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When I mix films in stereo, I mix for dynamic range at 78dB SPL. This means I have my setup calibrated, I mix the dialogue until it's comfortable, then I mix everything else around it to match. In some action films, the explosions peak pretty high (say, -2) while my dialogue sits lower (say, -10). But in more dialogue-based films, I don't have those transients, so my peak level of the whole mix might be at -6.

Question I have is, when all is said and done, should I compensate for the -6 peak by normalizing the level?

I hate the world "normalize" with a passion, but it does seem logical in this case. Having said that, I presume that this is what the "dialnorm" spec is for, right? Is this why we don't normalize our final film mixes?

Thanks for everything!

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You're right, that's what dialnorm is for; to try to create a standard for average dialogue level (dialogue being king and all). Having Dolby Media Meter helps a lot, but your ears should do a fine job too.

I would avoid boosting dialogue in the absence of loud FX. Just because you have the headroom doesn't mean you need to use it. If i'm understanding the question correctly, i'd say it wouldn't make sense for dialogue in one film to be as loud as explosions in another; i think it's ideal to have a consistent dialogue level (depending on whether it's mixed for TV/film/web) across all your mixes.

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Yeah, thanks! You make a good point of having level dialogue across all programs. And normalizing would just be offset by a higher dialnorm setting anyway. –  Chris Bishop May 27 '12 at 20:29
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