I often times due to time constraints and given the limited amount of dynamic range permitted for my television mixes, use step compression on my narration track. I find it causes less ear fatigue than compressing up to 4:1 or 5:1 directly on the track. (I know....I don't like it either. But I am only allowed a 3 decibel range of variation in my LT Dial Norm, -26 to -28 and I get about 4-6 hours to edit stems and mix an hour long show with untreated narration.) Instead, I use a compressor at 2:1 or 3:1 with a moderate attack at a moderately low threshold, do an automation pass on the VO, and then compress a bit harder at a shorter attack at a much higher threshold on my narration aux track. This second compressor may have a ratio of 4:1 and a 5ms attack. I find since the ear is not hearing a consistent press from the heavier compressor that it relieves ear fatigue while still getting that target element in the box. What do you guys think of this? I welcome any new approaches.

  • @MixingManiac would you use this technique for comedy or drama dialogue also? I'm currently working on a short tv series (6 episodes at aprox 6 mins each) and am having difficulty in getting the dialogue to sound natural with this technique. Are you automating the volume on the vo after the first stage of compression ? Feb 4, 2011 at 21:04
  • Yes and yes. I would use a version of this technique in a lot of reality programming situations with dialog as well as the occasional dramatic reinactments and sitcoms. I generally set my ratio to perform a lighter level of volume reduction and I do automate the volume at the track level. This is key. Your bus's threshold should be high enough that it only occasionally hits signal unless you use automation to increase the volume being sent at the track level. This way you are not consistently hitting the 2nd compressor but it will help you stay within TV spec. Feb 7, 2011 at 20:51

2 Answers 2


It's pretty much what you have to do with low budget Television... especially given the time constraints we usually have and the insane tech specs (try CBC -24 +/- 1 yup you read that right). I also find that it's far less annoying to have two compressors hitting 2 or 3db each than one compressor trying to do 4 to 6. If I have the time (like on the show I'm working on now) then I can do away with a lot of the compression as I have time to edit and volume graph. But we do what we have to, to make it sound as good as possible in the time we get.


could you post audio examples? because I've neither heard of the techniques you mention, and can't imagine how they sound.


  • Well...posting examples may be difficult but I used my step compression technique on the first to episodes of Planet Earth with Sigourney Weaver (we had a day to place VO and mix in 5.1) and for How It's Made on Science Channel. It should be pretty easy to get samples of those two online somewheres. Nov 30, 2010 at 15:07

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