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I'm editing a promo video that will appear on the web (specifically, PledgeMusic) and I'm curious what is the current best practice for the correct audio levels (base -dB) for:

  • Music (when no other sound is present)
  • Music (when a voice is also speaking)
  • Voice (when music is played at the same time)
  • Just as a general tip for future reference, please don't double post a question on two SE sites. This question is a fine fit for either here or Video Production, but it doesn't need to be posted on both. Normally if one site doesn't get a response or isn't an ideal place for it, the moderators will migrate it to the better site as long as it is a good question (or suggest you post it on the other site with advice on how to improve it if it isn't.) – AJ Henderson May 28 '14 at 13:16
  • I migrated the other one here and merged. – Rory Alsop May 29 '14 at 10:34
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First, make sure that nothing is clipping-- i.e. no red light at the top of the audio meter.
I would mix the loudest parts of your video to roughly -1.5 dB. Others will tell you 0, or -3. You have some flexibility.
More important than specific levels is making sure that your script can be clearly understood. When you've got a rough mix, listen to it with your eyes closed. Bring someone in that hasn't heard it before and have them do the same. If you can't understand the speaker, or if you can feel yourself straining to listen, drop the music another 2dB and listen again.

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I find what coaxmw says to be true when I don't have a lot of music, so with primarily voice over. Regardless of Lufs and other standards for loudness, you should be mixing/leveling with your ears not meters. Have you calibrated your speakers and tuned your room acoustics? If have a monitor setting for commercials and another one for 'softer' material.

Do a little search on the site on monitor calibration. Or google.

  • Yes monitor and room calibration to the correct listening levels is really the most important thing. It will greatly help you keep your mixes consistent. Good point. – coaxmw May 28 '14 at 15:25
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There aren't really an "correct" levels for the web. I will usually make the web version of commercial hit around -16 to -18 lufs throughout the spot with peaks around -2dbfs. It seems like most other ad mixers are in that area as well That is just ballpark though, it really depends on your program material.

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Take a look at a selection of promo videos - there are as many approaches as videos, some trying to have the vocals punch through a mix, some that want to make music the forefront at all times etc.

If Pledge have specific levels, you should use theirs, but you will find that there is no standard in this area so go with what feels good to you.

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To reiterate what other posters have said already, there aren't 'correct' levels. There are various loudness standards which will help you in terms of mastering and so forth, but your major reference point should be your own listening comfort. As a sound engineer or designer your most important tool is your hearing - if it sounds wrong to you, then it probably is wrong. There are plenty of great plugins and hardware and software tools to help you do what you do, but only your own personal sound equipment on the sides of your head can actually do the job!

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