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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.
After you fine-tuned various audio levels, applied effects and mixed multiple tracks, a finishing touch that you might want to apply is to equalize and then maximize volume levels within an audio file. If you're working on multiple files, a collection of songs for a CD, for example, you want to match volume levels across all those clips so your listeners don't have to tweak the volume knob as they go from one song to the next. So, I'm going to show you some automated ways to do that in this movie. We'll start by equalizing the volume within a clip. That attempts to make all the peak volume levels match the highest one.
So, here these peak volume levels here are at high and here they're low. And I made this clip using the keyboard and bass clip that I've used before. I purposely changed the volume levels. (Music playing.) So, you can hear them go up and down, and you can see that the peak levels here are minuscule compared to the peak levels over here. There is a very simple way to equalize the volume levels across the entire clip. Either you click this little button down here, Equalize Volume Levels, or you go to Processes and here's Equalize Volume Levels. Both do the same thing.
Now watch what happens. It's really quite remarkable. It takes all the peak levels and tries to match them up. Boom! Look at that. It took that waving, loud soft thing that really should be equal, and should not have been that recorded that badly... (Music playing.) and it makes all these peak levels the same all the across, more or less. It's not perfect, but you can see it did a pretty good job taking those very quiet passages and making them pretty much match these guys at the beginning that were loud. Let's move onto something called Normalizing and Hard Limiting. Normalizing amplifies an entire file equally and puts the loudest portions at -0.3 dB below full scale.
So, I'll show you how to do that. Let me look at the constitution thing here. I want to raise this thing to its maximum level, to as loud as I can get without going beyond where it's supposed to go and then I'm going to raise all of the volume levels accordingly. So, everything is going to go up and get louder to such that it gets to just below maximum levels. I'll select this portion. This is the actual portion that I want to raise, and there is a button down here called Louder. That's the same as Normalize. Over here in Processes, there's a thing called Normalize. They both do the same thing. And it raised everything, all volume levels such that it took the highest volume level in the particular clip and raised it to just below full-scale.
I'll just drag the Current Time Indicator across so that you can see the volume level. There it is. -.3. That's as loud as you should take something so that you don't clip it, and that's what it did. Normalize, it raised the volume level all the way across the board such that it's now a full volume level without clipping. I will just show you how that works. (Male Speaker: We the People of the United States) So you hear that doesn't clip. It sounds clean. (Male Speaker: -provide for the common defense, promote the general well-) It never does go over the point where it becomes distorted. That's called Normalizing. Hard Limiting actually compresses the dynamic range.
It takes louder passages and raises them less then it raises the quieter passages. So, it compresses the volume changes. This is used commonly on pop music where you want to sort of bring up the overall volume level without having a lot of peaks and valleys. Whereas in something like a simple orchestra, you don't want to compress it. You don't want a hard limit. You want to get that full dynamic range. So, for pop tunes, particularly, hard limiting is common. And then you can use the Louder button down here to do that, which I've told you before was Normalizing. But if you click it several times, you'll eventually hard limit, which means you raise things equally at first and then you raise the quieter passages more over time.
So, let's just try that with this little guy over here. If I want to, just click the Louder button once. What this'll do is attempt to normalize, which would take things to full level, but the peaks are so even here, it doesn't really get to -.3 dBFS. If I the click this button again, it's actually raising the quieter passages more than the louder passages, such that eventually, the whole file will approach -.3. It takes a second for it to kick in. Now you can see that we are getting right up to the peak. Right at .3. There we go.
But we keep on raising the quieter passages so we are sort of compressing the dynamic range, and that's what hard limiting does. Finally, we just go down here one more time. There is one other process that you can use called Make Louder and Make Louder is kind of like clicking the Normalize key several times. I'll just click that once here and the only place you can access this is inside the Processes menu. There's no access to it down here. That raises everything overall faster than just clicking Make Louder or Normalize. There we go. It's a bigger jump. Finally, I want to match volume across multiple files and this is really common when you create a bunch of songs for a CD.
I do some editing for a community choir and depending on how recordings were made, or they might have been made on different nights, the Volume levels peak significantly different. Then when you're creating the CD, you want the volume levels to be the same. So let's take a look at these four declaration pieces. If I open them one at a time, you get a sense for how high the volume levels for each one and some are higher than others and some are lower than others. I did this on purpose when I recorded these narrations. I wanted them to be different so that I can show you this little task. If you go down to the Tasks panel here and click Volume Correction, it opens up this little box where you can add some files.
I am going to take all the declaration files. I am going to select the top one, then Shift+ Click on the fourth one. That selects all four. I'll drag them down to this little box here. I want to analyze these clips to get a sense of their perceived volume, that's how the ear hears it, and also their actual volume. Let me drag this out so you can see it better. So what it shows you is the actual volume, the perceived volume how we hear it, which is actually important, because you want to create sound how people will hear the sound versus the actual volume level, and then the peak. And you'll notice that the perceived volume, the loudest one is this one, -15, the quietest one is this one, -20.
And the peak you can see, that's the lowest peak. This is the highest peak. We are taking negative numbers here so that the smaller the negative number actually the higher the peak. So, you want to equalize these four guys. You want to match the volume. So, I'm going to scroll up here and you can see there are multiple ways to match volume. I can match the volume to an average decibel level. I'd rather actually match it to loudest file. The loudest one is that one, declaration number 2. So, I'm going to match it to a file and say match it to decibel to the declaration number 2, or I could have a peak volume as well. Now I am going to go with matching the volume to number 2, Account for Perceived Loudness. That's good.
Click this guy and it will adjust all four. And it says here's what we've done. We raised the volume levels on that one, that one, and that one, didn't raise it on number 2 because that's the one we're matching it to. So, it lifted the volume level in all those clips. They're now all equalized. Notice they have a little asterisk next to them, meaning that they all have been changed. If I go from one to the next, you see they've all been pretty much matched up, such that if I were to put them all together now, they would sound as if I recorded them one after the other without these pauses that I made and without adjusting the volume levels. So those are the basic automated ways that you can do some volume controls to sort of finish off your projects before you send them out to CD and other formats.
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