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Old March 2nd, 2009, 06:08 AM   #1
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optimim peak audio levels for DVD

Hello all. Just a basic question. What would you recommend the audio levels to peak at when mastering to DVD? Do I keep the max peak level at 0dB? -4dB? Any other?
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 08:15 AM   #2
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I spent a bunch of time on this very question. What I ended up with was a target of -12. As an old analog audio guy this seemed counter intuitive, but RW experience proves this to work for me. You have to think of 0db as a hard ceiling. Go above that and sound will distort. -12 gives you good headroom for louder passages. Think of "They Were Soldiers" and other films.

If you have a clean audio setup, this should work quite well.
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 09:59 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Tripp. You say -12. Is that the max ceiling? You mention that it'll give me more headroom, but i'm asking about the max peak ceiling. Surely that can't be -12. What i have is a voiceover for a tutorial video so there aren't any dramatic rises and falls, its straight-forward voice which has been compressed. So even though i'm trying to think They Were Soldiers, i'm not so sure its the reference i should be looking at. So any other recommendations for peak max level?
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 07:33 AM   #4
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Ali... -12 is not the max ceiling. 0 is. And it's a hard ceiling.

Let me first say that there are others here more knowledgeable than I when it comes to audio. It was from many of those experts that I learned the -12 guideline. It's a habit I've gotten into and it works in practical application. Here's why.

Sound is additive. If you mix one track, recorded at -12 with another one, the peaks may end up being louder. That's why having the additional headroom is good. -12 also seems to be where commercially produced DVDs are recorded.

My reference to "They Were Soldiers" was meant to demonstrate that with dialog recorded at a lower level, like -12bB, explosions can be much louder and create a dramatic effect. Not to mention annoy the neighbors. (grin)

In the old analog days, we wanted to keep levels as high as possible because of the noise (primarily tape hiss) that would creep in at lower volumes. In the digital world, noise is much less of an issue so we have much more room to play in.
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Old March 3rd, 2009, 10:45 AM   #5
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Keep in mind, whatever you edit at, the audio gets compressed one more time as it becomes DVD compliant audio. I use -12dBfs as my edit reference BUT when I send to Compressor (on the Mac), the preset I use encodes for -31dBfs and sounds very similar in overall volume to commercial DVDs (I should note that I use AC3 exclusively for DVD audio).
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