Hi guys, what would the typical levels of SFX be in a say, an action movie that involves hand-to-hand combat? I'm currently doing the sound effects in cubase and i'm a little confused on the subject of metering. I've two kinds of metering, one is Waves's Dorrough and the other is PAZ metering. SO besides the obvious notion that my sound should not clip, i would like to know what your thoughts are on what the levels should be for the following:

  1. Dialogue
  2. Environmental Sounds / Ambience
  3. Foley (Clothes rustling)
  4. Footsteps
  5. Impact sounds (punches, kicks)

Much thanks guys.

3 Answers 3


First of all your monitoring system must be calibrated correctly. http://www.surroundassociates.com/spkrcal.html


And then mix to the taste.

As for dialog level I usually mix so that it hits -12dBfs. But even there it is not all the time. Whispers are softer, shouting is louder etc obviously.

Things to consider when mixing: The frequency of sounds used on tracks. Don't use too many sound that hit the same frequency bands. Your mix will get muddy. And everything that Shaun wrote. Also you have music (probably). If music underlines hits on screen then maybe you can skip them to avoid overlapping...

O boy... This area is too big to try to narrow it down to few lines.

Just listen reference movies and learn from there :)

Bye / Tumppi


That's not really how editing and mixing works. Everything that goes into an audio track needs to support the narrative, the characterization of the central figures, the mood in that scene, and the persepctive the director wants in focus. There is no prescriptions that says, "This sound plays at this level." It's a process of decision making that affects the aesthetics and interpretation of the piece.

  • amen brother!!!
    – user49
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 6:22

=> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialnorm => http://www.gearslutz.com/board/post-production-forum/419198-k-system-dialog-levels.html

The gist is: you establish a good level for dialogue. Then mix everything around it, so that dialogue is intelligible but also the mix is as dynamic as you want. You might want it more dynamic for film, and less dynamic for, say, a TV programme. But to get a good feel for dynamics you need the calibrated room or incredibly good knowledge of your equipment, and ears, and typical listening levels, or both for fast track.

Huge area and any answer would be oversimplifying.

Better learn your meters by heart if you're asking this kind of question?

p.s. in the UK: http://www.pro-tools-expert.com/home-page/2012/5/25/dpp-release-tech-standards-workflows-for-uk-broadcasters.html

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