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.
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.