Turns out you can learn a lot about creating better TV stories from a guy who focuses on audio. Adam Ragusea teaches at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and hosts a podcast called The Pub. He presented at the Excellence in Journalism Conference on a topic he wrote about for Current.org — “Why You’re Doing Audio Levels Wrong and Why It Really Does Matter.”
When you’re trying to create sound consistency in a story that has a number of audio clips of varying levels, you need to normalize that audio as part of the mixing process.
“Mixing is the art of making all the bits and pieces of an audio composition sound right relative to each other,” said Ragusea.
The embedded tutorial provides an excellent overview of how to do a better job of normalizing audio in Adobe Premiere Pro.
But Ragusea says too many people stop with the mixing process and don’t go on to the mastering stage.
“Mastering is the art of making the mixed piece sound right relative to all the other audio in the universe,” he says, and that’s where dynamic range compression comes in. “Dynamic range compression is electronic or digital processing that automatically boosts quiet sounds and lowers loud sounds.”
So, how do you do it? Here’s another tutorial that may help.
American Public Media engineer Rob Byers says voice levels should generally be around -15 dBFS, and nothing should ever go higher than -3.
All of this matters to those in TV because, as the saying goes — if you have great video and lousy audio, you end up with a lousy story.