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  #1  
Old 2012-01-06, 02:03
auschris auschris is offline
 
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Gain or Normalize audio tracks for mixing

Im a novice when it comes to mixing.
I have been reading about the importance of gain staging before starting to mix tracks ie setting all tracks to 0db.
On a recent mix i used the gain knob on the input section of the reason 6 mixer to set all my audio tracks to around 0db before starting to apply pan / fader moves etc, later i thought it would have been easier to just normalize each audio file as this would have taken some of the guess work out of manually setting each channel to 0db.

My question is: is normalizing audio tracks an appropriate way to set gain structure post recording?

Does anyone do this?

Chris
  #2  
Old 2012-01-06, 03:51
3rdFloorSound's Avatar
3rdFloorSound 3rdFloorSound is offline
 
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I do something sort of like that. I'll slice sections that are too quiet around a part that ought to be at peak and normalize the section, but you have to mind the slice point to make sure there aren't large volume leaps next to the other clips.
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  #3  
Old 2012-01-06, 03:56
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Anomecron Anomecron is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by auschris View Post
Im a novice when it comes to mixing.
I have been reading about the importance of gain staging before starting to mix tracks ie setting all tracks to 0db.
On a recent mix i used the gain knob on the input section of the reason 6 mixer to set all my audio tracks to around 0db before starting to apply pan / fader moves etc, later i thought it would have been easier to just normalize each audio file as this would have taken some of the guess work out of manually setting each channel to 0db.

My question is: is normalizing audio tracks an appropriate way to set gain structure post recording?

Does anyone do this?

Chris

When sampling I tend to normalise but be weary that any noise inherent in the source file will be amplified also - so ideally you should record the source as cleanly as possible and as close to 0DB as you can.
I am quite often prone to checking files in an audio editor first for DC offset or other noise problems and then bringing them back into Reason also but your mileage may vary.
  #4  
Old 2012-01-06, 04:41
selig's Avatar
selig selig is online now
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anomecron View Post
When sampling I tend to normalise but be weary that any noise inherent in the source file will be amplified also - so ideally you should record the source as cleanly as possible and as close to 0DB as you can.
I am quite often prone to checking files in an audio editor first for DC offset or other noise problems and then bringing them back into Reason also but your mileage may vary.
Since, as you say, when you raise a track the noise will be amplified also, there's nothing to worry about - it will sound EXACTLY the same after you raise it! It's not like the noise gets any louder than the rest of the signal when you do this!

Having said that, I'm careful to suggest that folks use PEAK metering and set all levels to peak around -12 dBFS, and not to normalize to 0 dB. The channel meters are VU, and what you're calling "0 dB" is actually -12 dBFS. BUT since this is VU, the peak for each channel will often be much different (and always HIGHER) than the VU, which causes some tracks to clip the output sooner than others.

To set levels to -12 dBFS Peaks, use the main meter, solo the track in question, and for instrument tracks I use the instrument's master level. For audio tracks, you should record them at the same level, peaking around -12 dBFS. If you import tracks from somewhere else, you can use the clip gain in the sequencer to bring the level to around -12 dBFS on the peak meters. :-)
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  #5  
Old 2012-01-06, 08:27
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juno106user juno106user is offline
 
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I normalize files about 100 times per day.. No joke! I realize that it is less desirable than getting the perfect input levels when recording but when you are constantly churning out material, normalizing sections can be an easy way to quickly edit your way through your material.
When recording dynamic sources (certain people's voices for example), normalization can be redundant if a "T" or a "P" sound's attack is much louder than the body of the word. It will only normalize in relation to the peak level of the "T&P" sounds thus the overall gain can be insignificant as the body of the word will still remain lower than desired.
I work in a decent studio with a pretty low noise floor which then allows me to punch up the overall dynamics using some carefully placed compression from area to area. So, although I prefer to normalize sections because as selig indicated the overall ratio between signal to noise remains the same, my recordings have that low noise floor so I can compress when needed and the increase in low level noise remains relatively insignificant.
I will insert a compressor on a channel if I think it is necessary but the techniques discussed above are destructive so the original files are replaced in my session.
I almost never use gain but I almost always do volume automation on tracks. Drums, synths, vocals, sound effects, whatever.. I think that static volume levels create less interesting material not to mention the practical reasons for automating volume.
  #6  
Old 2012-01-06, 22:43
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selig selig is online now
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juno106user View Post
I normalize files about 100 times per day.. No joke! I realize that it is less desirable than getting the perfect input levels when recording but when you are constantly churning out material, normalizing sections can be an easy way to quickly edit your way through your material.
When recording dynamic sources (certain people's voices for example), normalization can be redundant if a "T" or a "P" sound's attack is much louder than the body of the word. It will only normalize in relation to the peak level of the "T&P" sounds thus the overall gain can be insignificant as the body of the word will still remain lower than desired.
I work in a decent studio with a pretty low noise floor which then allows me to punch up the overall dynamics using some carefully placed compression from area to area. So, although I prefer to normalize sections because as selig indicated the overall ratio between signal to noise remains the same, my recordings have that low noise floor so I can compress when needed and the increase in low level noise remains relatively insignificant.
I will insert a compressor on a channel if I think it is necessary but the techniques discussed above are destructive so the original files are replaced in my session.
I almost never use gain but I almost always do volume automation on tracks. Drums, synths, vocals, sound effects, whatever.. I think that static volume levels create less interesting material not to mention the practical reasons for automating volume.
Are you saying that all your audio tracks are peaking @ 0dBFS (what about instrument tracks)? I find that's the quickest way to clip a mix, and if you were to lower each track by about 12 dB you'd be good - OR just start with them at that level and never worry again! ;-)

I find it VERY helpful when working quickly to have ALL audio at the same level (audio and inst tracks), which means all my insert FX will see the same basic level and make it easy to not have surprises at any stage of production. All in the name of speed and predictability! :-)
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  #7  
Old 2012-01-07, 00:33
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juno106user juno106user is offline
 
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Exactly.. As a rule, I always start my tracks out at -6 and if I need to increase an area, I have headroom, including on the master. It's just habit and it works for me. It's not that uncommon to grab everything at once and pull it all down further if I've been pushing a lot. Which reminds me of a studio trick that I heard Dr. Dre uses (not actually sure if it's true but..) I was told that he always pushes when he mixes so at many times during the mixing process, he'll keep dropping everything across the board by -6dBFS (or some common increment) and keep pushing and pushing! Kind of a cool idea.

Last edited by juno106user; 2012-01-07 at 00:38.
  #8  
Old 2012-01-07, 01:24
selig's Avatar
selig selig is online now
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by juno106user View Post
Exactly.. As a rule, I always start my tracks out at -6 and if I need to increase an area, I have headroom, including on the master. It's just habit and it works for me. It's not that uncommon to grab everything at once and pull it all down further if I've been pushing a lot. Which reminds me of a studio trick that I heard Dr. Dre uses (not actually sure if it's true but..) I was told that he always pushes when he mixes so at many times during the mixing process, he'll keep dropping everything across the board by -6dBFS (or some common increment) and keep pushing and pushing! Kind of a cool
idea.
[I wouldn't exactly call that a 'trick'…certainly not one to emulate.]

Can't argue with his success…BUT:
That's what a lot of 'non-engineers' end up doing! For me, I track at -12 dBFS and never need to bring the faders down - saves a lot of time dicking around lowering all the faders over and over. ;-)

But that's me - I like to MIX, not FIX!!!

Additionally, many times you can get your mix where you want it by simply LOWERING one fader. My ears tell me to work both ways, by lowering what's too loud and raising what's too soft - listening is the key. If you always ONLY raise faders, and one track is too loud, you'll have to raise EVERY other fader to get the mix you want! You'll also notice that if you always raise faders, you'll always be having to lower them again (just like Dre!) - seems like a silly circular game to me, no? ;-)

The main concept here is that if your individual tracks are all at or around 0 dBFS (normalized), it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that when you combine two or more tracks, your mix will clip. If you combine 20-30, your mix will clip by A LOT! By recording at a lower reference level, you'll be able to mix without chasing faders (unless you're into that sort of thing!). :-)
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Last edited by selig; 2012-01-07 at 01:26.
  #9  
Old 2012-01-07, 03:26
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juno106user juno106user is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selig View Post
[I wouldn't exactly call that a 'trick'…certainly not one to emulate.]

For me, I track at -12 dBFS and never need to bring the faders down - saves a lot of time dicking around lowering all the faders over and over. ;-)
Selig, you are probably leagues ahead of me in mixing experience so I'll take your word on that! I don't actually do the Dre method with intention(assuming it's true), occasionally I work on something and start to hear a little distortion so I have used the technique. (I'm a very bad boy..)

Because of the headroom I allow myself 99% of the time its not an issue. When I am quite happy with the final mix, if I have a lot of headroom, I may roll the master up a bit just to bring up the overall levels. (would you?)

M

Last edited by juno106user; 2012-01-07 at 03:47. Reason: spelling mistake!
  #10  
Old 2012-01-07, 03:34
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3rdFloorSound 3rdFloorSound is offline
 
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Quote:
if I have a lot of headroom, I may roll the master up a bit just to bring up the overall levels.
I have no idea why, but I invariably do this with a gentle maximizer in the master section instead. Wonder if it matters one way or the other.
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