Hi guys

As noted in a previous post, I am soemwhat of a newbie in terms of sound design and ear training.

My current focus is on mixing dialogue, and I know a lot of people have asked before 'how do you EQ, process dialogue', to help train my ears a little, what do you listen for when processing dialogue? and what do you do to it? I.e resonances in the voice (pull out that frequency), de-essing (multibanding compression, plug-in?). Any particular voice 'characteristics' 'hidden' in raw recordings, brought out by potcessing.



5 Answers 5


In general, listen to whether it sounds good or whether it has something that irritates you. Or whether the sound is fitting or whether it's e.g. weak (in the modern days of dynamics squashing that can be a valid notion that you may want to adjust with compression. Just remember what the dialogue is for, i.e. it has to sound humanly like the person who's speaking it and it has to be intelligible, so all processing should aim to be rather natural and focus on clarity and minimizing any sort of irritation in the sound).

Ideally, dialogue processing doesn't need anything more than some EQ, some gain riding (prefer it to compressors, unless you're in a hurry, although modern vocal specific gain ride plug-ins can work really naturally) and a compressor/limiter to finish it.

But, dialogue can and preferably should be recorded, to save yourself from headache, so that you may not need to do anything but cut and add some fades, and possibly add a very small amount of sweetening/finishing EQ (or compression). I.e. the dialogue should sound almost, if not totally finished already when recording. In this approach having a good and carefully selected microphone is essential, the placing and micing angle has to be correct, the actor must attempt to/be able to speak/sing consistently (i.e. consciously keep the dynamic range that he/she uses under control. Or, you need to adjust the microphone according to how loud or soft the actor's dialogue goes.), his/her voice obviously has to sound good, the recording room must sound neutral and you must retake and readjust everything that doesn't sound good enough. In location dialogue recording controlling the environment and the mic positioning becomes an art of its own, which is why they invented ADR though.

So, don't spend too much time wondering how to post-process the dialogue. Focus on making the recordings as good as possible, and you'll need to do less later and it will come out sounding better.


That's an extremely hard question to answer, and would result in an answer thick as the bible. But the quintessence of it all is to keep it even, fluent, and remove everything that isn't needed for the scene or feeling, and replace sounds that sound bad or just wrong. Also to never ever use more processing than you actually need. The dialogue editing is more of a cleaning-up-and-tidying-up-thing, mixing, and that includes most equalizing and dynamic control, belong in the mixing session. Mistakes there will end up with a very pissed off mix technician.


In short, this is a very hard one to answer because even between all our peers, the answer to this is all broadly subjective (taste and nuance) within a narrowly defined objective (calibration and QC specs).

I'd love to elaborate on this a little later, so I will be appending to this, but in a nutshell this is my thought/gut reaction, being a dialogue editor at heart.


Although many good answers have been given already, I would like to point you in the direction of this book. It's not exactly written to teach 'what a voice' should sound like, but goes in depth to teach about dialogue editing and workflow.

Furthermore: Directing, recording and editing a voice is an art and I think one should have an obvious talent for it. It's not something you cannot learn, but if you don't 'feel' what a voice should sound like, you'll have difficulty creating the perfect voice-track. If you want to get better, try to direct as much as you can. And practice with recording your own voice, it helps a lot in many situations.

Good luck!

  • +1 to that book. It's a good resource. I'd also like to add that it's a very basic overview of what a dialogue editor deals with and what is expected of their sensibilities and care to the voice. By all means it's great info with some helpful hints, but it is most definitely just an introduction - so that's worth bearing in mind. I agree, people tend to have a knack and passion for dialogue editing if they're doing it - in my experience it's a black and white thing with dialogue, some (including myself) love doing it, others avoid it like the plague. Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 23:26
  • I second that! That book is a great introduction to dialogue editing! I too love this job a lot, there's something very satisfying with taking a raw project with lots of imperfections and artefacts and making it sound good and seamless. Commented Jan 24, 2013 at 17:11

Hey there. The goal should be to analyze what you hear and determine if it sounds natural. What does that mean? Well, if you hear hi freq or low freq that generally are not there in real life, that is because the mic or actor have those freqs in recording and you need to adjust it to balance it back to the real world as much as you can. Usually involes eqing under 250hz for boomy proximity stuff or de-essing/eqing around 2-4khz for hard S, T, Ds....also compression will generally help level out the mix and the make up gain from the compression can help bring up the overall volume. These are just basics of processing.... There is of course more! Like reverb. ;) but ill let you start with that. Hope it helps! Cheers! -jason www.soundmorph.com

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