Calling All Video Creators: Please Stabilize Your Audio Volume Levels.

by Dan Dashnaw in Main

audio-waveformThere’s a really good chance that the audio in your video deserves more attention then it’s currently getting. I’m pretty darn sure about this. Why? Because I’m running into serious cases of audio neglect everywhere I look these days. As a result, I’m going to make a quick suggestion which, if listened to, may vastly improve the overall video viewing experience for everyone on the internet.  Yes, I’m dead serious here.

This is what the world at large desperately needs you to do:

Normalize the audio output levels of the videos you produce.

Now, I’m not going to go nuts here and preach to you about things like de-artifacting, denoising, and compressing your individual audio channels, even though I definitely could - especially being that I’m an audio perfectionist of sorts.  That’s for another post.  All that I’m asking of you here is to come up with a reasonable ’standard’ audio output level - something like minus 2 (-2) or minus 3 (-3) decibels - and stick with it.

Here’s why it’s important:

Do you hate it when you’re watching TV and a commercial comes on that is REALLY loud compared to the show that you were peacefully enjoying? I know that I really do. Well, if you don’t take the time to attend to your video’s audio output level, you may very well be offending your own viewers in the same totally annoying way. Yes. Exactly.

Similarly, if your audio levels are too low (which may even be more prominent on the web these days), it’s equally frustrating. I’m really tired of ganking my computer’s volume level up and down all day long to account for the oversight and/or laziness of internet video producers. Plus, if I have to crank up my computer’s volume to hear what you’re saying, I run the risk of blowing my eardrums out when then next properly-gained video starts playing. I don’t know about you, but this is really starting to bother me. So, let’s work to squash this bug together, OK?

Here are some ways to fix it:

There are a number of methods you can use to stabilize your audio output levels, but here are some really basic ways to get the job done quickly:

  1. The first option is to take the audio ‘master track’ in your video editing application and ‘normalize’ it to -2 or -3 decibels (or ‘db’, as it’s commonly referred to) with a plugin inside of your video app. This should be applied to your audio ‘mix’ channel, which is the master audio output that combines all of your audio tracks.
  2. If that’s too much for you to swallow, then just take a look at your master audio track’s levels in your level meter and visually adjust it to somewhere within the -2 to -3 db range. This eyeball-based method is ‘quick and dirty’ and less then ideal, but it will probably at least get you into the passable range. Compare your results to other videos on the web. Adjust as needed.
  3. Record all of your audio properly, compress and gain each audio track separately, and finalize and master the mix to a suitable output level which is the same across every video you produce. Ok, fine - maybe not. If this sounds like way too much for you to think about, then I totally understand. Please go back and see #1 and #2 for my reasonable and easy-to-swallow solutions.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I really hope that you’ll work with me in resolving this epidemic of audio neglect. It’s within your power to do so, and it’s totally the right thing to do. The ears and patience of countless others will be appreciative of your efforts. ;-)

Questions? Feel free to drop them in the comments. I’d love to help.


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4 Responses to “Calling All Video Creators: Please Stabilize Your Audio Volume Levels.”

  1. kris crews

    18. May, 2010

    thanks. this is great.

  2. Captain Marvel

    04. Nov, 2010

    Thanks for the advice!

  3. Patrick Nuse

    28. Jun, 2011

    I’m definitively on board. There are standards for DVD and broadcast but as far as I know, no one has established levels for web content. Though i always thought it could follow one of the conventions for DVD or broadcast, since much content comes from one of the two.

  4. Cytentesigwei

    05. Jan, 2016

    Thanks for the info. You answered my googled question simply and direct to the point.

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