balancing audio levels?

Hi, thanks to all the experts here, even if it turns out there’s not a way to do it.

Here’s my question.

I have a documentary I’ve edited. I’ve tried within the editing program, Avid, to balance the VO (Voice Over) and the Interview Subjects, since they were all often recorded at different levels. But I haven’t yet been able to achieve the sort of balance that makes everyone happy.

I use Audacity for certain things that I understand how to do. I’m not an audio editor, I’m a picture editor, but I’ve gotten fairly fluent in fixing common audio
problems, including amplifying low audio levels.

But, is there a way to Balance them all? If I were to import the VO and INTv audio tracks, have them laid out in the Audacity window, is there a tool or effect I could use or apply that would Balance the levels so that they sound all very much, if not perfectly, the same?

Guidance is greatly appreciated. And thanks, again, to Gale, for helping out with my password!

Paul Hartel

I know you’re dying for a button press, but no. This is a common request. I’ll give you an idea of the difficulty value. If you have a show with two different commentators, one man and one woman tossing it back and forth; given natural vocal ranges, the two presentations can be made to have a pleasant sounding match… with different audio levels.

You would need to punch the man’s voice more to compete with the woman’s voice. Not by much, but little question the show would not sound naturally balanced if you did nothing.

This is why many emergency presenters and utility voices are women. Their voices tend to fall in the sensitive range of the human ear. Hello, Siri.

Can anyone describe why they didn’t like your manual balances? I don’t remember the Avid controls, but do they let you set levels clip by clip, or do you have to do it in one continuous block?

You’re also going to run into troubles if the foreground work is stable and carefully produced and the VOs are wild sound. That’s going to sound like a kid doing a mix-down no matter how you adjust things.

Can you post a sample of the work without anybody shooting you? Use very good quality MP3 rather than WAV so we can get a lot of sample work.

I did post an experimental process for loudness matching, but it was an academic exercise rather than a useful tool. I’ll see if I can find it. The description was to modify a copy of each clip so only the loudness tones were left. Then compare those sound levels and write down the differences. Close that, load the real clips and apply those corrections. It was less painful than pushing hot pins in your flesh, but not by much.

I think we had Media Composers. Is that what you have?

Found it. I was doing this on a dead run, so it’s a little disjointed. It was the scariest thing I could think of for Halloween.


Thanks, Koz. I appreciate the input. I suspected it was not going to be easy, that’s why there are Pro Tools editors. There’s just no budget for that.
Yes, it is Media Composer, and we can set individual clip levels, and that’s what I did, but either my monitoring gear wasn’t suitable or - I’m not sure
what, and it’s actually an old project that was back-burnered and shelved for a little while, so I’d have to plug in the drive and load it up and take
another look at it, which I will, and get back to you. I’ll look at your helpful sheet, and see if that’s something I can use when I do. May take me a
couple of days, my equipment is tied up on another project right now; it’s just been one of those things that bugs one, you know; you want everything
to be perfect, or nearly so. BTW, some of the narration was recorded wild, most of it, actually, and in different settings. It wasn’t in a studio,
so it IS all over the place, not just in terms of levels, but in terms of presence and resonance - bigger rooms, smaller rooms. That’s when you
begin to push the limits of my technical audio knowledge and my ability to make them all sound as if they were recorded at one time.

Appreciate your input and your help! Thanks, Paul

it IS all over the place, not just in terms of levels, but in terms of presence and resonance

This is me being glad I’m not you. We can’t do anything about presence, reverb and room echo. Echoes and noise kill the compressor tools. The noise starts pumping and breathing along with the corrections.

You might go down that posting just for academic interest. I didn’t see it until now, but the poster replied way at the end that it didn’t work very well.

When you get the clips on-line, do post a bit of it. We need the work before you mess with it. Do it in good quality MP3 rather than WAV. The forum will only let you post a handful of seconds in WAV. If you have DropBox or other on-line posting service, that works too. You can go WAV and much longer clip. If all else fails, I can post it. I’m a dot-com.

We’re also interested in methods of doing this in ProTools. It’s our opinion that nobody can rescue your show. Taking room ambience out of a track is not just magic. It’s not anything. Nobody can do a good job.