This probably a bizarre question but what would you SSD's say about what the specs are for the maximum and minimum screening level for theatrical presentation of a film on DVD. I have spoken to some people and I have been getting different answers. One person said it was -20dB to -18dB with a peak max of between -15dB and -12dB. When they are mixing down and dumping to DVD, what are the normal levels that should be adhered to. If this is confusing then just ignore me.


  • While I have worked for broadcast networks that require their DVDs to reflect their broadcast mix levels, basically because they don't want pay for 2 mixes, this is not ideal IMHO. Their DVDs sound quieter than most DVD movies. So unless you are being asked to mix something that is network television produced to go to their DVD distributor (in which case I would ask for their technical spec sheet), I have to go with Andres' level recommendations here. At the very least, I wouldn't worry about peaks at -15 or -12db. You have a lot more headroom than that. Commented Nov 19, 2010 at 21:03

3 Answers 3



Around -20dB or -18dB average level, peaks could go as high as -2dB, basically avoid going to 0dB. DVDs can be pretty loud, as far as I know - I've mixed over a dozen DVD movies.

Good luck!


Can anyone else shed some light on this? I'm converting a mix for DVD as well and I followed Andres' specs, but the dynamics aren't coming through as the Producer would like.

I explained that small television speakers won't translate the same way a theater will. Unfortunately I couldn't give him a definite answer on DVD mix specs because I've never translated a mix for DVD and I truly don't know for sure if what I'm doing is right.

It's a horror film so naturally a lot of the scares rely on sudden, loud FX. His concern is that he has to turn his television up all the way and the dialog still isn't very loud (average of -20dBFS.) A friend of mine does mixes for DVD and she recommended the L1+Ultramaximizer set with a threshold and ceiling of -9.5. This of course SMASHED my dynamics.

Does anyone have a suggestion on how to word things so I can convince him/ educate him correctly?


I've never actually mixed anything for either theater or DVD, but I do descriptive video (mixing narration into completed sound tracks for the sake of the visually impaired). Basically, my job is to match levels with whatever programme I happen to be working on. This means that I sit all day and watch the Master to make sure I don't blow anything out.

Sadly the average mix level tends to run the gamut. It really depends on the kind of show/movie and the era in which it was made. Recent reality shows are L1-Ed bricks with a constant level of -10. The movie Black Hawk Down was similar, with sustained peaks as high as -3, but an average non-action dialogue level of about -20, action dialogue was give or take -10. A River Runs Through It sat at somewhere around -25 to -28, the very occasional peak at -6, and even rarer sustained peak at about -10. The reason for the difference is the date that the L1/L2 were invented, and simply that DAWs can deliver a much greater dynamic range than tape.

As a general rule though, it looks as if most films end up at -20 to -22. Most TV sits around -12 to -16.

The station I work for likes the final product to come out with a dialogue level of -20-ish, and a sustained peak of -10, one shots to -5 or so are OK, but only on the odd occasion. This means that i often have to alter the dynamics of the original. Personally, this breaks my heart. I hate mussing up other people's hard work. But it's what THEY want, so that's what I do.

If I understand you correctly you're printing to DVD but it's going to be played in a theatre, yes? If so, your dynamic range can be much greater because the system and the room (for the most part) has been designed to accommodate it. I may be completely wrong in this, but as long as you're not in the red or reaching for the volume knob in the quiet bits, you should be fine.

  • Thanks! What I ended up doing was keeping the dialog at -20 and setting the limiter at -2. I did a few tests with the L1 at different settings and this was the setting that maintained the dynamics we were all looking for. I appreciate the response!
    – Dan2997
    Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 6:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.