Ok, this is kind of a tandem question to Davide's question yesterday, but I felt it needed a separate question.

What are "standard" levels for a mix down on a big stage? (the stage I'm on is a Dolby Print Master Approved stage, if that means anything)

I've been doing some editing and mix on a huge stage this week, and I've got to say, it's RIDICULOUSLY LOUD!!! MUCH louder than any theater would ever play back. I didn't have an SPL meter with me, but I'd venture to say it's somewhere between 102 and 104 db. We're talking crazy loud, as in my ears are hurting loud. And that's with the faders at unity, and with someone extremely competent running the room. I've heard that most stages are run very loud.

Why does it have to be this loud? I'll ask the mixer tomorrow, but I'm curious as to what you guys have to say.

  • It doesn't have to be that loud. The mixer is probably deaf. What you want to hear is what the audience will hear.
    – Utopia
    May 27 '10 at 16:49

85dBC SPL = -20 dB FS, 0 dB VU, +4 dBu

Measurement of single speaker at listening position using pink noise.

L, C, R = 85 dBC

LS, RS = 82 dBC

  • It seems the gut feeling of Colin matches this specification: If -20 dBFS is set to 85 dB (C) SPL, that means the loudest points in the mix (0 dBFS) will be around 105 dB SPL. Per speaker. Add up all of the speakers and it will be even louder.
    – EMV
    May 27 '10 at 15:20

I'm not sure what's typical on the stage, but I heard that THX standard is 75dB on C weighting. You can't always trust the MultiMax (or other EXR controller) for actual levels, either. Our studios are almost always too loud because folks are setting the controllers to 75dB instead of pulling out an SPL meter and adjusting them. If I have no control over the levels, I always have some good earplugs to save what hearing I have left.


So, I did some tests today, and asked some questions. Here's what I found out.

The room is cal'd to 85db (as many of you have said it should be). We're monitoring at -5db right now, and the hits are hitting around 97db, 98db. I was told that when Gary Rizzo brought the Dark Knight print master over to watch it, he said "you guys have 24db of headroom above 85, right?" "Yes.." "Ok, good." The meters on the board all pegged red and the room hit somewhere around 115db, 118db. Apparently it sounded amazing though.

I've been told that it's almost always just around the same level as it would be in a theater, but this week, because we're editing, we're pushing the levels on each individual sound just to hear specific details. However, we're taking breaks every 30 or 40 minutes.

Still not 100% clear on it, but it's starting to make sense...


As Ian write, 85 db is the Dolby allignement level. I think that the problem is that we are always asked to push everything, to be punchy, to slam the listener,sometimes trying to solve writing or directing problems with a "in your face" sound. Here in Italy, the productions are mainly comedy and drama, no big action movies. But even in those kind of movie, the music level, the dialogue is often too loud. One thing that always happen, is that projectionists in cinema lower the level from 7 to 6or even 5.3: they do this because of the level of advertising and the level of the Hollywood action movies and to try to "please" the older audience. So re-recording mixers try to solve this problem rising the level... It's a mouse and cat game. :)

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