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Old July 24th, 2005, 12:45 PM   #1
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Final Mix Volume for Theatrical Release?

Hello, all. I'm working on the final sound mix for a feature length MiniDV film I'm producing. The feature is intended for theatrical release in the near future, probably on digital projectors. All the sound editing is complete, and I'm now moving on to setting the final levels and volumes of the music, dialogue, and sound effects. I'm working on ProTools LE with the MBox.

I'm wondering about overall volume levels. How loud should the audio be in general? There are some moments with full out music cues, and some with soft dialogue, and everything in between. Is there a particular volume level I should be striving for?

Right now, I'm listening to the mix on a high quality pair of Sony headphones through the headphone jack on the front side of the MBox. The headphone volume knob is set to 50%. Everything sounds great. Is this OK? Or should I be listening with the knob turned to 75%, or maybe 100%?

I'm new at this sound editing business, and I want this to sound the best it can, given the resources available. Ideally, I'd have access to a ProTools HD studio with professional monitors, and several sound engineers that do this for a living. But I'm not rich, and my last name isn't Spielberg. Therefore I need your help. Any advice, suggestions, and tips for setting final audio volume is greatly appreciated.
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Old July 24th, 2005, 01:15 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: Stockton, UT
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First, quit trying to mix your show through headphones. That is a serious mistake, and will almost guarantee problem audio at final output unless you test/monitor on a quality monitoring system in a decently set up room. Particularly if you're going to have a theatrical release.

If it is indeed heading for theatrical release, be sure to keep separate mixes of M&E (Music and Effects) dialog, and sound design. It will almost assuredly be remixed by whatever distributor licenses the film.

Peak overall level should not exceed -2dB. You can go hotter than this, but if it's going to also go to DVD, some oversampling systems will distort if you get too close to the 0dB mark.

Knowing this, the rest of it falls into place fairly quickly. You might want to use the iZotope Ozone or WAVES UltraMaximizer for best control of output, but use it sparingly, not so it's pegged throughout the entire mix.

Overall, the most important advice is to get this mix to a room where you can actually experience the audio, not be listening through headphones regardless of how good they are. You shouldn't be inquiring at all about levels of the M-Box, or anything along those lines, because that's all subjective. You need to be in a room where you can experience the full brunt of the mix, spread out over space, and with some limited reaction from the room.
Douglas Spotted Eagle/Spot
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