization IS the way to go. With it you can choose between normalizing to peaks or to a "loudness contour" determined after analyzing the entire track. Then you can set your "normal" loudness profile and the while adjusting the overall volume you can pick a level above which you can have all peaks compressed. This is the way a quality normalizer works and should not be confused with the crap Apple gives us in FCP and Soundtrack Pro.

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions

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Matthew Campagna
Re: audio levels for web video
on Jul 31, 2009 at 5:20:06 pm

Normalizing is just an extreme limiter.
Use a really good limiter and get your audio peaks as close to -1 or -2 Db on average.
Some of us in the industry call this "sausaging".
When you look at the wave form that used to have nice peaks and notice the new version has mostly solid lines across the top and bottom (similar to normalizing) of your audio waveform.

Broadcast television has their specifications, but they do not translate well on the internet.
Most internet posts are done by people who have no clue how to do audio.
To compete with this crowd, you need to be as loud as possible without negative artifacts.

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Re: audio levels for web video
on Mar 14, 2012 at 7:35:57 pm

Just wanted to update this based on the last message.

Normalizing is not even CLOSE to being a limiter. Normalizing raises the volume to the specified dB based on the LOUDEST PEAK of the file. If you have a spike, it will only bring the volume up based on the spike. Limiting pushes the dB DOWN, based on the specified dB.

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andrew bird
Re: audio levels for web video
on Aug 31, 2014 at 10:59:33 pm

Back to the original question! ;)

Yep, we in the video for web game (I work in Radio and online video content) always peak at around -9. I sometimes let it wander a little higher.
I can't remember what we do for TV (i'll edit the post when I find my notes) but normalising it to 0 can cause problems with a terrestrial transmission.

Some might remember that up until around 2012 the BBC used to have everything much louder than other streaming services (ITV Player, 4OD) and as that was usually the number ONE complain, after much work it's now down to a sensible level relative to other broadcasters. Pardon them for being too AWESOME!

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Bouke Vahl
Re: audio levels for web video
on Sep 1, 2014 at 8:06:07 am

This is all ancient now with the new R128 / CALM act.

You don't need expensive metering anymore to be compatible.
(Although i keep them alive cause they are handy sometimes)

Check this:


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