Hi folks - and Happy New Year!

I have been lurking around this fantastic site for a little while, but finally decided to ask a question.

I am gaining some freelance experience in the world of sound recording/dialogue editing, etc and have been working on some v/o's for a friend's web-based documentary.

My procedure has been this: in PT8 the mono files are first edited to fix mistakes, mispronunciations (where possible), sort timing and generally smooth out the talent's performance. Then I have been going into the volume track and adjusting the peak syllables/words to reduce the dynamic range somewhat. This part is pretty time-consuming, but it seems necessary to me. Using just the compressor would sound too heavy-handed and bring up the noise floor too much.

I can't remember the exact order just now, but my plug-ins are the 7-band eq, compressor, expander (as gate) and trim, with the Master meter to keep the peaks to around -8db.

Am I going about this in the most practical and efficient way, or are there some obvious improvements I can make?

Many thanks for any help!

2 Answers 2


I would say that you're overlooking a vital aspect of compression...there's nothing requiring you to use make up gain. Compessors can be used very effectively to control sustained amplitude increases or transient peaks. Your argument about bringing up the noise floor is a little mistaken as well. If you need to bring up the volume of a passage (whether by volume automation, trim automation, or make up gain in a compressor), then you're also bringing up the noise floor. It can't be avoided. So, if all you're going to do is pull volume down on a track, why not use a compressor with sans makeup-gain?

What I tend to do with dialog when mixing, is throw all of my processing (EQ, gross level adjustments, etc.) via inserts on the actual track; making sure not to clip out anything in the chain if I'm pushing things hard. I then pass the dialog through an Aux track via a bus (instead of routing directly to an output). That Aux track will have a compressor on it that I use to fine tune the loudness of the DX. I may use make up gain in that compressor, I may not. Depends on the situation.

Hope this helps.

  • @Shaun - thanks very much for your answer. I should explain that I come from a musician background so my technical expertise leaves plenty of room for learning and improvement ;-) I will try your suggestion, which sounds great, but can I assume that I am not too far off in the way I have approached this?
    – Pim
    Jan 6, 2012 at 11:19
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    @Pim - there are a few things that I probably wouldn't do: compressor and expander together (can get a little funky), and I don't concern myself with mixing to a specific peak (the perceived volume/energy is far more important, i'll use a compressor or limiter to control peaks...sometimes both). that doesn't necessarily mean that my way is the "right" way. in audio, "rules" are only applicable until you find the appropriate moment to break them. your actual edit process sounds pretty similar to mine, so i don't really have anything to add in that respect. Jan 6, 2012 at 12:28

In addition to what Shaun said, be careful with expansion. If you're using a plain old digi Expander/Gate, anything more (or rather less) than a -6dB range will be a bit too heavy, and could result in pumping. A multiband expander like Waves C4 (with the "4 Band Noise Reducer" setting) will be much better if you have don't have the quietest recording set up.

Your set up sounds fine, although i second Shaun's recommendation of using aux tracks as submasters. Personally, i never use Master tracks in Pro Tools because i prefer to use an Aux track (that i use as a master) to a record track (rather than the old "Bounce to disk").

I also like to put a brick wall limiter like Waves L1 on the master track so i can adjust dynamics easily. If your mix is destined for web-only use, you may want to play around with the dynamics and max peak so your work sits well against all that other randomly-leveled web content out there.

  • @Shaun Thanks so much for those tips - I will add them to my process right away. @Roger Thanks too. I am using the PT Expander/Gate Dyn 3. It is an attempt to gate out quieter noises and hiss that eq won't handle. I am planning to buy Izotope RX in the future. I am interested in your Master track/'bounce to disk' comments. What do you dislike about 'bounce to disk' (I can say that mine crashes from time to time, which is most frustrating when bouncing a long track).
    – Pim
    Jan 6, 2012 at 14:03
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    @Pim Using aux tracks as master/sub-masters (and recording your mix to audio tracks in PT) lets you control your signal flow a lot more. It's necessary if you need to record separate stems simultaneously. If you hear that one little thing you want to tweak towards the end of your mix; you can stop, tweak it, and continue recording, rather than start again from the beginning. Also, you can't monitor sound against picture while you're using the bounce function. Jan 6, 2012 at 16:21
  • I'm with Roger on "bouncing" internally within the session. We do a lot of programming for international markets, so I always need to create an MDE version of the final audio as well. I set up my mix sessions so that I can mix and bounce both simultaneously. Jan 6, 2012 at 23:17

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