Have you ever had one of those moments discussing workflow, processing, or what have you...where someone mentions something that's such a painfully simple concept, you wonder why you never thought of it before? Maybe you've simply had a "Eureka!" moment on your own. Let's create a little archive of these hidden common sense gems.

Here are two examples:

A favorite eureka moment of mine many years ago...just because you're using a compressor, doesn't mean you have to add make-up gain.

Another that I have to give René Coronado massive credit for...You can do easier fast automation moves, if you write automation while in half-playback speeds.

What have you got?! Make me face-palm.

11 Answers 11


Noise Reduction always makes things sound different, not necessarily better. Not everything needs to be pristine.


how about: don't use bright mics on bright sources

also, headphone gain affects an actor's read.

edited to add: don't eq things when they're soloed out - eq relies on context

  • that headphone gain one is an important one. I remember when I first realized it, changed a lot of reads from then on. Commented Oct 15, 2012 at 19:40
  • @Rene Several questions on the headphone gain. Are you using this as a dialogue directing technique ie: lower level monitoring would make the actor psychologically read louder so they can hear themselves, thus perhaps matching a scene where an actor is being loud. And vice versa Or is it just to give the actor a good level to hear themselves - no direction involved? And I guess this still needs to take into account the level of skill an actor has at doing adr.
    – ofa
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 16:15
  • to some degree it does work as a direction technique - louder gain causes actors to speak more softly. It also factors into skill level - untrained actors give better performances if they don't hear themselves AT ALL sometimes - the microscope of headphone listening suppresses their performances.
    – Rene
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 16:56
  • I find that veteran voice over talents often request a louder volume than others and can deliver a better performance when they can really hear the subtle detail in their read.
    – Brad Dale
    Commented Oct 17, 2012 at 18:09

A gem from Randy Thom: An omnidirectional mic placed close enough to a sound source becomes effectively directional. It's all about S:N! :-)

  • Out of curiosity, was this in a publication or video? I've heard Randy Thom talk about design concepts and individual projects but never about engineering techniques.
    – Matt Glenn
    Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 17:02
  • Geez, I'm not sure. It was an online interview that was committed to print, not video. A brief search didn't turn it up. It's out there somewhere...sorry! Commented Oct 23, 2012 at 18:12

Spend more time watching the video and less time with your eyes glued to Pro Tools. This is something I try to keep in mind because it can be so easy to get sucked into the computer screen.

Automation Preview mode is also a god send.

  • 2
    With a control surface in place, turning off your computer monitors can be most beneficial. Commented Oct 20, 2012 at 5:21
  • @Steve Urban Agree 100% with control surfaces. I'll have to experiment with going monitorless. Commented Oct 21, 2012 at 7:36

When designing a layered effect, mute layers/regions once in a while- What can't be heard/felt is only clogging up your signal path Low frequency energy adds up really quickly


When you import high sample rate sounds into ProTools (eg a 96k sound into a 48k session) the usual procedure is to sample rate convert them, so they play at the correct speed.... but if you choose to not do this, its a quick & dirty way to pitch shift an octave without processing ie playing a 96k sound in a 48k session is same as having that sound available at half speed, or quarter speed for a 192k file in a 48k session (Same goes for manually editing the sample rate in the workspace browser)


I am studying sound design, so there is not much I can say, but the thing that came to me like some kind of angel from the heavens was when i found out about the elastic audio, while editing the dialogue for my second project. During the first one I would ask my ADR friends to start over and over again in order to synch the speech with the picture... and they would just hate me!


Rather than focus on your source sounds, think about how any sound can fit within a mix. Some people spend hours trawling through sample packs when they could of used 100's of sounds they passed. THe trick is making the dynamics and frequencies sit between everything else. Relativity baby...

  • I actually disagree with this. Nothing can compensate for using the 'wrong' source material. If you're talking about using one sound for another because of how novel it works (as in using pitched-up small chains for a chain necklace snap) I agree with you, it's all about choosing what 'sounds right' and is the 'correct source' no matter how disassociated it is from what the recording says it actually is - but just grabbing a random sound because it "sorta" works (as in, putting a random door sound because we need a door, even if the latch/weight is 'wrong') I wholeheartedly disagree with. Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:24
  • I feel that those who take pride in what they do and have a deep passion for it feel it is worth spending the the necessary time to find the 'right source', whether it means recording, a lot of library searching, or 'breaking down' the sound source into parts through analysis and building something with a variety of elements (creating new source). Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:27
  • The way you phrased it though lends itself toward implying the latter, 'just grabbing something that sorta works' Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:30
  • I understand your point and yes, i should of phrased it better. I completely agree with you when it comes to sourcing the right sounds for real world sound sources and spot FX. I was talking more about creative sound design and abstract sound objects. For example sci-fi design; I have worked with people that have a sound 'in mind' and rather than try to design that by processing (spectral dynamic, temporal etc.) they try and find 'that' sound. Or something close to it.. Most of the abstract sound design i have created comes from the most random of sources. What i look for is the right timbre.
    – Danny.Q
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:46
  • Fair enough, I understand what you mean now :) Commented Mar 30, 2013 at 3:07

My most recent mind-leap: dynamic range vs. perceived dynamic range. I was lucky during my last mix to have access to a room full of Meyer Sound loudspeakers (UP-Juniors and a UM-1P, for those who know them) which I set up in a 5.1 configuration. I discovered an incredible difference in perceived dynamic range between the set of midfield monitors (Meyer HD-1s) in the control room and the live sound cabinets in the other room. The slightly loud words in the dialog track that I let pass by on the midfields came across as painful blasts of sound in the other room.

It made me think hard about my use of the frequency spectrum, the surround field, reverbs/delays and subtle compression in conjunction with variation in volume to create a smooth and consistent level throughout the film.

Not to mention the other lessons I learned just by previewing my mix on a second set of speakers. If you can make it happen, do it. A lot. It keeps you on your toes. Then sum to mono and do it again.



When splitting mono atmoses between scenes, use a stereo and swap between the L and R, meaning they can be seamless and no phase issues. It's made things far easier for sitcoms etc based in the same place for the whole episode.


Here's a technique I'm using lately: layering a natural recorded sound with a phase inverted noise floor extracted from the same sound. This is the best way I found to have a good noise reduction without loosing too much of the original feature.

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