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Old November 13th, 2009, 02:55 AM   #1
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 8,441
Ideal Audio Levels?

Hi All

A quick question about camera audio (let's say a radio lapel mic on the groom at a wedding??) What should an ideal peak level be assuming that there is little or no background noise and conditions are fairly good??

I figured out by using my HMC72 in auto mode and let the elctronic decide an optimal level (there is only auto "level" control on these cameras so you get a pretty good signal and once it's set it stays there even during silence not like the terrible "pumping" audio the old camcorders used to have!!)
If I record with the lapel indoors with a low ambient level and let auto do the work, the peak level never went over -2.1db on a 5 minute test of talking and not talking. I usually, however use the radio mic via the XLR input on manual and tend to get around -4db peaks.
(In manual, I have excluded thing like "clearing your throat")

Is there any "official" audio level that would be deemed ideal so you could leave the slider on 0db and get pretty much great audio levels???

Chris Harding is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 13th, 2009, 03:55 AM   #2
Slash Rules!
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 5,334
Audio's a tricky mistress.

The rules I've kind of followed are on prosumer/consumer, gear, try to stay between -20 and -6. MOST of the time, pegging around -12 is good, for an average speaking level, and when they get a little quieter, down at 20, and when the get more excited/loud, around -6. You don't want stuff too low (down in the 40s), but if you hit 0 you're screwed, so I don't like to be anywhere near -2 unless it's an accident. But the idea is if your TARGET is 12, and they spike to 2, it won't last long, and you can turn down your pots a little so they don't get that close again.

For more professional gear, you keep the levels even lower. -20 would be your average, maybe -30 for the lower stuff, try never to go above -10.

The logic behind the lower levels for better gear is, of course, the electronics are better and you get less inherent noise (i.e. generated by the recording device/camera itself) so you can have your levels lower without them being "contaminated".

These are the guidelines I follow, but I'm sure someone here will disagree. It's hard to get straight answer out of pro sound guys when I ask 'em (I am NOT one).

The idea is to leave room for error, especially in live/unrepeatable situations. So if your average/normal speaking level is set for something way lower than 0 (-12, -20), and you get hit with unexpected shouting/laughing/etc., then your volume controls are low enough that those spikes won't hit 0 when they occasionally occur.

Auto's not magic, and sometimes it can't catch things before they "slip through" and ruin your sound.
Josh Bass is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 13th, 2009, 05:16 AM   #3
Inner Circle
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Posts: 8,441
Hi Josh

Thanks !! That's lower than I would have expected. When I play a clip in Vegas I normally am happy if the peak reading is around -6db (obviously quieter speaking will be lower!!)
If the audio meter stays green then I'm usually happy...I never checked where the green to yellow threshold and also yellow to red threshold is set on the Vegas level meters but I figured that green usually means you are safe. If it kicks into dangerous territory then I'll usually put in a volume envelope!!

When you are talking about -12db as a target is that peaks or just an average level?? Is there any way to check what your average level is in Vegas???

Chris Harding is offline   Reply

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