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In Soundbooth CS5 Essential Training, author Jeff Sengstack demonstrates how to record, edit, optimize, and enhance audio using the professional tools in Adobe Soundbooth CS5. This course covers basic audio edits, such as trimming, fading, and panning clips, removing unwanted noise, enhancing audio with special effects, and creating stereo blends from multiple tracks. An overview of recording hardware and a detailed explanation of core audio concepts are included as well. Exercise files accompany the course.
I want to talk about what I call the sound level effects, Compressor and Dynamics, and in fact, Compressor is an element inside Dynamics. Dynamics is like three effects in one, and Compressor is a separate affect, or you can use it within Dynamics. I'll start with Compressor. Compressor reduces the dynamic range, meaning that it takes the loudest passages and the quietest passages and move them closer together so that it produces a consistent volume level and increases the perceived loudness. It's really a good thing to use when you're working with vocals, be they vocals with instruments, or just a voice-over, because it helps the speaker, or the vocalist, stand out over the background sound, or over the instruments.
And overall, pop music itself is compressed a lot. That means it has minimal dynamic range. Jazz is slightly compressed and classical music, usually, it's not compressed at all, because you want that full dynamic range that classical music affords. So let me just start by showing you how I can make a vocal track stand out over the instruments by working with the multitrack session here in this multitrack file and, again, we are going to work with multitrack files in an entirely separate chapter, but I want to show you how it works in this kind of a situation, which is a common situation when you've got a vocalist with a bunch of instrumentalists.
Here is voice track on top, and I've got keyboard, percussion, strings and bass. And she kind of blends in here. (Music playing.) Now I can tweak all this various levels and try to make her stand out, but there is one thing that I can apply that makes her stand out right away, and that is to apply Compressor to her track. So, let me just go to the Edit mode here inside of multitrack session. And I going to apply the Compressor to her voice by going down here to FX > Advanced Compressor, and now I can click on the Settings.
Let me just show you the settings. There are five settings. The Threshold shows the point where the input level allows compression to begin. So, the best setting depends on the content that you are working on, but if you want to just compress it a little bit, you probably just want to knock it down to about five or so. You want it to really narrow the compression range and knock it down a little bit farther. Ratio sets the compression between 1 and 30, and that says that for every increase of one, you are compressing it even more. So, that's basically how that works. Attack indicates how quickly the Compressor kicks in.
If you are working with percussion, you want a very fast attack, something less than 10 milliseconds. This is 10 as the default. If you want the compression to kind of lag a little bit, you can have it be more than 10, but 10 is a good starting point. And the Release, it says how quickly the compression stops when the dynamic range changes. And 100 milliseconds is kind of natural sounding but something less than that, again, it works well for percussion. And then Output Gain basically just sets how loud this particular track will be relative to what it started as. For me, I like to use the presets because they are really oriented towards specific functions, and let me see.
Here is a Vocal Attacker, which may be a bit much for our particular singer, but we will go Vocal Booster, and notice what happens. The Threshold is -11. Basically, there is a pretty significant dynamic range here that's been compressed because the Ratio is up to about 12. The Attack is more natural for a human, so it's above 10, and the Release is pretty natural for humans because it's way above a 100. So let's just listen to what that sounds like. (Woman singing: When the sun sets on the water's edge) I think that you can sense, right away, how much we've increased the sense that her voice has gotten louder, but in fact, its not getting that much louder, it's just that the quieter parts have been moved into a higher dynamic area.
(Woman singing: a sky of yellow, blue) I am going to turn it off for a second. (Woman singing: blue and red. I think of the things you said and in the morning light, having) So I think you can see that big difference. Let's go back to the mix and see how it works inside the mix now. (Music playing.) (Woman singing: I think of the things you said and in the morning light) Obviously, it stands out way above the mix, but you see that little red marks there. It's just a touch loud, but I can control her track level and adjust that. (Music playing.) (Woman singing: having held you through the night, (Music playing.) (Woman singing: slowly climbing out of be-) So I think you get the sense for how if you add a Compressor, it decreases the dynamic range, but it increases the perceived loudness.
It helps her voice stand out from other instruments and background sound. Let me go to Dynamics now, over here with the declaration narration. I am going to apply two effects to this one so you can see the difference. We'll go Advanced > Dynamics, which is the one we want to work with and Advanced > Compressor. Look at the Dynamic settings and right off the bat, you should go 'Hey, these look exactly like the Compressor,' and if you open up Compressor settings, you'll see there they go. And I could line them right up: Threshold, Ratio, Attack and Release and then Output Gain. Output Gain is for the whole clip, so that's why there is only one Output Gain for this whole dynamic effect.
But you see the Dynamics effect is three effects in one. It's Compressor plus Limiter plus Gate/Expander. All of these guys sort of work against each other, so it's difficult to really make settings that might make sense. The first time you work with the slider, I really recommend you work with presets here. But basically what happens is Limiter limits the loudness, essentially. Compressor, you have worked with. It increases the perceived loudness by decreasing the dynamic range. And then Gate/Expander is basically the opposite of Compressor. It tries to increase higher volume level areas and decrease quieter passages, and so these three things working together can really make something stand out, but it takes a lot of trial and error to get it right.
So, I suggest you work with the presets. Let me just go to this narration so you get a sense of what it sounds like in the original state. Let me turn off this effect. (Male Speaker: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights) Okay there is that original. Let's go to a preset here in the Dynamic setting, turn it on. Click a preset, and let's say we want to have a Better Presence. Hopefully it just makes the narration stands out little bit. Move this thing over a tad. Here we go. (Male Speaker: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal) And that little preset helps us out.
If I were to try to adjust everything, it would be kind of hit or miss, but notice that the Gate/Expander, the Threshold is -120, meaning it has no effect at all in terms of taking away quieter passages, and increasing the volume of louder passages. So, the Gate/Expander is not really in effect here, so everything is essentially turned off. Let me change that to something else. I will call this Kinder Gentler Vocal. No change. If I go to the Hard-Smasher, then I'll watch what happens to the Hard-Smasher. Hard-Smasher wants to cut off quieter passages, so suddenly things do move now.
(Male Speaker: that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights) So basically, you've got three sound level effects in one: The Limiter, which limits the peak, Compressor, which decreases the dynamic range, and Gate/Expander, which expands the Dynamic range. And then you've got Compressor as a stand-alone effect to make vocals stand out, and you can use this one by itself or this one, three-in-one, however suits your purposes. So I really encourage you to mess around with these things because it does take a little bit of trial and error to see how they work and how they work for your circumstances.
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