I have been syncing a trailer today and things are sounding good but none of the sounds reach 0db on the master fader.

Is is best to compress each audio track or each clip? Or do I normalize all of the audio clips then compress the master fader on bounce down?

I'm finding it hard to come to a conclusion, any ideas?


  • Where is the trailer to be viewed?
    – user80
    Jan 27, 2011 at 23:18
  • The video is here vimeo.com/18595531, I have had feedback in the wheel noises are too high in the mix which I haven't had chance to change yet. Let me know what you think. Jan 28, 2011 at 16:45

4 Answers 4


First off, what are you using to meter? If all you're using are the track meters for Pro Tools, you may want to add in some other metering method for verification (even if it's just a plug-in on the Master Bus). In general, I don't trust DAW meters. I like to have at least one more for verification.

Second, I have to echo Utopia's question. Why do you want things to hit zero? I've never met a mixer who wants to peg out their audio signal. Almost everyone I know leaves at least 1 dB at the top end of their mix (and those are in the most EXTREME cases).

The most important question is: "Does it sound good?" When you're talking about the overall mix, no one is going to hear .5 dB or less of difference if that's what you need to get it up to zero. If it sounds good, and you're making good use of the dynamic range, just leave it as is.

  • +1 to that. I was thinking of that just the other day, @Shaun, that I love how movies and films haven't gone down the path of music where everything is smashed for the sake of being louder than your competitors
    – Utopia
    Jan 8, 2011 at 22:28
  • @Utopida @Shaun Thanks for the responses. Parts of it peak at 2db but most of it stays around 6-10 db. Only reason I ask about boosting the master bus is after the bounce down I play it back and it is a lot lower than other trailers I watch. I only have the built in plug ins on Pro Tools at the moment until I can afford a Waves bundle. My audio interface is a MBox Mini (soon to be Focusrite Saffire Pro 40). Jan 9, 2011 at 0:08
  • 2
    @Adrian - the volume difference is a matter of compression, not necessarily overall signal strenght. Trailers and commercials, at least for theatrical use, are mixed to a perceived volume level of 85 dB M-weighted. That measurement is similar to the idea of -24 LKFS for broadcast. It is a specific algorithm that is used in the evaulation of material. Regardless, if you want it to SOUND louder, you're going to need to increase the piece's average volume. Peaks have very little to do with it. Jan 9, 2011 at 0:30
  • @Shaun - Oh right I never knew that, I'll see if I can get some research done on it. Jan 9, 2011 at 0:38
  • 1
    @Adrian you might want to look at the Massey plug-in suite. I'm thinking the L2007 mastering limiter can help you get closer to what you're after, although I can't say for sure you need a limiter and not a compressor... Jan 9, 2011 at 1:02

This is a proverbial can of worms question. The actual "bounce to disk" command is still flawed even in PT9 HD in many instances. It's always safer to internally reprint to a new audio track. Our production company ALWAYS does this as a work flow. Every session wether music or post centric follows the same path. Bouncing can work well only if there are no live MIDI tracks and little automation. Since bouncing is real time you don't lose any time by reprinting in real time. After the print you just need to export the new region and you're good to go. As for the metering part of your question I agree that most DAW's are flawed in their metering so a third party plug-in like the included TL Master Meter (which is free) works well or even better yet an old school hardware metering solution such as the Dorroughs meters (though pricy). A better thought perhaps is what are you laying back for? Much of our post lays back at -6 while other mediums with picture have other requirements. Hitting 0 is mostly for music only sessions. That said of course there are many different philosophies regarding headroom and dynamic range. I personally feel 0 is too hot and We mix to -3 or 4 to give the mastering engineers headroom to work with. Of course the type of music you are mixing plays a major role in this as well. One last piece of input, if you use the internal print option through an aux track before the print audio track you can apply mastering plug-ins before the print. A little ML4000 or even an L3 can get you to the desired level very simply. We use an L3 in our chain to ensure we DON'T print above the required output level but you can also raise your level with these types of plug-in. I'm not promoting crushing your dynamics to make things louder but these plug-ins when used with some discretion and artistry can get the job done.

  • all excellent points. another issue for people to keep in mind with the "bounce" feature is that Pro Tools uses a higher internal bit rate for editing/mixing, no matter what your session is set to. this means that you should use dither when using the "bounce" command for ANY sessions that aren't 24-bit (yes, even if you're bouncing a 16-bit file from a 16-bit session). you can ignore that if you're printing within the session though. Jan 28, 2011 at 12:57

As all of the others have said, hitting 0dB on the meter might not be such a great idea. Dynamics can be one of our best tools to manipulate, er i mean influence our audience's emotions.

I recall that in my days at school we had all kinds of problems with bouncing down in ProTools. My classmates and I had problems with tracks missing from the final bounce, the panning being a little out of whack, and volume relationships that were not what we had heard prior to bounce. It might have been the version of PT that we were using, and AVID has fixed the problems since then. I wonder if anyone else has had that kind of thing happen when bouncing in PT?

What are you going to use the final product for? For what is your mix going to be used?

  • @Joel The final product is just myself to build up a portfolio. Jan 9, 2011 at 0:36

I would start by asking myself "what do i want to achieve with compression?" You might for example want to lower the dynamic range of a track at hole, or simply compress a transient in a clip to even the level out. Or compress all busses to keep them below a specific threshold, and then do some peak limiting or compression on the master bus just to be able to keep the overall level up without having peaks hitting the roof of the master.

With that in mind, think about each gain stage of the chain. If all clips are normalized and compressed, will that result in a hot master that you have to dampen? If so then you might be hitting it to hard. Its all about finding a balance as with everything audio :-).

Good luck with your trailer!

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