How to Set Proper Levels
So the room, we've dealt with that. The gear, set up. We know how to talk into the microphone. We wanna set some levels. And we're doing this because of we want a good signal to noise ratio. So, what is that? Signal is your voice. Noise is when I shut up and I listen, everything in the room. We want to separate your voice from the noise. So your voice versus not talking. If you record too low, if this is my voice and this is my noise floor, I record closer to the noise floor, this is where the audio needs to be in post production, I'm gonna have to bring up my voice. What comes with it is the noise floor, and I can just hear it, and it sounds terrible because I recorded too low. If this is the maximum, I talk about clipping and peaking, of what I can be and I record too close to that maximum I've left myself no room to get excited. And it's going to clip. So we're really looking for that happy balance between enough room to spare us operating space in here to when clip and being far en...
ough from the noise floor. So when in post production you're always gonna wanna bring up the levels a little bit. So if I'm close here and I only have to bring up a little bit, the noise floor's gonna come up just a little bit and you're not gonna hear. It's not gonna be a noticeable difference 'cause we saw our noise floor is fantastic it's -60db it's not gonna be perceived. And even if you hear something that's a case where you can use noise reduction. Typically if you don't have to use noise reduction 'cause it will make your voice warbly but if you have just a little bit of hiss it'll clean it up and it won't affect your voice at all so that's the case where it works really well. So the USB microphone let's see. We've got our wonderfully portable setup that we put back on our school desk. The USB microphone, I just tongue-clicked. I'm noticing all these things I'm doing on microphone. So with gain staging that's really just we wanna match the output of this microphone how much we need it to be output coming out of this to our input and in this case it's gonna be our audio recording system and our software. I'm gonna pull back audacity and okay good you can see that, so let's deal with the operating system itself. So back to the settings of your Mac or your Windows machine. We've got our input selected and you can see we have an audio meter right there. So as you see this is moving, oh that's confusing to see audacity and the system. Let's just focus on that. So you can see I've got level there and it's actually a little too close to the top. So I'd wanna adjust that, I take my input volume and I just slide it down a little bit. And now as I'm close to my microphone I'm getting about 70% on that. I have a little room to get loud and it's not too low. But we're not seeing any numbers so 50 to 70% it's pretty nebulous but just aim for that and you're good. And same goes with Skype, Skype will give you some settings. In your guess when you're setting your audio levels just try to get it around the 70% of full and you'll be generally good. If we go into audacity we have the audio meters in there so you can see those up there we're monitoring our audio via the audio meter. And what we're looking for is that 70% on that other meter is about -12 so the loudest parts of my speech which we're a little loud there I'm gonna bring this down a little bit so that the loudest parts of my speech are somewhere peaking around -12. We wanna play in this -12 area sort of a sweet spot. So anything like -18, -15 just playing around in that -12 area that's a great level. That's gonna be a good distance between the noise floor and then leaving ourselves 12db to get excited on the microphone we didn't peak it. So that's a good level. Alright let's go to our audio interface. And that is our Scarlett over here. And let's see the on device I talked about this has some visual indicators so I don't know if we can see this. You won't see it on your side but this is basically its got this little glowing green light. So green means good and when I get too loud as I'm adjusting this to get it into the green we don't want it to go orange and we certainly don't want it to go red. So oh good you can see it's green there. If I get too hot and it gets orange this microphone is so not sensitive and you need most of the preamp on this one so it's hard to get orange which is kinda good. Hey hey hey you see it changed red we don't want that. So I would pull back basically turn the dial down a little bit so that we're always in that green. That again doesn't give us numbers but we're gonna get that in our audio recording software. So if we go into the software the device tells you what it wants to be at. Let's get rid of this, and double-click that, same thing here we've got audio meters and so I was in the green here I'm gonna pull back a little bit 'cause I'm a little above that - so I'm gonna pull back until my voice is peaking around the -12 and is a really because we're at the top of this gain range it's really delicate but I'm just looking to be in that spot. I've set up my meter so that it turns yellow at - where I want it to be and it doesn't turn red unless I peak it, red is bad. So now I'm playing in that area. If I'm recording I'm gonna see that I've got audio levels. The waveform is nice it's not a flat line it's well above it and there's a lot of room above that. So we're not peaking the audio even if we get excited. We get excited and we didn't peak the audio so that's good. So just that -12, -12 for the loudest parts of your speech and then somewhere bouncing around there. You don't have to be strict like oh no it's not -12. Play around in that -18 to -12 and you're gonna be good. Stop that. Alright and the recorder. Let's pull up the recorder. In the menu, I'm really, there we go, they're on it here. We had the gain stage in our input setting. So this one I know it's a dynamic mic I'm gonna need a lot of gain. So the gain is already set to high but we can work through the gain here. I know I'm gonna need high but if you need mid you'll see you can adjust low, mid, and high. I'm just gonna start at high 'cause I know that's where I'm gonna be. And we go to the actual recorder and we arm it to record and I'm getting some levels there. So what you see numbers -26, -24, and you see that little triangle, do you see that? That triangle right there. Like why is that there it's the only place that had significance on that meter. That's your -12. The device is telling you that's where I wanna be. So if you see a meter and it has a visual indicator some will have numbers this ones giving us our numbers through this right there that's telling us. So I set the gain to high on this one and then if you have additional I have these little faders, so I'm gonna use this to then get me where I wanna be. So as I talk into this I'm around -12 when I'm super excited and that's it I have a nice gain level we've got plenty of room to get loud without peaking and I'm gonna stay around see? We're gonna hover in that -18, -12, -13 we're good. That's good the recorder's set up. Alright again recorders are so easy I like recorders. The mixer oh boy alright. (audience laughs) This giant thing looks intimidating but it's really just a repeating series of the same thing. So our mic is on channel one here. Mixers, when is zero not zero? So I'm talking about clipping and digital these devices in your software when they hit zero you've clipped the audio is gone. The recorder same thing. This is an analog device before it goes digital to the software. It has audio meters on here and for some reason the audio meters are green in the zero because on analog zero is not clipping. So zero is not zero when you're on a mixer. We're actually trying to get this mixer into the zero range if you're using a mixer. We don't have, some mixers have a special solo button which lets you just focus on that one channel and it takes out all these other things. We don't have that, that's good because if you can set it up the gain stage this way on a mixer without solo buttons or PFL buttons you can do it on any mixer so some of the more affordable mixers might not have those more advanced settings. But on this one we're gonna bring basically this I'm gonna use this channel one this is this microphone. I'm gonna bring my fader up to I'm gonna bring it up to unity here which is zero, it's a little U. It means I'm not taking anything away from the audio I'm not adding anything so it's neutral. And then so I can see my audio meters I'm gonna set this main fader also at unity which is zero. So the mixer's still neutral it's only gonna get what I send into this via the gain. So as I'm talking into my microphone at normal levels I'm gonna increase the gain we need a lot we're on a dynamic gain hungry microphone. You can see my audio meter start to come up and I just keep bringing this up until I'm getting around that minus, or around zero. And you can see now we are talking and we're hitting about zero on average. You have a lot of room it gets yellow and then it gets red. So if on average I'm around zero you've set up your channel for your microphone on your mixer. And you're gonna do this for that microphone and the next microphone, every microphone you have into the mixer. You will basically wanna turn down this one because we don't have that isolating option we'll just turn that down, we'll bring up the next channel's thing to unity and we'll start turning up the gain for this one as the other person talks. And of course they'll be different because they'll have a different volume level for their voice. So that's mixer gain staging it's just a little different and again knowing that zero is not always zero.