The Mix is a Relative Thing
The mix can be a relative thing. I mean, and what I mean by that is you could be listening to something and think that the levels are all okay, but if you've got your headphone level cranked, it is telling you something different than, you know, if you have it at, like, what I would recommend, more of, like, the 75, 80% realm. So you wanna be setting your, thinking about your levels from the get-go, kind of setting them before it's too late. I never adjust my monitoring level in Pro Tools. I'm always, you know, I think of this as, like, a fixed entity, fixed element. And just, you know, I'm trying to think of these specific issues. My digital levels, I'm never passing zero. So we talked about limiters. I have a limiter that makes sure that doesn't happen. All right? So, digital distortion, you know, that's harsh. It can be difficult to repair. We try to avoid that. Peak versus average audio. You really wanna mind the difference there and handle them in different ways. You know, handlin...
g that peak audio with something that's, you know, got a kind of faster attack and is not gonna let it pass, versus the average audio, I want my average levels to be hitting that minus 24 target. So I just, I keep that meter open the whole time and it really helps. So I'm gonna, this stuff is kind of more, like, one sheet stuff that you should check out. I mix to this, and then iZotope RX has a nice sort of loudness management aspect of it, so I can just export mixes to where they want to go, you know, at the end stage, that this is what I'm hitting for podcasts. I don't wanna mix to two different specs. That's absurd. So I just make sure that I'm not, you know, when it gets bumped up, that it's not gonna be in a danger zone. So the deliverable level is whatever the client requests. I mean, so different, you know, if it's going for Amazon or Audible, they might have a different standard. If it's going for, you know, public broadcast, it'll have a different standard. So you're delivering to them and for their needs. And the idea is just that your work peacefully coexists with others. I think if you're in that minus 18 or minus 16 zone, that's pretty good. I've seen other people push it, but it sounds pushy kind of in the same way that that compression that I played for you did, because you're trying to squeeze everything into a, you know, tighter space. Always meter off the Master Fader as a general rule. I like the Waves WLM meter because it has that peak limiter built into it, which is, I could, can I show that real quickly? No demo? Okay. I don't wanna demo. I just wanna just show them what it looks like. Is that okay? (laughs) Okay, cool. So there's the WLM, and you see this section of it called True Peak Limiter. I have a threshold set for that. And then I'm pretty much guaranteed that nothing is going to pass zero, which is awesome. It's also, I've set this up in a way that even if I fold things into mono, which makes it louder, 'cause you're taking two sources and putting them into one stream, that even then it's not gonna distort, which is pretty great. The other metering, iZotope Insight is a really quality tool. I think one thing to look out for is it just uses a lot of processing power, but it does give you looks at the frequency spectrum and, you know, your stereo spread. So in the next class, I'll make that visible for you. And if you're just, like, damn it, Jim, this is too much stuff to buy, there is free metering from this company called HOPA out of Germany. They're making decent stuff. And, you know, you can see what's going on. It'll give you the peak and the average levels and you can do some damage with it. So good level practices. I don't wanna kinda belabor these points too much. But use Clip Gain. A lotta people will use that little fader that I showed you earlier on and just boost that all the way. The problem is then if someone is mixing it, they have nowhere to go, right? 'Cause it's already boosted all the way. So clip gain gets things into a ballpark and allows you to use the fader or the volume automation for fine-tuning. And it's also, it's before the compressor, which is pretty important. The volume graphing is after the fact. So you're boosting the compressed dynamic range signal as opposed to boosting what's going into it. We've talked about all this. Spread the gain-staging over the template. Use multiple compressors instead of one to do the entire job. Keep an eye on your range, and, you know, if it's, like, a verite piece where, like, you've got these nice fades to black, you might have more of a range. You know, that kinda thing is gonna be a little less predictable, so kind of look within the boundaries of the clips and really kinda focus on that for your levels and maybe less of the overall. So just to wrap here, I mix for broadcast first. I bump that standard up for podcast. In the next class, I will definitely make some room for some notes about exporting. We always export a WAV master. Don't let me catch any one of you only saving an MP out of this. The WAV can become an MP3, but the MP3 can't become better, right? Some programs, Pro Tools among them, allow you to export MP3s simultaneously. This is great for sharing mixes with other people. I just share a very high-res one so that we don't end up later on having to, you know, wonder if a problem is a result of the MP3 compression or if it's, you know, just how it sounds.