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Whether one is producing music, podcasts, game sounds, or film sound effects, Digital Audio Principles provides the tips and techniques that will make the project a success. Author Dave Schroeder explains the basics of digital audio production techniques and covers the essential hardware and software. He also discusses sound theory, frequency response, the range of human hearing, and dynamic range.
Sound tools are another category of plug- ins that can help you work with sound files. They tend to function more as utilities than as tonal enhancers or special effects. Now many of these will work at the file level and won't be available as real-time plug-ins or inserts. In this movie, we will look at two that deal with how you change the volume of a sound file. We will look at gain and normalize. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in on a sound file first. Let's set it up, so we can see it a little bit better.
Make it nice and large. And we are going to deal with this glitch beat, and we are going to go ahead and change the volume of it. So through AudioSuite, I have the option of Gain, which I will grab, and what Gain allows you to do is basically increase the volume of the sound file you are working with. It renders it at a new volume, and it increases the amplitude. So this is helpful if you have files that are too quiet to kind of deal with if you are dealing in a multi-track setting and you have quite a few tracks and they are quite loud and this one you can't quite, no matter how much you turn the fader up, you can't quite hear it enough.
Gain is a helpful way to bring it up into the mix. It's also always good to remember to have your sound files as loud as possible, then use the mixer to be in the position of turning them down more than turning them up. It's always better to reduce or cut volumes than to boost them. But we are going to go ahead and take a sound file that's not quite loud enough and make it a little bit louder with Gain. So first, let's just give it a listen. Those glitches are on purpose, by the way. That's an aesthetic decision that I went for. There is a cool thing in Gain where you can see some information about the file.
If I selected it, it picks this information, preview it. That's with no change. I can fade this up and say let's add 9 dB or so. So I go for it, and it makes it huge. See how much louder it is? Let's take a listen. (drums playing) So that's great. Now I have more to work with in my mix. I can turn that up or down, I can apply effects, and I have got more signal going on there.
So this is really cool. I am going to undo that and let's switch over to a voiceover track and show you how you can use it for just little bits and pieces. Here is this infamous voiceover track that we have used quite a few times. Let's listen. Here this is--in the context of things that, oops is fairly quiet. (Female Speaker: 2006. Oops.) And let's say that that 'oops' is actually on purpose, and we want to turn that up a little bit. I am just going ahead, and we will just pick a setting and gamble and see. Let's go up 6 dB.
You can always undo it if you are not quite right. I can't quite--I'm going to have to zoom in to see what kind of damage we did there. Well, that could be in the ballpark. So we will give it a listen. (Female Speaker: For Friday, January 19th, 2006. Oops. 2000) Let's make it really loud though. Big mistake. (Female Speaker: January 19th, 2006. Oops. 2000) One of the things with gain that you have to be careful of is you get to decide how much you are going to add, and you can conceivably actually add so much that the volume of the file exceeds our digital zero level and goes into distortion.
So let's go ahead and do that for the fun of it. Say we have no concept of how quiet or loud our sound is, and we're just going to add 26 dB just to see what that does. Well, already you can kind of see that it looks pretty extreme. Let's see what it sounds like. (Female Speaker: 2006. Oops. 2000) There is some digital distortion. You hear that kind of nasty static-y sound? (Female Speaker: Oops.) So that's the thing with gain. You can use it to turn things up. We can also use this to turn it way down if we just don't want to hear that. You could turn it all the way down, get rid of it completely.
(Female Speaker: 2006. 2000. January 9) Just make silence there. (Female Speaker: January 19th, 2006. 2000. January) So Gain is great and that we have so much control over adding or subtracting the amount of volume. But it can be a little tricky in that sometimes you don't know how much you will be adding, and you can actually add too much for certain things. So it takes a little bit of trial and error to find the right amount.
Now some plug-ins will actually give you some more detailed information on how loud your sound file already is, and so you can quickly make decisions about oh, well we need to add this much, or we need to add that much, but it kind of depends on the features and functionalities of the sound tool. So adding gain is good thing to be able to do, and it's really handy for evening out volumes and tracks. Another way to adjust volume is via Normalize and the way Normalize works--let me go ahead and open up the Normalize file-level plug-in-- what Normalize does is it also increases the volume of a sound file, but instead of telling it how much louder to make it like, make it 5 dB louder or 6 dB quieter, you are able to set the maximum peak.
So I can say if I have a sound file, I want the loudest moment in that sound file to be -1 dB. Or I can set it to be zero dB, which is the digital maximum. So this is really convenient if you have a file and you just want to make it as loud as digitally possible--or in relationship to as loud as digitally possible. Maybe I want it to go up to 2 dB, and that will be enough. A lot of times, you will use it, and I like to use it and go up to about 1 dB and add some effects.
Let's take a look at what happens. I will zoom back in here. Let's go back to our glitch beat, grab this, and we will just normalize that section to -1 dB. So as you can see, big change. I will play this. hopefully it won't blow us out. (drums playing) So you can see on the meter here how much difference we have, not just visually but our magic meter.
So Normalize is really handy if you want to just bring the overall level. If you have a big file, like here I have a whole like five-minute long guitar track, if I just want to say, hey I don't want to change the volume and gamble with how many dB I should add, just make it as loud as it can be, so while I am mixing I have lots of signal to work with. I can set that to a certain level and then work with it. You will also find that using normalize when you export your final, like bounced-down mix masters, if you remember in mixing, we showed how you can kind of bounce a file down.
Then we go to finally export that to use it to maybe burn for a CD or to create an MP3, you can take that final mixdown which is one file that has all your different files in it and normalize it so that it's as loud as it can digitally be. This is really helpful in terms of making sure that when people get whatever you are making and put it into their CD player or listen to your MP3 on MySpace or in your iPod, that it's just loud as all the other ones, or at least as loud as it can be, so they don't have to go and really crank up their system and then when the next guy's song comes on, it blows it apart.
So normalize is a really good thing to be aware of, and it's great to use in the end of the process, but it's also helpful when you are just dealing with initial tracks and kind of bringing sound files up to a volume that makes working with them easier. Next, we will look at a few tools that let you change things in relationship to time.
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