Setting Dialogue Volume Levels, & Roomtone

How to blend in your dialogue and set consistent volume levels

One of the toughest challenges when you begin producing Audio Drama is looking at ways to bring in multiple pieces of dialogue, recorded by different actors, on different mics, in different conditions, and set them to play at a consistent volume level. Dialogue tracks recorded on the quiet side will often need to be amplified considerably, and this can bring up a lot of background noise that makes these segments blocks of hiss. Dialogue_Levels

In this episode we talk about the sound levels of your dialogue, touching on the decibel scale, which you and your DAW will use to measure the volume of your audio. We find that looking to peak at around -6db during recording offers us decent headroom in post-production, where we’ll usually then look to bring the peaks up to -2db or -3db. It isn’t always as simple as that though, you could have an actor whispering and shouting in the same scene, so use tools like your Hard Limiter to snip the peaks off these loud parts and bring the quieter audio closer to them.

Noise reduction, when used liberally, can minimise a lot of the background hiss on segments you’ve had to amplify, but be careful not to distort the sound of your dialogue and give it that horrible underwater effect. Use a subtle fade in on each segment, and layer your entire show with one big track of roomtone to blend everything together.

We also like to listen to finished shows on as many different formats as possible. On a phone through earbuds, through the car stereo, and even through the laptop speakers. Always consider where your listeners are consuming your Audio Drama – unfortunately it’ll seldom be on a nice pair of headphone like the set you used to put it together with.

And it should go without saying, but listen with your ears. Never do a final listen-through sitting staring at your DAW. If you do this, you are visualising what you see, and making it harder for your brain to pick up on things that aren’t quite working. Go out for a walk and listen, or at least close your eyes.

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