1. Balancing and level metering. 

Needed when you:

 

- use several different tracks in a video

- overlay audio elements, for example, add SFX or dialogues

- want to control loudness in different parts of your video

It's essential that different tunes in a video should not be much louder/quieter than one another, unless that's the idea. And you can of course monitor the loudness just trusting your speakers or headphones, but this can be very misleading. Listening at different volume levels makes the human ear perceive things differently, for example, high frequencies and basses get much quieter or louder, whereas the mids remain hearable anyway. And when it comes to high volumes, even 0.1 dB of difference can make one track sound seemingly twice louder than another.

To deal with it effectively, you'll need to get familiar with loudness meters and notions like True Peaks, LUFS and RMS.

2. Panning

Needed when:

 

- actors in your video are speaking not in the center

- you would like to emphasize motion with stereo effects

Panning is basically making a sound come from your left or right speaker, or both, or anywhere in between. Many listeners will hear your audio in mono. Yes, this may sound surprising, but nothing strange in fact. Even in 2019 - phone or tablet speakers are often mono, and you can walk away from the stereo field even if you have two speakers - the farther your ears are from the in-between position, the more mono the sound gets. But that doesn't mean stereo may be neglected, it just adds one more question.

Where is this music going to played most? This is what should shape your approach, because panning also changes perceivable loudness (like when you pan something totally to left, it would get a couple decibels quieter in stereo but the same loud in mono). If on phones, a good mono mix is a better solution than mono-incompatible stereo. But if you think people are going to use earphones or speakers, here comes another dimension of your creative freedom.

Panning automation makes sound follow motion (for example, when a car goes by from the left to the right of the screen), and sounds coming from different directions help the listener immerse in the atmosphere. You can even think of sounds coming from behind or below - but note that 5.1, 7.1 or Dolby Atmos require a special approach, as well as any surround panning, so you'll have to go in depth if you want to master for such systems yourself.

3. Trimming, Gluing and Cross-Fading

Needed when:

 

- a soundtrack is not perfectly loopable

- you don't want to stick to the legth of a track and would rather customize it for your needs

- you want to seamlessly connect two or more tracks

Oftentimes, it would not be easy to simply place two tracks one after another in your editor, or even repeat one - it's likely that they have intros and outros that would prevent seamless gluing from happening. The first possible solution would be using a loop (a short piece that's made exactly to be easily repeated), but that doesn't always save you.

Let's imagine your video is 1.48 and the loop is 30 seconds: you'd have to cut something anyway. Plus, using loops brings in monotony, which you might not want to be a feature of your video. Another case is when you want to cut a piece out to make audio shorter, and one more - when you want different compositions to harmoniously connect when the mood of your video or action in the game changes. So, it would be a great idea to learn how to connect waves with no clicks or other distortions.

4. Equalization

Needed when:

 

- SFX, foley, voiceover or dialogues are layered over music

- you want to create an environment for the sound, such as playing underwater or from a phone speaker

- you would like to boost or cut out some frequency

In a nutshell, an equalizer changes loudness - not of the overall sound, but parts of its frequency spectrum. For example, if you would like to hear more basses, you boost the lows, and the highs remain where they were.

While you have to be careful with EQing because it's easy to overdo it and spoil a mastered track, it can be a nice workhorse technique used for a variety of purposes. With EQ filters, for example, hi-pass and low-pass, you can imitate various environments and sound sources (phone speaker, voice from under a blanket or how music's heard underwater).

It also help you make room for dialogues and sound effects. Because most music occupies frequencies in the entire spectrum, some sounds will be masked, i.e. occupying the same currency range, which makes things sound dirty and reduces the clarity of those sounds. In most cases, you don't want this to happen, so it may make sense to cut some frequecies in the sountrack gently to make room for the voice, instead of simply turning down the music.

5. Reverb

Needed when:

 

- you imitate spaces where reflections of sounds are heard

- the sound should seemingly come from afar

- you want to enhance epic special effects

You must already be familiar with this one - it's the tool that helps you create that "call in the mountains effect". While it's not exactly echo, it makes reflections hearable.

Both digital and analog reverbs give you great flexibility - you can add only a bit, and make the sound less dry and flat, or you can make a long tale which will make it sound like you're in a tunnel. It depends on your exact purpose.

There are also convolution reverb plugins that imitate some spaces exactly - for example, some can even let you precisely plan a house, and make a voice come from the first floor while the "ears" are in a bathroom on the second. A whole world to discover.

OF COURSE, THESE ARE NOT ALL

Many more useful techniques and skills have been left uncovered by this article, such as compression, limiting, delay or saturation. We will tell more about them in our future posts, as well as publish more detailed tutorials on each of the skills described here.

If you would like to receive updates on this and tips on how to work with sound in your media - subscribe for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram and Facebook where new posts will also appear!

Feb 25 2018

By Mickey Devall of Soundexter.com

Mickey is a composer, singer and voice actor. His clients are Visa, Coca Cola, Mastercard, Kaspersky Lab, Miscrosoft, Gazprom and KHL.

KEEP READING:

The sound editing skills you'll need

If you're a filmmaker or a game designer, you don't have to be a sound producer or do mixing or mastering at the top class level.

It's likely been done for you.

However, you'll need a couple of core skills to become
a rockstar in versatility and edit music flexibly.
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